The 10 Best Comedy Specials of 2024 (So Far) |

The 10 Best Comedy Specials of 2024 (So Far)

We’re only halfway through 2024, and already it feels like a banner year for comedy. We here at the Paste had a difficult time narrowing things down to the ten best comedy specials of 2024 (so far), and unfortunately had to leave some greats on the cutting room floor that are still very much worth your time. Our honorable mentions for best comedy specials of the year so far go to Liz Miele’s Murder Sheets, Laurie Kilmartin’s Cis Woke Grief Slut, Guy Montgomery’s My Brain Is Blowing Me Crazy, and Dusty Slay’s Workin’ Man. All of these hours very nearly made it on the list, and they deserve their time in the limelight. 

Here are the best specials of the year (so far) in ascending order:

10. Jacqueline Novak: Get on Your Knees

Photo: Netflix

This is the smartest special about blowjobs you will likely see in your lifetime. Novak wanders on well-worn ground for female comedians—dicks and women’s magazines and a boyfriend’s father reprimanding her for overusing the word “like.” Classic lady stuff, am I right? But Novak is approaching these subjects in a way that seems to isolate them from the cultural storm happening in their name and instead presents them so that makes them feel new, unsullied by years of arguing whether this or that is feminist or sexist. She finds new angles, creates new alleys in which to explore. It is very difficult to find a non-cliche way of describing how you lost your virginity. Novak finds it. 

There are George Carlin-isms as she deconstructs the sounds of various words we use to describe male appendages. This kind of analysis, like a scientist with a microscope, can be tricky, but Novak knows not to spend too much time analyzing the Petri dish. There are larger topics to discuss, like whether she could bite off someone’s dick if the opportunity arose, a particularly good tangent. Her words are carefully weighed, and positioned in very specific parts of her sentences. She certainly does have a poetic sensibility, one that pays careful attention to its sentence structure. Novak is clearly in control.—Michelle Cohn [Full Review]

9. Ian Abramson: The Heist 

Ian Abramson photo

Photo: Comedy Dynamics

One of Abramson’s greatest strengths is his sheer commitment. It comes through in his physical comedy, as Abramson does a full-body an impression of a match being lit or an umbrella turning inside out. His devotion to getting a laugh, no matter what the cost, becomes wholly apparent in the show’s closing joke. Yes, he does things that are attention grabbing, but they’re more than cheap tricks; these bits are a testament to Abramson’s riotous sense of humor and willingness to give his all to the moment. 

Abramson packs as many jokes as possible into The Heist, including during the credits, which are worth sticking around for. He’s the type of idiosyncratic comedian who deserves his own Adult Swim show, but for now, Abramson’s delightfully absurd debut special serves up more than enough laughs.—Clare Martin [Full Review]

8. Kate Willett: Loopholes

Kate Willett still

Photo: Comedy Dynamics

“How do you stay true to yourself when there’s just, like, all these people and all these forces just constantly asking you to compromise?” comedian Kate Willett entreats the audience near the end of her stand-up special Loopholes. In context, she’s talking about an unsatisfying relationship with a sexist partner, but the sentiment remains relevant for the entirety of the set. How does a comic like Willett stick to her feminist, anti-capitalist, and abolitionist ideals when living in the U.S.? She doesn’t give us a hard-and-fast answer, rather showing us the nitty gritty of trying to do so while also keeping us in stitches.—Clare Martin [Full Review]

7. Demetri Martin: Demetri Deconstructed

Demetri Martin photo

Photo: Netflix

Between the framing device (Martin is undergoing medical tests that require him to enter a comedy simulation) and the quaint choice to film in black and white, it’s clear from the start that Martin and company will keep us on our toes. At first the decision to film without color may feel like a twee affectation that tries too hard to lend the special gravitas, but Martin’s exquisite set earns the timeless look. The team behind Demetri Deconstructed mix up the visual language of the comedy special in a way that is playful and funny rather than merely gimmicky.

We also get a voiceover from Martin throughout Demetri Deconstructed, which relays his thoughts as the show unfolds. In some ways, it’s a creative illustration of the comic’s process—will he keep this joke in? Will he try to be topical? Which version of his entrance is best? It takes the meta-commentary of comedians mid-set and brings it to the next logical level, with some neuroses added in, naturally. Most vitally, we get even more of Martin’s humor sprinkled into the special through his inner monologue.—Clare Martin [Full Review]

6. Kyle Kinane: Dirt Nap

Kyle Kinane photo

Photo: Darin Kamnetz

As far as comics go, Kinane is one of the last you’d picture in the suburbs. With his grizzled beard and earring and general dive bar vibe, it’s easier to envision Kinane on the road embracing van life (and he often does—as his new run of live shows declares, “It’s Not a Tour, It’s The Job”). And yet, he found himself in a commuter town near Portland, Ore. as the pandemic descended. In Dirt Nap, Kinane mines plenty of comedy out of this strange juxtaposition, imagining how suspicious his white picket fence neighbors must be as he hands out full-size candy bars and cries in his car. Kinane conjures up these scenes with rich language stuffed full of similes, bringing color even to the beige, T.G.I. Friday-filled burbs.—Clare Martin [Full Review]

