The Best Stand-up Specials of 2017 (So Far)

There have been a lot of stand-up specials already this year — more in the first six months of 2017 than the entirety of most other years, in fact. Remember, we are not so far away from a time, earlier in the decade, where it seemed like self-releasing was going to be the future of stand-up specials. That, thanks largely to the streaming sites, has changed. This is where I mention Netflix’s plan to release a new special every week this year. And it’s not only the quantity, it’s who: Louis C.K., Sarah Silverman, Amy Schumer, and, yes, Dave Chappelle. That said, other outlets, streaming and not, have continued to release high-quality specials. One non-Netflix release currently stands as the best of the year to date. So that’s the state of things. Which have been the best — the most demanding of your attention? Like Vulture’s other Best of 2017 (S0 Far) lists, this one is unranked, though I went a little rogue and separated the entries into two tiers.

Best of the best

8, Jerrod Carmichael, HBO

Shot a month after the election and released two months after the inauguration, the tone of is a revelation. Contrarianism and devil’s advocacy has been popular for awhile, but as a style it has suffered from less-skilled comedians selling faux-edginess to an audience fine with hearing a person say awful things for an hour. Carmichael’s brilliance is that he turns that instinct inward, examining his struggle with not caring more, particularly nowadays when everyone cares about things very loudly. Carmichael has a Chappelle-like comfort and presence onstage, where you can’t help feel completely captivated as he thinks through ideas, building tension with long pauses. Recognition also should be given to Bo Burnham, a visionary stand-up in his own right, who directed, and brought an uncommon intimacy for the special.

Hitler’s Dog, Gossip & Trickery, Norm Macdonald, Netflix

Is there a better writer of jokes than Norm Macdonald? Hard to say. Legitimately, it’s hard for me to say if there is. These jokes, on full display in his Netflix special, walk this interesting line of contemporary stand-up, anti-comedy-esque “funny because they aren’t funny” jokes, and classic jokey-joke jokes. It’s all mixed together and executed with precision, without too much preciousness. They’re undeniable.

Just Keep Livin’?, Jen Kirkman, Netflix

We are following an election year and the election of Donald Trump, so it’s not a surprise there has been such a rise in topical comedy. It’s against that backdrop that Jen Kirkman’s special is so, well, special. Her comedy thinks globally but her act is local — focusing on herself and the aggressions she faces in her daily life, as opposed to the names and actions of specific people with access to our tax dollars. Her dealing with street harassment, which was the subject of an early episode of Good One, might be the single best chunk of the year.

Check out the rest of the picks @ Vulture

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