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.
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.
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.
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.
The rare I Think You Should Leave 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.
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” (below), but doesn’t work quite as well—it starts out so silly that there’s not much room for it to grow.
“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.
“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 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 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.
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.
Easily the best of I Think You Should Leave’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.
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 I Think You Should Leave’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.
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 (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 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 I Think You Should Leave’s best bits.
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 (I Think You Should Leave co-creator 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 one is streaming on Netflix now.
Scott Russell is Paste’s news editor and he has never met a more aggressive baby than Bart Harley Jarvis. He’s on Twitter, if you’re into tweets: @pscottrussell.