This ranking was originally published in June 2019, but we’ve updated it to include all of Season 2 for the new season’s July 6 Netflix premiere. Check out our ranking of all 53 sketches below!
Netflix’s I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson is, to quote Scott Wampler of Birth.Movies.Death., “just a thing I watch every few days now.” The streaming sketch-comedy series debuted in late April, instantly becoming one of 2019’s best (new) shows, and we’ve been going back to that delightfully deranged well again and again since.
It wasn’t enough to merely present our picks for the show’s 10 best sketches, a piece in which we threatened to give the whole dang show the ranking treatment. So we’re making good on that threat today, ordering all 29 of I Think You Should Leave’s sketches from slightly less great to greatest—in addition to adding in the show’s 19 other sketches, we’ve also shuffled our top 10 around a tad. And before you know it, we’ll be forced to expand on this ranking, even, as Netflix just ordered a second season of Robinson and Zach Kanin’s wonderful brand of insanity.
If you’re not yet familiar with the nature of that insanity, Robinson was kind enough to sum it up for us a little while back: “The themes are always quite similar. People not wanting to be publicly embarrassed but also not wanting to admit that they’ve made a small mistake, and then taking it so far that it becomes a much bigger problem for them.” I Think You Should Leave is full of these problems, and we’re giggling unprompted just thinking about them.
Push open the door (or pull, it does both) and walk right through for our full ranking of I Think You Should Leave.
Another riff on how people kill time in the office a la “Bozo” (#44), “Big Wave” wasn’t worth the trip back to that well. When the boss (Dwight Hicks) steps out of a work meeting, Paul (Hymnson Chan) hops up on the table and pantomimes surfing; initially puzzled and resistant, his coworkers eventually get in on the fun, but when Russell (Robinson) tries to follow suit, he flips the table over (“Here comes a big wave!”) and injures multiple people. That’s as close to a punchline as this sketch has, really—from there, it just sort of flails and then fizzles out.
One of the only sketches in the show that just never quite clicks, “Dave Suit” can’t seem to figure out what to do with its silly premise, and mostly just dances around it. Luca (Robinson) tries to frame his coworker Dave (Jon Ryckman) for taking “huge, embarrassing dumps” in the office by hiring a lookalike, but gets caught—the sketch is him explaining himself to Mrs. Tulving (Joyce Guy), and in the course of doing so, he gets way off-topic, suggesting that Jerry (the cartoon mouse) sniffs panties, messaging someone who’s trying to buy his bike stand online, and asks for “some time at home” so he can “look inside myself, be with my family and try new restaurants.” The sketch’s funniest lines are its last, when Luca discovers his hired gun Rodney (Marc Mazur) has a “wildly high” voice, but for the most part, “Dave Suit” will leave you, in Dave’s words, “just a little confused.”
The first sketch of the series is a basic, but effective introduction to I Think You Should Leave’s central motif—it’s literally an exit, after all. Robinson’s character, having committed the common faux pas of pulling a push door while leaving a job interview, refuses to admit his mistake, sending an everyday situation nosediving into absurdity—a progression easily mapped onto most of the show’s sketches. It’s not much, but if you love to see Robinson’s dorky earnestness turn to determination bordering on derangement as he wrenches the door open, forehead vein throbbing and drool dripping, while his would-be employer (Matt Cates) bears unblinking witness, you’re going to love what follows. I Think You Should Leave is nothing if not a comedy of unforced errors.
While honoring Herbie Hancock (who, if you can believe it, does not appear as himself) with an award, Robinson’s mustachioed presenter focuses the opening moments of his speech not on the music man of the hour, but on the audience member’s (Judy Kain) service dog that he claims bit him on his way to the stage. Denying its owner’s insistence that the animal was actually humping his head, Robinson is undone by his own honoree, who suggests they go to the video recorded by another onlooker (Gary Richardson). This sketch wouldn’t work without its clever structure, which allows us to live inside Robinson’s delusion until everyone around him, including the guest of honor (“That’s why I love Herbie Hancock—he loves to lie”), refuses to play along with his face-saving version of events.
“Pink Bag” is just a step or two up from “Both Ways,” centering on a regular guy who, in his attempts to not make an ass out of himself, makes a massive ass out of himself. Robinson’s white-collar character gets pranked the old-fashioned way with a whoopee cushion, and sends the whole meeting hurtling off the rails by holding up the proceedings until he can “figure out what’s going on.” The sketch overstays its welcome, which is sort of the point, but Robinson’s too-honest-by-half rant about his abnormally un-whoopee cushion-like farts (“[They] are long. And way louder. And they reek!”) and the bizarre importance he places on his family photo make “Pink Bag” worth letting rip.
For our money, “Fentons Stables & Horse Ranch” doesn’t get much funnier than its (very funny) opening exchange: A smiling man on horseback’s idyllic good time is promptly and irreversibly ruined when his wife points out his steed’s prodigious schlong. If you’re not laughing yet, nothing else in this sketch is likely to change your mind, but this mock commercial for a ranch that exclusively houses poorly endowed horses in order to protect its male visitors from penis envy—“You can’t compete with these horse hogs … and now you don’t need to,” promise owners Ted and Emily Skull—does have a trick or two up its sleeve (pour one out for Shortstack). And if there’s one thing that needs all the skewering it can get nowadays, it’s fragile masculinity.
