They say that laughter is the best medicine, and this said medication is especially useful now for what we are going through with the Covid-19 pandemic; it is definitely going to be harder to get through the self-isolation days at home, when you have nothing distracting you when you’re not working, scrolling through the bad news that is popping up on your social media feed almost every second.
Ranked from witty humour that gets you laughing off the bat; to dark satire that makes you question why you are laughing at something so perverted; to raunchy comedy that will make even your pet blush… these comedians are available on Netflix to get you laughing like nobody’s watching – because nobody is; you’re quarantined at home, alone, remember?
Disclaimer: Some of these stand-up specials may contain strong language and sexual content
1. Ellen Degeneres
Most of us today have come to know Ellen Degeneres as the openly gay talk show host on The Ellen Degeneres Show that is filled with heartwarming interviews with everyday people. She is also notoriously known for her constant need to prank her easily scared producer Andy Lassner, and selected celebrity guests on her show.
The Ellen Degeneres Show celebrates its 17th year this year. On top of her receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom from former US President Barack Obama in 2016 for her continuous effort in helping the LGBT community (and humanity, in general), Degeneres returned last year to stand-up after 15 years with her first Netflix special Relatable.
After opening the stand-up show with a satiric deadpan T20 joke most people in the world won’t be able to relate to, Degeneres’ uplifting camaraderie with the audience often seen in her talk show shines through, as she speaks about (and pokes fun of) her coming out in the late ‘90s.
Her skits flows seamlessly through matters that we can relate to in our day-to-day lives – a foolproof style good old-fashioned comedy has been relying on (and still does albeit on more pressing matters) since she first started her career some 20 years ago.
2. Gabriel Iglesias
This Californian comedian of Mexican heritage came into the world of entertainment in 2000, when he joined Amanda Bynes and Nick Cannon in the Nickelodean comedy series, All That, albeit for an abbreviated season before the show went on hiatus.
Gabriel Iglesias spent the next few years hustling between acting roles on comedy TV shows or voiceover gigs in animated series, as well as doing stand-ups primarily for Comedy Central, before his first stand-up special in 2007, Hot and Fluffy.
By the time I’m Sorry For What I Said While I Was Hungry (2016) and One Show Fits All (2019) came around – both of which are available on Netflix, alongside his Netflix series Mr Iglesias – you could say that Iglesias has grown as a comic who doesn’t hold back in making fun of the ones close to him.
His down-to-earth attitude has nurtured a steady and growing fanbase that have come to know him affectionately as Fluffy, and his good-natured “clean jokes” that usually revolve around his heritage as a Mexican, his weight, his son and his Mexican amigos; not to mention, the impressive impressions that leave the crowd in tears.
3. Hasan Minhaj
You could say that Hasan Minhaj piqued the interest of many more besides being a senior correspondent to Jon Stewart and Trevor Noah on The Daily Show, when he performed at the 2017 White House Correspondents’ Dinner – a kind of tradition the event has upheld for a while now, inviting comedians to roast the politicians.
By the time his stand-up special dropped on Netflix about a month later, the world was primed for him to take the stage solo. Unlike his Netflix series Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj, which features a new current affairs topic each week that makes us want to shoot ourselves for co-existing at the same time as these problems of the world, Minhaj reminisces on life before his career took off in Homecoming King.
From growing up as a first-generation immigrant with parents that are still set in their old ways, to life as a Muslim-Indian in high school as well as during the 9/11 tragedy, to the rude awakenings after the first two phases mentioned – Minhaj hits a home run every time.
His excitable demeanour contributes to his story-telling style, peppered with references that Asians (particularly Indians) can relate to. Not to mention, a rather childish naivety laced with humour that gets the crowd going – because of that.
4. Jo Koy
Another comedian we Asians may be able to relate to more are jokes from the Filipino-American comedian Jo Koy. With skits primarily centred around his Filipino mother, and his son Joe, Jo Senior began his stand-up career in Las Vegas, where his family resided after he finished high school.
