The comedy industry is infamously over-saturated by men. For hundreds of years, women have been barred form the comedy scene and deemed genetically unfunny. Thankfully, there are many women today who are taking back the mic and proving that these unsubstantiated beliefs are entirely unfounded. If you’re in the mood to celebrate female comedians and laugh until you cry, check out these Netflix comedy specials from some of the best women in the business.
1. Katherine Ryan: Glitter Room
Katherine Ryan’s comedy special is framed by the idea that she’s happy being single at 36. This works exceptionally well because she seamlessly transitions between poking fun at herself, her previous partners, and society’s expectations of women. Highlights include jokes about her (sometimes racist) young, British daughter which are done in a darling British accent. These bits never fail to be raunchy, clever, and perfectly adult in their sense of humor while still evoking some of the funniest aspects of the way children think and see the world. Ryan also engages with the audience in some of the most natural and truly funny interactions I have seen in any comedy special, relying on genuine wit rather than simply making fun of unsuspecting show-comers.
2. Ali Wong: Hard Knock Wife
After having her first child (and very pregnant with another one in the performance), Ali Wong breaks down what life as a wife and mother is really like. This rude, raunchy, and hilarious comedy special mixes total honesty with graphic depictions of motherhood: from lactation issues to twerking sessions. There’s also a lot of subtle social commentary along the way about paid maternity leave being mandatory and generally acknowledging the thankless job of motherhood. Wong veers off course a few times with some cringe-worthy moments, but viewers will still walk away feeling deeply amused (if a little afraid of having children).
3. Sarah Silverman: A Speck Of Dust
Sarah Silverman has somewhat of a reputation for being downright shocking rather than humorous, but her comedy special A Speck Of Dust finds the balance between shock value, earnest presentations, and outrageously funny storytelling. This hour-long special feels relaxed, intimate, and perhaps even more serious than her previous works. Still, grab a pint of ice cream and settle in because the introspective performance is still exactly that: a performance, and a hilarious one at that.
4. Hannah Gadsby: Nanette
Nanette showcases Hannah Gadsby at her finest. The Australian comedian is, crucially, funny, but her show accomplishes far more than a roomful of laughs. Tackling homophobia, sexism, and the gravity of assaults through her own experiences, Gadsby breaks down comedy, self-deprecation, and how people who are torn down create art in extraordinary ways in this vulnerable and touching creation. The special is more than a comedy show; it’s an anthem, a speech, and a thoughtful performance all at once. Gadsby has produced more of an experience than a movie and it proves well worth a watch.
5. Katherine Ryan: In Trouble
I might be cheating a little with this last recommendation as Katherine Ryan already has a spot on this list. However, Ryan’s second show is genuinely funny enough to deserve the fifth and final spot (even if that means leaving many other incredible female performers out). Ryan’s In Trouble covers completely different grounds from her more recent comedy special, talking about dating younger men, her small, Canadian hometown, and female comedians being treated differently to certain male legends. Her humor is interesting, thoughtful, and never bashful in a way that ensures this older production is still a must watch.