With the stress of the end of the semester comes the need for relaxation and letting go, and for many students, relaxation comes in the form of Netflix. But watching your favorite TV show on Netflix is just about the worst thing you can do during a study break, when one episode becomes two, which becomes three and then, suddenly, it’s 4 a.m. and your final is in six hours. However, Netflix stand-up comedy specials are a great antidote to binge-watching: they provide a one-hour break and make the self-control to exit the window much easier. Here are some of Pipe Dream’s favorite Netflix specials, as well as why they’re worth the study break.
Dave Chappelle — “The Age of Spin” and “Deep in the Heart of Texas”
The name Dave Chappelle speaks for itself. Chappelle is an unrivaled comic legend, from his stand-up to his movie career to the critically acclaimed “Chappelle’s Show.” His comedy is made even more compelling by his almost decadelong break from the industry, after turning down a $50 million contract to extend Chapelle’s Show in 2005.
His two-part Netflix special, which premiered in March, lives up to the hype. In “The Age of Spin” and “Deep in the Heart of Texas,” we are introduced to an older, more rugged Chappelle — a comedian who knows he isn’t as socially aware as many of his fellow comics on issues like feminism or LGBTQ rights. In other words, he makes it clear that he hasn’t been around for a while. Chappelle frames each special with a theme, something that many stand-up comedians don’t do, or don’t do well. “The Age of Spin,” for example, is centered around a series of interactions Chappelle has had with Bill Cosby. While sometimes vaguely offensive, Chappelle thrives in his element, unafraid and unapologetically welcoming himself back to the stage.
Jim Jefferies — “Freedumb”
The set for “Freedumb,” filmed in Nashville, Tennessee, is a typical stand-up comedy stage. But in Jefferies’ performance, U.S. flags are draped behind him. He mocks America in a clever, if unoriginal, way — Jefferies is Australian. He opens the special by saying, “Alright, let’s start this shit.” After some applause and laughter, he continues: “Bill Cosby.” The rest of Jefferies’ set goes on like this, almost mocking the entire genre of stand-up comedy — and, sometimes, it works.
Other times, it doesn’t. In juxtaposition with Chappelle’s comedy — particularly in his discussions of Bill Cosby — Jefferies falls a bit flat. His Cosby jokes are obvious, but his other bits are far less cringe-worthy.
In talking to the audience in a way that admits he knows he is performing, Jefferies draws attention to this divide between audience member and comedian, while simultaneously slashing it. There’s also just something very charming about hearing lamentations over Trump’s presidency from the mouth of an Australian.
Amy Schumer — “The Leather Special”
Though she’s been performing stand-up for over a decade, she’s become incredibly well-known in the last few years with the popularity of her Comedy Central series “Inside Amy Schumer” and her 2015 film “Trainwreck.” Because of her raunchy performances, the stakes were pretty high in creating her first hourlong Netflix stand-up performance, “The Leather Special,” and it has proved to be polarizing with critics and fans alike.
Like Jefferies’, Schumer’s special has its hits and misses; she seems comfortable — cocky, even — and isn’t afraid to tell her audience that she is here to stay. Schumer succeeds when she confidently asserts her political views and shows that, unlike Chappelle, she has real, passionate beliefs about what has been happening politically in our country at this moment.
Jen Kirkman — “I’m Gonna Die Alone (And I Feel Fine)”
Kirkman has flown relatively under the radar since her career as a writer and comedian began in the ‘90s, but her 2015 Netflix special brought her into the spotlight, and she is now considered to be part of the canon of best female comics.
She jokes about being single as much as she does about being divorced, often lamenting the social life she has when all of her friends are married. It’s reminiscent of Amy Schumer’s early comedy in a way that makes both comics special. With both Schumer and Kirkman, self-deprecating jokes disguise what we know is true confidence, making their comedy fresh and bright.