Demetri Martin’s amiable cleverness can’t energize The Overthinker

C+

Throughout his long stand-up career, Demetri Martin has been compared to deadpan comedy assassins like Steven Wright and the late Mitch Hedberg. But, as Martin’s latest special shows, his low-register absurdism owes a lot to tireless road veteran Todd Barry as well, though Martin’s affectless manner isn’t a sly…

Jim Gaffigan turns near-tragedy into reassuring comedy in Noble Ape

B

Two minutes into Noble Ape, Jim Gaffigan’s sixth comedy special, the comic addresses the elephant in the room—and immediately makes it do a little dance. “In April, it was discovered that my wife had a brain tumor. I’m not even making this up,” Gaffigan begins. “It was removed, she’s great, everything’s good.” It’s a…

Cameron Esposito’s Rape Jokes offers humor and empathy at a time when they’re most needed

B+

Cameron Esposito’s Rape Jokes was made for times like these—the comedian and Take My Wife creator said as much in a press release announcing the new special earlier this week. When Esposito set out to start a discussion on consent and sexual assault in the midst of the #MeToo movement, she knew a five-minute stand-up…

Steve Martin and Martin Short bring broad comedy and minimal banjo to Netflix

B-

Here’s the most important thing to know about Steve Martin and Martin Short’s new Netflix comedy special: There are about five minutes of straight banjo. This is a petty yet useful detail for most people who have long loved Martin’s comedy while warmly acknowledging his bluegrass—perhaps even turning up to a bluegrass…

Married comics Natasha Leggero and Moshe Kasher double-team love in The Honeymoon Stand Up Special

B

While the execution of its undeniably original concept is solid, the idea of The Honeymoon Stand Up Special ultimately promises more than it delivers. The unique, three-part special from (fairly) recently wed comics and Another Period co-stars Natasha Leggero and Moshe Kasher comes at the audience in three segments.…

Chris Rock turns in half of a great special with his Netflix comeback

B

Appearing on Hannibal Buress’ podcast back in September, Chris Rock talked shop about the relatively small venue he’d chosen for Tamborine, his first stand-up special in a decade, and his first in a lucrative two-special deal with Netflix. Rock told Buress that the Brooklyn Academy Of Music’s comparatively homey…

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

A

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

B+

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

B

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…

Sarah Silverman gets personal in A Speck Of Dust

B+

“I’m gonna be indulgent,” Sarah Silverman notes around halfway through her new Netflix stand-up special A Speck of Dust. It’s a different tactic for her, even if it doesn’t sound like it at first. While Silverman’s most famous comedy routines do indulge in their share of pushing (buttons, envelopes, boundaries,…

The Daily Show’s Hasan Minhaj crafts a hilarious, spellbinding immigrant story

A

Hasan Minhaj shares a lot of comic ground with Aziz Ansari. Beyond their experiences growing up in 1990s America as the children of Indian immigrants, the two comedians have developed a similarly self-aggrandizing onstage brashness, a baller’s persona where name-dropping cockiness and pop culture markers point up…

It takes strength to be as gentle, kind, and funny as Chris Gethard’s Career Suicide

A

Partway through his one-man show, Career Suicide, Chris Gethard puts an anecdote on pause in order to address his audience. He’s been discussing the decision to treat his depression with prescription medication, and he steps toward the front row, which is arranged in a cozy horseshoe of vintage sofas and end tables.…

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

B

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

B+

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 …