fb-pixel Skip to main content

10 hilarious comedy shows taped in Boston that you can watch right now

Gary Gulman, shown performing in 2013 in New York City. His 2012 comedy special, "In This Economy?," recorded at Boston's Wilbur Theatre, was a career turning point.
Gary Gulman, shown performing in 2013 in New York City. His 2012 comedy special, "In This Economy?," recorded at Boston's Wilbur Theatre, was a career turning point.Getty Images for Comedy Central/Getty

Comedy is a communal experience. There is nothing that compares to seeing a good comedy show live in your favorite venue. With clubs and theaters closed for the foreseeable future, that’s not an option right now. But you can still see a variety of specials taped in Boston on Netflix, Amazon, and elsewhere, from comedians with Boston roots like Gary Gulman and Myq Kaplan or favorites like Tig Notaro and Jim Gaffigan. Here is a sample of what’s available.

Gary Gulman at the Wilbur (“In This Economy?,” 2012; Amazon)

Peabody native Gulman turned a corner with this Comedy Central special. Money is a running theme here. He loves Netflix, he says, but now he feels he has to binge because the more he watches, the cheaper the price per movie. There’s a routine about Bill Gates taunting Donald Trump over their relative worth and chiding Trump for naming everything after himself. “It’s not underwear,” Gulman imagines Gates saying. “You’re not going off to camp. Stop it.”

Jim Gaffigan
Jim Gaffigan Rich Polk/Getty Images for IMDb

Jim Gaffigan at the Wilbur (“Noble Ape,” 2018; Amazon, Apple TV, Vudu)

Advertisement



In the latest of two specials he taped at the Wilbur (after “Obsessed”), Gaffigan continues to find novel ways to approach familiar topics. Specifically, on how Jell-O is made: “Let me have the bones and hooves, I’ve got an idea for a kids’ dessert.” On staying in shape and working out at the neighborhood Y: “It’s different from a normal health club. There’s moments when you think, ‘Oh my gosh, look at how much weight that guy’s lifting.’ It’s more like, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s guy’s smoking. On a treadmill. In dress pants.’ ” Gaffigan’s closer is a great story about opening for the pope in Philadelphia.

Jim Norton at Somerville Theatre (“American Degenerate,” 2013; Amazon, Vudu)

Norton’s upcoming show at the Wilbur has been rescheduled to Sept. 26, but you can still see him on a local stage in this special recorded at the Somerville Theatre. Boston is a second hometown for Norton, who cheerfully walks through his creepiest character traits for an appreciative audience. “It’s never going to hurt me to talk about my personal life,” he says. “If I ever get busted with a prostitute, no Jim Norton fan’s gonna go, ‘Well, I won’t be buying his DVDs anymore.’ ”

Advertisement



Tig Notaro
Tig NotaroGetty Images for WCRF

Tig Notaro at the Wilbur (“Boyish Girl Interrupted,” 2015; HBO, Vudu, Apple TV)

Notaro followed her emotionally devastating album “Live” with a loose and playful set for her first one-hour special. She’s a brilliant comedic mechanic, setting up a story with deliberate bemusement that borders on deadpan before tagging it with something silly. At one point, she mimes eating an ice cream cone, then chides herself for not using the thing in her hand that is shaped exactly like the object she is miming, physically pushes the hand holding the mic away from her body, and then does the same mime again. She covers everything from Santa to pig snorts, with a final act that affirms her victory over breast cancer.

Dana Carvey at the Wilbur (“Straight White Male, 60,” 2016; Netflix)

Carvey’s impressions have always been more about rhythm and punch than true impersonation, and he runs through a litany of them here. He does Scarface at Thanksgiving dinner, Michael Caine and Liam Neeson as nannies, and Paul McCartney explaining his Kanye collaboration to John Lennon. Carvey interjects some moments from his personal life, riffing on his teenage sons’ attitudes and the doubting nature of Lutheran hymns, singing, “I’ll believe if you believe."

Advertisement



Myq Kaplan at the Wilbur (“Small, Dork and Handsome,” 2014; Amazon, Apple TV, Vudu)

The former Boston comic hits the audience with his elliptical mischief right off the bat. “In conclusion,” he starts, “a joke about time travel. But first, everything else.” Kaplan used to play Club Passim frequently when he started out, and mentions he once had aspirations to be a singer/songwriter. “Did you know you can make up to $60 an hour being a street musician?” he says. “Or up to $60 a minute robbing a street musician?”

Norm MacDonald.
Norm MacDonald.Michael Brands/Getty Images

Norm Macdonald at the Wilbur (“Hitler’s Dog, Gossip & Trickery,” 2017; Netflix)

The “SNL” alum has a unique delivery, as kind of targeted fumfering that surrounds a joke with “uhs” and “you knows” until he knocks you in the face with a punchline or an off-kilter observation. And he can be dark. “Do you think this would be funny, just as a practical joke, if you wrote a suicide note and just blamed some random guy?” he wonders aloud. “You know, like your barber or something like that?” ID is a strange abbreviation, he says, “because ‘I’ is short for ‘I’ and ‘d’ is short for . . . ‘dentification.’ ”

Jim Jefferies at the Wilbur (“Bare,” 2014; Netflix, AppleTV)

There are plenty of cringe-worthy moments in this special, which is how Jefferies likes it. “A lot of things that I say tonight will be jokes that I don’t actually mean,” he says, in a bit about how he believes women shouldn’t earn as much as men in the workplace, “but this is something I’m really passionate about.” He moves back and forth, from troglodyte to voice of reason, quoting philosopher René Descartes one minute and then devolving into some filth. This special is the one that includes Jefferies’s bit on gun control that went viral. Jefferies relates a break-in in which he was tied up and threatened. To those who would tell him it would have been different if he had had a gun, he says, “I was naked at the time. I wasn’t wearing my holster.” Boston bonus: The closing credits feature “Tell Mother I’m Home” by our own 18th-century aristocratic rockers the Upper Crust.

Advertisement



Barry Crimmins in 1987.
Barry Crimmins in 1987.John Blanding

“The Young Comedians All-Star Reunion” at Stitches (1986; YouTube)

Originally an HBO special, this one was filmed in a bunch of different locations around the country, with headliners Robin Williams, Howie Mandel, Richard Belzer, and Harry Anderson introducing up-and-comers like Howard Busgang, Ellen DeGeneres, Jake Johannsen, and John Mendoza. The Boston segment features Steven Wright introducing the late Barry Crimmins for a set at Stitches, a room that is now part of the Paradise Rock Club.

Rowan Atkinson at Boston University Theater (“Rowan Atkinson Live!,” 1992; YouTube)

Atkinson puts on a comedy clinic in this special (also known as “Not Just A Pretty Face”). He might be most famous for his physical comedy, shown in abundance in these solo sketches and occasional two-handers with Angus Deayton. His miming skills are put to use in bits about “how to date” and Shakespearean acting. But he’s every bit as good verbally, as the devil (or “Toby” — he likes to keep things “informal as well as infernal”) greeting new arrivals in Hell, or as a teacher taking attendance in a class where the students have naughty names. Stick around after the credits for his inspired bit with an invisible drum kit.

Advertisement



Nick A. Zaino III can be reached at nick@nickzaino.com.