After performing segments for bigger comedy names, Jo caught his big break when he became a regular roundtable guest on Chelsea Lately, a late night comedy talk show hosted by Chelsea Handler. After that, doors opened for him at VH1 and Comedy Central, which included in the latter television network, two of his highly-rated comedy specials: Don’t Make Him Angry and Lights Out.
The next door that opened for him is Netflix, in which he released Live from Seattle in 2017, and Comin’ in Hot in 2019. These two specials that are available for your viewing pleasure showcase Jo’s signature stand-up style in impressions (particularly of his mom and the Filipinos).
Jo reminisces on stories of his childhood growing up in Tacoma under his mom’s “verbal iron fist”, as well as those in raising his son – distinctive disparities for those growing up in the ‘70s and ‘80s, when comparing their childhood memories to those growing up in the latter decades.
5. Ronny Chieng
A Malaysian boy who practically grew up straddling the state line that is the Johor-Singapore Causeway commuting between his primary school in Singapore and his home in Johor Bahru, Ronny Chieng is someone both countries can call their own, unlike the feuds over Hainanese chicken rice and bak kut teh that happened in passing (Malaysia on both counts, by the way).
Since he moved to New York City in 2015, after getting the senior correspondent position in The Daily Show, Chieng’s everyday routine consists of spending his day at The Daily Show office churning out skits for the day’s recording at 6PM, before performing at five to six comedy clubs every night throughout the city until past midnight.
Late last year, his first Netflix stand-up show Asian Comedian Destroys America! premiered on the streaming platform, opening with the rather soothing Oriental melody of Teresa Teng’s cover, Ye Lai Xiang – before he plunges into an hour-long series of jokes that served their purpose in, well, “destroying America”.
Even though he has resided in four countries for more than 30 years of his lifetime, Chieng has managed to retain his Malaysian/Singaporean accent somehow. His accent does add, shall we say, flavour to his jokes, which are basically just the brewing thoughts of any angry Asian out there, complaining about life’s wows: the different culture and lifestyle in NYC, the absurd dietary requirements from guests while organising his three weddings in three different countries, and the political situation the States is going through with US President Trump at the helm.
6. Ricky Gervais
Every day is a battle for this British comedian, when the battle you are fighting against is humanity’s stupidity; just look at the 14.2 million followers on Twitter he has to deal with!
From BBC mockumentary sitcoms The Office (UK version) in 2001 and Extras in 2005, to comedy/drama series Derek (2012) and Netflix’s After Life (2019), not to mention, his comedy approach towards Hollywood’s biggest names while hosting the Golden Globes (2010-2012, 2017 and 2019) – Ricky Gervais is notorious for his no-holds-barred attitude towards comedy that is doused with cynicism.
Besides his colourful portfolio in television, film and award-hosting, Gervais has six comedy specials to date: the first, Animal, from back in 2003, to the more recent one on Netflix, Humanity (2017), with another coming soon to the streaming network, SuperNature.
No stones are left unturned, and no humans of any particular categories are given any special get-out-of-jail free card. If you happen to be a breathing entity walking the face of Earth right now as Gervais, chances are he’d have probably mocked and ridiculed you.
7. Trevor Noah
By the time Trevor Noah took over The Daily Show baton from Jon Stewart in 2015, he already had five comedy specials under his sleeves, the first being The Daywalker, dating back more than 10 years ago.
While the political satire comedy crowd may be hesitant at first, especially in him filling the big shoes of one of the comedy genre’s big names, Noah warmed up to the audience rather fluidly, as well as the critics, receiving various award nominations over the years, and a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Short Form Variety Series in 2017.
The following year, Time magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world, alongside the political subjects he so often talks about in his show and stand-ups: Donald Trump, Robert Mueller, Xi Jinping and Kim Jong-Un.