Robinson and Kanin can crank out sketches like this one in their sleep: It presents a hyper-specific problem—you can’t win over your coworkers with Three Stooges-style slapstick unless you’re “all the way bald,” a la Curly!—and markets an equally out-there solution, with Bruno Amato peddling a “hair loss system” that consists of 500 increasingly balding wigs that allow you to simulate rapid hair loss so as not to arouse your officemates’ suspicions. You can also speed up the process dramatically with Wilson’s Natural Fake Gorilla Attack Hair Removal System, which is exactly as convincing as you’d imagine. This sketch is bookended by the two-part “River Mountain High” (#39), but doesn’t work quite as well—it starts out so silly that there’s not much room for it to grow.
Patti Harrison (who joins the show’s writer’s room in Season 2) plays one of the “star investors” on “The Capital Room,” a Shark Tank parody that serves as a fun showcase for her silliness. She doesn’t quite fit in with her fellow moguls, mostly by virtue of her unusual rags-to-riches story: “I sued the city because I was accidentally sewed into the pants of the big Charlie Brown at the Thanksgiving Day parade,” she sneers, all completely unearned attitude. While the other pseudo-Sharks talk up their business acumen, she makes a slightly less convincing pitch, boasting about all the fine wine she’s been able to buy before then confessing, “I’m scared by how much I need wine!” Harrison is a girlboss unlike any other, and it makes “The Capital Room” worth investing a few minutes in.
The rare Season 1 sketch that doesn’t quite justify its longer runtime, “Babysitter” finds Robinson and his partner Alan (Artie O’Daly) showing up a bit late to a party, agreeing to use a fictional babysitter’s tardiness as an excuse for their own. Robinson, of course, volunteers this information unprompted and commits to the lie way too enthusiastically (“Yeah, fucking babysitter absolutely fucked us, I fucking hate her, such an idiot”), spinning a nonsensical story about a hit-and-run that his friend Barry (Mark Raterman) reasonably questions. Robinson’s character does the only logical thing and dedicates his night to humiliating Barry—again, he does so needlessly, long after Barry has stopped casting aspersions on his cover story. The sketch ends a bit flatly, with Robinson tackling Barry into a china cabinet before declaring they’re “even,” which makes about as much sense as the rest of his actions, which is to say none at all.
This episode six two-parter, centering on a group of 9-5’ers killing time before a meeting, finds Robinson’s Reggie struggling to keep up with his millennial coworkers (played by Akaash Yadav, Brandon Wardell and Melody Peng), children of the internet who rattle off funny YouTube videos from memory. Reggie claims he has a video to recommend, but “can’t remember how to search for it,” a failure that sends him spiraling; in the sketch’s latter half, Reggie speaks up to volunteer a video—it quickly becomes clear that he not only made and uploaded this video himself for the sole purpose of currying favor with them, but has also completely misunderstood their (or anyone’s) idea of comedy: “bozo dubbed over” is just black-and-white footage of Bozo the clown, set to an obviously Reggie-recorded voiceover made up of non-sequiturs like, “Oh fuck, what the fuck, I’m not even supposed to be here, I hope I don’t jack off.” Both the video and whole sketch are laugh-out-loud funny—just not for the reasons Reggie thinks.
Matt Alex (Owen Thiele) opens a real Pandora’s box when he hires Stable of Stars to provide a celebrity impersonator for his friend Joanie’s (Annapurna Sriram) birthday party: As Robinson’s handler explains, his Johnny Carson impersonator (Monte Markham) is well within his rights when he hauls off and smacks Todd (Brandon Wardell) in the head, then proceeds to just wander around the party hitting people (and, at one point, a vase). You could probably read this as some trenchant commentary on how the rules are different for famous people, whose enablers protect them from consequences, but it’s mostly just funny to watch Robinson’s character struggle to corral his various impersonators—Carson is eventually joined by George Kennedy (David Burr) and George Bush (Doug Cox), both of whom also hit, even though they’re not allowed to—and critique Joanie’s neighborhood, adding insult to the injuries his employees are dishing out.
Robinson is nowhere to be found in this Season 2 two-parter, in which Santa Claus (Biff Wiff) plays the eponymous detective, an extremely crude parody of a John Wick-like killer bent on vengeance. (This is not the first time Saint Nick has made an unflattering appearance in a Robinson show—in one Detroiters episode, it’s revealed the FBI found a body in Santa’s house.) “Detective Crashmore Trailer” hilariously sends up hard-boiled revenge shoot ‘em ups, with Crashmore hollering things like “Fuck you! You suck” and “Are you dumb?” as he blows hapless goons to bits. He has no regard for his own life, either, at one point announcing, “I don’t care if I die at all. Everything has sucked lately.” Santa is equally cantankerous off the set, as seen in “Junket,” where he nearly storms out over the mere mention of his other job delivering presents; he’s also extremely pretentious, referring repeatedly to his movie as a “cosmic gumbo.” Wiff’s big Jon Voight energy makes him a perfect mouthpiece for this sketch’s particularly unhinged writing—you can tell Robinson and co. are having a blast putting words in his mouth.
