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Best Stand-up Comedy Specials on Max

Best Stand-up Comedy Specials on Max

Maybe it’s a Sunday night, and you’re looking for something funny to watch. Maybe you just got dumped and are looking for a little comedic relief. Maybe you are a budding, up-and-coming comedian and want some much-needed inspiration. Whatever the reason, if you’ve got a Max subscription, there’s something for everyone in this list of the top stand-up comedy specials on the streamer. Stand-up comedy has created a lot of buzz in recent times, driving a massive audience to streaming services and letting them consume hour-long specials from some of the funniest people out there. Earlier, the art was limited to clubs, with comedians performing for a small crowd and thriving on the laughs they generated. But with the rise in streaming content and the need for relief through jokes in real life, there has been a surge of comedians being featured in a special.



From political statements to fantastical musings, these stand-up comedy specials are known for pushing past the boundaries of humor and forcing us to rack our brains and chill out. Entertainers like Tig Notaro and Daniel Sloss, who speak to the millennials, as well as Chris Rock and Tracy Ullman, who already have a large fanbase, are all a part of this list. So, without further ado, let’s get into some hilarious stand-up comedy specials available to stream on Max right now.

Updated on March 30th, 2024, by Soniya Hinduja: This article has been updated with additional content to keep the discussion fresh and relevant with even more information and new entries.

35 Drew Michael: Drew Michael (2018)

Drew Michael: Drew Michael

A one-of-a-kind stand-up comedy special, Drew Michael: Drew Michael is the Saturday Night Live writer’s first one-hour-long HBO outing. In the special, he shares funny anecdotes from his childhood, dealing with parents, his own insecurities, and never knowing the rules about life. Michael holds nothing back and uses his sharp wit to navigate his fears in an unconventional setting.

An Experimental Comedy Special

Despite being known for having a cheerful and accessible style, Michael stuns everyone with his experimental style. He films the comedy special in a stark black room, speaks directly to the camera, and makes some genuinely piercing comments on themes of anxiety and inner demons. The dramatic shift in lighting adds effect to his punchlines and smaller moments of humor. As an overall debut, the special is quite tense and unsettling, but it succeeds through charm and impeccable timing.

34 Tig Notaro: Boyish Girl Interrupted (2015)

Tig Notaro: Boyish Girl Interrupted

Tig Notaro: Boyish Girl Interrupted is her first memoir-style special. Having been around for so long, working as a radio talk show host first and tracing the waters of the music industry after, Tig reflects on her own journey with her signature style of deadpan humor. In the special, she discusses being diagnosed with breast cancer and coping with mastectomy surgery, as well as the great loss of losing her mother. Her cold remarks and candid storytelling surprise and heartens everyone.

A Raw Performance by Tig Notaro

Notaro’s raw performance in this comedy special is profoundly moving. And not just because somewhere in the middle of performing, she lets Boston see the scars on her body, but also for navigating pain in a way that forces laughter out of her audience. Her fearless sense of humor transforms trauma into something that encourages audiences to face together. The special also boasts a minimalist yet impactful tone; one that Tig became synonymous with going forward.

33 Carlin at Carnegie (1983)

Carlin at Carnegie

Filmed gloriously at Carnegie Hall, New York City in 1982, Carlin and Carnegie is the acclaimed comedian’s third special. At the peak of his popularity, George Carlin recorded his sold-out performance and his material covered the ordinary places in life people would rather not discuss. Rehashing some NSFW terminology while also making remarks on society’s absurdity and the American dream of happiness and homeownership, he flexes a brilliant command of language.

A Classic George Carlin Special

Carlin at Carnegie is a timeless piece of comedy history. It goes without saying that Carlin’s comedy was ahead of its time. He continuously pushed social boundaries and brought to the stage a thoughtful satire. Distinctively, Carlin was a master at dissecting culture and examining everyday language on a microscopic level. His observations and witty rhythms captivated audiences and left them thoroughly entertained. For any fan of stand-up looking for a true comedic genius, Carlin at Carnegie is the perfect pick.

32 Sarah Silverman: We Are Miracles (2013)

Sarah Silverman: We Are Miracles

After a brief stint as a writer and cast member on Saturday Night Live during the 1990s, Sarah Silverman reinvented herself for a personal television program. Sarah Silverman: We Are Miracles is her first HBO solo special, where she ruminates on life and people with boundless energy and wit. Her sharp wit and shocking material touches on subjects of self-pleasure, the existence of God, and fueling one’s own guilt.

Silverman Pushes Boundaries

Silverman’s bold and unapologetic humor is a style that never fails to shock and delight. She is the kind of comedian you know what to expect from, and yet her devilishly funny jokes always manage to hit the right spot. Boundary-pushing takes on religion and politics are as intellectual as they are chucklesome, which is basically how Silverman transforms heavy concepts into lighthearted humor and finds meaning in everyday things. Through the art of stand-up, Silverman engages her audience in uncensored joy.

