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Review: 'I Think You Should Leave'

DANIELLE KURTZLEBEN, HOST:

One of the internet's most talked about and meme'd about comedy shows has returned for a much anticipated second season this week. We're talking about "I Think You Should Leave," a sketch comedy show from former Saturday Night Live writer and cast member Tim Robinson. Here's a scene from the new season. There are four people having dinner at a restaurant and things turn cringy when one of the diners steals another's burger and eats it.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "I THINK YOU SHOULD LEAVE WITH TIM ROBINSON")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) Are you going to tell people I did that, that I housed Dylan's (ph) burger?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) We're not going to say anything. You didn't like your meal. It's no big deal.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) Let me take a video of you saying that you're going to kill the president.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) What?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) It's no big deal. No one's ever going to see it, unless I hear the story of me housing Dylan's burger down at Graham's Loralei Lounge (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #3: (As character) We're not saying that.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) Saying what?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #3: (As character) That we're going to kill the president.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) Oh, s***. Say it again.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) Oh, my God. What is wrong with you?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) I tried to get a video, but I couldn't flip the thing fast enough.

KURTZLEBEN: Robinson has a knack for identifying awkward dynamics in your average social or work situation, then blowing them up to epic, absurd proportions. Some of the sketches are so cringe-inducing that you almost want to stop watching until things get so absurd, you just have to keep watching. Glen Weldon is one of the hosts of NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour and recently reviewed the show's new season, and he joins us now to tell us all about it. Glen, welcome.

GLEN WELDON, BYLINE: Hey, Danielle. Always great to be here.

KURTZLEBEN: Yes. As we mentioned, a lot of people have been eagerly awaiting this season's release because Season 1 of "I Think You Should Leave" was such a hit. So what makes the series so popular and so meme-able?

WELDON: Well, you nailed it in your intro. Robinson and the show have a deeply idiosyncratic comedy voice that stands out because he's lampooning something that is both really specific and also really of the moment, this culture of outrage that we find ourselves in now. That's really struck a nerve, I think. And where the first season was about establishing that voice, this second season is really about opening it up and seeing what it can do.

KURTZLEBEN: You know, when I try to talk to friends about the show and describe some of the sketches - because the sketches get so strange, I have found it difficult to describe any of them. So maybe you can do this justice. Are there any of your favorite sketches in Season 2 that you can tell us about?

WELDON: Well, it's going to be difficult to describe, but the one I've watched the most has to be the one with Robinson playing a driver's ed instructor. And he's showing students a video about driving attentively. And the video he's showing them features Patti Harrison, the great Patti Harrison, who is driving a bunch of folding tables around for some reason. And she's talking about Eddie Munster. And she's complaining about - her tables are filthy. And the whole thing just confuses the kids because it would. They're like, what's her job? And that drives Robinson nuts.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "I THINK YOU SHOULD LEAVE WITH TIM ROBINSON")

TIM ROBINSON: (As character) Do you want me to turn the lights off? Everybody puts their heads down. Nobody gets their license. You got to walk everywhere. You got to walk to the food store. You got to walk to the house.

WELDON: And that's the show in a nutshell - Robinson's, you know, growing frustration and rage while everyone around him is just kind of mildly confused.

KURTZLEBEN: You know, you wrote this really great review of the show for npr.org and Pop Culture Happy Hour. People should go read it. And in the review, you talk about how, despite the show's ridiculous veneer - and, you know, let's face it, it's poop jokes, it's sex jokes, it's jokes about hot dogs - Robinson is really giving us some real commentary on contemporary masculinity. Please tell us more about that.

WELDON: Well, no one does throttled rage and a really kind of performative woundedness better than Robinson does. I mean, most of his characters, if you think about it, they're trying to get away with something - right? - something they've always been able to get away with, and now, for whatever reason, they can't anymore. And it drives them nuts. So they fume. They explode. They make up these incredibly stupid, very elaborate lies to try to cover up for it.

And if that's all the show was about, Danielle, it might be a little too real, a little too reminiscent of certain public figures. But what Robinson is great at and what the show - what sets the show apart is how he lets you see the deep wells of insecurity and desperation just under the surface of all that bluster. It makes his characters pathetic and really pitiable, and that makes them hilarious.

KURTZLEBEN: Right. And a lot of these characters, like you said, a lot of them are men - are played by Robinson. But he does have a slate of really great guest stars this season, including comedians like Patti Harrison and John Early. What do you think these guest stars bring to the new season?

WELDON: Yeah, he's really generous. He really spreads the toxic wealth this season with guest stars like Bob Odenkirk and his old pal Sam Richardson. But what's interesting to me is what happens when you bring queer comedians like Harrison and John Early into this very strange comedic sandbox. Because then it becomes clear that, yes, Robinson has figured out something about toxic masculinity, but his comedy isn't limited to that. Because here are these very funny queer comedians showing that really anyone could be a belligerent jerk. It's not just for straight dudes anymore.

KURTZLEBEN: You know, I want to bring this conversation back to hot dogs, of course.

WELDON: Sure.

KURTZLEBEN: The - maybe the most meme'd moment from the first season was this screenshot of Robinson in a giant hot dog costume. Fans know what I'm talking about. Are there any sketches from the season that you think are going to take over internet memes?

WELDON: That's hard to predict, and this is hard to turn into a GIF, but the way Patti Harrison says filthy-uh (ph). I mean, you'd have to bring a linguist in here to tell me why filthy-uh is so much funnier than filthy. I don't quite know, understand it, but it's certainly true in the way she says the tables are my corn. And when the kid asks, you know, what her job is and Robinson just turns over and screams tables, it's just the best. He's the worst, but it's just the best.

KURTZLEBEN: True. All right. That's Glen Weldon, one of the hosts of NPR's Pop Culture Happy hour. Glen, thank you so much for being with us.

WELDON: My pleasure. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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