The 10 Greatest Stand-Up Comedy Specials Ever

10 Greatest Stand-up TV Specials

After previewing Kathy Griffin's newest stand-up special a couple days ago, I wondered why the art of the stand-up special seems to have withered in an age where a simple one-liner can become the most popular video on the Internet. The best stand-up specials of all time remain compulsively consumable gems years later, well after Comedy Central stopped using them to pad its daily schedule. Movieline has compiled its 10 favorite specials after the jump with the hope of honoring a format that deserves to stay relevant forever. Banjos and mic stands ready!

10. Kathy Griffin, Allegedly

Say what you will about Kathy Griffin's place alongside traditionally observant icons like Bill Cosby, but the woman practically invented her own form of stand-up. In Allegedly, she broke down the hierarchy of Hollywood's status-obsessed culture to staggering effect. She may not be a mannered comedian (she even claims not to prepare a single line of dialogue ahead of time), but that's what makes her a legend: She's George Carlin as filtered through Louella Parsons.

9. Dana Carvey, Critic's Choice

Dana Carvey's post-SNL career hasn't lived up to his genius, but his '90s HBO special Critic's Choice takes his best character material and punctuates it with droll observational material. His riff on singer-songwriters and their onstage tics is as hilarious as his more familiar "Choppin' Broccoli" shtick.

8. Robin Williams, An Evening with Robin Williams

Everything about Williams' 1982 special is iconic: The manic infiltration of his audience, the schizoid pacing, the rapid-shifting character voices aided by Williams' Juilliard training. While he'd go onto Oscar-winning prestige, this era will always be Williams' funnest.

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  • Dang. That's isthe most jacked up note I've heard today. But, I'm not sure, myself.

  • Geez. That's just about the most jacked up piece I've seen today. But somehow, I'm not positive, myself.

  • Kayce Chiras says:

    Lovely just what I was searching for.Thanks to the author for taking his time on this one.

  • JC says:

    I have to disagree a little bit with this list. Although they are all amazing acts in their own right I feel that Bill Cosby "Himself's" stand up (he was actually sitting down the whole time) was absolutely amazing. That comedy show was clean but absolutely funny to the core. If you ever get a chance to watch it I highly recommend it.

  • Jeff Rittenour says:

    Kathy Griffin has NEVER been funny. Seeing that entry at number 10 tells me you're list is PURE SHIT, and I'm through reading anything on this site...

  • Kathy Griffin and no Bill Hicks. That's a joke in of itself.

  • james says:

    Thats nonsense in comparing Kathy Griffin to George Carlin with the "mannered" remark. George Carlin was a very mannered comedian who kept diligent records of his notes (purportedly a whole storage shed full), and practiced his routine over a long period of time

  • Bill says:

    The fact that Patrice O'Neal's Elephant In The Room was excluded is criminal & insane.

  • Harry says:

    Maybe you should try comedy, putting kathy griffin on this list, that's pretty hilarious. No Dave Chappelle, No Bill Hicks, No Patrice O'neal, no Louis CK, no Bill Burr.

  • Deadhammer says:

    No Louis C.K? The best social commentator since Carlin and one of the best, if not the best comedian alive? And more importantly - WHERE THE FUCK IS BILL HICKS? ...... Mr Bill fucking Hicks, one of the BEST of all time? The one who was telling like it was and did not give a shit about social outbrusts? If there is such thing as heaven (which there is not ,you fucking children 😛 ), he's probably smoking fat blunt with Carlin and Pryor, watching over Louis C.K. to make sure, that after his demise he will join them at the table of stand-up Gods (which is in the room resevred for people that not only made the audiance laugh, but also think).

    BILL fuckin' HICKS !! Member of the Holy Trinity (Carlin + Pryor + Hicks = Carprycks)

    plus Louis C.K. who sould easily be in top 5.

    What is wrong with the person who made this list! And the funny thing is that I'm from Poland, english is my second language and all those comedians are unknown to polish audiance, simply because they don't broadcast any of them (but I have no idea how they would translate some word-play jokes).
    And yet I have to "fight" for the memory of Bill and for the inclusion of ginger comedian in the name of equality, political corectness and his fucking brilliant material which he changes every year.