Little Sadie (Kyra Lyn), nervous about getting her ear pierced for the first time, is treated to an unusual testimonial video that makes up most of “Claire’s,” the final sketch of Season 2. Appearing in the video are two girls her age, as well as Ron Tussbler (Richard Wharton), a bald, bearded 58-year-old oddball who recalls being “nervous to the point of diarrhea” while getting his own earring. Tussbler earnestly uncorks non sequiturs like, “Sometimes I put my dad in JibJab videos so he’s alive again,” and lays out his deranged theory of the afterlife, because of course he does. By the end of “Claire’s,” Sadie and the grown man (Carlos Antonio) who’s inexplicably watching the video with her are visibly moved by what they’re watching. It’s a pretty apt metaphor for Season 2, actually, going places you don’t expect in surprisingly heartening fashion.
Babies cry, often for no particular rhyme or reason, but when Robinson’s character in this Season 2 episode-closer holds a baby who starts crying, he’s convinced there’s a very specific reason: “Probably just doesn’t like me ‘cause I used to be a piece of shit.” From there, he tells the entire party about his problematic past (into which slicked-back hair and “sloppy steaks” figure prominently), and begins to worry that “the baby thinks people can’t change.” Robinson’s bizarre party guy persona is the main thrust of the sketch, and when he holds the baby a second time, we’re transported back into his piece of shit days—soundtracked by what sounds like an original Ezra Koenig song written for the show, he meets his piece of shit friends and enjoys a round of sloppy steaks, eventually encountering the baby, who smiles as if to say, “You’ve come a long way.” There’s an odd, wandering quality to this sketch, as if Robinson and company were deliberately deviating from their usual course—the result is a mixed bag, but you have to commend the level of effort.
“River Mountain High” takes the form of a soapy teen drama before swerving into advertainment territory with the arrival of Robinson’s Principal S., who stops the high school intrigue cold to hawk TC Topps’ TC Tuggers shirts (“The only shirt that’s got a little knob on the front so you can just pull it out when it gets trapped on your belly”) with all the subtlety of a carnival barker. Robinson plays this as if TC Topps himself underwrote River Mountain High and insisted on a cameo, proving himself clueless about both salesmanship and acting in the process. The sketch, equal parts Degrassi and Detroiters, culminates in a TC Tuggers ad straight out of Cramblin Duvet’s portfolio.
Season one’s final sketch almost plays as a tacit recognition of I Think You Should Leave’s meme-ready, internet-friendly appeal, in that iconic cartoon cat Garfield is central to it. Kate Berlant stars as the overzealous ringleader of a group planning an intervention for their alcoholic friend (Robinson), and from the get-go you can tell she’s up to something: She insists on staging the intervention at her “party house,” calling it “the perfect trap” and tersely issuing snack assignments to her colleagues (played by Dinora Walcott, Lauran September and James Babson), breaking the huddle with a hearty “Let’s bust the fucker.” The big reveal? Her house is covered wall to wall with Garfield merch, down to the Odie recliner Robinson’s interventionee sits in. Berlant’s obsession with everyone’s favorite feline lasagna enthusiast, it turns out, isn’t conducive to an effective intervention, and everything only gets weirder from there.
When three business school classmates meet up with their beloved former professor (Bob McDuff Wilson) for dinner, they expect a pleasant meal and a chance to catch up. What they get, once the food arrives, is the professor’s total obsession with Dylan’s (Robinson) entree, like order envy taken to—and then beyond—its logical extreme. The professor’s passive-aggressive attempts to commandeer Dylan’s burger are funny, especially when they succeed (“Dylan, I’m gonna eat the whole thing,” he announces after being offered a bite), but even funnier is his insistence that no one can know how he “housed Dylan’s burger”: “Let me take a video of you saying that you’re gonna kill the president,” he demands, like a child trying to blackmail someone. If there’s a scene-stealer on the level of Ruben “No Good Car Ideas” Rabasa in Season 2, it’s Wilson, whose dignified manner makes his cringeworthy behavior that much funnier.
“Baby Shower” eases us into a pleasant, reality show-style baby shower planning session before slowly but surely revealing its true purpose: Robinson’s character’s bizarre gift bag item suggestions, including “Stanzo brand fedoras,” “thousand plastic meatballs” (“They don’t go bad or stink or nothin’”), tommy guns and “50 black, slicked-back hair wigs,” aren’t just wildly off-base—they also come with an ulterior motive, as we find out they’re actually unused props from Robinson’s aborted mob movie. From there, the sketch becomes a struggle for the hoody-wearing would-be movie producer to recoup his sunk costs; against all odds, the shower planners assent, buying Robinson’s product in bulk—he’s a tough negotiator, it turns out. Come for the Stanzos, stay for the slow-motion finger guns.
