10 Best British Stand-Up Comedy Specials, According To IMDb – Screen Rant
Looking for the best stand-up comedy specials from across the pond? IMDb users have cast their vote to make up this round-up.
Hasan Minaj fans will be excited to learn that the comedian is releasing his next stand-up special on Netflix on October 4th, which the streaming platform has said will feature "his thoughts on fertility, fatherhood, and freedom of speech.”
Many of the streaming platform's top-performing stand-up specials, however, come from across the pond and are from some of the U.K's biggest stars, including Ricky Gervais. For those who are looking to stream the best of the best, with guaranteed laughs, the most lauded are rounded up by IMDb's users here.
Not content with being known for simply writing and acting (including in one of the best dark comedy shows, After Life), Ricky Gervais has a neat sideline in being one of the biggest comedians on the planet.
Humanity doubles down on everything he is known for: mocking religion, ironically pointing out how rich and unrelatable he is, and a refusal to stop punching down. As always, his love of nature and animals features, with an extended routine about Noah's Ark a particular highlight. It is when Gervais gives in to his more controversial urges though (his routine about Caitlyn Jenner drew particular ire from critics) that stops this otherwise excellent set from really catching fire.
A mainstay on British television thanks to popular panel shows such as QI and Mock The Week, Andy Parsons represents a charming throwback to an era when comedians came on stage and just said funny things. They might have commented upon the issues of the day (such as the problems associated with telephone banking), but there was no overarching theme.
Slacktivist sees Parsons at his cynical best, throwing barbs at Richard Branson, comedians who don't pay taxes, and the state of politics in the UK. Parsons' skill is his ability to take dense topics (such as British politics), distill them into their simplest form, and point out the hypocrisy and stupidity within.
Freewheeling "genius" Ross Noble has been a big name on the UK stand-up circuit for 30 years, despite flying under the radar of most mainstream and international audiences. His stream-of-consciousness style of frenetic delivery mean that no two shows are the same, as the majority of his act is constructed by talking to the audience and creating an over-arching narrative for that evening's show.
Unrealtime demonstrates how good Noble is when he is on his game and has a willing audience. Taking in subjects as diverse as the recap sections on 24 ("like a tiny vole biting someone's leg") and Shaolin monks wearing hats, Noble surges through a complex two-hour show comprised entirely of what pops into his head at that moment.
Jonathan Pie (Tom Walker) began as a spoof online news journalist before comments made about Donald Trump during the 2016 Presidential election saw him trending on YouTube and gaining an international profile. Such notoriety led to his comically satirical rants going on tour, with dates across the UK, Australia, and the United States.
Taking an often ironic aim at subjects such as outrage culture and offense, Pie manages to simultaneously satirize these subjects and berate the audience for being part of the problem. His character is big and brash, with enough firepower in his punchlines to allow him to poke fun across the whole social and political spectrum.
Sisters Nicola and Rosie Dempsey, collectively known as Flo & Joan, are a musical comedy duo from England whose deadpan act is based around whimsical comedy songs, often with something of a feminist edge.
Alive On Stage is based on their 2019 Edinburgh Fringe show and sees them in dazzling form in front of a sold-out London audience. Whilst the melodies are infectious, and the musicianship is tight, it is the often pitch-black lyrics that set the duo apart. The crown jewel is the uber-relatable "Drank Too Much," a comic tale of excessive drinking and imaginary friendship, taking a sobering (pun intended) look at binge-drinking culture in the UK.
Originally a supporting character on the seminal '90s sketch show The Day Today, Alan Partridge (Steve Coogan) has gone on to become a cultural phenomenon. With more catchphrases than all the Loony Tunes combined, the ultra- quotable Partridge took to the arenas of the UK in 2022 to give his take on just exactly what is going on.
Whilst some reviewers felt the basic, crowd-pleasing format of the show (mostly recognizable sketches and fan-favorite guest stars) was underwhelming, the inherent nature of the character is that he is a bit rubbish, a cringe-inducing throwback to a time when local radio DJs were considered big-time celebrities.
Once voted the 41st best stand-up of all time (which subsequently became the subject of one of his shows) Stewart Lee is considered by many to be Britain's greatest stand-up comedian.
Content Provider sees Lee at his most confrontational and unhinged, firing his scathing, poetic wit at (among other things) Russell Howard, social media narcissism, and the decline of the comedy DVD ("the cheapest building material available"), in a tightly structured yet epic narrative, stuffed with callbacks and in-jokes making for, as always, a unique experience only Stewart Lee could provide.
Scottish comedian Daniel Sloss has quietly (over a 15-plus year career of relentless touring) positioned himself as one of the world's best-selling comedy acts (his tour was listed as one of the top-grossing shows of 2021), whilst still delivering dark, uncompromising, and (some say) potentially offensive material.
X sees him tackle the subject of masculinity, both from a physical perspective and on a wider, cultural level. Sloss deftly handles this potentially incendiary subject by actively seeking out its dark and toxic corners, shining a light on them, and ridiculing them mercilessly. His ability to switch from scathing punchlines to sincerity is astounding, and he often mixes hilarity with serious subject matter to make very important points.
The master of British deadpan, Jack Dee has been a household name in the UK for well over 30 years, and, as co-creator of the Live At The Apollo series on the BBC is incredibly influential.
Live In London represents Jack Dee at his finest. A master of human observation, Jack offers his take on such relatable subjects as wanting to punch boring people in the face at parties and the many meanings behind the phrase "what'll it be?" And whilst there are comedians (certainly in the modern age) who have taken stand-up and twisted it into new and exciting shapes, there is a lot to be said for traditional observational humor, the kind of which Jack Dee is undoubtedly a master.
Eccentric, whimsical genius James Acaster has, over the last decade or so, become a sensation in the stand-up world. Known for taking a slightly different approach from his peers (although compared by fans of both to Bo Burnham, due to a similar style), Acaster became the first to simultaneously release four separate stand-up specials on Netflix, collectively known as Repertoire.
Cold Lasagne, Hate Myself 1999 sees him pivot from the narrative conceits used to structure his previous work (pretending to be an undercover cop as the basis for one of the shows), adopting a faux-edgy comedian persona, allowing him to skewer actual edgy comedians, Brexit, and most notably, himself.
NEXT: 10 Best Stand-Up Comedy Specials Of 2022 According To Ranker
Daniel Powell is a Lists Writer and comedy fanatic who has been writing about Film and TV since 2008. As well as Screen Rant, Daniel has written lists and features for Den of Geek (UK) amongst others, and is based in Leeds, UK. As an award winning screenwriter and stand-up comedian, Daniel can usually be found in little dusty rooms saying funny things to bemused strangers. Is a comedy expert, at least in his own mind.