By: Sara Brinkac, Peak Associate
To rank a sketch show among the comedy greats, it must challenge format norms (Mr. Show) and create sketches that are so unique and original, the jaded viewer is consistently surprised (Portlandia).
The Netflix sketch show I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson (ITYSL) fills both these requirements tenfold. From its debut season in 2019, ITYSL instantly caught the attention of comedy lovers everywhere. Created by Zach Kanin and Tim Robinson, former Saturday Night Live writers, and produced by The Lonely Island, ITYSL offers a refreshing take on the pitfalls of societal norms.
There is a tradition of comedians challenging the “invisible” customs of society. For example, Larry David’s embarrassingly awkward Curb Your Enthusiasm has been at the forefront of sitcoms for the last two decades. While on the other end of the spectrum, Eric Andre’s surreal style bases its comedy in the (extreme) absurdity of reality. What makes ITYSL so well made is its carefully calculated balancing act between “sitcom cringe” and “surreal comedy.”
Using the sketch show format, ITYSL has the ability to offer commentary on an array of different subjects over the course of 15 minutes. This allows the creators to jump from joke to joke and end them at the most opportune (or purposely inopportune) times. By juxtaposing TV commercials’ various formats against a host of absurd characters, or escalating a situation far past what anyone would deem socially acceptable, ITYSL pushes the seasoned viewer to ask, “Just what the hell am I watching?”
Season two welcomes Patti Harrison (ITYSL’s favourite office worker) onto the writing staff and champions an entertaining six-episode run. While many shows with a hit first season may be tempted to rehash old bits or radically change to avoid comparison, season two of ITYSL shows signs of a series maturing and building on its format.
The writers, along with director Alice Mathias, work together to challenge their sketches and stretch the boundaries of what they can achieve. Whether it was adding an oddly reflective tinge to the end of their first episode, or inventively playing upon film techniques in the “wife flashback” sketch, the crew clearly made an effort to boldly build not just their own vocabulary, but all of comedy’s vocabulary.
What remains the same between season one and two is how truly joyful it is to revisit. It is obvious the creators of the show are dedicated to carefully crafting and layering each episode, giving the viewer more to appreciate time and time again. Whether it be the hilariously unforgettable quirks Tim Robinson adds to each of his characters or that one line you “forgot was even in there,” a rewatch of ITSYL will have you laughing every time.
The seemingly endless viewings are only strengthened by the “backburner sketches.” You may begin an episode to watch one sketch and find that another you never liked is actually quite funny in its own way. ITYSL truly is the gift that keeps on giving.
I highly recommend watching (or re-watching) ITYSL, even if you are on the fence about it. The sketches have an odd way of nestling into your head and hilariously applying to everyday life.
As of July 22, 2021, both seasons of I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson are available to stream on Netflix.