Thanks to streaming giants like Netflix, smaller (and embattled) competitors like Seeso, and traditional cable outlets such as HBO and Comedy Central, the stand-up comedy special genre is booming. At least 51 original concert films have been released since January, and though previous years resulted in similarly large numbers, we’re only halfway through 2017. Considering what veteran and up-and-coming comics alike have promised fans for this year’s six remaining months, everyone can expect at least a few dozen more before any best-of lists without the “So Far” qualifier pop up.
Until then, the sheer quantity necessitates at least a few comments regarding the better, funnier and more unique offerings among this massive crop. 2017 has already bore witness to explosive events like Saturday Night Live alum Tracy Morgan’s return to the microphone and Chappelle’s Show icon Dave Chappelle’s concurrent release of dueling hours. Plenty more is expected from luminaries like Ellen DeGeneres, Judd Apatow and Jerry Seinfeld. Yet the best comedy audiences have watched, DVR-er or streamed thus far doesn’t always have a big name attached to it.
For the sake of space, this list is organized around the first six months of 2017, and each gets a top pick and a bonus selection (for the sake of spreading the wealth). The inclusion of some, like the Bo Burnham-directed Jerrod Carmichael: 8, are unquestionable, while others may stir disagreement. Which is fine, as what we find funny varies as far and wide as Norm Macdonald’s non-anti-comic material and Maria Bamford’s willful exaggeration of the truth.