Netflix, as described in a natural state of self-depreciating humor by actor and EP Chelsea Peretti (of Brooklyn Nine Nine fame), has been more than generous in rolling out comedy ‘specials‘.
These ‘specials’ are pieces of original stand-up comedy footage shot exclusively with the purpose of streaming it on demand for Netflix users. And like all other art forms that are active on the worldwide streaming domain, these ‘originals’ enjoy minimal censorship, maximum creative liberty and absolute autonomy on the nature of storytelling on behalf of creators.
Many stand-up comedians of international repute, such as Trevor Noah, Mark Maron, Dave Chapelle, and Russell Peters have laid claim to multiple original stand-up specials; However, in my quest for comic nirvana on Netflix, I have managed to stumble upon five delightful pieces of live comic art, that deserve special mention for their ability to provide unmatched distraction and allure, away from an otherwise chaotic content landscape.
These five specials have one attribute in common – all of them have been scripted exceptionally and imagined to perfection with such great pains, that they appear to be the best form of improvised superlative comedy that ever existed. Developed and presented by some of my favorite artists and one totally new face, these definitely made it to my top 5. (What are yours? Let me know in comments!)
#5 – Tamborine (By Chris Rock)
With an innate ability to inspire functionally powerful giggles by the use of innuendos derived out of regular life instances, Chris Rock’s comedy opera of sorts is nothing short of an epic. Rock traverses to the uncomfortable depths of all traditionally perceived roles within interpersonal relationships, and the way he ties in his monologue with the titular ‘Tamborine’, is a stone’s throw from genius.
#4 – Abroad Understanding (By Vir Das)
To be perfectly candid, I did have a soft spot for all things Vir Das-sy, ever since the relatively unknown actor accidentally launched the stand up comedy scene in India. He further enhanced his digital persona with a YouTube series called ‘PotCasts’, and those episodes always had me in splits. So there was this natural curiosity to explore Vir’s debutante work on Netflix – which, I’m happy to say, did not disappoint at all. At the outset, the comic piece seems to be written in the immediate aftermath of the 2016 US presidential elections, so it manages to touch upon a lot of unintentionally similar comic parallels between Indian and US administrations. Other than that, through Abroad Understanding, Das paints a mesmerizing-yet-accurate picture of life as an immigrant national.
#3 – Speck Of Dust (By Sarah Silverman)
Having remained a fan of Silverman’s earlier stand-up routines and Comedy Central roast performances, I’d say hitting play on her latest Netflix special was a safe bet. But in signature Silverman style, Sarah has done her best to outdo herself in this truly surreal set, where she takes us through a journey of admitting things that we’re all afraid of, but are too afraid to discuss without throwing fits of hypertension. Sarah touches upon the notion of self-awareness in our most vulnerable moments, and lets us breathe easy through a never-ending frenzy of laughter.
#2 – Warn Your Relatives! (By Hari Kondabolu)
Hari Kondabolu was a totally unknown, new name that popped up on my Netflix home screen one day, presumably in an admirable attempt by their curation team to promote some new material. After witnessing a few captivating moments on the trailer for the special, I tuned in – and was admittedly impressed by the depth of content that places Kondabolu in the winner’s league of stand-up comics. From sharp observations on the general nature of racism to a playful take on human behavior in the wake of divine awareness, this piece has it all. Overall, totally deserving of the runner-up spot.
#1 – Losing It (Vir Das)
It’s brand new, it’s time-tested, and it’s at the top right now. Yes, Vir Das’ smashing sequel special on Netflix steals hearts. Set in picturesque San Francisco with an audience that seems to connect deeply with Das’ sense of comedy, Losing It is, at its heart, a beautiful story of post-racial self identification, that throws sensible questions about the nature of feminism, the validity of protests, and the inherently basic human desire to create. More than anything else, it is exhilarating to witness perfect use for the don’t-hold-back content policy within the realm of Netflix, by someone who is both observant, intelligent, and exceptionally trained in the art of comedy.