Join the comedy cult of I Think You Should Leave, TV’s funniest show

We’re all drowning in content—so it’s time to highlight the best. In her column, published every Friday, critic Clarisse Loughrey recommends a new show to watch. This week: Tim Robinson has Clarisse in stitches again with the third season of instantly meme-able sketch show I Think You Should Leave.

I’ve found it very hard to convince other people to watch Netflix’s I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson. I know it’s funny—funny in a way where I laugh until my stomach hurts, even when I’m alone. Funny in a way where, if I do meet a fellow acolyte, we only need to quote a single sentence from any of its kaleidoscope of sketches to start howling away like little hyenas.

But to then communicate that joy to the outside world? I feel hopelessly inadequate. I Think You Should Leave has the same quality as an obscure, inside joke, tied to a history that you’ve long forgotten. It makes perfect sense to you, then less and less sense once you chew it around in your mouth and try to verbalise it.

How do I explain to you that season three has a sketch where a contestant on a Bachelorette-style show gets booted out because he can’t stop using the zipline? Or that there’s another where a talk show provocateur brings experts on to argue with, and then immediately starts looking at this phone once he’s backed into a corner?

Sure, that concept sounds vaguely amusing on paper, but it doesn’t come close to capturing the precise range of expressions that spread across Robinson’s face when he plays these characters (he’s in most, but not all, of the show’s sketches). It doesn’t cover the way his eyebrows will curl up like the world’s saddest clown. Or how his mouth will stretch into a pained grimace, like someone’s hooked in a couple of fishing lines and started to pull. It doesn’t start to describe how every sketch starts with one punchline, before drifting off-piste into another, then another, then another, on and on and ever more bizarre.

I Think You Should Leave, as proven by the sheer number of memes it’s produced, has all the pleasures of a cult with none of the drawbacks. Once you’re in, you’re in. You suddenly understand the secret language (“Yeah, we’re all trying to find the guy who did this!”), and you know that this show, even in its third round, is still probably the funniest thing on television.

Robinson and his co-creator, Zach Kanin, have built an absurdist world from the ground up, perfectly primed for an infinite number of scenarios. Every sketch shares the same, basic concept: someone interprets a social rule far too literally, or becomes attached to a delusion that simply doesn’t work. And they’d rather ruin their entire life than admit that they’re actually the problem. Defensiveness clambers on top of aggressiveness until every single person in the room has been pushed to the brink of madness. A friendly co-worker will offer to drive his colleagues home when they’ve had too much to drink, only to introduce them to a business called “The Driving Crooner”. What is it? You’ll have to find out. How does it make any money? No clue. What’s the point of it? A total mystery.

There’s pathos where no one would expect pathos. There are sketches where Robinson steps aside to allow his circle of regulars to take centre stage—among them Patti Harrison, Tim Heidecker, Sam Richardson, Connor O’Malley, and Biff Wiff (you’ll recognise him, he’s the guy who played Santa in season two). Sometimes a famous face – like Jason Schwartzman, Ayo Edebiri, or Tim Meadows – will enter the scene. But, mostly, I Think You Should Leave is the sort of show that defies critical analysis. It is what it is. If you’re not into it, you’ll know immediately. If you are, you can be my friend. It’s really as simple as that.