2017 was a year that left a bad taste in the collective mouths of the plugged-in masses. From a slough of celebrity deaths, to numerous sexual misconduct stories filling our feeds—all wrapped up in a tortilla of monotonous (and at times torturous) political discourse. There are many reasons to repress 2017 deep into the darkest crannies of our subconscious, only to one day relive it in a costly therapy session or spontaneous road rage scenario. However, 2017 wasn’t all bad! If you’re a fan of comedy you were able to bask in the onslaught of incredible Netflix comedy specials. The entertainment juggernaut emptied their coffers for some top tier entertainment. Here is my top 10 list of this years best comedy specials.
10. Norm MacDonald: Hitler’s Dog, Gossip & Trickery
Kicking off the list is veteran comedian, actor, podcaster, SNL alumni, and fellow Canadian, Norm MacDonald. If you’re like me, simply watching Norm engage in conversation with other comedians and personalities is enough to get you by. A full hour of standup is something you need to treat yourself to, particularly if you’re a Norm MacDonald fan.
9. Bill Burr: Walk Your Way Out
I’ll come right out and say it. Walk Your Way Out, was not my favourite Bill Burr stand-up special. That said, it was still one of my favourite specials this year. Bill brings his signature style of acerbic comedy and adds layers of personal insight to some of his darker thoughts. Bill, like Louis C.K, is able to dig a hole with his audience and mine his way out, ultimately winning the audience over in the end, standing triumphantly on a mountain of his own design.
8. Judah Friedlander: America Is the Greatest Country in the United States
I’m admittedly new to Judah. I have always heard that he was held in high regard within the comedy community. After watching his latest special on Netflix, I can see why. Judah has a style of his own. The self proclaimed world champion’s special is shot intimately, low budget, and has a vibe to it that really helps to bring the comedy club to your living room. This special is absurdist, with great one-liners that remind me of Steven Wright meets Dave Attell. Most will probably remember him from 30 Rock, but I won’t. I never watched it, but I WILL remember “America Is the Greatest Country in the United States."
7. Patton Oswalt: Annihilation
If you don’t know anything of Patton’s personal life in recent years, it won’t even matter, because Annihilation packs an emotional punch of the likes I have never seen before in a comedy special. Patton’s latest special is true to form, strong, and one of my favourites of the year. A must watch. One particular moment will push you to the brink of sorrowful tears that turns on a dime into an eruption of laughter, that I would not have thought was even possible, had I not experienced it for myself.
6. T.J Miller: Meticulously Ridiculous
As someone who has never seen much from TJ beyond his YouTube clips, some Silicon Valley, and the odd bit on satellite radio, I was utterly blown away by how strong and unique Miller’s HBO special was. This is alt comedy that reshapes a genre that has been criticized. You’ll laugh….a lot.
5. Sarah Silverman: Speck of Dust
I’ve always liked Sarah Silverman. I’ve always found her to be a naturally funny person who improves any project that she’s a part of. Her latest Netflix special is easily her best work in my opinion. It weaves in and out of being hysterical and poignant, back to hysterical. This is what great comedy looks like.
4. Jim Norton: Mouthful of Shame
Rude, crude, crass, and masterful. All words that don’t even do this special justice. As a long time fan of Jim Norton, I can truly say Jim’s first Netflix special is his strongest material to date. I’ve always admired Jim as a radio personality, but Mouthful of Shame has bumped him up to one of my favourite stand-ups.
3. Louis C.K: 2017
All hindsight aside, as a fan of comedy, nothing can tarnish the greatness found in Louie’s sixth one hour special. CK never ceases to amaze me in how expertly he pulls bits from everyday life and then opens them up like elaborate origami. This special is some of his best work, in a career that I hope to one day see back on its path to excellence. If the fact that he was working on a feature film, an animated series, and executive producing half a dozen shows on FX, doesn’t throw him off his game, nothing will! Seriously check out this special. Do it now.
2. Todd Barry: Spicy Honey
The term comics comic doesn’t get thrown around willy nilly. There are only a short list of comedians I can think of: Dave Attell, Brian Regan, Andy Kindler, Doug Stanhope, and Todd Barry. Spicy Honey is an expertly crafted hour of deliveries so dry, the fact that I was in tears, laughing, was the only saving grace. This special came out of nowhere for me, and like a well placed uppercut, it’s a knockout punch that can easily trade blows with some of the best in the business. Don’t sleep on this special.
1. Dave Chappelle: Equanimity
Okay, so this might seem like a gimme. I could have made Chappelle’s latest special my number two, but I’m not in the business of going against the grain, for the grains sake. Equanimity was my favourite special all year. Period. It was a return to form that rivalled anything else that I’ve seen in 2017. Chappelle is effortlessly funny, and he is not letting his fame and notoriety get in the way of doing controversial material. This special does not come with a safe word. Simply put, Chappelle is not just at the top of his game right now…he’s at the top of THE GAME. I implore you to check it out if you haven’t already done so, and if you have, watch it again…and just take in the hilarious subtle cues in Chappelle’s act.
Obviously, comedy is subjective, like the movie 'The Room', parsnips, or daily flossing. With so many great specials out this year, it was hard to cut the list down to only 10, so here are ten honourable mentions.
- Jim Gaffigan: Cinco
- Christina P: Mother Inferior
- Joe DeRosa: You Let Me Down
- Nick Di Paolo: Inflammatory
- Mike Birbiglia: Thank God for Jokes
- Brian Posehn: Posehn 25x2
- Dave Chappelle: The Age of Spin
- Maria Bamford: Old Baby
- Ari Shaffir: Double Negative
- Marc Maron: Too Real