Top 10 Female Stand-Up Specials You Need to Watch



Top 10 Female Stand-Up Specials You Need to Watch

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Mark Sammut
These are the female stand-up specials you need to watch. We're looking at the most hilarious or memorable stand-up comedy specials by female comics. Ready to bust-a-gut laughing? MsMojo ranks the best female stand-up specials. Which female stand-up special is your favorite? Let us know in the comments!
Ready to bust-a-gut laughing? Welcome to MsMojo and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Female Stand-Up Specials You Need to Watch.

For this list, we’re looking at the most hilarious or memorable stand-up comedy specials by female comics.

#10: “Glitter Room” (2019)
Katherine Ryan

Permitting a viewer has a high tolerance for sarcasm, “Glitter Room” is a hilarious Netflix special that showcases the great comedic talents of Canada’s Katherine Ryan. Sticking to mostly relatable subjects like parenthood, dating, dolphins, and Meghan Markle, Ryan is known for her aggressively upbeat delivery, a welcome twist that sets apart “Glitter Room” from other Netflix specials. The highlight of the show is arguably Ryan’s empowering routine on single mothers, and the comic never fails to hit the mark whenever interacting directly with a lucky member of the crowd. One could argue that “Glitter Room” starts to run out of steam towards the end, but Ryan mostly shines throughout this hour-long special.

#9: “Happy to be Here” (2018)
Tig Notaro

In 2012’s “Live” comedy album and later TV series “One Mississippi,” Tig Notaro sought to find humor in life’s many tragedies. Fast-forward a few years and “Happy to be Here” is far more interested in celebrating life’s more uplifting aspects, although Notaro’s trademark dry wit, elaborate storytelling, and adaptability remain firmly intact. Revolving around the comic’s marriage and children, “Happy to be Here” – like the majority of Notaro’s work, including 2015’s “Boyish Girl Interrupted” – is refreshingly free of cynicism or anger. If there is one stand up special guaranteed to put a smile on someone’s face, “Happy to be Here” would have to be it.

#8: “One of the Greats” (2014)
Chelsea Peretti

Best known for portraying “Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s” Gina Linetti, but also an accomplished comedy writer, Chelsea Peretti’s brand of surreal albeit relatable humor greatly benefits from the freedom provided by Netflix. Over this one hour special, Peretti mainly challenges the types of braggadocious characters often put on a pedestal by society, while occasionally throwing in a dog or clown to keep the audience on its toes. “One of the Greats” is a meticulously crafted comedy special that finally allows Peretti to take center stage, and the comic makes the most of the opportunity - reminding us at every turn that she is truly one of a kind.

#7: “She Ready! From the Hood to Hollywood ” (2017)
Tiffany Haddish

“Girls Trip” may have been Tiffany Haddish’s breakthrough film role, but the comedian has been bringing the laughs since the mid-2000s. Her 2017 standup special is not only a long-overdue showcase of Haddish’s talents, but “From the Hood to Hollywood” lives up to its name by basically telling the comic’s entire life story. Discussing the foster care system, bullying, unhealthy relationships, and homelessness – Haddish treads a fine line between tragedy and comedy, but there is always a pitch-perfect punchline waiting at the end of each story. Gut-bustingly funny and inspiring, “From the Hood to Hollywood” is a modern stand-up comedy classic.

#6: “Elder Millennial” (2018)
Iliza Shlesinger

Following a number of Netflix comedy specials – including 2016’s excellent “Confirmed Kills” – “Elder Millennial” finds Iliza Shlesinger in a time of change. With a wedding on the horizon, the experienced performer opts to use 2018’s special to pass along some wisdom to younger women and even men entering their hectic 20s. Iliza tends to primarily tackle well-tread topics like dating and gender differences, but “Elder Millennial” also injects an element of retrospection that adds weight to the jokes. It might not be the most experimental comedy out there, but “Elder Millennial” showcases a talented comedian who has mastered their craft and perfected their voice; the end result is big laughs.

#5: “I'ma Be Me” (2009)
Wanda Sykes

Since before the days of Charlie Chaplin and the Marx brothers, comedy has been an important tool for challenging the status quo. Broadcast on HBO closely after President Obama was elected to office, Wanda Sykes’ “I’ma Be Me” is fueled by both political and personal discourse, with the comic starting off with a fantastic segment on the media rhetoric surrounding the first lady, Michelle Obama. Already a seasoned comedian by this point, Sykes seamlessly weaves humor into genuinely biting social commentary. “I’ma Be Me” feels unparalleled, a special that only Wanda Sykes in 2009 could have created.

#4: “Direct from Broadway” (1985)
Whoopi Goldberg

In the mid-’80s, Whoopi Goldberg staged a celebrated one-woman show that was eventually recorded and broadcast by HBO. While more theatrical in-nature than the majority of stand-up specials, make no mistake: “Direct from Broadway” is still a classic comedy show. Stepping into the shoes of five vastly different characters, Goldberg is just as convincing and hilarious as a junkie touring the Anne Frank house or a sheltered Californian teenager. Goldberg’s talent as an actress and comedian perfectly mesh together to create a one-of-a-kind show that truly stands the test of time.

#3: “Here and Now” (2003)
Ellen DeGeneres

What can we say about “Here and Now”? It’s a classic HBO special centering around observational humor by an experienced comedian. Prior to 2018’s “Relatable,” “Here and Now” was Ellen’s final stand-up special before the comedian became primarily a talk show host. Discussing things like talkative moviegoers, procrastination, and new rolls of toilet paper – Ellen pokes fun at the changing times while mainly sticking to topics that almost everyone can relate to. Even if the special does not tread much new ground, Ellen’s charisma more than sells each and every joke. “Here and Now” captures an iconic comedian at the top of her game.

#2: “Nanette” (2018)
Hannah Gadsby

Describing “Nanette” as a comedy special is not especially accurate, as Hannah Gadsby’s show gradually deconstructs the idea of a joke and the cost paid by comedians when painful personal stories are re-framed for the sake of a punchline. That’s not to say “Nanette” is without laughs, after all, Gadsby is incredibly witty and has excellent comedic timing. But this special examines the origins of the comedian’s self-deprecating humor and seeks to tell a full story with a beginning, middle, and end. Some of “Nanette’s” later segments are purposefully uncomfortable, but that is the whole point; in everyday life, there is no well-timed joke to ease the tension.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

“HBO Comedy Half-Hour” (1995)
Janeane Garofalo

“I’m Gonna Die Alone (And I Feel Fine)” (2015)
Jen Kirkman

“Growing” (2019)
Amy Schumer

“Don’t Start with Me” (2012)
Joan Rivers

“Old Baby” (2017)
Maria Bamford

#1: “Baby Cobra” (2016)
Ali Wong

This Netflix special finds an irreverent and very pregnant Ali Wong in impeccable form. The comic wastes little time in throwing political correctness out the window, as Wong speaks unabashedly and often visually about all sorts of mature topics. As an Asian-American comedian, Wong’s ethnic background presents a refreshing spin on frequently discussed themes of marriage, work, and cultural appropriation. While the punchlines pretty much all hit the mark, it’s Wong’s charismatic performance that elevates this special from merely being very good to one of the greats. 2018’s “Hard Knock Wife” also proves Wong is not going anywhere.