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05th May 2019

I Think You Should Leave is the greatest sketch comedy in years

Wil Jones

Sketch shows are a difficult beast to pull off

They can easily fall into that lazy, Little Britain trap, that “character goes to location > says catchphrase > canned laugher” death spiral that kills any show dead. Vicky Pollard goes to a theme park. Catherine Tate’s Nan goes to the doctors. Avid Merion goes on holiday to Spain. You know the deal.

Not just that, but in this modern era, where we consumer nearly everything in one-minute chunks on social media, the format can seem even more redundant. Why should we be expected to watch these skits in fixed, predecided order, when we are used to scrolling through videos at our leisure, clicking away if something doesn’t grab as in the first few seconds?

As such, the last decade or so has had very few sketch shows really seemed to make a cultural impact – Key & PeeleTim & EricPortlandia, that’s about it.

That’s part of what makes Netflix’s new entry into the genre, I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson, so memorable. But it is also because it is so unbelievably funny, and, at times, very, very weird.

Created by and starring former SNL cast member and writer Tim Robinson, I Think You Should Leave takes advantage of Netflix’s lack of constraints to subtly break up the sketch show formula. Each episode is only around fifteen minutes long – instead of padding things out to a standard half-hour slot, it feels more like an Adult Swim show, offering a short, concise shot of weirdness.

The real magic really lies though in how Robinson lets his sketches play out. He is not afraid to take his time with a joke, letting it stew and develop, without forcing it to a punchline straight away. He’ll take a good sixty seconds or more establishing the vibe before even attempting a laugh. I Think You Should Leave is an apt title, as a lot of the humour comes from awkwardness and unease – but not in David Brent/ Alan Partridge way. It is more of an ominous mood, a rhythm, a tension in the air, that leads to unexpected, surreal belly laughs.

The show will often start with what seems like an awkward, hacky premise, and drag it into weird and hilarious directions. For instance, a sketch in the first episode starts with The Walking Dead‘s Steven Yuen opening presents. Robinson’s character gives him a strange looking wreath type thing. Yeun pretends to like it. Receiving an awkward gift is a well-worn trope form comedy. So far, so Two Ronnies.

But then it continues to escalate. Robinson repeatedly asks for the gift receipt back, as proof that he’s not going to exchange it. Then Robinson dramtically eats the receipt. And then he gets violently ill, claiming there were traces of faeces on the receipt. And other guests start eating their receipts, and everyone starts freaking out, blaming Yeun. It somehow ends with Robinson dying.

What started out as a #relatable, #awkwardmoment, becomes a bizarre almost Kafka-esque moment.  And the show is filled with those.

I Think You Should Leave won’t be for everyone. Hopefully, the recognisable faces that cameo, including Yuen, Tim Heidecker and Andy Samberg (who serves as Executive Producer) will lure a few more normies in, but each sketch requires you to actually pay attention to get into its grooves and find its joke. But those who get it will absolutely love it.

I Think You Should Leave is on Netflix now.