Rising star Patti Harrison (Shrill) is front and center in this office-set sketch, in which a coworker of hers makes a mundane wisecrack—remarking on the fancy new copier corporate sent them, Steve (Korey Simeone) jokes, “I guess Christmas came early this year,” earning a tepid laugh that draws Harrison’s character Tracy in like a moth to flame. Tracy spends the rest of the sketch chasing that dragon, cracking lame variations on Steve’s already-lame joke in a desperate and doomed quest for her officemates’ approval, rewording each riff only slightly, as if she’s so close to comedy gold but can’t quite crack it. Even after the office gaggle has awkwardly dispersed, Tracy keeps at it, her bitter disappointment at her “hundreds of on-par, if not better [jokes]” that didn’t land bubbling over into a full-on meltdown. Robinson only pops in at the very end, playing a key role in the sketch’s unexpectedly sweet conclusion—this is Harrison’s sketch, and it’s a gift. Santa should’ve wrapped it … when he gave it early …
This Season 2 sketch is somewhat overshadowed by the fact that the great Bob Odenkirk appears in it, but is a total treat nonetheless. Robinson plays a dad in a diner who’s trying to convince his daughter they can’t go get ice cream for dessert; he makes up a white lie, winking at Odenkirk’s lone diner, who then gets in on the harmless deception before proceeding to take it way, way too far. “And I own every kind of classic car,” he tacks on out of nowhere, much to Robinson’s dismay. Oddly sweet, “Diner Wink” lets Odenkirk shine as a lonely weirdo whose made-up story of his life twists and turns like the open road he claims to spend so much time on. By the end of the sketch, Robinson’s character is rooting for him, and you will be, too.
Sam Richardson returns to “Baby of the Year”-type territory (though not as memorably) in this two-parter, which begins with him hosting The Little Buff Boys Competition in front of a baffled corporate event audience. It’s unclear who hired him, or where the Little Buff Boys’ parents are, but it’s clear the golden suited-host is a dedicated showman, despite head exec Calvin Trempane’s (Marcos De Silvas) hesitance to participate in determining which little boy is the most “carved up.” Richardson single-handedly makes this sketch work, selling everything from the obviously artificially muscular little boys (“Look at this little brick shithouse!”) to the soundtrack (“Stop the music. Hard! I want you to cut it out hard!”), and Andre Belue (Detroiters’ Tommy Pencils) pops up in part two as a former Little Buff Boys winner who now eats what sounds like a life-threatening amount of “cherry chuck salad.” Sadly, it’s the only time we see either in Season 2, but we’ll take whatever of these guys we can get.
Search Party star John Early steps into the spotlight in this sketch as Leslie, who’s attending a dinner with a large group of work friends. The life of this party is the gregarious Hal (Danny Nucci), whom a giddy Leslie calls “a genius at having fun”—when Hal proposes they decide who pays for dinner with a game of credit card roulette, Leslie is completely onboard … until the exact moment that his credit card gets picked. The sketch turns on Early’s performance, and he executes the abrupt shift from being up for anything to being a total buzzkill with relish. I might have liked to see more of the “hilarious waiter brothers” (who are related in real life, YouTubers the Kolontarov brothers), but watching Early terminate the mood with extreme prejudice is a delight.
Another Season 2 casting coup, “Wife Joke” stars Paul Walter Hauser (Richard Jewell himself!) as Scott, a married man who makes an offhand joke about his wife driving him to drink while playing poker with his friends. His instant, visible regret triggers a flashback to a time when his wife (Jennifer Marsala) was there for him; after he gets cast in a play, his costar Jamie Taco (Nicholas Azarian) starts stealing his lines, in an echo of what we’re pretty sure was an Entourage B plot once. Their conflict is ridiculous and also surprisingly sentimental, leading Scott to conclude, “I love my wife. She helped me when I freaked out about Jamie Taco.” Jamie Taco has a good shot at being Season 2’s breakout character on the strength of his name alone, but it’s Hauser’s earnest turn as the ultimate wife guy that makes this sketch sing.
This local law firm commercial spoof stars Robinson as low-rent attorney Mitch Bryant, who addresses the camera to pose the sketch’s titular question, intercut with an increasingly hyper-specific hypothetical in which a new homeowner discovers termites in his walls, only for the exterminators he calls to play a series of preposterous pranks on him. Mitch’s speaking volume increases along with the ridiculousness of the reenactment, which features the show’s first use of “mudpies,” the Turbo Team in all their couch-stomping glory, and “a toilet the exact same size as yours but with a joke hole that’s just for farts.” From Turbo Time onwards, Mitch is shouting and we are cackling.
One of a select few I Think You Should Leave Season 1 sketches to completely eschew the show’s “screw up, then double down” formula, “Biker Guy” opts instead for wall-to-wall goofiness, with Robinson as a hirsute biker dude whose vocal appreciation for various “motorcycles”—including a bicycle (“Motorcycle, no motor?!”), car (“Two motorcycles with a little house in the middle?!”), bus (whose glory renders him completely speechless) and, oh yeah, a couple of actual motorcycles—is eventually revealed to stem from him being an emissary of a motorcycle-obsessed alien race. Any sketch that involves a gang of extraterrestrial biker types shouting their approval at a baby carriage is okay by us.
Presented as a grainy old TV special titled “The Night Scrooge Saved Christmas” starring Ebenezer Scrooge (Charles Hutchins) and “The Ghost of Christmas Way-Future,” played by Robinson’s Detroiters collaborator Sam Richardson, “Christmas Carol” melds the pseudo-time travel of A Christmas Carol with full-on, Terminator-esque sci-fi, albeit with a much lower budget. Richardson’s mech-suited warrior warps from the year 3050 to burst through Scrooge’s wall, Kool-Aid Man-style, and recruit him to join humanity’s war against “Skeletrix and his Bone Brigade”—soon enough, said Bonies show up to bring the fight to them. Richardson’s exaggerated, snarling delivery makes patently ridiculous lines like “Watch out Scrooge, it’s a bone llama! Don’t let it lay an egg,” and “Use your Christmas cheer and bash its frickin’ brains out, ya idiot!” even funnier. We can only hope to see Scrooge put his newfound bone-crushin’ skills to further use in season two.
