My picks for best stand-up of 2023

The Golden Globes added a Best Stand-Up Comedian category.

Sarah Silverman is a two-time Emmy-winning comedian, actress and writer who has created 10 stand-up acts, featured on shows like “Saturday Night Live.” She has acted in sitcoms, cartoons and films. (Zach Dilgard / HBO)

In exciting news for comedy fans everywhere, the Golden Globes added a stand-up comedy award to their 2024 show for Best Performance in Stand-Up Comedy on Television. This is the first time a major award show (aka an award show I would actually watch) has dedicated an award solely to stand-up.

The Globes will choose six nominees from the 2023 calendar year for the 2024 award show.

However, as I tried to brainstorm my picks, I realized my personal choices and my predictions for the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s choices weren’t the same. So, I figured it was time to introduce the first annual Kimberly Aguirre Comedy Awards. The Aguirre Best Stand-Up category will also pick six nominees within the calendar year.

For transparency’s sake, here’s what the esteemed panel of judges (me) will take into consideration: Storytelling — Is there a larger arc to the special? Did the show’s structure better the comedy?; Memorability — Were there moments that stuck out from the show? Will the show leave a lasting impact on the world of comedy?; and, most importantly, silliness — Was it funny?

Without further ado, here are the nominees for Best Stand-Up Special.

“Mae Martin: SAP”

This special excels in all categories taken into consideration. In their 70 minutes, Martin crafts a tight narrative, with natural-feeling callbacks and the perfect ratio of comedy to serious subject matter. Martin’s special feels like a late night with a friend, when you share your deepest secrets but also can’t stop laughing.

A perfect example of Martin’s skill in balancing comedy and important topics is when they discuss gender. They manage to make it both funny by using a “Beauty and the Beast” Lumière analogy while also calling out the rise of transphobia among well-established comedians in the industry.

“Nate Bargatze: Hello World”

Even though “Hello World” was the first special I watched in 2023, it still makes me chuckle looking back — major memorability points. Bargatze also excels in silliness points. The native Tennessean is known for constantly making himself the butt of the joke, commenting on how dumb he is. While his “dumb” schtick isn’t something new, Bargatze pulls it off with such a charm that I can’t help but love him.

What is majorly impressive about Bargatze is he is a “clean” comic — no swears or sexual jokes. Although he is of a certain demographic of comics who tend to rely on shock value for laughs, begging to be canceled a la Jimmy Carr and Ricky Gervais, he never resorts to this. It’s easy to spew off a bunch of hate and take the cheap laughs, but it’s incredibly hard to fill up an hour with family-friendly jokes. 

“Bob The Drag Queen: Woke Man in a Dress”

Bob’s special cannot actually be nominated for the Golden Globes. The requirements state projects on personal social media accounts don’t qualify. Bob, being ever so generous, put her special on YouTube for all people to enjoy. At the Aguirre Awards, we honor her commitment to bringing comedy to all.

She’s incredible at crowd work, frequently incorporating the audience into the set, making it feel more casual and comfortable. Overall, Bob has an infectious personality. When she laughs, you feel like laughing. Some top moments include ragging on anti-vaxxers and using the family computer in the internet’s early days. Also, she speaks in defense of lesbians! We love!

Notable stand-up comedy specials of 2023 include Bob The Drag Queen’s “Woke Man in a Dress,” Mae Martin’s “SAP” and Sarah Silverman’s “Someone You Love.” (Zach Dilgard / HBO)

“John Mulaney: Baby J”

Realistically, “Baby J” is taking home both the Golden Globe and the Writing for a Variety Special Emmy. I wouldn’t be mad about that — Mulaney consistently delivers; it’s no wonder why he’s one of the most popular comics in the game right now.

Mulaney’s newest special is definitely a departure from his last, as he addresses his recent rehab and the public response. It’s more serious than his previous stand-up specials, but he makes it work. No one can deny his writing skills — he knows how to craft a show that is well-rounded, meaningful and funny. The thought behind his show is so clear. Even when he’s just reading his infamous GQ interview, everything makes sense; “Baby J” is a perfect special.

“Jimmy O. Yang: Guess How Much?”

“Guess How Much?” is one of the highest-ranking specials on the silliness scale for 2023. Yang’s show follows more of a vignette style; however, each segment is well-crafted.

His greatest moment comes from talking about his former roommate, who didn’t want to work and instead wanted to win the lottery so he could take Yang to a buffet. The roommate (who was crashing on Yang’s couch) eventually won the grand prize on “Let’s Make a Deal,” but blew through the money in three months.

While Yang’s special may not be as well-structured as others on this list, he makes up for that in his stage presence. He knows how to command a stage, making him a strong contender for the award.

“Sarah Silverman: Someone You Love”

Silverman is less interested in creating a narrative than she is in just being plain ol’ funny. And she is! She’s funny enough that I can forget all about storytelling points and nominate her anyway. Of the six nominees, she probably has the dirtiest subject matter (meaning, she makes more mature jokes without them relating back to personal life stories like Mulaney), but it works for her.

Just as creating a clean set is hard, making a mature set without relying on shock value is equally as difficult. For example, Silverman has both Boy Scouts and Hitler jokes in her set. She’s an incredibly talented writer, though, so even her constant diarrhea jokes don’t feel cheap because she knows how to utilize timing — a skill way too rare in many specials. She doesn’t hang on to any punchline for too long, giving just the appropriate amount of time for her inappropriate jokes.


And, the winner of the first annual Kimberly Aguirre Award for Best Stand-Up Comedy Special is … Mae Martin for “Mae Martin: SAP”! It was a difficult choice, but ultimately the judges (me) have made their decision.

Nevertheless, a huge thank you to all the nominees for making my 2023 better and sillier.

Kimberly Aguirre is a junior writing about comedy. Her column, “Comic Relief,” runs every other Friday. She is also an associate managing editor at the Daily Trojan.

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