‘I Think You Should Leave’ season 2 cements show’s status as sketch comedy giant

still from season 2 of "I Think You Should Leave"
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Grade: 4.5/5.0

Within its first minute, the new season of “I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson” provides us with the line that sets the tone for the rest of its 30-odd sketches. Having just been informed that his office will be pushing back lunch to make time for an impromptu meeting, Tim Robinson’s character Pat, holding back tears, whispers, “I don’t know if you’re allowed to do that.”

Pat’s simple protest sticks in the back of your mind throughout the season’s six episodes as viewers watch all manner of characters — belligerent, clueless, even heartbreaking — victimize others and themselves while they navigate the show’s bizarre social physics, which somehow manage to feel precisely of the moment without overtly taking aim at any of our modern trends or tendencies. 

It’s this quality that made the first season an instant classic: It was the perfect antidote to the too-prevalent strain of comedy that is obsessed with satirizing current events, yet never seems to be able to articulate why these events are funny or even notable. The second season preserves the first’s refreshing genius and builds on it, injecting the show’s inimitable spirit into new situations and characters throughout 90 minutes of the funniest, most inspired sketch comedy television currently on air.

Like the first season, the show isn’t perfect, but it’s pretty close. Some sketches are, of course, funnier than others, but there are almost no duds in the bunch. Even the ones that land closer to the bottom of the barrel don’t overstay their welcome; the show’s keen sense of when to cut away from a sketch right before it stops being funny saves it from ever boring or exhausting its viewers. Even the lower-tier sketches will still send you away with a line that keeps you laughing when the sketch doesn’t — the mere memory of a prank artist (Robinson) covered with a grotesque disguise mumbling “I don’t want to be around anymore” after a prank gone wrong is enough to elicit a giggle long after the episode ends.

It’s difficult to label any of the entries as subpar; part of the show’s beauty is that with so many sketches differing wildly in subject matter and style, each viewer is bound to have a different array of favorites. There are, however, some that stand out above the rest of the crop. The best take place in familiar environments but are completely untethered from any imaginable social situations — take one where an esteemed professor (Bob McDuff Wilson) disrupts a fancy dinner to beg his former student to trade dishes with him (only he’s just joking) or one where evidence at an insider trading trial contains savage digs at the defendants’ coworker (Robinson) for wearing a fedora with safari flaps. 

Neither the characters in these sketches nor their behavior is relatable or recognizable, but that’s what makes the premises so enjoyable: They blow open the conceivable possibilities of social life and rely solely on the jokes and the performances to make us laugh.

The new season’s sketches fit perfectly into the mold created by its predecessor, but that’s not to say they don’t try anything different. This season, the show has added an impressive new trick to its bag: a tendency to pull some heartstrings. A man (Robinson) being kicked out of a haunted house tour for being excessively vulgar and an old hippie (Richard Wharton) providing a consumer testimonial for his experience getting his ear pierced at Claire’s might not seem like tearjerkers, but they access a surprising pathos that offers viewers a sensation other than sheer delight — it’s not quite an emotional roller coaster, but it adds a new dimension that proves the show isn’t afraid to leave its comfort zone.

Not every sketch on “I Think You Should Leave” will bust your gut on the first watch, but you’ll come back for the ones that do. And when you return to watch your favorites, you’ll discover a few along the way that you didn’t love the first time but might find your funny bone on the second or third try. It’s no exaggeration to say this new season is endlessly watchable, supremely memorable and extraordinarily funny. To paraphrase Pat, the employee who missed lunch — You can’t skip it. You just can’t.

“I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson” is streaming now on Netflix.

Matthew DuMont is the arts & entertainment editor. Contact him at [email protected].