Yes, 2014 was a strange year for comedy, marred by scandal, controversy and the tragic loss of legendary talents. New comics seized the spotlight, blossoming into full-fledged stardom on the strength of career-best showcases, while others saw their acclaim diminish. Frankly, it made us shudder to see the lead-in photo of Bill Cosby from last year's list: Fittingly, Hannibal Buress, the comedian who launched a thousand think-pieces by refusing to remain silent about the accusations against Cosby, had a banner year. And then there were the specials: Whittling them down to the five best omits some fine hours of comedy: Specials like Patton Oswalt's Tragedy Plus Comedy Equals Time and Jim Gaffigan's Obsessed are worth seeking out, but lack the distinction of their finest work. Meanwhile, performers like Nick Offerman and Wyatt Cenac, whose American Ham and Brooklyn were released last year, seemed to merely coast off the goodwill of their TV careers, experimenting with interesting formats but mostly stumbling through laugh-free hours. All of the comedians listed here, however, are at the top of their respective games, turning in their funniest work yet.
See also: Ten Best Comedy Specials of 2013More »