This Season 2 two-parter prominently features a hot dog, like one of Season 1’s best sketches (#5 on this list) and multiple Detroiters episodes before it. Part one finds Robinson’s character Pat, miffed by his boss moving a meeting into his lunchtime, smuggling lunch into the conference room up his sleeve so he can eat it on the sly. His ill-conceived, completely unconvincing pantomime (“I’m just the tiredest I’ve ever been in my life,” he insists as an excuse to put his head down and bite into his lunch) leads to his near-death by choking (not to mention his near-murder of Whitmer Thomas’ character) and total humiliation, which leads in turn to the sketch’s second segment: a commercial for the “Carber Reputation Vacuum,” a machine designed to prevent others from suffering the same fate as Pat, who was fired from his job and “cannot talk about it without crying” (which actually checks out—he sounds like one of Marge Simpson’s sisters by the end of the sketch). “HD Vac” sets Season 2’s richly strange tone from the get-go.
Season 1 star Tim Heidecker is back in this lengthy episode-closer as Gary, who takes his date Jeanine (Tracey Birdsall) out to a corny, space-themed novelty bar. Unlike his “Game Night” (#13) character Howie, Gary is actually not the asshole of this sketch, at least for the most part. Gary is oddly charming and sweet to his date, and he gets a real kick out of the show, in which an animatronic alien head cracks jokes at the expense of various diners. But when the alien interrupts Gary and Jeanine’s serious conversation to roast them, he flies off the handle, volunteering way too much horrifying information (“I watched my daddy get executed by the state for homicide, dude!”) in defending himself and Jeanine from the restaurant employee’s innocuous jokes. What “Mars Restaurant” lacks in punchy laugh lines, it makes up for with surprising wholesomeness and empathy.
You know you’re in for a wild ride when this sketch’s driver’s ed instructor (Robinson) introduces a series of instructional videos with the befuddling caveat, “Don’t let the style distract you. And I don’t want any questions about the tables!” All three C.A.R.S. (Cars Are Really Safe) videos star Patti Harrison as a woman driving a bunch of folding tables around in her van—we learn that, somehow, these tables are her job (“These tables are how I buy my house. They keep my house hot!” she shouts, with a perfectly timed voice crack), a fact that immediately and irrevocably distracts from any constructive discussion of safe driving. The students’ confusion is a lot of fun, as is Robinson’s exasperation at both the videos and his class’s perfectly reasonable questions about them, but Harrison’s repeated meltdowns over the state of her tables are the high point of this sketch.
In Tim’s character in this sketch’s defense, his situation is awkward to begin with: Marcus (Conner O’Malley) and his girlfriend Jeanine (Sally Pressman) are arguing in front of everyone who’s joined them at their mountain cabin (including Detroiters’ Shawntay Dalon), sucking the fun out of their friends weekend. So Robinson decides to lighten the mood by doing an entire Blues Brothers dance routine, complete with hat and sunglasses, upsetting the couple’s dog, who “thinks he’s a whole new guy” because of his get-up and won’t stop barking. Rather than stopping, he insists his girlfriend Lisa (Aasha Davis) repeatedly jack up the volume on “Soul Man”—between the blaring music, barking dog and angry audience (“No one likes what you’re doing!”), “Friends Weekend” is all about tension and release. The latter comes when Tim’s character finally finishes up, removing his glasses to reveal tear-streaked cheeks. There’s something so funny about a well-meaning guy barreling ahead in an ill-considered attempt to improve a situation, despite overwhelming evidence that he’s just making it worse.
Robinson wisely steps aside for this one, letting guest star Fred Willard run wild as the least appropriate funeral organist you could possibly imagine. Seeing the “New Joe” joke coming a ways off is part of the fun—everything is appropriately somber until we cut to Willard’s wacky-looking fill-in organist, at which point the pastor (Clifton Davis) observes with concern, “I’m now seeing that he brought his own much larger organ.” New Joe beams blithely, breaking plates and triggering an entire carnival’s worth of bells, whistles and horns for an aghast group of mourners, much to the apparent delight of the deceased, and the certain delight of Netflix subscribers.
“Choking” finds Robinson’s painfully hip character Tim at dinner with friends, one of whom turns out to be a Jared Leto-esque multi-hyphenate named Caleb Went (Hudson Thames)—“I am such a big fan of his Angels and Archways clothing,” Robinson gushes. Starstruck and afraid to embarrass himself, Robinson takes a bite of his dinner and immediately chokes on it, a fact he then tries to play off, not fooling his friend (Gary Richardson) for a second. Robinson’s attempts to play it cool despite his imminent death by asphyxiation include eating more food, drinking water (which he insists stinks, in a nice nod to our #4 sketch “Focus Group”) and proposing a toast, gurgling and gasping all the while. “Choking” ends on Robinson being violently Heimlich’d in front of the entire restaurant, freeze-framing on the creepy smile he directs at Went—really, Tim is lucky to make it out of this one alive.
