Getting tickets to a Louis C.K. show is basically impossible, but you can still catch his stand-up through the beauty of Netflix. But he's not the only one with a killer special streaming. Prepare to cry-laugh through these excellent sets that are currently streaming.
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Louis C.K.'s Live at the Beacon Theater is also on Netflix, and it's also very funny. But if you're looking for prime Louie, go for this older, crasser 2008 special. Chewed Up features classics like the Cinnabon bit (above), the white time machine joke, and the immortal line, "The meal isn't over when I'm full, the meal is over when I hate myself." It wouldn't be a Louis C.K. show without a healthy dose of self-loathing, and clearly, this one has it in spades.
My Girlfriend's Boyfriend
Watching a Mike Birbiglia set can feel a bit like reading a novel. The NPR regular excels at telling a long, silly narrative with plenty of tangents and considered pauses, and here, the subject is one man's personal attack on the institution of marriage. Birbiglia tells hilarious, humiliating anecdotes about his failed romances to build the case, but the special's heartfelt ending isn't nearly as cynical as its title would suggest.
New in Town
John Mulaney has a uniquely old-school charisma that defines most of his work -- even when he's telling stories about screaming "fuck da police" as a teenager, it sounds like Dean Martin is up there busting on Milton Berle. Don't mistake this for irrelevance, though. Mulaney has incredible takes on Delta Airlines and everyone's favorite Law & Order: SVU detective, Ice T. Oh, and after you're done with New in Town, queue up Mulaney's newest special, The Comeback Kid, because it's also hysterical.
Man, remember when Donald Glover was on TV all the time? Those were some great years. Although he's soon set to return with his own original FX series, Atlanta, Glover has largely eased off the comedy scene in recent years, and it's a damn shame because he's a really funny dude. In this particular show, he takes topics such as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, devious moms, and a Michael Cera Shaft remake to task. Hey, it's called Weirdo for a reason.
One of the Greats
Come for the hyperbole, stay for the puppy seat-fillers. When Chelsea Peretti isn't bounding across the stage or breaking into a ridiculous surfer-bro laugh in this Netflix original, she's cutting to increasingly bizarre shots of audience members or herself as a clown, creeping around backstage. The result is a show that's really goofy and strange, kinda like the stuff from Peretti's Brooklyn Nine-Nine co-star Andy Samberg. Except with way more clowns.
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Few comedians have had more fascinating trajectories than Aziz Ansari. When we first met Aziz the stand-up comic, via his debut special Intimate Moments for a Sensual Evening, he was Raaaaandy 24/7. Meaning he was essentially a cartoon -- but an entertaining cartoon with killer Kanye stories. This more or less continued for a few years, but Aziz slowly transformed into an insightful social critic in later specials, as he began asking his audience members about their dates and skewering same-sex-marriage opponents. A heavily researched book on modern romance came along next; and then he positioned himself as a millennial Louie with his Netflix series Master of None. Buried Alive is where this version of Aziz first truly emerged, and it's a ton of fun watching the metamorphosis in real time. Especially when it includes Olive Garden proposal stories.
Maria Bamford: The Special Special Special!
Maria Bamford's material definitely isn't for everyone. Armed with an unflinching stare and repertoire of voices that veer from charming to terrifying in two seconds flat, Bamford is a bit of a freak. You won't hear anyone else dropping such surreal and daring jokes about depression, and you also won't see anyone else staging such a wildly inventive special, which Bamford performs in her own home for an audience of two: her parents.
Beyond the Pale
McRib. Hot Pockets. IHOP. Beyond the Pale functions as sort of a greatest-hits compilation of Jim Gaffigan's (very extensive) food-joke oeuvre. Whereas Mr. Universe, his other special available on Netflix, is all about being a dad, this one is all about being a glutton -- and yes, that means the whispering, judgmental critic character Gaffigan often adopts is out in full force.
Hannibal Buress' comedy career has received an intense amount of scrutiny since his 2014 joke about Bill Cosby ignited a very public trial of America's once-favorite sitcom dad. If that incident was your introduction to Buress, you might come to his sets expecting nonstop searing social commentary. There is some of that -- such as Animal Furnance's brilliant closer about racism and apple juice -- but Hannibal's default mode is really eccentric, Mitch Hedberg-esque humor. You'll pick up on this pretty quickly in this first special, filmed two years before he kickstarted the Cosby scandal or even appeared on Broad City.
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Kristin Hunt is a freelance writer for Thrillist and may or may not own a John Mulaney-themed Christmas tree ornament. Follow her to Jake McNamara's house party at @kristin_hunt.