Between HBO, Comedy Central and Netflix, stand-up comedy specials continue to thrive in a big way, with more cinematic presentations and bigger budgets.
While there were a number of specials this year, St. Joe Live has a particular few that stood out among the bunch. In no particular order, here are our choices:
Gary Gulman “The Great Depresh” (TV-14, HBO) — With his caring, easygoing style and talent for layering jokes on jokes in stories, Gary Gulman has been an under-the-radar comedian destined to break out. “The Great Depresh” chronicles his mental breakdown and history with depression, navigating it in a way that’s enlightening and funny without being morose. Along with comedian Chris Gethard’s 2017 special “Career Suicide,” it’s one of the most important specials concerning mental health released this decade.
Mike Birbiglia “The New One” (TV-MA, Netflix) — There have been comedy specials about pregnancy and becoming parents, but few have navigated being at the middle of a mother’s relationship with her child like this. Birbiglia captures the relationship with his wife before they had a kid and after. Not afraid to make himself the enemy of the story, he captures the frustrations and selfishness one can feel on the outside of the bubble containing the two people he loves the most. In a self-effacing way that Birbiglia has made his brand, it’s hilarious and touching.
Roy Wood Jr. “No One Loves You” (TV-MA, Comedy Central) — There was a point when I thought Dave Chappelle could do no wrong. I loved his ability to channel political and social commentary in a goofy, but poignant way. Then his last three Netflix specials were released and I realized this was not same person I used to enjoy. In his second special, Roy Wood Jr., a “Daily Show” alum and future Pixar voiceover star, has taken that crown as a sharp-witted, politically aware comedian with takes that don’t punch down as he speaks on issues concerning the National Anthem, trans issues, the “Me Too” movement and active shooters. For all the hot takes in comedy specials, “No One Loves You” is a laid-back balm that goes on smooth and has you laughing the entire time.
Jenny Slate “Stage Fright” (TV-MA, Netflix) — Part stand-up show and part documentary, Slate, most famous for her voiceover work with Disney, Adult Swim, Netflix and Fox shows, as well as “Parks and Recreation,” turns her first stand-up special into an off-the-wall experience with her Looney Tunes-like movements and manic energy. Her experience as a voiceover artist and actor shine as she encapsulates different postures and voices, touching on her traumatic experiences as a kid, the differences in energy between Jewish and Christian gatherings and seeing ghosts. It’s a wild ride, showcasing Slate’s talents as a storyteller and personality.
Simon Amstell “Set Free” (TV-MA, Netflix) — Few can weave the crazy stories that British comedian Simon Amstell can, from his boredom of all-nude parties to his father’s passive feelings toward his comedy. His first American-released special, “Set Free” is a good primer for his quick-witted humor and matter-of-fact approach.
— Andrew Gaug | St. Joe Live