“I’m not mad, I’m actually laughing” is such a painfully funny doubling down that it’s become a part of the cultural lexicon. It’s also both painful and funny watching someone so frantically refuse to acknowledge their flub that they become all the more obviously in the wrong. As it happens, Tim Robinson (Saturday Night Live, Detroiters) specializes in that exact kind of manic energy, and it’s what makes his new Netflix sketch comedy series, I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson, so sublime.
Robinson isn’t trafficking in cringe comedy — as cringeworthy as most of his characters might be — so much as in making an art out of prolonging a joke. The world the sketches take place in is heightened to an extreme, taking tiny, relatable moments such as worrying whether someone actually likes the gift you got them or feeling left out of a joke and, bit by bit, escalating them into the most absurd scenarios possible. For instance, in the very first sketch in the series, he pulls the handle of a door that’s meant to be pushed. Rather than admit to his mistake, he states that the door can be pulled open as well, and wrenches it back until it breaks out of its frame.
At just six episodes that each run between 15-20 minutes, the series is perhaps the best investment of time currently available on Netflix, as well as a miraculous blip in a media landscape that’s run dry in terms of sketch shows as a vehicle for comedians. With the exception of Key & Peele, which ended in 2015, Robinson’s new show has few other peers — though it may be the first of a new wave, with Alternatino with Arturo Castro and Robin Thede and Issa Rae’s A Black Lady Sketch Show both soon to come.
The format is a perfect fit for Robinson’s comic sensibilities, which are on full display here, both in his performances and his writing. Though guest stars like Steven Yeun, Tim Heidecker, Patti Harrison, and fellow SNL cast members Will Forte, Vanessa Bayer, Andy Samberg, and Cecily Strong are all terrific, this is (quite literally) Robinson’s show, and the strongest sketches are those he’s present in. He’s got the awkward, extended energy that his work capitalizes on in spades, even when playing the straight man, and it’s one of life’s little joys watching him simply scream.
Despite the series’ relative brevity, there are so many good sketches in such rapid succession that it’s impossible not to feel the same way about it that most people feel about anticipated blockbusters like, say, Avengers: Endgame. There’s not a single beat that I don’t want to breathlessly discuss, but also no way that I want to spoil the experience of discovering the show on one’s own (hence why I’ve only mentioned one sketch).
Even the little details that have no real bearing on the unfolding sketch — noting the way a fast food sign is visible through a home’s front window, addressing airline etiquette, the constant use of “mud pies” to refer to poop — are perfect. They keep the increasingly bonkers sketches grounded, and just add to the uniquely Robinsonian tenor of the show. Seriously, if you have 15 minutes to spare, do yourself a favor: get to Netflix and start watching I Think You Should Leave With Tim Robinson.