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In his new standup special, Patton Oswalt makes a triumphant return from Annihilation

There’s no better standup working today than Patton Oswalt, his observational skills turning anecdotes into painfully funny short stories, and insults into dizzyingly nimble tirades. For the first 35 minutes of his new Netflix special, Patton Oswalt: Annihilation, Oswalt is the comic we expect, even as his elaborately…

For his First Time, Rory Scovel’s Netflix special is absurdly funny

Rory Scovel’s new Netflix special is called Rory Scovel Tries Stand-Up For the First Time, a premise the comedian never mentions on stage but does commit to during a taped mid-show sketch featuring Jack White. “What about a guy who doesn’t know what he’s doing, is completely out of his element, unattractive, probably…

T.J. Miller might have to accept that he’s a very funny comedian

Close to halfway through Meticulously Ridiculous, T.J. Miller’s new comedy special for HBO, he does a bit composed of some oddball wordplay, and it falls a little flat. “Wish I hadn’t done that joke,” he muses, getting a bigger laugh than he did for the gag. “That’s a real litmus test for how the more absurd stuff is…

The personal continues to be political in Jen Kirkman’s latest Netflix special

If you’re familiar with Jen Kirkman’s stand-up, or have had the misfortune of running afoul of her on Twitter, you know that she’s one of the most outspoken comedians working today, that she’s unapologetic about her feminism, and she’s not particularly concerned with any discomfort this may cause her male fans. That…

Jim Gaffigan’s Cinco is the steak dinner of stand-up specials

When Jim Gaffigan is described as a “clean,” it can’t help but feel like a bit of an insult. Yes, Gaffigan largely avoids swear words or sexual references in his act, but to call what he does “clean comedy”—the Netflix synopsis for his new special, Cinco, calls him the “king” of the stuff—it’s like saying that’s all …

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Pete Holmes makes some deceptively smart Faces And Sounds in new special

“I mostly do faces and sounds. That’s what I do. Comedy doesn’t have to be art.” So proclaims Pete Holmes partway through his new stand-up special, called, naturally, Faces And Sounds. In his comedy, Holmes cultivates his image as the goofy man-boy, the jovial, harmless jokester just out to make people laugh. And he…

In his thought-provoking special, Michael Che looks past the applause to what Matters

One challenge political stand-ups face that apolitical comics don’t is the burden of projecting correctness. Not “political correctness,” but being correct, politically. For someone like Michael Che, co-anchor of Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update (and, before that, a correspondent on The Daily Show), audiences…

In The New York Story, Colin Quinn looks to stereotypes for wisdom—and finds some

Over the past few years, Colin Quinn has organized his restless, garrulous shtick around single—if broad—subjects in a series of one-man shows. After the “all of world history” topic of 2011’s Long Story Short, Quinn pared things down to the U.S. Constitution and its effects in last year’s Unconstitutional. In The New…

Dana Carvey is a very ordinary Straight White Male, 60 in his Netflix special

Dana Carvey’s infamously short-lived sketch show is rightly lauded as both a launching pad for a shocking number of original comedy minds and an ahead-of-its-time conceptual comedy machine. It’s really not surprising that the show’s daring blend of absurdity and outrageousness wasn’t embraced by either its network or…