The Funniest Stand-Up Comedy Specials Streaming On HBO Max

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For decades, the premier place to find your favorite comedians in action on stage and at their absolute best while never leaving the comfort of your own home was HBO. Now, unlike the old days when you had to tune into the channel only when the event would air in order to see it, a subscription to HBO Max grants you the ability to stream specials featuring George Carlin, Whoopi Goldberg, and more whenever you may need a laugh. If you happen to be in that sort of mood right now, allow us to help point you in the right direction by presenting our picks for the funniest comedy specials on HBO Max right now.

Jerrod Carmichael in Rothaniel

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Jerrod Carmichael: Rothaniel (2022)

For his most personal project for HBO yet, Jerrod Carmichael reveals lot about himself and his amusing family history to a very intimate and interactive audience at the Blue Note Jazz Club in New York City. Directed by three-time Emmy-winning comic Bo Burnham, Rothaniel — the significance of which is also a major reveal — would earn Carmichael his first Primetime Emmy and is one of the most essential titles for fans of the comedian to watch.

Stream Jerrod Carmichael: Rothaniel on HBO Max (opens in new tab).

Marc Maron: From Bleak To Dark

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Marc Maron: From Bleak To Dark (2023)

Soul-bearing confessions seem to be a trend in the world of stand-up comedy lately, as Marc Maron’s latest special (and first for HBO), From Bleak to Dark, further proves. The actor, comedian, and podcasting star riffs on just some of the many issues that the world is facing at the moment before shifting the conversation to his own struggles following the death of his partner, Emmy-nominated filmmaker Lynn Shelton.

Stream Marc Maron: From Bleak To Dark on HBO Max (opens in new tab).

Dave Chappelle: Killin' Them Softly

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Dave Chappelle: Killin' Them Softly (2000)

Before his iconic sketch comedy show made him one of the most celebrated — and controversial — comedians of his time, Dave Chappelle put out his first feature-length stand-up special (and a stunning debut at that) on HBO. Filmed at the Lincoln Theatre in his hometown of Washington D.C., Killin’ Them Softly is one of the most thought-provoking and gut-busing examples of the A Star is Born and Half Baked actor’s sharp satirical wit.

Stream Dave Chappelle: Killin' Them Softly on HBO Max (opens in new tab).

Dane Cook: Vicious Circle

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Dane Cook: Vicious Circle (2006)

At the height of his stardom and in the same year his reality series, Tourgasm, also aired on HBO, Dane Cook released his first (and only) special for the network that was filmed in his hometown of Boston, Massachusetts. The title of the Emmy-nominated Vicious Circle refers to a couple of things: the shape of Cook’s stage bearing his signature “SU-FI” logo as he's surrounded by thousands of fans, and the exploration of how our mistakes come back to haunt us.

Stream Dane Cook: Vicious Circle on HBO Max (opens in new tab).

Ellen DeGeneres: The Beginning

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Ellen DeGeneres: The Beginning (2000)

Before she became best-known as a daytime talk show host or as the voice of Dory from Pixar’s Finding Nemo, Ellen DeGeneres released her first full-length stand-up special on HBO aptly titled The Beginning. Also one of her first major projects after coming out as a lesbian, DeGeneres does address the pivotal event at the top of her set at the Beacon Theatre — not in words, but through interpretive dance — before moving on to a variety of other topics in a hilarious fashion.

Stream Ellen Degeneres: The Beginning on HBO Max (opens in new tab).

Paul F. Tompkins: Driven To Drink

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Paul F. Tompkins: Driven To Drink (1999)

While only lasting 28 minutes, Bojack Horseman star Paul F. Tompkins’ first solo concert special, Driven to Drink, serves as a perfect introduction to his blunt, brazen, and sometimes charmingly cynical wit. The comic actually sips on a few beers — served to him by former MADtv cast member Craig Anton as a bartender named Pat — while sharing personal stories and observational commentaries revolving around the subject of alcohol.

Stream Paul F. Tompkins: Driven To Drink on HBO Max (opens in new tab).

Tig Notaro: Boyish Girl Interrupted

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Tig Notaro: Boyish Girl Interrupted (2015)

Three years after a revealing stand-up set about her breast cancer diagnosis made her a household name, Tig Notaro would actually show an audience at Boston’s Wilbur Theatre what her double mastectomy looks like. The moment was captured in one of her best stand-up specials — and first for HBO — called Boyish Girl Interrupted, which the dazzlingly deadpan comic also co-directed with Jay Karas.

Stream Tig Notaro: Boyish Girl Interrupted on HBO Max (opens in new tab).

Whoopi Goldberg: Direct From Broadway

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Whoopi Goldberg: Direct From Broadway (1985)

The moment that officially launched Whoopi Goldberg’s career was her one-woman play, “The Spook Show,” in which she debuted characters like “Fontaine” and “Surfer Chick.” The show was adapted into a now-iconic HBO special called Direct from Broadway, which the Academy Award winner would later pay tribute to in a 20th anniversary special called, Back to Broadway.

Stream Whoopi Goldberg: Direct From Broadway on HBO Max (opens in new tab).

Carlin At Carnegie

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Carlin At Carnegie (1983)

Most fans of stand-up would agree that, when putting together their own imaginary Mt. Rushmore for comedians, one of the four faces would have to be George Carlin. There are many, many great examples of specials from the late comedic genius on HBO Max to choose from, but we settled on the much-acclaimed Carlin at Carnegie, in which he performs some of his most classic bits — including an updated list of NSFW words — at the famed, titular New York theatre.

Stream Carlin At Carnegie on HBO Max (opens in new tab).

Lewis Black: Red, White And Screwed

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Lewis Black: Red, White And Screwed (2006)

Similar to George Carlin, Lewis Black is someone who shows absolutely no fear when boisterously spouting his opinions about everything that he believes is wrong with the world. This reputation reaches its peak in the former Daily Show correspondent and Inside Out voice cast member’s Emmy-nominated HBO special, Red, White and Screwed, in which he demolishes topics like the difference between the Bible’s Old and New Testaments and why swearing is taken too seriously.

Stream Lewis Black: Red, White And Screwed on HBO Max. (opens in new tab)

Tracey Ullman: Live And Exposed

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Tracey Ullman: Live And Exposed (2005)

Tracey Ullman became famous for disappearing into the astonishing variety of personas she has created and presented on stage and TV over the past few decades. However, the British comic debuts her most challenging and personal character yet — herself — in her Emmy-nominated, autobiographical one-woman show, Live and Exposed.

Stream Tracey Ullman: Live And Exposed on HBO Max (opens in new tab).

Chris Rock: Bigger & Blacker

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Chris Rock: Bigger & Blacker (1999)

Before Chris Rock went on to make history as the focus of Netflix’s first live-streaming event with his stand-up special, Selective Outrage, he was already making history with his brazenly honest style of comedy when HBO was his home. Arguably the best of the former SNL star’s specials from this time is Bigger & Blacker, which also boasts one of his most astonishingly relevant sets, despite first coming out in the late 1990s.

Stream Chris Rock: Bigger & Blacker on HBO Max (opens in new tab).

There are plenty of other great stand-up specials to choose from on HBO Max, but these are the ones that made us laugh the hardest. What about you?

Jason Wiese
SEO Team Writer

Jason has been writing since he was able to pick up a washable marker, with which he wrote his debut illustrated children's story, later transitioning to a short-lived comic book series and (very) amateur filmmaking before finally settling on pursuing a career in writing about movies in lieu of making them. Look for his name in just about any article related to Batman.