4 Comedy Specials to Watch: Seasoned Stand-Ups Making Debuts

Judah Friedlander

“America Is the Greatest Country in the United States” (Netflix)

A trailer for “Judah Friedlander: America Is The Greatest Country in the United States.” Video by Netflix

Judah Friedlander, who has been performing regularly since 1989 without putting out an album or special, uses more than a dozen punch lines in the first two minutes of his new special, a pace he sustains for more than two hours. If comedy were measured by volume, an argument could be made that no one offers a better deal on Netflix.

Yet despite this density of jokes, Mr. Friedlander — whose stand-up persona is a know-it-all boaster nicknamed the World Champion — never seems like he’s in a rush. His relaxed slacker affect (a shaggy beard and trucker cap are constants) is such a strange fit for his egomania that it can’t help but make you laugh. He specializes in crowd work and self-evidently absurd arguments, like making the case that other countries hate Americans because we have the best cheese in the world.

In the age of Trump, Mr. Friedlander’s preposterous arrogance, which extends to believing he can solve every political problem in a quick sound bite, does not seem so silly, which he seems to understand. His jokes arrive refracted through a left-leaning lens, and while he doesn’t parody the president, he increasingly seems to pivot off him. “We don’t need to bring back coal,” he says dismissively. “But I am going to bring back all the VCR repairman jobs.”

Yamaneika Saunders

“Comedy Central Stand-Up Presents” (Amazon)

A trailer for Yamaneika Saunders’s comedy special. Video by Comedy Central

After explaining that a bride for whom she was the maid of honor asked her to wear a pumpkin-spice-colored dress, Yamaneika Saunders freezes, silent onstage, waiting a beat. Then her face seems to retreat, flattening out, her pupils dancing from one side to the other and back again, veering farther from her nose than seems possible. This contortion transitions into a mask of confusion as her shoulders rise, the only help her body offers to the wonderful above-the-neck physical comedy that turns the punch line that follows into a mere coda. (“That’s not even a color. That’s a drink at Starbucks.”)

Ms. Saunders is a magnetic live performer who stood out on Oxygen’s short-lived reality show about female stand-ups, “Funny Girls,” and she can do a lot with a little. She finds all kinds of laughs milking a pause, running…

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