Sketch comedy shows are typically such a grab bag that enjoying one often feels like nibbling through slices of pizza that contain hidden pieces of a topping you hate. Comedy is good. Comedy sketches can be good. Oh what’s this? A skit with a premise that takes too long to set up and has a lazy ending? Yuck!
Netflix’s first season of I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson stays short enough that it at least avoids the trap of overstaying its welcome (each episode is 15 to 19 minutes long, and there are only six of them). And as you might expect, not all of the sketches work, but the ones that do make the series a fun, easy watch -- especially for fans of Robinson’s previous work on Detroiters, Netflix’s The Characters, and Saturday Night Live (for one season). It’s also got a roster of excellent guest stars.
10. The Night Scrooge Saved Christmas (Episode 4)
One of two sketches featuring Detroiters and Veep star Sam Richardon, this one looks like a low-budget cable movie viewed off an old VHS tape. It’s a scene in which Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by an aggressive mecha-human, The Ghost of Christmas from the waaaay future of 3050. Richardson, in the robot suit, barks orders at Scrooge, who must fight a poorly animated skeleton with his cane and Christmas cheer. “Bash the ghost of that Bone Mama!” yells Richardson, an elite member of the Bone Brigade. Memorably random and stupid.
9. Whoopie Cushion (Episode 2)
One of the best examples in the series of a key Robinson skill: playing the dumb victim of a prank struggling to understand why he’s been targeted. When he sits on a whoopie cushion at the start of an office meeting, his character doesn’t understand why this would be funny since his real farts, he argues, “Are loud and very long and they reek!” Robinson is great at volcanic rage, making you believe it when he cries, “This is a betrayal on levels that no one’s ever seen!”
8. Hot Dog Crash (Episode 5)
Another chance for Robinson to play dumb, and to offer another variation on a theme that keeps coming up on I Think You Should Leave: a liar digging himself deeper and deeper as he tries to convince a group of people that he’s not to blame for an incident. In this case, it’s a man in a hot dog costume denying that he just drove a hot dog-shaped vehicle into a building. What elevates this from good to great is the visual reveal of another man in the room wearing a mustard-colored suit, red shirt and yellow tie. “Oh no,” the man mutters when he realizes he’s being pulled into the fight.
7. Magician Revenge (Episode 3)
Cecily Strong is the wife of a schlub who endures a series of jokes from a stage magician. Later that night, in bed, she takes a break from giving him the cold shoulder to ask, "Why the fuck didn’t you stand up for yourself, you fucking coward?” Robinson plays the husband, a man who finds his life is suddenly ruined by what he thought was a harmless night of fun. Great work from Strong, who sells the fabulous line, "He basically pulled your little dick out in front of everyone and jerked you off until nothing came out because you are a boy!."
6. River Mountain High (Episode 2)
This feels at first like a teen-drama parody, something like what Kroll Show did with "Wheels Ontario"; but the joke is it’s just an excuse to promote "TC Topps from TC Tuggers,” a line of shirts with a tugging button for men. T-shirt getting bunched up? Just tug on the tugging knob without wearing out the material. Robinson plays a principal who explains to some students that these shirts are not to made fun of, not even ironically. The payoff that follows is a hilarious ad full of pot-bellied men jamming out to rock music before the tagline, "The only shirt with a dope tugging knob."
5. Mega Money Quiz (Episode 6)
Nobody really does game-show sketches better than SNL, but this one’s a pretty good attempt that stars Andy Samberg as a contestant on a bad, no-budget mix of Jeopardy! and Press Your Luck Instead of Whammies, Mega Money Quiz has Chunky, a red-furred mascot who doesn’t really know what his deal is. Is he supposed to abuse the contestants? Annoy them? Mess with their stuff as he steals their winnings? Robinson plays the increasingly angry host, who wishes Chunky wouldn’t talk or break the contestant’s laptop.
4. The Airplane Revenge Sketch (Episode 2)
Will Forte is an eccentric old man sitting next to a couple on an airplane that’s headed for London. It turns out he’s there to get revenge for the time Tim Robinson’s character, as a baby, ruined the same flight for him many years before with incessant crying. Very funny premise, but the payoff is that this long-simmering revenge scheme wasn’t very well planned out.
3. Instagram (Episode 1)
Vanessa Bayer is Brenda, a woman having Sunday Funday brunch with her friends who can’t figure out how to post something cute but self-deprecating on Instagram. "Slopping down some pig shit with these fat fucks and I’m the fattest one of all," she tries. Her attempts to write a clever post get grosser and more disturbing ("Hog-shit snarfing contest"!) and always seem to end with no one shedding a tear over her death. The week this episode was released, Bayer also appeared as a pity-absorbing emotional vampire on FX’s What We Do in the Shadows and her performances in both are absolutely perfect.
2. Has This Ever Happened to You? (Episode 1)
The first two episodes of the show are front-loaded with some of the best sketches, and this one is another example of Robinson playing a complete idiot saying increasingly ridiculous things that begin to wear on your defenses like a Night King's zombie army. Here he plays Mitch Bryant, a lawyer in a TV ad describing a scenario with plumbers who invade your house, run around and jump on your couch when it’s “Turbo Time" and replace your toilet with one that has a tiny joke hole that can only accommodate farts. An important sketch for introducing the oft-used term for poop, "Mud pies," to the show and, again, for presenting Robinson’s skills in exasperated yelling.
1. The 112th Annual Baby of the Year Competition (Episode 1)
It may seem wrong to choose as the best sketch one in which Tim Robinson doesn’t even appear, but it’s such a brilliant showcase for Sam Richardson as an aggressive, had-it-with-this-shit host of a baby pageant, that there can be no other choice. It’s got silly baby names ("Tabby Lee Fubbins," "Tiny Dinky Daffy,") a foiled assassination attempt on a baby, and a morbid "In Memoriam"” segment (“Calm down, they’re old ones. They don’t stay babies forever, idiot. Fucking stupid… asshole,” Richardson mutters at one of the pageant judges.) If you’re only used to seeing Richardson as the angelic Richard Splett on Veep, you’ll be shocked at how great he is as a nasty, ill-tempered wrangler of a busted awards show program. This sketch is the one out of the whole series that most perfectly recaptures the magic of Detroiters and feels like it could have come right from the show. Tim Robinson is great, and he’s given us a very enjoyable new show, but would it be too much to ask if next season is reworked as I Think You Should Leave With Tim Robinson and Sam Richardson?
Omar L. Gallaga is a longtime technology and culture writer with bylines in The Wall Street Journal, NPR's All Tech Considered blog, Rolling Stone, The Washington Post, CNN and the beloved TV websites Television Without Pity and Previously.tv. He's a former newspaper journalist who now lives in New Braunfels, Texas. You can find him on Twitter @OmarG.