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11 Stand-Up Specials That Broke the Mold


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Most stand-up comedy specials involve little more than a stage and a mic. (And if it’s the ’80s, a brick wall.) But a few innovative comedians have broken the mold, whether through utilizing other formats (sketches, monologues) to deliver their material or by ditching the traditional comedy club setting entirely. Here are 10 specials that will change the way you think about stand-up comedy.

11. Larry David, Curb Your Enthusiasm

A faux-documentary chronicling David’s return to stand-up, the 1999 special Larry David: Curb Your Enthusiasm also served as something of a pilot for his hit HBO series.

10. Paul F. Tompkins, Driven to Drink

Regaling his wild and often touching drinking stories to bartender Craig Anton, Tompkins offers a set that’s more like a seriocomic play than a night at the Improv.

9. Sarah Silverman, We Are Miracles

The always rule-breaking Silverman made her first HBO special quite an event — for the 39 people who attended. Yes, Silverman performed her risque set in the intimate Largo space for a select group of fans, which only helped to enhance the awkward comedic moments Sarah loves to create.

8. Whoopi Golberg, Direct from Broadway

Anyone who only knows Whoopi from The View should seek out this 1985 TV special that showcased her wide variety of characters. Funny and sad in equal measures, and a reminder of how groundbreaking Whoopi was in her heyday.

7. Reggie Watts, Why Sh$! So Crazy?

Fans of the sweet comedic music made by Comedy Bang! Bang! sidekick Reggie Watts will want to get their eyeholes on his 2010 special.

6. Chris Rock, Kill the Messenger

Not content to simply kill in one theater, Chris Rock took his fifth comedy special worldwide. The special cuts together a seamless performance from three shows which took place in London, New York, and Johannesburg.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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