Exclaim!'s Top Five Comedy Specials

Best of 2016

BY Exclaim! StaffPublished Jan 4, 2017

Our Best of 2016 albums lists by genre have been posted; here come our picks for the five best comedy specials/albums of 2016.

5. Steph Tolev
Hot N' Hungry
(Comedy Records)
On Hot N' Hungry, the debut from Steph Tolev, the Toronto comedian introduces herself to the world by pointing out every imaginable flaw about herself within the first ten minutes. Making hilarious (and mostly exaggerated) observations about her body hair, gravelly voice and weight, Tolev comes off completely empowered, beating most male comedians at their own self-deprecation game. But what makes Hot N' Hungry one of the year's best is how clever her jokes are (about crapping her pants and weighing herself in tuna on a first date), once the listener is acquainted with the pathetic picture Tolev paints of herself. When it comes to Tolev, nothing is off limits, making Hot N' Hungry a breath of dirty air. Daniel Sylvester

4. Tom Segura
Mostly Stories
This special was arguably the point that Segura went from being a good comic to a great comic. His first special, Completely Normal, was a fun debut, but Mostly Stories is on another level with the amount of unforgettable tales it packs in. From his bit about his dad telling everyone that Tommy Lee Jones is gay without any evidence, to his closer about meeting Mike Tyson and having Tyson become weirdly clingy, Mostly Stories is like the best night of campfire stories with some weird but hard-hitting sexual bits sprinkled in. An unpredictable delight that keeps you begging to know "And then what happened?" at every turn. Julianna Romanyk

3. Ali Wong
Baby Cobra
(Comedy Dynamics)
This is arguably the strongest debut special of the decade. Everyone focuses on the fact that she did it while seven-and-a-half months pregnant, but that should just be an impressive side note when looking at this special. Her hour is carefully woven with an overarching theme that slowly builds and pays off in her closer; her writing sharply pulls off insane feats like going against modern notions of feminism while still making everybody laugh; and her delivery is basically flawless. I'm positive we'll see Ali Wong killing equally hard in future specials, pregnant or not. Julianna Romanyk

2. Patton Oswalt
Talking for Clapping
Released one the day after his wife, Michelle McNamara, passed away, Patton Oswalt's seventh comedy special was destined to be viewed through a different lens than originally intended. His bits about the enduring optimism he possesses when raising his daughter, or how stingy his doctor had become with prescribing painkillers, take on a new, eerie meaning (in an interview, Oswalt speculated that his wife may have died from an accidental Xanax overdose). But what makes his 90-minute performance so buoyant and enjoyable is Oswalt's ability to draw the audience member in, even when his material becomes extremely personal. On Talking for Clapping, Oswalt's comedy comes off extraordinarily honest and real, completely unaware just how real his life would soon become. Daniel Sylvester

1. Gary Gulman
It's About Time
Late in the fall, comedians like Patton Oswalt and Josh Gondelman shared Gary Gulman's Conan appearance from July with their followings, marvelling at his comedic daring in using a coveted TV spot to just go all in with a single, long, disarmingly brilliant bit about the history of U.S. state abbreviations.
The anecdote is from Gulman's latest special, which is a masterful display by a total pro who's ready to go. It's genuinely fun watching Gulman whip through vivid descriptions or drop subtle, blink-and-you-miss-them pop culture references so eloquently. He's just so ready for this show; you can tell he's just barely able to curb his enthusiasm to perform. Smart, self-assured, and clearly in command of both his material and the moment, Gary Gulman's slow-build riffs on everything from phones to rude shopping-cart etiquette are funny and insightful. Vish Khanna

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