31 Jerrod Carmichael: Rothaniel (2022)

Jerrod Carmichael: Rothaniel

His highly intimate and profound special was recorded at the Blue Note Jazz Club in New York City. In Jerrod Carmichael: Rothaniel, the comedian reflects on his own family history and growing older with feelings of loneliness and anxiety. Opening with the line “I want to talk about secrets,” and also striking up a two-way conversation with the audience, Carmichael amuses them with his sincerity and unique blend of storytelling and emotion, ultimately disarming everyone.

A Conversation With Jerrod Carmichael

Throughout the years, Carmichael has evolved into a singular voice in comedy. Known for his ability to juggle heavy subject matter, one that would make him vulnerable, and infusing it with trademark wit and wisdom, he extends the same nuance and viewpoint and leaves a lasting impression on his audience. The 57-minute special is directed by three-time Emmy-winning comic Bo Burnham, and it succeeds by feeling like a real-time conversation where the audience, too, finds meaning and connection, along with Carmichael.

30 Cedric the Entertainer: Taking You Higher (2006)

Cedric the Entertainer: Taking You Higher

Cedric Kyles does it all in Cedric the Entertainer: Taking You Higher. Released in 2006, this prolific comic’s first-ever comedy special on HBO sees him performing in Los Angeles, California, with an entire cavalcade of dancers, musicians, and more alongside him. Bookended by a colorful musical performance, Cedric gives his thoughts on expensive dinners, the War on Terror, and the fame that comes with success. If anything, this special is certainly varied.

Comedy, Music, and More

Though younger viewers may recognize Cedric the Entertainer more from The Neighborhood than from Barbershop and The Steve Harvey Show, his charisma and bombastic personality make him thoroughly entertaining. Combine that with a slick sense of style, and you have a full-on entertainer giving it his all on stage. Taking You Higher is, overall, a terrific special that will fly by sooner than you’d expect.

29 Yvonne Orji: Momma, I Made It (2020)

Yvonne Orji: Momma, I Made It

Whereas you’d normally see stand-up comedians star in films and shows instead of vice versa, Yvonne Orji: Momma, I Made It! is a surprising exception. Orji, being a Nigerian-American, brings her unique perspective on life through multiple stories involving student loans, Nigerian markets, and troubles with dating.

Actress Turned Comedienne

After skyrocketing to fame through her breakout role in HBO’s Insecure, Yvonne Orji would get her own dedicated stand-up special on the same network in 2020. What’s especially interesting about Momma, I Made It! is how personal it gets. Yvonne Orji incorporates real-life footage depicting a younger version of herself back in Nigeria, combined with a sentimental appearance of her mother into the set. While it serves to illustrate several of Yvonne’s stories, it also gives this exciting comic a surprisingly personable stage presence.

28 Nikki Glaser: Good Clean Filth (2022)

Nikki Glaser: Good Clean Filth

Nikki Glaser stands up in front of a sold-out audience to talk about everything obscene. After already adding her name to the list of revered women in comedy, she’s back for another special. Filmed while on tour, Good Clean Filth takes polite conversation and throws it out the window. Glaser is known for her brutally honest style, dealing with the audience as if they had been friends for a long time; if they were the kind of friends that you call when you have a disgusting rash, and you don’t know what to do about it.

Making Comedy Out of Taboo Subjects

This actress comedienne has had remarkable success early in her career, exploding onto the scene in shows like Inside Amy Schumer and a whole selection of shows on Comedy Central. Glaser often talks about taboo subjects, can be found oversharing her sex life, and will teach you how to trick someone into marriage. Still, she manages to pivot from personal humiliating moments into a voice for empowering women in this outstanding special, which is a must-watch for fans of comedy.

27 Paul F. Tompkins: Driven to Drink (1999)

Paul F. Tompkins: Driven to Drink

Before he voiced Mr. Peanutbutter in BoJack Horseman, Paul F. Tompkins would be a frequent face on HBO via his roles on Mr. Show with Bob and David and Real Time with Bill Maher. Of course, he would also get his own stand-up special in 1999 titled Paul F. Tompkins: Driven to Drink. Tompkins covers a variety of topics in his set, including arguments, partying, and show business while casually sipping away at a pint of beer.

A Brief But Hilarious Special

Being a part of the HBO Workspace series, Tompkin’s set is significantly shorter than some of the other entries listed here. Barely clocking in at half an hour total means there isn’t any time for filler. Instead, it’s a non-stop performance, with the consumption of alcohol being a central theme throughout. But that does not make the special any less funny. In fact, with punches that come hard and fast, this one is probably one of the best for quick viewing and a ton of laughs.

