Happy Black History Month! Black comedians have been an integral part of stand-up comedy for decades. Netflix has produced several specials where black comedians speak their truths about racism, privilege, and politics. To celebrate the work of black comics, Laughspin is bringing eight Netflix specials that will have you laughing (and thinking) not just in February, but all year round!
W. Kamau Bell: Private School Negro
W. Kamau Bell: Private School Negro covers all sorts of racial issues plaguing the United States. W. Kamau Bell goes from talking about racism at the highest levels of politics to how white women act when things get hard, all while examining his places of privilege and marginalization. The Netflix special came after his Emmy Award-winning docu-series United Shades of America with W. Kamau Bell premiered on CNN and Bell shows just as much political nuance in this special. If you’re still not sure, what if I told you that Laughspin ranked Private School Negro the second-best stand-up special of 2018!
Trevor Noah: Afraid of the Dark
In Trevor Noah: Afraid of the Dark, Trevor Noah isn’t afraid to talk about globalization, immigration, nationalism, and race. While he peppers the special with sillier subject matters, as most of Noah’s comedy does, the special at its heart is political and tackles serious topics.
Nicole Byer, Comedians of the World
Netflix has not produced a single hour-long stand-up comedy special with a black female comedian, which is almost impressive since they have put out over 150 specials since 2012. Netflix seemingly tried to rectify the situation by booking comedy specials from Wanda Skykes and Tiffany Haddish planned for 2019. While Netflix needs to be better about featuring black female talent, they have had black female comics on their various stand-up comedy series. Nicole Byer’s set on Comedians of the World is pure joy and showcases how black is beautiful. Yamaneika Saunders set on The Degenerates is also more than worth a watch.
Katt Williams: Great America
Katt Williams has had his ups and downs, but Great America is one of his high points. The comedy special is not only more political than a lot of Williams’s other work, but it also takes on difficult topics. Williams covers slavery, racial tensions in America, and how deceitful white people can be—all while he stands in a fake oval office.
Chris Rock: Tamborine
Tamborine was the first stand-up special from Chris Rock in ten years and, after ten years, Rock’s comedy got a lot more thoughtful. The parts of this special where he talks about raising his children and the struggles of being a black father are truly profound. The special has an intimate feel since it was filmed in the relatively small Brooklyn Academy Of Music and was directed by Bo Burnham. Tamborine also made our top specials list coming in at #5!
DeRay Davis: How To Act Black
DeRay Davis is unapologetic in his special How to Act Black. There are a lot of silly jokes in the special, including many recurring jokes about how to act black. Davis also talks about Black Lives Matter, police relations and mass shootings and is a favorite amongst comedians.
Dave Chappelle: The Bird Revelation
Dave Chappelle came out with four excellent Netflix specials seemingly out of nowhere and any of the four would probably be at home on this list. However, The Bird Revelation has a very different feel to it. It is so intimate and so real. At the end of the Netflix special, when Chappelle reads from Iceberg Slim’s book, Pimp: The Story of My Life as a way to talk about his own disappearance from Hollywood in 2005, is an important part of understanding Chappelle and also a legacy of being a black entertainer.
Richard Pryor: Live in Concert
Okay, so this isn’t a Netflix special, but it is a special which is currently streaming on Netflix. If you haven’t seen it, you have to watch it right now. For many people, Live in Concert was the first comedy special they ever saw. Richard Pryor is a part of comedy history and this is arguably the most influential comedy special of all time.