Tim Robinson, creator and star of American comedy sketch show I Think You Should Leave, is clearly singing from the ‘cringe comedy’ hymn book. As a writer and performing alumni of Saturday Night Live, you must surmise that sketch comedy is something he has plenty of experience with. And with Comedy Central show Detroiters under his belt he has already stretched his writing wings. So, why is I Think You Should Leave so gosh darn awful?
I want to like sketch shows. I do. I can acknowledge that many rely on catchphrases or clichés, but a good sketch show can give you that bam bam bam of comedy hits that really make a dark winter night on the sofa fly by. I Think You Should Leave represents the worst end of a sketch show. Where you can see the writing process laid bare from the kernel of an idea (isn’t it annoying when people honk their car horn all the time / aren’t whoopee cushions a terrible practical joke/people on flights are so creepy aren’t they?) and yet each sketch takes this tiny amount of material and meanders around for painfully long utterly absent of things to say.
Tim Robinson’s performances smack of the ‘angry shouty’ era of Adam Sandler’s earlier career. He is often raging against (or being the cause of) some awkward situation where a social faux pa isn’t let go of. One sketch has him accusing insincerity on the part of someone receiving a birthday gift. That someone (celebrity guest Steven Yeun, no less) is the person accused of falsely claiming to love his gifts in a scene that surely has entered many of our minds. 5 minutes later and the sketch is continuing and escalating, but really such a minuscule idea has nowhere to go.
Each episode manages to outdo the previous one for banal thoughts that collapse into nothingness, like vegetables you swore you would eat this time just rotting away in the fridge to everyone’s disappointment. It’s the banality that is most striking. Every single sketch feels like exactly what you would write. You, with no background in comedy or writing and told to make something of a piece of paper that simply says ‘older hipster at young party’ scrawled on it – and with minutes and minutes of air time to fill. Haha! Young people don’t know slightly older people’s reference points! Let’s go on and on and on about this! And on. And on.
I Think You Should Leave did not amuse me. At all. It wasn’t even offensive or edgy in a manner that I could think maybe it’s just me (me, a person not really into offensive or edgy). It’s just bland. The best comedy has a tinge of drama. Even crass slapstick like Bottom (which I would straight up defend as much more than crass slapstick) or catchphrase laden sketch shows like The Fast Show managed to infiltrate moments of genuine sadness into the laughs.
Such pathos, occasional or not, isn’t a complete prerequisite, of course. But the ability to connect on a human level is essential for good comedy writing. I Think You Should Leave is the drunk guy at a bar who thinks they have a fun insight, but upon hearing the smallest of titters will just slur nonsense at you whilst obliviously blocking your exit. Avoid and watch Astronomy Club instead!
Words by Michael Record