26 Ricky Velez: Here’s Everything (2021)

Ricky Velez: Here’s Everything

They say the best way to advertise your first-ever comedy special is to put yourself completely naked on the poster. Ricky Velez has done just that, as he started his stand-up career by revealing everything to his captive audience. Here, he’ll demonstrate his talent for relating to people and communicating through comedy. His show rakes through his upbringing in Queens with intense honesty, and he delivers his set with a down-to-earth feeling that will have you cheering for him in the end.

Velez Brings His Writing to the Stage

Ricky Velez has already been working long and hard as a comedy writer. He was a contributor on The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore – an offshoot of The Daily Show when John Stewart was still running it. He played Oscar in The King of Staten Island and appeared in shows like Crashing, Master of None, and Single Drunk Female. Velez has certainly proven himself behind the scenes and off-camera, but now, for the first time, he’ll have the whole stage to himself. So go see this funny guy step out and bare all.



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25 Dan Soder: Son of a Gary (2019)

Dan Soder: Son of a Gary

Dan Soder: Son of a Gary features Soder performing in New York City, skewering a variety of topics including his adolescence, drug-sniffing dogs, and his deceased father. Despite the lattermost topic diving into some darker territory, Soder handles it with a surprising form of earnest maturity. Those who enjoyed Soder’s numerous radio appearances will be happy to hear that this material is wholly unique, with every story being organically linked together.

Earnest Comedy

Dan Soder has had his fingers in a few different pies over the years. With frequent radio appearances on Sirius XM, either as a host or reoccurring guest, to his role on Showtime’s Billions, he managed to make a name for himself without ever getting a prominent stand-up special on HBO. That is, until 2019, when he performed the aforementioned special. At the end of the day, the amount of laughs Soder dishes out is well worth your time.

24 Whitmer Thomas: The Golden One (2020)

Whitmer Thomas: The Golden One

Some men spend a long time in the bathroom trying to make it look like they have bedheads. Whitmer Thomas just has a ridiculous head of hair. With a resumé stacked with short films and writing credits, this will be his first comedy special. For the special, he appeared on stage at the legendary Flora-Bama Lounge where his late mother and her twin sister used to perform. His comedy style has been described as provocative, unique, and intensely personal. He talks a lot about his upbringing in Alabama and how he identifies as an aging emo kid.

An Unconventional Stand-up Comedian

Whitmer Thomas has appeared in shows like The Walking Dead, Tuca & Bertie, and Workaholics. He also made his show Stone Quackers, and starred in The Civil Dead. The most operative word used for this comedian is “unconventional”, so if you’re looking for a new flavor for your average stand-up comedian, definitely check out this special. Moreover, the jokes he makes about being a sensitive kid always hit too close to home.

23 Ian Lara: Romantic Comedy (2022)

Ian Lara: Romantic Comedy

Ian Lara: Romantic Comedy, another HBO debut, is an appropriately titled forty-minute comedy special. Performing in a comparatively small venue, Lara’s set covers just about anything that affects our everyday lives. Therapy, the pandemic, vacations, and more are all given the Ian Lara treatment, with a performance that exudes genuine enthusiasm. Nothing ever really feels phoned in, nor does he feel obligated to stick to a single set of topics. Everything and anything can be poked fun at, which Lara does with surprising efficiency.

Comedy Found in the World of Dating

With a title like Romantic Comedy, you can also expect an emphasis on modern dating. Going beyond romance and sex, he also addresses the importance of developing meaningful relationships through conversation, made more effective through his emphasis on personal stories. Underneath some occasional dirty jokes, there’s a surprising amount of wit and charm to be found in this stellar comedy special.

22 Michelle Wolf: Nice Lady (2017)

Michelle Wolf: Nice Lady

Michelle Wolf made her HBO debut with Michelle Wolf: Nice Lady in 2017. Suffice to say, it’s a fantastic introduction to her style of comedy. Originally writing for Late Night with Seth Meyers and The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, Wolf has a stellar knowledge of satire and current events in her stand-up sets.

Loaded with Enthusiasm

She voices her opinions on physical appearances, different interpretations of feminism, and how she comes off to others, which makes her authentic and unapologetic. All of Wolf’s jokes are made with such infectious enthusiasm, that you’ll be in tears by the time the special is over. A particular bit involving a text conversation with a guy at a gym is a notable highlight in a set that’s filler-free.

21 Chris Gethard: Career Suicide (2017)

Chris Gethard: Career Suicide

This comedy special takes the hilarious Chris Gethard and gives him the full attention he deserves. He’s most recognizable as Todd from Broad City and he most recently has a role playing Jeffery Epstein on the new Bob Odenkirk series Lucky Hank. He’s appeared as a guest writer on Saturday Night Live and has acted his way across the comedy-sphere with parts in Parks and Recreation, Inside Amy Schumer, and Awkwafina is Nora from Queens.

