‘I Think You Should Leave’ doubles down on the awkwardly funny

Two men are sitting on chairs, behind them a large yellow arrow on the wall.

Zach Kanin, left, and Tim Robinson.

(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

Some reviewers have noted that the second season of I Think You Should Leave, the breakout sketch series starring comedian Tim Robinson, was darker than the first. But don’t feel sorry for the pretty Robinson games, even if they start crying.

Not even this poor Robinson character who goes undercover for a hidden camera prank show in a hilariously bad costume of an old man with a grotesque prosthetic head — and freezes when he walks into a mall food court to mess with unsuspecting strangers he and goes limp with despair, sighing, “I don’t even want to be around anymore”?

“Well, yeah, but that line in particular makes me feel like he’s lying,” says Robinson, laughing. “He’s saying everything at the moment to get out of his current situation.”

In a nutshell, that’s what I Think You Should Leave is all about. The new season offers a lot of variety – a ghost tour, a Shark Tank parody, a commercial for a show called “Coffin Flop” – and guest stars like Tim Heidecker, John Early and Bob Odenkirk.

But because the entire series largely flows from the absurdist brains of Robinson and his co-creator Zach Kanin, they’re variations on a theme: A strange and painfully awkward person finds himself in a difficult social situation, embarrasses himself, and digs his way deeper and deeper funnier grave in a desperate attempt to escape the pathetic moment.

Robinson and Kanin became friends while writing for Saturday Night Live a decade ago, and they directed the short-lived Comedy Central series Detroit before starting the Netflix sketch phenomenon. They are currently editing the pilot for Computer School, a screenplay comedy starring Robinson for HBO Max.

The big difference between the two seasons of I Think You Should Leave was, of course, a pandemic — although Season 2 was everything written ahead of the global event, and Robinson says the virus situation didn’t spoil the mood during filming. The other difference is more subtle.

“Zach and I talk about it all the time,” says Robinson. “What you find funny every year when you do comedy — I feel like it’s getting tighter and tighter. So there are things from Season 1 that I feel like we probably wouldn’t have written in Season 2.”

However, there are constants, including farts, hot dogs, counterfeit products, babies, and grown men acting like babies. Each sketch is interspersed with colorful graphics and snippets of upbeat soul songs.

Tim Robinson on the beach in Season 2 of "i think you should go"

Tim Robinson in Season 2 of I Think You Should Leave.

(Saeed Adyani / Netflix)

“They make you feel good,” explains Robinson, “and they’re like an energy boost. A lot of the people in the skits are annoying, and a lot of them are bad people. So I think it’s nice to live with that person for a few minutes or whatever to have a good time…”

“…palate cleansers between sketches,” adds Kanin.

One of the spooky things about the show is how guests — whether Heidecker as a slick guy on a date at an alien-themed bar or Early as a guy who refuses to foot the bill at a group dinner — are transformed into a surrogate Tim Robinsons . It’s not just the escalating ridiculousness of her dialogue, but also how her body language oscillates from seething to embarrassed to angry.

It’s not because they make an impression, Robinson points out. It’s just that “we’re constantly circling certain situations as opposed to someone who is or appears like me. It’s probably just the way the show is.”

There’s almost no improvisation, so each actor commits to the absurdity and quirky dialogue they’re offered. An exception was the sketch comedy legend from “Mr. Show” which had a major impact on both Robinson and Kanin. In his skit, Odenkirk plays a lonely man in a diner alongside a father (Robinson) and his daughter, who are recruited by Robinson to sell an innocent father the lie about why they can’t get ice cream. Of course, the weird lonely guy pushes the lie too far.

“Bob improvised quite a bit at the end of this sketch,” says Robinson. “It was all really fun, and I feel like it greatly improved the sketch of what was on the page.”

Robinson and Kanin spend a lot of time sequencing each episode “to try to piece it together in a way that you don’t lose momentum as the episode progresses,” says Kanin.

When they get to the edit stage and look at a sketch over and over again, “there’s always a point where you start to lose perspective,” notes Robinson. “It’s also a dangerous point because you’re just going to cut everything.”

Their solution is basically the Robinson-type philosophy in each sketch: double. If it was funny, just say yes.

Based on the internet’s reaction to the show, these sketches have staying power. People look at them more than once, quote them and dress up as characters with their flashy shirts and safari-flap fedoras. “I Think You Should Go” has joined that thin air of sketch comedy that’s returning with interest. But the boys don’t think about that when they write.

Robinson says, “We just want to do the stuff that we do us Laugh.”

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/awards/story/2022-06-21/i-think-you-should-leave-tim-robinson ‘I Think You Should Leave’ doubles down on the awkwardly funny

Sarah Ridley

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