20 days ago, I was on an airplane from Paris to Chicago, a result of COVID-19 cutting my four-month study abroad down to six weeks. This is the same story as most college students right now and it can be hard to find humor in the situation. Everyone talks about how they’re going to use this time to be creative, learn a language or suddenly develop upon a skill they’ve never demonstrated. I’ve decided to use this time for some professional development, as a stand up comic myself, by watching comedy specials while eating croissants and pretending I’m still in Paris. Here are six Netflix comedy specials at my recommendation that may bring a long-overdue smile to your face. Hopefully they work because we can’t.
Uh oh, Schumer. A controversial recommendation, I know, but hear me out. Schumer has received criticism for her comedy; many say it is unnecessarily raunchy and her political commentary is poorly integrated or unwelcome. In “Growing,” Schumer has adapted to those notes. Friends of mine that have been critics texted me to say how floored they were at how much they loved “Growing.” When Schumer filmed “Growing,” she was in the second trimester of an insanely hard pregnancy (hospitalized two days before the set) and her unapologetic self-expression empowered me as a comedian and a woman (but not as a “female comedian” because I detest that phrase). To those that have decided to fundamentally hate Amy Schumer: no worries, don’t watch this. But to everyone else, give a household name a chance.
I am worried about this girl’s back. What makes Shlesinger out-of-the-box and incredible is how she uses insane physicality and bizarrely brilliant voices to carry the show from start to end. Whenever my mom sees anything Schlesinger’s done, she always comments “She’s just so … weird.” And it’s truly inspiring. Schlesinger leaves everything on the stage as she crab walks, demon talks and often squawks while talking about feminism, dating and just being a woman in the least mundane way possible. I saw her live in 2018 and was on the edge of my seat trying to catch my breath from how funny it was.
Episode one of two in the Dave Chappelle collection, Chappelle is a master of poignant political humor, unapologetic honesty and a structural genius. Chappelle uses a structure of the four times he met OJ Simpson to carry an hour of hard-hitting, hysterical material. What impresses me about this special is that every time he gets to a place of no return, he uses the original structure to regain control. Regardless of what you think of his jokes, he offers a lot to learn to anyone in the field.
There are certain words that are way worse in America than in Australia. Jim Jefferies shows no restraint as an Australian man talking about American politics, sex and gun control. In his special, one can find a 10-minute bit about gun control that I have used as an educational resource for students of mine … not even in comedy. Jefferies’ disruptive honesty will make you laugh, think and turn down the volume when your mom walks by the room.
I feel a certain kinship to Taylor Tomlinson because we are both like 12-year-olds when it comes to experience in the comedy world, but we feel like we should be 10 years ahead of where we are. Tomlinson doesn’t drink, doesn’t do drugs, doesn’t do one night stands and somehow still finds material about her life choices to write about (again, she is #relatable for me). For anyone who is in their 20s or is already done with them, Taylor is your girl.
What I love about Anjelah Johnson is how she brings her whole self to the stage and doesn’t pretend to be anything more. Her comedy is authentic, good-spirited, high energy and true to her upbringing as a Latinx Christian who now seems like a sex-comic to her family and a clean-comic to her friends. When I saw Anjelah live last fall, I felt welcomed and lucky to be in the room with her and did not go even a minute without a big laugh.
Everyone feels a lot of pressure to utilize this time in some highly productive way, but consider the fact that we are using this time to stay inside (please, please stay inside) and save the world — so cut yourself a break and laugh.
Email Liv Rocklin at [email protected]