Tim Robinson isn’t on Twitter. This may surprise some of those familiar with I Think You Should Leave, his Netflix sketch show whose heady mix of social dysfunction, pedantry, absurdity, humiliation and beet-red rage seemed to evoke the manic, internet-poisoned headspace of modern life better than pretty much anything else. Sitting at the upper end of what could be reasonably termed a “cult hit”, I Think You Should Leave was that rarest of things: a sketch show where the hits far outnumber the misses; where many of the misses were in fact hits by stealth, striking you obliquely but resoundingly on repeat viewings. It was a work of comic genius.
Two years later, the series has returned, for another run of six short episodes (and I mean short - roughly a quarter of an hour each). The ingredients remain the same. More often than not, Robinson and co-creator Zach Kanin begin with blandly relatable situations – boardroom meetings, social gatherings – that are almost immediately derailed by one rogue operator. A man tries to covertly eat a hotdog from his sleeve while in a meeting. A man hires a budget Johnny Carson impersonator who starts assaulting party guests. A haunted house tour is ruined by a visitor who keeps asking foul-mouthed and crudely sexual questions about the ghosts.
Robinson himself features in most of the skits, either as a capable straight man or one of the series’ many misfits. Often, he seems like a man doing a bad impression of normality, a man constantly struggling to style out a string of shattering embarrassments. One moment he’s furious, the next he’s weeping – Robinson’s tear-streaked face becomes almost a running motif for the series.
I Think You Should Leave again recruits an impressive parade of guest stars for its second go-around, including Paul Walter Hauser and Bob Odenkirk, as well as returning players Tim Heidecker, Connor O’Malley, and Patti Harrison, whose two sketches here are among the season’s very best. Sam Richardson, who co-created and starred in the brilliant short-lived sitcom Detroiters with Robinson, also features as the host of a bizarre talent competition known as “Little Buff Boys”. There are a few sketches that don’t quite land, and others that I thought went on for several minutes too long. But the best are indelibly funny.
TV comedy has become increasingly fixated on pathos in recent years; sketch comedy might be the true comedian’s last refuge. Fortunately, Robinson and co have a keen eye for what is innately funny: funny words, funny names (“Jamie Taco”), funny sounds. This is comedy stripped down to its rawest elements – conflict, misfortune, indignity – and reassembled into… what, exactly? Not quite satire. Not quite whimsy. Something weirdly, maniacally new.
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