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Television

'I Think You Should Leave' Is Like Weird Twitter as a TV Show

Tim Robinson's new Netflix sketch comedy has clear, hilarious ties to the humour of online.

by Lauren O'Neill
10 May 2019, 1:12pm

Screenshot via Netflix

Three women sit at a brunch table having their photo taken. They’re having a girls’ morning, drinking mimosas and hanging out, in what has become a much-parodied millennial ritual. As soon as they get a picture they’re all happy with, the women scramble to think of cute captions for social media. The first announces that she’s gone for “Brunch with these two dum dums.” In the same self-deprecating fashion that is all but custom on Instagram, the second chooses, “Sunday fun day with these idiots!”

The third woman, however, doesn’t quite get it: “Eating crap with these sacks of shit. If they died tomorrow no-one would shed a tear. So cute!” she says.

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A scene from the first episode of I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson. Screenshot via Netflix.

The moment is part of a skit in the first episode of Netflix’s brilliant new sketch show I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson, and acts as a pretty good summation of the ideas at the heart of the programme. It’s a no-frills sketch comedy helmed by former Saturday Night Live writer and cast member Tim Robinson, wherein the diverse skits feel united by the concept of taking millennial social norms and stretching or inverting them to ridiculous extremes.

In lots of ways, this is a trait the show shares with another arena for comedy: Twitter. For years now, the wing of the site known as “weird Twitter” has taken contemporary culture and mores and injected them with heavy doses of surrealism, birthing, among other figures, the only real voice of the millennial generation – @dril. Weird Twitter’s knack is for taking ordinary situations or accepted norms, and in only a few characters, exposing their fundamental silliness.

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Screenshot via @palsux on Twitter.

In doing so, it speaks especially to the twin self-awareness and alienation from the world that growing up online, constantly shaping our thoughts and feelings into shareable soundbites in an increasingly bizarre social climate, has bred.

In all the ludicrousness it farms from the norms we’re expected to enact, I Think You Should Leave is one of the first TV shows on a mainstream platform which has this type of internet humour in its DNA.

Another sketch from the first episode, for example, centres on a cute baby contest. Inexplicably, one of the finalists – a baby described as “the bad boy of the competition” – is detested by the audience, who literally scream “FUCK YOU” as he is announced by the compère. It feels like the internet’s doing that it’s not only OK, but actually extremely funny, to vilify an infant dressed as a biker. Online identity politics may have created new standards in comedy (and correct ones at that), but online humour is totally willing to fuck with established but largely pointless Boomer ideals about appropriateness, especially if doing so provides a good punchline.

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Screenshot via @dril on Twitter
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Screenshot via @fart on Twitter

And in I Think You Should Leave, those punchlines come thick, fast, and unexpected. A random style has always been the secret weapon of sketch comedy, allowing disparate topics to spring up alongside each other and enhance the funniness of the whole. But there’s an exaggerated randomness about I Think You Should Leave: again in that first episode alone, we go directly from a nervous guy at a job interview refusing advice about how to open a door in order to seem competent, which results in him ripping the door off its hinges, and therefore ruining the interview, to a TV lawyer advertising himself to clients who’ve experienced the stupidly specific scenario of removals men coming to their house and replacing their normal toilet with one with “a joke hole that’s just for farts” (“Has this ever happened to you?”).

Though as I’ve mentioned, sketch comedy always has an element of the unanticipated that most narrative comedy doesn’t, in the context of I Think You Should Leave’s close relationship with Twitter and the internet, it’s hard not to compare watching it to scrolling through the funniest bits of your feed – indeed, even the way that each sketch explores and inhabits one highly particular scenario feels like Twitter on its feet.

I’m acutely aware that I’ve been describing skits from the show in order to talk about why they’re funny – and there’s nothing that kills humour quicker than that. It’s important to say, then, that there’s a huge part of I Think You Should Leave’s charm that comes from its ineffable quality: at laughing at something just because it’s funny, and not necessarily being able to explain why. Again, it shares this with weird Twitter. Please pay homage to my favourite tweet ever:

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Screenshot via @dril on Twitter

This tweet is great – iconic, even – because it is deeply stupid and dumb. The language it uses is too dramatic for the situation it describes, and the situation it describes is implausible and without context. It’s laugh-out-loud funny, then, for exactly the same reasons that I Think You Should Leave – where five minutes are devoted to the drama that unfolds when an insulted gift-giver eats his gift receipt, which then turns out to have shit on it – is funny. It’s dumb and smart at the same time; bafflingly unique for TV, but comfortably within the new traditions of the internet. Watch it tonight with your favourite sacks of shit.

@hiyalauren