There is a sketch from the first season of I Think You Should Leave With Tim Robinson (Tuesday, Netflix) that is etched permanently on to my brain. I mean, actually, there are several etched on to my brain: the hotdog car crashing into a clothes shop, for example, or the multi-part epic that ends with a man singing sombre yacht rock at his mother’s funeral. Or “you flinched, and now you have to marry your mother-in-law”.
Already from the second series, there is a dinner-with-a-professor skit that I have seen three times. I have watched the first series of the show six, seven, and in the case of some episodes, 10 times: for a certain three-month stretch in 2019, whenever someone came to my house I would ask, simply: “Have you seen I Think You Should Leave yet?” and they would say: “No”, and then I would sit them down and make them watch it in its entirety. Sometimes they would say: “Yes,” and we would sit down and watch it in its entirety regardless.
Anyway, the sketch in question is the one where Robinson sits on a whoopee cushion in a boardroom and, slowly, over the course of several intense minutes, becomes more and more upset by the joke he doesn’t get. What I love about the sketch is you never quite know the character’s motivation at any one moment: is he trying to cancel out the joke by overcompensating with his own reaction? Is he genuinely hurt and upset? Is it all a clumsily played ruse to get out of work early? With Robinson, you never really know: he plays upstanding straight man just as well as he plays party guest calmly eating a gift receipt. The whoopee cushion sketch ends with him, head in his hands, requesting permission to go home early so his face isn’t “beet red” for his family photo later, and … I’ve lost it again. There is no funnier, stranger show.
What is fascinating about I Think You Should Leave is the elegant balance it strikes between the weird, late-night, stoner-friendly Adult Swim-style comedy that preceded it and the goofy, post-Vine vibe of modern online skits, all done with a Netflix glossiness and a perfect high-wire sense of balance. There are recurring themes: the slithering and powerful jealousy it is possible to feel when someone else at the party makes a better joke than you; craving fame, or at least attention; carjacking entire social interactions because of one small slight; small-city American travelling stage entertainment.
A lot of I Think You Should Leave sketches feel as if you are only one or two broken emotions away from causing the same strange scene in public; the best are the ones where, in the opening minutes, it’s hard to know who in the ensemble cast is going to be playing the weirdo. There is a sketch in the new series that opens in the usual way (party where people have gathered to look at a new baby) and ends in an incredibly strange fashion (Tim Robinson pouring a glass of water over a steak) that had me in honest-to-goodness tears. So, yes, I’m biased. But the funniest show in the universe has returned, and it’s as great as ever. When it drops on Tuesday, do you all want to come to my house? Do you want to watch I Think You Should Leave, in its entirety?