I Think You Should Leave‘s first season was released without much fanfare– beyond those of us who were already Tim Robinson fans— in 2019, but rapidly gained a following and became one of the cultural phenomena of the year. The sketches, largely built around ego and avoiding embarrassment, with behavior motivated by such being pushed to the extreme, were both relatable and extremely funny, and provided some instantly memetic moments. (How often in the last two years have you seen this on social media?) That made it my #1 show of 2019 and one of my most anticipated seasons of TV this year, with the announcement of its return date coming only a few weeks before it was released on July 6.
Well, I’m pleased to report that, while a touch different and perhaps not quite up to the level of season 1, season 2 of I Think You Should Leave lives up to expectations as well as could possibly be expected.
My first impression of season 2 was that it might be less iconic than season 1, but it might even more insane. (And even on that former point, I think we’ll need some time to bear that out; a couple of sketches are already getting heavy social media meme treatment.) The logic of the sketches is pushed even further in some cases to create truly bizarre, riotous spectacles. The very first sketch echoes season 1’s “Nachos” in that Robinson’s character is very upset over a food-related unspoken rule of etiquette; naturally, Robinson’s reaction starts at “socially awkward” and goes to even further extremes over the course of the sketch. As with season 1, even the clear premises often go past the jokes their logic would dictate and into strange and unexpected turns.
There are some noteworthy recurring themes from season 1: weird child pageants (“Baby of the Year” is updated with “Little Buff Boys”), weird lines of clothing (goodbye, T.C. Tuggers and Stanzo brand fedoras; hello, Dan Flashes and Calico Cut Jeans), bizarre references to comic-strip characters (there’s no Garfield house, but there’s a very funny Charlie Brown reference); strangely sexualized cartoon characters (no “homegrown Simpsons stuff”, but a particular line drop in the last episode made me lose my breath laughing); and Christmas icons in action movies (I don’t even want to spoil that one). But speaking of that last one, the Scrooge sketch was the only one in season 1 (aside from “Viral Video”) that really got a call-back later in the episode; this season has a few sketches that get follow-ups later in the episode or even in another episode in one case.
The weirdly specific language continues, too– see the “Baby” sketch for both “sloppy steaks” and “little bitty jeans”; a sketch from episode 3 where a professor continually refers to eating a burger as “housing” it; an actor named “Jamie Taco.” Like so many of the best comedy works, Robinson finds great laughter in combining universal human traits and feelings– in this case, fear of embarrassment, minor slights people can’t let go, and people trying to force a social situation to fit their needs– with weirdly specific traits and language that are inherently funny. (It makes perfect sense that so many sketches are set in an office, what with that environment’s quasi-social relationships and the unspoken lines that keep those social interactions from crossing into unprofessional.)
Robinson and the rest of the team (co-creator Zach Kanin, plus the other writers) also have a great sense for sketches where the punchline hits hard and repeatedly hits over and over without losing its impact. The best example is probably the “Corncob TV” sketch in episode 1, where a desperate Robinson is filming a commercial pleading to viewers to petition Spectrum Cable not to drop the channel– and in particular its signature program, which is a joke I don’t want to spoil but whose premise keeps getting executed over and over and never stops being funny, in particular combined with Robinson’s sweaty, increasingly unhinged (and increasingly ridiculous) pleas. The “Ghost Tour” sketch from the same episode has the same impact on me, where the first drop of the joke makes me scream laughing, and it keeps getting funnier as Robinson continues and widens the fissure between his character’s wants and the basic social scene at play.
While Robinson is the star of most sketches, he’s not the only one; once again, the show gets a great lineup of guests, some of whom return from season 1. Sam Richardson, naturally, is the host of the Little Buff Boys pageant. Tim Heidecker is back as the centerpiece of a closing sketch. Connor O’Malley is back, channeling his manic energy into a frustrated husband / dog owner. Patti Harrison appears in two sketches and completely owns both of them; her performance and presence elevate the sketches well beyond the material on paper (particularly “The Capital Room”). Someone needs to give her her own show already.
Of new guest stars, John Early (Search Party) gets a starring role in a sketch about a credit-card roulette game gone awry. Mike O’Brien, creator of A.P. Bio, stars in the season’s longest sketch, a bizarre odyssey kicked off by a minor awkward office moment that runs for over nine minutes. Julia Butters, who you may remember as the child actor from Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (or, I guess, if there are any American Housewife fans in the audience), stars in a sketch about a disturbing (in more ways than one) children’s doll, and completely commands the screen when she’s on it; she’s going to be a star. There are also two terrific guest appearances from more famous performers I don’t want to spoil, but I’ll just say they’re both respected dramatic performers who are also very funny, and they play the subtleties of their characters extremely well, which naturally serves to make the comedy even better. And as a bonus, Detroiters fans will be happy to see Shawntay Dalon (again) and Andre Belue.
It’s hard to do a long review of a short sketch show like this (like the first season, the total run time is 6 episodes and about 100 minutes), and beyond this point it wouldn’t be much other than listing off favorite sketches, lines, and moments. Suffice to say, Tim Robinson still has a grasp on taking awkwardness to the extreme like few others, and when the show hits, it really hits. Time will tell if season 2 of I Think You Should Leave will end up being as iconic as season 1, but even if it doesn’t, it’s still the funniest show on TV, the best and most instantly memorable sketch show since Dave Chappelle walked away from television, and there’s simply nothing else like it on the air.
I Think You Should Leave season two is available to stream on Netflix now. Thanks to The Ploughman for letting me take the Thursday “Lunch Links” spot this week.