I Think You Should Leave’s Formula Still Works

Especially after a few small tweaks

Comedy Features I Think You Should Leave
I Think You Should Leave’s Formula Still Works

By now you know what to expect from I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson. The sketch show’s third season bears all the hallmarks of its beloved first two, with awkward, oblivious people causing uncomfortable wists the show’s most common formula in a few surprising ways.

There are several sketches in season three that seem to start on a predictable path. A Tim Robinson character takes something too literally, or runs a bad joke that got him a few laughs into the ground, or misreads a situation and doubles down until he ruins everything. Not all of these sketches head in the direction we expect them, though. By the end of a few sketches Robinson’s characters are vindicated; their seemingly aberrant behavior actually benefits the people they seem to be annoying, or what seem to be lies or exaggerations turn out to be an accurate description of how they see the world. In at least one sketch a new character barrels in at the very end whose actions are so over-the-top and unexpected that it shifts the brunt of the embarrassment and discomfort from Robinson onto him. Even in the sketches that shift the perception of Robinson’s seemingly inappropriate characters, though, there’s often a second twist at the very end, with those characters revealing additional details right before the sketches cut that reassert their weirdness. Those are just final exclamation points on sketches that start in a familiar place but don’t necessarily follow the routes they seem destined to head down, though.

One reliable way I Think You Should Leave subverts expectations is by having a guest star play the Robinson role, with or without Robinson himself also in the sketch. Tim Meadows is fantastic in just such a bit, playing a father at a wedding who grows furious that he isn’t given enough time to come up with an idea for a “silly” group photo. Will Forte returns in a sketch where he plays a character as unhinged and Robinson-esque as the old man on a plane he played in the first season. (Of course, Forte’s sense of humor is similar enough to Robinson’s that I’d totally believe he wrote this sketch himself.) Robinson plays the straight man to Conner O’Malley again, in a reprise of what’s been the show’s most reliable comic pairing. And in one of the new season’s strongest pieces, Biff Wiff, who played Santa Claus in season two’s Detective Crashmore sketch, appears in a role that combines the typical Robinson traits of taking a minor joke too far and deeply misunderstanding the world he lives in. Again, subbing in somebody else for Robinson has been a standard part of the show’s kit from the very beginning, but it still works as a reliable way to tweak the expected formula.  

Familiarity can breed.. something, I’ve been told, and I’m sure some who have liked the show to this point will really dislike the new season. It’s the internet, so some people—many people?—will loudly, defiantly overstate how bad this season is, how it’s uninspired and formulaic and just repeating the same ideas and situations to diminishing returns. Let ‘em have their miserable fun: that’s what the internet is for. (And honestly, I will admit to feeling a little underwhelmed the first time through, before having little jokes and moments cut through my consciousness in the days to follow; a full rewatch saw me laughing much harder than I did the first time.) But our culture presents an almost endless buffet of ways to embarrass one’s self, and Robinson, Zach Kanin, and their fellow writers have no problem needling new threads of social impropriety throughout this season’s six episodes, while also adding enough unexpected wrinkles to keep it interesting. You might see some saying that it’s time for I Think You Should Leave to follow its own instructions and beat it, but don’t listen to ‘em: three seasons in Robinson and Kanin are still growing the show’s language in small but notable ways.

Senior editor Garrett Martin writes about videogames, comedy, travel, theme parks, wrestling, and anything else that gets in his way. He’s also on Twitter @grmartin.

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