Over the past few years, writer Tim Robinson has been steadily working on some of the best contemporary comedy shows around, and “I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson” is a crowning accomplishment. After two seasons of the highly acclaimed show “Detroiters,” Robinson has again teamed up with writer Zach Kanin to create a series that brings the surreal and manic energy of his previous work into a concise espresso shot of sketch comedy.
Robinson was a cast member at “Saturday Night Live” for one season before taking a position as a staff writer. After several years of writing, he created and starred in “Detroiters,” which was often hailed as one of the funniest shows of the past couple of years. After it was canceled in 2018, Netflix asked Robinson to write a sketch comedy show. Robinson set to work, enlisting the help of old comedic partner Sam Richardson and other comedy all-stars such as Akiva Schaffer and Alice Mathias. The result is Robinson’s latest piece.
The new show is a refreshing sketch comedy series that is short, snappy and straight to the point. The sketches are filled with absurd situations, like a man taking revenge on a baby who cried during his flight or Scrooge fighting in a future robot skeleton war. With each episode under 20 minutes, it’s a show that doesn’t ask for any heavy lifting from its audience, requesting only the ability to enjoy the ride.
While many of the sketches draw from banal, everyday social encounters, the progress of each sketch is a complete mystery. There’s a joy and excitement in never being able to fully pin down why some of the sketches end up where they do. And they are short enough that one is never able to dwell, always getting hit with another new goofy scenario. Timing is one of the most key elements of comedy and one that “I Think You Should Leave” really perfects, allowing just enough time for the joke to land and then immediately following it to unbelievable hysterical heights.
Robinson’s ability to either slow a scene down to a screeching halt or turn it in a completely unexpected direction is the highlight of the show. The jokes hit hard, starting from a simple social mishap that slowly but powerfully morphs into the crux of a character’s entire being. And the varieties of formats that they take — as they move from game show to commercial to cheesy movie trope — play with mood and tension in a hilarious way. A “Riverdale”-style parody show abruptly gets interrupted by a new T-shirt idea. A woman takes all the good parts of the nacho plate, and the situation escalates precipitously. Personalities clash and childhood bullying is unleashed in the professional setting of a consumer group. A back pain commercial ends with a disgraced father’s newfound shot at stardom. These sketches provide the smallest glimpses of reality before completely subverting every norm that is expected.
There’s an incredible cast of new and old faces throughout the comedy world in here as well. Vanessa Bayer stars in one the best sketches of the first episode, Fred Willard plays a character who wouldn’t be amiss in a “Comedy Bang! Bang!” segment, and Tim Heidecker perfects the character of the worst house guest ever. Up-and-coming faces such as Conner O’Malley and Kate Berlant also add an exciting flair to their own sketches, and Steven Yeun shows his comedic side with one of the most ridiculous and surprising sketches in the entire series.
What makes “I Think You Should Leave” such a breath of fresh air is its break from other comedy shows as of late, along with a revival of some of the best threads of American comedy.
While many current comedy shows turn to the melancholic or try to make meaning out of the absurd situations in their lives, “I Think You Should Leave” follows in the tradition of the Zucker brothers or Jerry Lewis. In classic comedies like “Airplane!” and “The Ladies Man,” the narrative is a thin thread used only to explode the wonderful wacky moments that make every interaction with human beings awkward, embarrassing or completely unintelligible. This goofball style of American comedy revels in its own stupidity or its ability to undercut any foundation that it sets up. It goes back to a fundamental truth of comedy, an inherent freedom to do anything, anything at all — as long as it makes people feel good.