As we have seen, time and time again, sketch comedy is not easy. Sometimes it's an issue with the length of the sketches themselves. Sometimes it's a failure on the part of the writers, who either write themselves into a corner or have no idea how to end a sketch. Sometimes you get a group of performers that may be funny individually, but end up coming across as interchangeable in a group setting. Sometimes the jokes themselves are toothless. A million things can go wrong on a sketch comedy series, which is why the pop culture landscape is littered with the bodies of countless shows that never managed to find an audience.
Netflix's new sketch comedy series, I Think You Should Leave With Tim Robinson, manages to avoid all of these pitfalls. The six-episode series is comprised of episodes that run just under 20 minutes apiece. Sketches not only stick the landing, but tend to expand upon their premises ("What if a guy took a 'Honk if You're Horny' bumper sticker literally?"; "A man is suspicious that his friend does not truly appreciate his birthday gift") to their most (il)logical extremes. Though Robinson is the show's anchor, appearing in more sketches than not, the show goes out of its way to surround him with a diverse cast of talented performers, including folks like SNL's Vanessa Bayer, Veep's Sam Richardson, Everything-You've-Been-Watching-Lately's Steven Yeun, Cecily Strong, Will Forte and many others. It is never toothless. It is frequently (and delightfully!) upsetting, in ways that are sometimes difficult to articulate.
It is the funniest new show I've seen in a long time.
I grew up on a steady diet of sketch comedy, a lifelong love affair that began when I was exposed to Monty Python's Flying Circus at a probably-too-young age. It was then that I gained an appreciation for absurdity, which led me to Kids In The Hall, The State, Mr. Show and Comedy Central's Upright Citizens Brigade (of course I'm also a long-time viewer of NBC's Saturday Night Live, but being a "fan" of that show is more like being a lifelong follower of an inconsistent baseball team: there are highs and there are lows, but you really only stick around for the moments when the show hits a jaw-dropping homerun). In more recent years, I was particular to The Whitest Kids U Know, Human Giant, the Derrick Comedy team, and virtually anything produced within the Tim and Eric extended universe, but in recent years I've found myself hoping that something new and exciting would come along, something with a fresh flavor. Having watched the entire thing all the way through several times now, I'm happy to report that I Think You Should Leave fits the bill nicely.
Surreality and escalation are at the forefront of every sketch. There's also a pleasingly ominous tone to much of the work being done here, the constant sense that someone in the sketch (generally Robinson) will explode with anger at any moment. Faux commercials (a legal practice fronted by a madman ranting about "fart toilets"; a horse ranch for men who don't want to be intimidated by giant horse dicks) feel like transmissions from a far more troubling reality. Weird terminology gets a lot of play, with a special emphasis on the term "mud pies". Noted lunatic Conner O'Malley shows up a few times, and his bafflingly frantic energy never fails to supercharge every sketch he appears in (watch his physical performance in the graveyard during the "Honk if You're Horny" sketch; it is transcendent). There's a wholly inexplicable musical number about a skeleton uprising that made me laugh until I cried.
Indeed, I Think You Should Leave is so deeply weird, one cannot help but wonder what Netflix's programming executives thought upon viewing it for the first time. Certainly the star wattage of the cast must have helped everything go down smoother, along with the fact that the show's produced by The Lonely Island. But what did those folks think while watching the "Baby of The Year" sketch? Did any of them wonder why the word "chode" was being used so frequently? Is the show's relatively low-key rollout (note: I had no idea it was even available on Netflix until I saw people recommending it on Twitter) indicative of anything? It doesn't really matter - I'm just glad this bizarro shit exists - but it is, admittedly, a fun thing to think about.
Anyway, consider this my strong recommendation for I Think You Should Leave With Tim Robinson. It's a small show, really, the kind of Netflix Original you might totally overlook while scanning through those endless content streams on your couch, and it deserves to find an audience. Plus, if enough of you watch it, they'll make more, and I need like fifteen more seasons of this thing, stat.