The world of stand-up comedy is one that is constantly in motion, fluid and ever-changing. For avid consumers of the artform it can sometimes feel as though new specials come in waves; and, just as one crests, so do another seven right behind it, all equally imposing. This becomes especially true during the summer months. So, for those who may have been too overwhelmed by the rising tide of content to actually enjoy it, here are the season’s stand-out’s:
1. John Mulaney’s “Kid Gorgeous”
Kicking off the series of summer specials was Mulaney’s third stand-up routine, “Kid Gorgeous,” which was released at the beginning of May. Following the whirlwind of final papers and exams, this performance was like a breath of fresh air for stressed and tired college students across the country. Although Mulaney’s signature cartoonish cadence was unchanged, his punchlines only improved. If you’ve yet to hear the streetwise advice of Detective JJ Bittenbinder or discovered what it means for a horse to be loose in a hospital, consider this moment the sign you’ve been waiting for and go, watch.
2. W. Kamau Bell’s “Private School Negro”
Bell takes the phrase “dad jokes” to a whole new level in this June stand-up special. Ever the family man, he holds nothing back in his tales of raising two daughters with the aid of his #WokeWhiteWife. Fair warning, if you’re one to shy away from discussing race, politics and the intersection of the two, this performance may not be your cup of tea. However, no matter where your beliefs fall on the political spectrum, Bell’s charisma and “American Pie” parody-cover could very-well win you over.
3. Hannah Gadsby’s “Nanette”
We’re not sure when it happened, but at some point Gadsby’s usual self-deprecating humor turned into an insightful and heartfelt conversation about comedy of the oppressed. This special was nontraditional, but not unwelcome, and when Gadsby allowed her anger and hurt to be felt, the audience enjoyed that catharsis with her. You’ve heard this before, but we’ll say it again (and mean it): if you watch “Nanette,” you’ll laugh and you’ll cry, but you’ll be all the better for it.
4. Iliza Shlesinger’s “Elder Millennial”
Releasing in late July, Shlesinger’s newest comedy special, “Elder Millennial,” just might be the comedian’s finest work. From the moment she took the stage it became clear to the audience just who was in charge, with confidence and charm rolling off of her in waves as she implored listeners to, “gather ‘round the snapchat.” This performance was your mid-summer pick me up; if Shlesinger’s witty feminist commentary didn’t leave you rolling, then her cutting remarks on the singles scene of the 21st century surely did.
5. Demetri Martin’s “The Overthinker”
As summer drew to its sleepy close, the intimate and introspective comedy of Demetri Martin’s, “The Overthinker,” made its small-screen debut. The special is an hour of Martin demonstrating his overthinking tendencies through unmatched comedic timing, a clever voice over and a few classic props. We offer but one word of caution: this comedian’s ability to overthink anything and everything may, in fact, be contagious. But if finding comedy in the most mundane of things intrigues you, Martin’s inner-monologue might just be worth the side-effects.