For his stand-up specials on Netflix – Afraid of the Dark (2017) and Son of Patricia (2018), Noah touches on topics his growing fans have grown to love of him over the decades: the misadventures he had growing up in rural South Africa during the Apartheid; juxtaposed with his better current life in the United States; the inspirational anecdotes about his mother, Patricia; that contradicts with the not-so inspirational ones from the world’s political sphere, especially from the United States – all flavourably seasoned with his on-point impressions of said subjects.
8. Daniel Sloss
This Scottish comedian started off his stand-up career when he was just 16, and three years later, Daniel Sloss became the youngest comedian to perform a solo run at West End. The 12 years that followed was a mixbag for Sloss, performing and guest appearing in other comedians’ television shows – most recently on Conan where he dropped by most frequently, and touring his 11 comedy shows, one for each year since he started off in 2008.
On his 28th birthday, Netflix released two of Sloss’ past stand-up shows concurrently: DARK from 2015, and Jigsaw (renamed from SO?) from 2016. Sloss’ comedy style may be blunt and bordering at condescending at certain times, but it comes from a place of substance. While DARK is as the title ironically suggests, he did claim in the show that they are just the vanilla icing to what he is exposed to at home.
Jigsaw, on the other hand, is what he calls “a love letter to the single people”. Sloss managed to hit on some pain points when it comes to modern relationship “unmentionables”, which may or may not make you question, halfway through his show, whether you are indeed watching a stand-up, or a TEDx Talk – and as it turns out, he did have one in Ealing!
What he has shed light on in Jigsaw, however, has brought about rude awakenings to many who have seen his show. To date, he is responsible for over 90,000 breakups, and over 157 divorces, as per the tally on his Twitter account.
9. Russell Howard
An 80-year-old Boomer yelling at the television fuming at what is happening in the world, and a 17-year-old teenager that still makes prank jokes that are on the raunchier side of things – all packaged nicely in a 40-year-old comedian from Bristol: that’s Russell Howard for you.
Howard is no stranger to the television audience in the UK, having made multiple appearances at the many comedy-centric panel shows since he started his career in the early 2000s – Mock the Week, Never Mind the Buzzcocks, 8 out of 10 Cats, The Big Fat Quiz of the Year, just to name a few. His television series, The Russell Howard Hour, is currently on its third season on Sky One, in which he makes fun of UK politics and the much-too-often social ridicules happening concurrently.
Prior to Recalibrate, Howard has four stand-up specials, dating back to the one in 2008 simply titled, Live.
Much like Sloss albeit in a different tone and style, Howard grew up in a family that puts the “fun” in “dysfunctional”, which comes in handy for his stand-up specials. Most of the anecdotes that came to pass seem rather surreal through his perspective, especially the comebacks that came from – not him, but rather – his family members. But there he is, talking about them like it just happened yesterday, as he gives good ol’ British satiric spin to them jokes.
10. Ali Wong
In more recent times, Ali Wong’s fanbase was built in two folds: those who knew of her from comedy shows like Chelsea Lately, Inside Amy Schumer, American Housewife and Fresh off the Boat (in which she was the writer), before she ventured into acting in Always Be My Maybe; and those who saw her in the 2019 romcom, and decided to check out her stand-up specials on Netflix’s “Recommendations for You”.
If you are the latter, you may want to brace yourself for what is about to come in Baby Cobra (2016) and Hard Knock Wife (2018). During these specials, Wong was pregnant both times with her daughters Mari and Nikki, who may be scarred for life when they find out what their mom was on about when she was pregnant with them.
Just when you thought being in her third semester doing stand-up, she may be restrictive in her moves – she’s pregnant, she’s delicate, what’s the worst that could happen? Oh, you’re in for a treat.
Wong is a comedian whose lewdness engulfs her entirely, complementing the audacious jokes that revolves around topics of sex and relationships, including that with her Harvard-schooled MBA-yielding husband Justin Hakuta, as well as the trials and tribulations during pregnancy and of being new parents.