2020 was not the best year for comedy. The pandemic imperiled many stand-up shows and comedy specials that were put on hold for many months. However, 2021 allowed for more comedy shows to flourish, and thus, a list of the best comedy specials for this year was a must. We already have a list of the best specials from the middle of the year, but here’s the list for the end of this year.
5. Phil Wang: “Philly Philly Wang Wang“
A pandemic becomes a little easier to endure when listening to someone else talk for an hour and know they’re struggling just as much. While “Philly Philly Wang Wang ” was supposed to be filmed in 2020, just as with many other comedy shows, the pandemic got in the way and it wasn’t filmed until 2021. Nonetheless, it’s 60 minutes of wit and fatuous humor, mixed with genuine social commentary about the issues that are on everyone’s minds. The so-called “thesis” of Wang’s stand-up is about racism, COVID-19 and the intersection between the two. It’s almost a blessing in disguise that this special had to be filmed a year after its original schedule, as it allowed for a deeper and more honest conversation about how a pandemic and the cultural differences in U.K. have affected Wang.
“Philly Philly Wang Wang” is available to stream on Netflix.
4. Theo Von: “Theo Von: Regular People”
“Theo Von: Regular People” is a magnetic and hysterical take on Theo Von’s small-town life. This is his second Netflix special and Von isn’t shy when it comes to being utterly honest about reliability and the problems with elitism in his stand-up. The title refers to the people from his small hometown in Louisiana and how the people there are much more “regular” than those currently residing in Los Angeles, where he currently lives. While the majority of his stand-up does tend to center around his family and where he grew up, Von manages to surprise the audience by just how self-effacing and sincere his jokes are.
“Theo Von: Regular People” is available to stream on Netflix.
3. Brian Regan: “Brian Regan: On the Rocks”
In his sixth special, “On the Rocks,” Brain Regan somehow achieves both a rare vulnerability and an environment of constant natural laughter. Regan, who’s been in the comedy field for decades, always likes to switch the form of comedy he uses and thus, the tone of the show, with each stand-up in which he performs. However, what makes Regan special is that he makes his comedy more family friendly. There’s a lot of raunchy comedy specials out there, but if the plan is to just get some laughs in with the entire family, “On the Rocks” is the best special you’ll find this year.
“Brian Regan: On the Rocks” is available to stream on Netflix.
2. James Acaster: “Cold Lasagne Hate Myself 1999”
The English comedian is a fan favorite due to many of his previous stand-ups, like “James Acaster: Repertoire”, “James Acaster’s Findings”, and “Sweet Home Ketteringa”, which all incorporate his classic audacious humor. However, “Cold Lasagne Hate Myself 1999” talks about the worst year of his life in a vulnerable manner that could make any audience briefly think they aren’t even at a comedy show. Only Acaster could leave one to laugh and cry and feel comfortable and awkward all in the same breath.
“Cold Lasagne Hate Myself 1999” is available to rent or buy on Vimeo.
1. Bo Burnham: “Bo Burnham: Inside”
Another previous special that made it to this list, and also stays as the number one best special of 2021, is of course, “Bo Burnham: Inside.” As mentioned in the previous list, if anyone is looking for a laugh out loud comedy special, this one isn’t it. But if the purpose of the watch is to learn something about Bo Burnham, and especially to learn something about yourself, this comedy special will be the one for you. Burnham is incredibly intimate and vulnerable in his expression of living an isolated life during COVID-19, and with the widespread critical acclaim it received, this special will only leave room for contentment.
“Bo Burnham: Inside” is available to stream on Netflix.
By Cyna Mirzai