If there’s one Season 2 sketch that’s sure to be polarizing, it’s “Calico Cut Pants”—they say brevity is the soul of wit, but this is I Think You Should Leave’s longest sketch yet at nearly 10 minutes, taking up over half an episode all by itself. We’d argue that runtime is justified, because it allows the sketch’s patently ridiculous premise to sprawl until it resembles an absurdist workplace comedy unto itself. We won’t try to summarize said premise, which is so out there, even Jeff (Mike O’Brien) spends a good chunk of the sketch trying to make sense of it, but suffice to say falling down the rabbit hole yourself is most of the fun. Robinson crams his character Greg full of odd, obnoxious foibles (“Hold that door!” foremost among them), and we also get a Conner O’Malley appearance, a killer sight gag (“Look up at my face”) sure to become a meme any minute now, an unmutable video of a wrestler (Brody King) screaming, a wife who won’t stop eating batteries, and a shirt that looks like a bell. If all that sounds absolutely mystifying to you, then you’re getting it.
A ghost tour guide (Alex Aiono) makes a huge mistake when he casually mentions that his late-night, adult tour group can swear if they want—Robinson’s character promptly blurts out “Jizz!” and we are off to the races. His wanton abuse of his license to curse, as if attempting to somehow match the guide’s quippy energy, doesn’t get much better when he’s reminded to keep his comments focused on the actual ghost tour (his repeated use of “horse cock” might as well be a Fentons [#48] callback). Even after the chagrined tour guide chews him out, he can’t help himself, wondering aloud even while visibly weeping, “Do any of these … fuckers … ever blast out of the wall and have, like, a huge cumshot?” Robinson’s character’s fixation on saying the most absurd possible swears will make you belly-laugh, but has the opposite effect on his tour group—in fact, it gets him booted from it, making this the rare I Think You Should Leave sketch that actually ends in the perpetrator of awkwardness being ejected.
There are few funnier shouters in comedy right now than Tim Robinson, and this Season 2 two-parter takes full advantage of that. Mike (Robinson) gets called out by his coworker Doug (William Knight) for angling to leave an out-of-town business meeting early so he can go spend his per diem at Dan Flash’s, a “badass” local store that sells gaudy shirts at exorbitant prices. Between his repeated bellowing at Doug (“Shut the fuck up, Doug, you fucking skunk!”) and his child-like obsession with Dan Flash’s (“They have this one shirt that costs one thousand dollars because the patterns are so complicated. I want that one so bad!”), Mike does the opposite of wonders for the meeting’s productivity, but does regular wonders for this laugh-out-loud funny sketch. Part two is sort of an afterthought, but it’s fun to see (via an ad for “outdoor shopping experience” The Shops at the Creek) Dan Flash’s and its berserk clientele losing it over their Windows screensaver-esque shirts in person.
Easily the best of Season 1’s ad-style sketches, “Laser Spine Specialists” juxtaposes familiar, medical testimonial footage with shots of a grinning, post-op Robinson, who cheerfully announces that he’ll be using his new lease on life to fistfight his ex-wife’s new husband, assert his physical dominance over his adult son (“He’s been rude to me his whole life!” makes me laugh harder than just about any single line in this show) and … confront a shady record executive played by an especially squirrelly Conner O’Malley, who’s scammed Robinson into believing he’s a hitmaker on the rise. All this comes before “Laser Spine Specialists” snaps back into its medical ad format at the very end, putting a perfectly timed bow on a bit that’s that totally in our Q-Zone.
One of Season 2’s most patently absurd sketches in content, if not form, “Tammy Craps” is a mock commercial for its titular doll, in which a voiceover cheerfully declares, “The only doll that poops, then lies about it doesn’t have farts in her head anymore!” The downside of that, as two spokes-children (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’s Julia Butters, Kaliayh Rhambo) cheerfully explain, is that the deodorizing poison used to expunge the fart smell from the Tammy Craps heads (what a sentence this is) can be harmful to little girls under 60 pounds (like Sitara Vengapally’s risk-taking 54-pounder): “You gotta get out of here, little girl. This for you is like smoking five Macanudos.” Butters does an unsurprisingly excellent job of selling the beyond-silly sketch, making “Tammy Craps” another inspired collision of guest star and material.
One of Season 2’s most ingeniously structured sketches, “Qualstarr Trial” centers on an insider trading case, in which a prosecutor (Gita Reddy) reads aloud text messages as evidence of the accused’s alleged collusion. During her recounting of their conversation, though, things take a turn, with the pair changing the subject from illicit stock transactions to viciously mocking their coworker Brian’s hat—we immediately rack focus to Robinson, sitting in the courtroom gallery wearing what is obviously the hat in question, an utterly gut-busting reveal. The sketch ping-pongs between footage of the defendants talking trash via the prosecutor—whose level, professional tone makes lines like “Holy fucking shit. Brian’s hat just got him in huge trouble in a meeting” so much funnier—and Brian’s reactions to his fashion sense being literally put on trial.
In this episode four standout, Robinson and his date (Lily Sullivan) are having such a nice dinner … until Robinson realizes she’s hogging the fully loaded nachos that are the most fully loaded, and he simply cannot let that happen. Every step of this sketch’s disastrous progression is painfully funny, from Robinson matter-of-factly announcing the problem to the restaurant’s manager (Erik Rozet) as if it’s a situation he probably handles all the time, to the manager’s uneasy attempt to fulfill Robinson’s wishes by claiming the restaurant has a “don’t hog all the meaty nachos” policy, to Robinson’s crestfallen reaction to his date seeing right through the transparently idiotic attempt. Melodramatic music swells as Robinson acts genuinely heartbroken by the accusation that the made-up rule was his doing, openly weeping as his clumsy attempts to cover his tracks crumble one lie at a time.
