Tim Robinson’s American Nightmare

Season 3 of ‘I Think You Should Leave,’ the best sketch show on TV, is making instant memes

Season 3 of ‘I Think You Should Leave With Tim Robinson,’ the best sketch show on TV, premiered on Netflix on Tuesday. By Tuesday night, I’d watched the entire thing. By Wednesday night, I’d watched the entire thing twice. And I laughed more and harder the second time. The whole season is barely 90 minutes, so it’s not like that was even a huge time commitment. But regardless, I couldn’t resist. It was like shoving a whole bag of Funyuns into my mouth, like living inside a meme.

Tim Robinson

It’s hard to determine why I Think You Should Leave is such a brainworm. The show doesn’t delve into politics, of any kind. There are no recurring characters. Tim Robinson, who gets 80 percent of the screen time, is a bland, rubber-faced, generally unappealing lunatic who does a lot of screaming. And yet he’s totally hilarious. I Think You Should Leave features parodies of reality shows, but only obliquely, and then as a springboard to something totally absurd. In this season’s parody of The Bachelorette, which other shows have satirized better, Tim Robinson plays, basically, Tim Robinson, because that is his exact range. The Bachelorette rejects him because it’s clear he only wants to be on the show so he can zip-line into the swimming pool. That’s the whole joke, and its great.

Robinson’s world is a bland, bleak American landscape of office politics, fast food, first dates, boring parties, shitty online communication, and frustrated, stunted masculinity. He takes the background radiation of our lives, the boring pop culture, the obsessive sports gambling, the horniness, the fear of aging, and the total banality of work, and twists it into something surreal and bizarre. Every sketch starts off in the blandest possible way: “oh, hey, it’s great that the gang from college is back together again” or “office party,’ and turns that scenario into an obsessive nightmare, tone-deaf to reality.

In Season 3’s best sketch (though there are a lot of choices), Robinson seems to be playing a man who has invented an innovative automatic doggy door. It starts out as a basic infomercial. Then a horrifying monster appears through the door. Robinson says he’s seen this monster with his own two eyes. But it turns out that what he actually saw was a pig wearing a Richard Nixon mask. His neighbor sent that pig through the dog door after a dispute over property boundaries. And Robinson hallucinated the monster for 50 seconds because he hadn’t been sleeping because a swing dancer flipped his wife at a wedding eight times. 

Look, you had to be there. But even when Robinson isn’t the focus of the scene, the premise remains the same. Sketches this year feature Conor O’Malley, Fred Armisen, series regulars Patti Harrison and Sam Richardson, Tim Heidecker, and Will Forte, among others. An ordinary person, in an ordinary situation, says or does something that’s incredibly weird, and that leads to something even weirder, and yet it all seems more real than your actual, ridiculous life. Season 3 probably isn’t as good as Season 1 or Season 2, but maybe, by the eighth viewing, I’ll feel differently. So now I’m off to watch season 3 for a third time, which is really hard for me, because I JUST SLEPT WITH FRANKENSTEIN’S CHICK!

If you want to get that reference, or any of my references for the rest of time, I recommend an immediate watch. It will be quick and painless. Or painful. Or both.

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Neal Pollack

Book and Film Globe Editor in Chief Neal Pollack is the author of 12 semi-bestselling books of fiction and nonfiction, including the memoirs Alternadad and Stretch, the novels Repeat and Downward-Facing Death, and the cult classic The Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature. A Rotten Tomatoes certified reviewer for both film and television, Neal has written articles and humor for every English-language publication except The New Yorker. Neal lives in Austin, Texas, and is a three-time Jeopardy! champion.

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