Sketch comedy may be the most binary of comedy—it either works or doesn’t for you. Sitcom jokes or standup riffs vary so much on the larger piece they inhabit, but sketches live or die based on the joke alone. Even the most ardent fans of Saturday Night Live would admit most of any episode is pretty bad with a few sketches that land even during the classic years. Netflix’s new sketch comedy series, I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson, suffers a similar fate but with just a few too many that don’t land.
Tim Robinson is a former Saturday Night Live writer who both writes and stars in this series. One saving grace is the relatively short runtime of each episode, generally in the 16-18-minute range. The show is smart not to overstay its welcome. Beyond that, most episodes are a series of fairly unconnected sketches. Of course, the real judgement on any sketch show is whether or not it’s funny—so is it? Sometimes?
For me, the three greatest sketch shows ever made are Saturday Night Live, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, and Upright Citizens Brigade. Everything else is unfairly or not judge against those three shows. That doesn’t mean I don’t like other shows like The State, The Kids in the Hall, Mr. Show with Bob and David, etc., I just put those three on a higher pedestal. I Think You Should Leave definitely is not on that highest tier, but I wouldn’t even put it on a second tier. I did laugh at times. There’s a best baby sketch that is really some comedy genius, but there’s way too much filler surrounding it. Sketches often have some solid premises, but the execution just feels off.
Why? Well, sadly I think I have to put the blame at the feet of series star Tim Robinson. The writing often works better in sketches where he doesn’t appear, or simply cameos. When a sketch falls completely on his back, I feel like he doesn’t have the range to carry it and instead relies on his character breaking down emotionally by either crying or screaming. It’s a very loud show in the way Family Guy can be, as if yelling makes everything funnier. Go back to many of the classic sketches from Python, Saturday, and Upright and no one is yelling—almost ever. I’m sure that comedy style works for some, but for me it means most of the series just falls flat.