I’m less bullish on this sketch than most I Think You Should Leave enthusiasts for the simple reason that the joke it’s built on—a commuter takes a “Honk if you’re horny” bumper sticker literally—feels kind of easy. But Robinson and the hilariously unhinged Conner O’Malley do plenty with that premise: O’Malley’s desperately horny character follows Robinson around, howling and honking nonstop until Robinson can’t take it anymore, confronting O’Malley during Robinson’s mother’s funeral, no less. O’Malley’s frantic flailing and Gollum-like scurrying from headstone to headstone is one of the show’s best bits of physical comedy; meanwhile, Robinson clarifies that he is not, in fact, a representative of some sort of horniness alleviation service, as O’Malley had (insanely) assumed. After O’Malley sniffs out the porn that happens to be in Robinson’s trunk and procures some for himself, there’s nothing left for Robinson to do but return to his mother’s funeral and perform what sounds like a Rebecca Black song as O’Malley emotionally exults in a dirty magazine, resulting in one of the show’s most memed moments.
A perfect pairing of premise and guest star, this cringeworthy episode three sketch stars a scene-stealing Tim Heidecker as Howie, a crabby, ponytailed old hipster whose esoteric music taste, snack preferences and entire personality make him a terrible charades player and guest at his younger girlfriend’s (Sujata Day) get-together. The fictional jazz legends Howie name-checks—Marcus “The Worm” Hicks, “household names like Roy Donk,” Tiny Boop Squig Shorterly—are funny on their own, but Heidecker really makes his character sing. We’ve all met a Howie, as he reminds us with every insufferable grunt, gesture and record collection critique.
Robinson recruited his fellow SNL alum Will Forte for this standout sketch from episode two, in which Forte plays a grizzled old man who goes to insane lengths (love those lengths) to ruin a newlywed couple’s (Robinson, Kate Comer) flight. Forte’s character may not have gotten to make those soldiers at Buckingham Palace laugh, but he sure does kill in this, from his dramatic monologue (“Small whimpers at first … then came the shrieking”) to defending his rat bite (“It’s not that gross!”) and refusing to admit defeat when his evil plan rapidly unravels. Forte excels at characters who whipsaw between raving megalomania and pathetic sniveling, a spectrum he hits both ends of here.
The concept of this sketch is nothing too novel—taking social media self-deprecation to its logical endpoint by ramping playful terms of endearment up into outright insults—but its the execution that elevates “Instagram” to greatness. Another of Robinson’s fellow SNL alums, the very funny Vanessa Bayer, stars as Brenda, a young woman who can’t seem to wrap her head around this particular social norm, writing in her brunch photo post, “Load my frickin’ lard carcass into the mud. No coffin, please! Just wet, wet mud. Bae.” Bayer’s chipper delivery makes phrases like “slurping down fish piss” and “getting our butts sucked by flies” sound all the more demented—the sketch clocks in at under two minutes, but we’d watch a two-hour version without hesitation.
If you’ve heard anyone inexplicably use the phrase “That’s a Chunky” lately, maybe keep a close eye on your backpack, because this game-show sketch from Season 1’s last episode is the reason. Robinson plays Dan Vega, host of Mega Money Quiz, the rules of which are not made particularly clear in the beginning (or middle, or end) of this bit. All we learn is that the game revolves around Chunky, a wacky red character who “eats your points” and “gets very mad”—it turns out everyone involved, including Vega and beleaguered contestant Paul (executive producer Andy Samberg), is in the dark as to what Chunky’s schtick actually is. Fortunately, Robinson’s utter exasperation (“Figure out what you do! You had all summer to think of it!”) is better TV than anything Chunky could have come up with.
The SNL connection continues in this rollercoaster of an episode three opener, in which Cecily Strong’s character and her unwitting husband (Robinson) catch a comedy magician’s act that irrevocably impacts their marriage. To describe exactly how this plays out would be to rob of you the best thing about it, but suffice to say we’re holding a Paste Emmy in reserve for Strong, who hard-sells this sketch’s contextually absurd emotional depth charge, sending Robinson’s character, then dead-eyed and brokenhearted, on a quest for insanely petty revenge. Perfectly structured and surprisingly harrowing (particularly for the married), this is one of Season 1’s best bits.
Season 2 comes out swinging with “Spectrum,” a mock ad warning cable subscribers that a network called Corncob TV—and a show called Coffin Flop, in which corpses crash violently through coffins during funerals with zero context—is under threat of being dropped from their airwaves. You can see why, both immediately and repeatedly: “Because we showed over 400 naked dead bodies on our show Coffin Flop,” says Robinson’s Corncob TV rep, laying out Spectrum’s case against his network while the intermittently nude bodies fly. His reaction to accusations of rigging the coffins are just as absurd as the Coffin Flop clips themselves: “I didn’t do fuckin’ shit! I didn’t rig shit! I’ve been waiting a long time for a hit on Corncob TV! I didn’t fucking do this!” he raves. Repeated cuts between Coffin Flop footage and Robinson’s increasingly unhinged monologue (“We’re allowed to show ‘em nude because they ain’t got no souls!”) only crank up the sketch’s derangement, making for a clear Season 2 standout.