Making Light of Dark Subjects

Career Suicide was reviewed positively by The New Yorker. It takes on Gethard’s themes of mental health and the struggles he’s faced throughout his life with alcoholism and suicidal ideation. But it does so in a hilarious fashion, citing one personal anecdote about binge-drinking and a Batman mask. The show also includes a running gag about a strange, ethically dubious therapist. Gethard delivers all this pain with powerful humor that will make you laugh with him and at him. ​


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20 George Carlin: It’s Bad for Ya (2008)

George Carlin: It's Bad for Ya

George Carlin was as witty as he was foul-mouthed. Only a few months before his tragic passing, his last comedy special on HBO, George Carlin: It’s Bad for Ya, would be released in 2008. Carlin’s comedy career certainly goes out with a bang: reflecting on getting old, addressing the not-so-dramatic parts of dealing with death, and critiquing overt nationality in the face of corruption all punctuate one of the greatest stand-up specials in his lengthy career.

Carlin’s Last Special

Even in his silver years, Carlin was as energetic and spry as ever. George Carlin: It’s Bad for Ya would even win a posthumous Grammy for Best Comedy Album, while also being nominated for an Emmy at the 60th Primetime Emmy Awards. If you are someone who has just gotten into stand-up and is unaware of the comedic genius that George Carlin is, this particular special is the best place to begin with.

19 Jim Jefferies: I Swear to God (2009)

Jim Jefferies: I Swear to God

While Jim Jefferies’ brand of shock humor may not be for everyone, some of his best material can be found in his HBO debut, Jim Jefferies: I Swear to God. Released in 2009, this special can be roughly split into several parts, with the first half primarily featuring jokes about religion, and the latter half focusing more on colorful stories that we can’t exactly describe here.

Crass Comedy from an Australian Comic

Let’s just say that Jefferies wears his experiences on his sleeves and that he’s not afraid to venture into some uncomfortable territory. After all, the man goes all in with the jokes and comes off as one of the most bold and daring comedians to exist today. If you enjoy this Australian comic’s brand of curse-laden storytelling, there’s a pretty good chance that Jim Jefferies: I Swear to God will be a fun time.

18 Tracey Ullman: Live & Exposed (2005)

Tracey Ullman: Live & Exposed

This comedy legend is immortalized in this 2005 stand-up special. She’s worked with many different acts and is remembered for incredible on-stage performances. She was the first woman ever to be offered her own show in the UK and the United States. She’s most famous for The Tracey Ullman Show which ran from 1987 to 1990. Most people remember it today by the fun fact that it was where The Simpsons first started.

A Legend in Comedy

Tracey Ullman is known for the incredible number of characters that reside within her and how she can switch effortlessly between all of them. But here in her comedy special, she finally explores her journey that brought all those characters to fruition. It’s a rare site to see Tracey being herself, and perhaps it’s the best way to take a look back on her career. Now you can see it on HBO Max, discovering all the things that helped shape this legendary comic and having a good time while you’re doing it.

17 Chris Rock: Bigger & Blacker (1999)

Chris Rock: Bigger & Blacker

Before he would partake in Netflix’s first-ever live-stream program, Chris Rock was a staple of HBO’s comedy circle. One of his earliest specials with the network, Chris Rock: Bigger & Blacker, remains one of his best. Filmed at the Apollo Theater, Rock drifts between tackling violence in schools and broken families before addressing wider issues like healthcare and bigotry.

A Timeless Chris Rock Special

Perhaps the most interesting part about this piece is that Rock goes back in time to pick on some of the lesser-known aspects of his life as well as events that made him the person he is today. It’s a timeless stand-up special in a lot of ways, as many of the issues that Rock brings up still pervade American life to this day. Combine that with his bombastic personality and hilarious punchlines, and you have a special that flows like a breeze, delivering laughs every minute.

16 Mel Brooks: Live at the Geffen (2015)

Mel Brooks: Live at the Geffen

Comedic legend Mel Brooks combines his classic stand-up routines with musical numbers in Mel Brooks: Live at the Geffen. Brooks was just about 90 years old when this special was originally released, yet despite his age, his voice and delivery are as on-point as they were decades ago.

Mel Brooks Is Multi-Talented

A sentimental special, Mel Brooks: Live at the Geffen also works as a retrospective of his lengthy comedic career as he tells whimsical anecdotes, describes the effort that went into some of his feature films, and delivers punchline after punchline. His singing voice is just as prominent, belting out renditions of songs he’s written across his entire life. It’s one of the few specials where you wish it could go on forever, as it only lasts just under an hour.



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