We’re Halfway Through the Year: Here’s our Favorite Comedy Specials of 2021 So Far

5. Jessica Watkins: “SPECIALish”

“SPECIALish” is the marriage of two genres: documentary and stand-up comedy. Stand up comedian, Jessica Watkins, walks across the United States performing comedy over the course of this special. Watkins’ philosophy is that to make it in her industry, “you need more than comedy, you need a shtick.” “SPECIALish” is less produced than the others on this list, but is so different from what we’ve come to expect from comedians that it really stands out, winning multiple awards, including Best No-Budget Film at the Broad Humor Film Festival, since it was first shown to an audience in 2019.

“SPECIALish” is now available on multiple major streaming platforms including Vimeo, Prime Video, and Apple TV.

4. Nate Bargatze: “The Greatest Average American”

In his second Netflix special, Nate Bargatze lives up to the show’s title. Sticking to very mundane topics in American culture after such a contentious and overwhelming year, Bargatze still manages to make the audience laugh out loud throughout this special. His show was filmed in an outdoor venue during the pandemic. As a result, showcasing the audience socially distanced and wearing masks at a comedy show is a rare and interesting addition to this special, as very few comedians worked during the past year let alone filmed what entertainment in the age of COVID really looks like. “The Greatest Average American” is lighthearted and easy to mindlessly enjoy, making it a must watch of the year so far.

Nate Bargatze’s newest special is available to stream exclusively on Netflix. 

3. Chris Rock: “Total Blackout: The Tambourine Extended Cut”

If this special looks familiar, that’s because you may have already seen it. “Total Blackout” is an extended look at Chris Rock’s 2018 Netflix special “Tambourine,” which was half an hour shorter and directed by fellow comedian Bo Burnham. In this extended cut of Rock’s routine, there is enough added material to make it worth another watch, especially if you’re interested in comparing the effect that a different director and editor can have on the same material. This cut, which leaves out Burnham’s credit and instead names Rock himself as the director, is less intimate and lacks Burnham’s direction and aesthetic vision for “Tambourine,” but includes the same jokes in addition to new material and outside clips that go a long way adding to Rock’s routine.

“Total Blackout” is available to stream exclusively on Netflix. 

2. James Acaster “Cold Lasagne Hate Myself 1999”

James Acaster is back and more versatile with the english language than ever, starting his show with a minute of colorful expletives followed by “right, let’s start with the headlines: I swear now.” The entire two hour special is absolutely hysterical from start to finish, not only one of the best comedy specials released so far this year, but a career defining piece for Acaster. This personal dive into the worst year of James Acaster’s life is sure to both move and amuse you.

“Cold Lasagne Hate Myself 1999” is available to rent or buy on Vimeo. 

1. Bo Burnham: “Bo Burnham: Inside”

By far the best comedy special released so far this year is “Bo Burnham: Inside.” While not necessarily the funniest on this list, it is perhaps the most impactful, with Burnham hitting a traumatized post-covid audience with an hour and a half of intimate looks into living and creating content in isolation. This special has been met with critical acclaim and widespread praise, earning six Emmy nominations this week. The subsequent album released by Burnham, “Inside: The Songs,” has ranked first in Billboard’s US Top Comedy Albums chart for four consecutive weeks (and counting). Due to its popularity, “Bo Burnham: Inside” will have a one night only theatrical release in theaters across the country on July 22, which is an incredibly rare achievement for a comedy special. This special is unique to the genre, and will likely set the bar for comedy and music in the future.

“Bo Burnham: Inside” is available to stream exclusively on Netflix. 

By Emily Frantz

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