5. Ramy Youssef: More Feelings 

Ramy Youssef photo

Photo: Jesse DeFlorio

Youssef’s personal life and the world at large have changed dramatically in the past five years—and I’m not just talking about his appearance in the Oscar-winning film Poor Things. Last we saw Youssef doing stand-up, he was regaling us with tales about trying to combat Islamophobia by sleeping with white women, or growing up in a house adorned with a photo of his father shaking Donald Trump’s hand. Now he’s sharing anecdotes about going to therapy with his wife and noting Joe Biden’s shortcomings as a president. Youssef is the constant here, though; he still possesses the same understated, soft-spoken comedic style, still jokes about his family and faith, still provides humble and humorous insight.—Clare Martin [Full Review]

4. Dan Licata: For the Boys

Image: Danny Scharar

For the Boys was filmed in front of an auditorium of 15-year-old male students at Licata’s alma mater, Amherst Central High School in Buffalo, New York. The choice of setting and audience are both excellent, particularly because Licata’s set leans heavily into a crassness most commonly associated with teenage boys. Sophomoric humor is beautiful in its simplicity. I don’t want to over-intellectualize it too much; we all know that a good gross joke is a joy to behold. 

Licata performs as a heightened, blustering version of himself, his persona coming across like a stoner friend of AJ Soprano’s who never quite grew up. Sprinkled with malapropisms and his unofficial catchphrase “You know I had to do it to ‘em,” Licata’s hour is made up of once-off stories that are all hyperbole and unbridled vulgarity. The high-achieving, ambitious high school students further highlight Licata’s own waywardness. He likens himself to Jackass’ Bam Margera at one point, and doesn’t shy away from dipping into the sadder side of a Margera-type figure. He’s self-deprecating, but not dunking on this kind of dude, either; there’s an inherent empathy that keeps anything from feeling mean-spirited.—Clare Martin [Full Review]

3. Jenny Slate: Seasoned Professional 

Screenshot via YouTube

Slate’s latest hour is much more streamlined and effective than Stage Fright (which was entertaining in its own right), without losing her endearing silliness. While Stage Fright cuts back and forth to interviews with her family and home videos, on Seasoned Professional we’re just hearing from Slate herself, and the special is the better for it. Between her enthusiasm and director Gillian Robespierre’s (a frequent Slate collaborator who also directed Obvious Child and Stage Fright) dynamic eye, we don’t need anything else interrupting the show.

Most of Seasoned Professional is loosely structured around the birth of Slate’s daughter, which is used as a jumping off point for tangents about meeting her now-husband, disastrous diarrhea from years past (truly a side-splitting bit), and a cross-country pandemic road trip. Slate fully commits to her signature more-is-more style throughout the special, and it works because she underpins her over-the-top demeanor with a sensitivity and keen awareness about herself and the world around her. Her vocals go on a wild roller coaster ride, yo-yoing between a whisper and a boisterous yell, leaving us in no doubt of why she’s so in demand as a voice actor. In fact, Slate herself is like a cartoon character brought to life. She impersonates a walrus guzzling mackerel, her own semi-dried urine, and perverts enjoying their lascivious nighttime pleasures with unparalleled gusto. Her prowess as a physical comedian feels so natural, too; Slate is a born performer.—Clare Martin [Full Review]

2. Rory Scovel: Religion, Sex, and a Few Things in Between

Rory Scovel photo

Photo: Eddy Chen

Scovel has long been something of a comic’s comic, flying under the radar for most but inspiring ardor in those lucky folks who’ve encountered him. Scovel’s profile grew thanks to his delightful part in Babylon as haphazard drug dealer The Count, though he still deserves more recognition. And his new special—Religion, Sex, and a Few Things in Between—has only made me a more fervent Scovel fan. 

Filmed in Minneapolis, Scovel’s latest special is kaleidoscopic. He jumps from subject to subject and slips in and out of accents at the drop of a hat, but these bits and characters are interlaced in a way that creates a larger, grander image from the madness. Scovel famously is not a fan of listening back to and editing his work; as he told Mike Behrends in a Paste interview, “I truly think that if I could get myself to do that as my process, I could really explode my career.” Well, Scovel did just that on this latest tour, and as a result Religion, Sex, and a Few Things in Between is his best structured and pithiest work to date. Nearly every beat elicits a laugh, or builds to one that’s coming soon. And I should clarify that while this is Scovel’s best constructed special so far, there’s no overarching narrative—the title itself really says it all. However, he really plumbs the depths of the themes at hand and maximizes each bit. This is structure, Scovel-style.—Clare Martin [Full Review]

1. Conner O’Malley: Stand Up Solutions

Conner O'Malley still

Screenshot via YouTube

For Stand Up Solutions, O’Malley dons a blue polo and khakis as he embodies Richard Eagleton, a father and husband who’s created the first-ever AI-powered comedian, KENN (Kinetic Emotional Neural Network). Richard talks us through his investment presentation for Stand Up Solutions with the enthusiasm of a used car salesman, seeming utterly normal until suddenly… he isn’t. At its extremes, O’Malley’s cadence bounces from crazed TED Talk presenter to an alien trying desperately to seem human.

During his Powerpoint, Richard repeatedly assures us “Let’s not get political!”—even though in reality O’Malley’s special is packed with social and political commentary. On the surface, it’s all so puerile and silly and chaotic that there doesn’t seem to be a message of sorts. You’re distracted by the photos of bowel movements or Richard hypnotically tracing his neighbor’s leg with a laser pointer, but that’s just how O’Malley’s fucked-up genius works.—Clare Martin [Full Review]

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