“Parking Lot” is a Season 2 standout in many ways, first and foremost because it’s short and sweet—while much of the second season sprawls and toys with your expectations about how an I Think You Should Leave sketch typically unfolds, this one feels closer to the first season’s wavelength, setting up a joke and sticking it before quickly moving on. The joke in question: A road-raging commuter (John Solomon) blocked by Tim in a parking lot shouts, “Do you know how to fucking drive?” only for a visibly upset Tim to reply, “No, I don’t know how to fucking drive. I don’t know what any of this shit is and I’m fucking scared!” That and Tim horrifying himself by accidentally honking the horn are two of the biggest laughs of the show’s new season—if that doesn’t make “Parking Lot” a top 10 sketch, I don’t know what does.
I Think You Should Leave’s second season peaks early with “Prank Show,” only its third sketch, in which Robinson plays Carmine Laguzio, host of the Practical Jokers-esque Everything Is Upside Down. Donning heavy makeup and prosthetics to embody his mischief-making Karl Havoc character, Laguzio enters a shopping mall to mess with strangers on camera, only to immediately spiral into an outright existential crisis. “There’s too much fuckin’ shit on me. I can’t breathe,” he mumbles through his ghoulish disguise, sparking an argument with his producer Craig (Gary Richardson) that leaves Carmine questioning the very purpose of his prank show. Only Robinson and his writers could conceive of a silly disguise so physically stifling, it saps a fun-loving TV host’s will to live, but it’s Robinson’s performance that makes “Prank Show” so laugh-out-loud funny (or is it interesting?), even when it gets unexpectedly dark.
If there’s a better sight gag than this in all of I Think You Should Leave, we sure would like to know about it. As it stands, the mysterious case of a Wienermobile-esque vehicle crashing into an upscale clothing store and its missing driver—who really could be anybody, as a hot dog costume-clad Robinson sagely points out—gets to wear the crown. The sketch’s initial cut to Robinson, mock-angrily offering preemptive amnesty to the culprit who clearly isn’t him, is killer—as is poor Donald’s (I Think You Should Leave co-creator Kanin) realization that he, too, is dressed like a hot dog—but Robinson’s subsequent (surprisingly successful) efforts to weasel his way out of the situation are what really make this one special. Robinson turns what easily could have been a one-note bit into a highlight of the show.
The breakout star of I Think You Should Leave may very well be Ruben Rabasa, the Cuban actor/comedian whose appearance in this episode two sketch the meme-iverse won’t soon forget. The scene Rabasa steals features Robinson, not too far from Detroiters territory here, as the head of a Ford focus group that takes an absurd turn when Rabasa’s character starts repeatedly insisting that all he wants is “a good steering wheel that doesn’t fly off while you’re driving” (which, to be fair, is definitely desirable). Rather than keeping such weird ideas to himself, Rabasa’s character doubles down on them, winning over the group and rallying them against Paul (Kanin), the clear loser of the “good car ideas” contest. Its endlessly quotable silliness makes a tough truth—that we all just desperately want to be liked, badly, even by complete strangers—so much fun.
Episode one’s closer takes up nearly half its runtime, with not a moment wasted. Steven Yeun guest stars as Jacob, opening presents at his birthday party—when he claims half-heartedly to like his friend Lev’s (Robinson) gift, Lev will stop at nothing to hold him to his word, first demanding his gift receipt back, then suggesting that he eat it. But this sketch’s brilliant subversion of expectations sees the other partygoers—rather than judging Lev for his increasingly bizarre behavior—instead turn on Jacob, accepting Lev’s premise and interrogating the birthday boy’s gift appreciation claims. This sketch’s slow and steady transformation from a familiar kind of situational cringe comedy into something entirely different is a joy to behold.
We’d give this fever dream from I Think You Should Leave’s first episode an Emmy on the strength of Sam Richardson’s opening number alone, if we were in charge of that sort of thing. The “grueling,” three-month-long Baby of the Year contest’s climactic showdown between three slack-jawed, hilariously named infants (the phrase “Baby Fubbins” alone is so funny it’s not even fair) features vociferous heckling, accusations of unnecessary oral, an “In Memoriam” reel that includes causes of death, and the attempted assassination of bad-boy baby Bart Harley Jarvis. And did we mention Sam Richardson? We’re all winners this year.
A Walk the Line parody is just about the last thing we were expecting from any comedy show in 2019, which is just one part of what makes this sketch so wonderful. Rhys Coiro stars as a musician trying to impress a couple of old-timey record company execs, but the gospel music he plays them just ain’t sellin’. So Coiro pulls a Johnny Cash and launches into an original country song, to which his bassist (Robinson) contributes just complete and total nonsense about sentient skeletons (“The worms are their money / the bones are their dollars”). It’s the very best nonsense from a show overflowing with it.
Alright, you know what, this was dumb. Dump it, trash it, this one’s garbage.
I Think You Should Leave Season 2 is streaming on Netflix now.
Scott Russell is Paste’s music editor and he has never met a more aggressive baby than Bart Harley Jarvis. He’s on Twitter, if you’re into tweets: @pscottrussell.