I think You Should Leave is the perfect internet comedy

Season 3 of I Think You Should Leave, starring Tim Robinson, debuted on Netflix last week.

In many ways, I Think You Should Leave feels like a show tailor-made for the internet. The sketch comedy show has spawned dozens of viral memes, with social media grabbing everything from “coffin flop” to Dan Flash’s trademark shirts. “I Think You Should Leave” has become an acronym for a certain part of the internet, so much so that MP Ilhan Omar used the “we’re all trying to find the guy who did this” meme to describe himself to pounce on Exxon’s climate change advert.

The show’s virality is the subject of great fascination. Last year, Slate tried to predict which sketches from the show’s second season went the most viral. This year, Prime Timer tried to figure out what sequences would emerge from the show’s third season. Mashable attempted to explain why the show was so effective at generating these memes, images, and lines that resonated outside of their original context in each sketch.

Part of that is simply due to the format. I Think You Should Leave is an episodic sketch show. Most episodes last about fifteen minutes and contain three or four unrelated scenes. This is a classic television comedy format that went out of fashion around the turn of the millennium. In March 2007, New York Magazine casually declared, “Sketch comedy is dead.” Everyone knows it.” In December 2014, The Guardian wondered why nobody was doing sketch comedy anymore.

In retrospect, these arguments seem absurd. Sketch comedy has boomed over the past decade with shows like Inside Amy Schumer and Key & Peele. Even older institutions like Saturday Night Live have been revived in recent years. These had undeniable cultural implications. Amy Schumer is a movie star and has headlined projects such as Trainwreck and I Feel Pretty. With “Get Out”, “Us” and “Nope”, Jordan Peele has become one of the most promising directors of our time.

These sketch shows were very popular on the internet. The linear ratings for “Inside Amy Schumer” and “Key & Peele” were dwarfed by the viewership of the clips on YouTube. It has been noted that many online viewers tend to view “Inside Amy Schumer” as a collection of sketches, “not a complete product”. Key & Peele has been described as “a web series sponsored by a major cable network.” Even the recent success of Saturday Night Live is largely due to digital creators like Lonely Island or Please Don’t Destroy.

There are obvious reasons why sketch comedy has taken off in the internet age. Internet media tends to favor bite-sized content—narratives conveyed in a very focused manner with minimal context. It is a medium suitable for “TLDR” summaries, communication via emoji or drive-by comments. This is particularly evident when looking at the original limitations on various social media platforms: Twitter’s original 140-character limit or TikTok’s early 15-second videos.

This does not mean that dialogue on the Internet was inherently superficial. Indeed, there is an art to clearly communicating meaning through such constraints, using a shared knowledge of symbols and memes as a shortcut. This approach to storytelling has already crept into the mainstream, most notably in the acceleration of projects like Steven Moffat’s Doctor Who or the Spider-Verse films, encoded in the language of the internet for a digital-native generation .

Not surprisingly, sketch comedy was perfectly suited to this type of communication, providing short and concise material that could be understood with a minimum of context. It probably helps that many of these modern sketch comedy performers have embraced the weird and absurd humor that was popular online, turning away from traditional observational humor in favor of more over-the-top and eccentric staging and payoffs.

Therefore, “I Think You Should Leave” is suitable for Internet consumption. The sketches are short and therefore easy to share. The vast majority are self-contained, meaning no larger context is required to understand them. It’s outrageously weird and intense, the perfect mode for internet comedy. It even bypasses the network broadcast framework of Inside Amy Schumer, Key & Peele, or Saturday Night Live and streams directly to Netflix over the internet.

However, there is more to it than that. Not only that the form of “I Think You Should Leave” is ideal for sharing on social media. In its own surreal and abstract way, the content of I Think You Should Leave perfectly ties into the experience of being online. It’s no surprise that the show resonates with viewers who spend a lot of time navigating the modern Internet, for whom it is perhaps most immediately understandable.

It is worth clarifying this point. I Think You Should Leave isn’t literally about the internet. The show relatively rarely references modern social media. Instead, it’s more directly reminiscent of older forms of media like infomercials, beauty pageants, or television game shows. Sketches are loosened up by soul songs from the 1970s. Tim Robinson himself has no online presence, and when told the show was popular online, he casually replied, “Yes, it’s nice.”

However, “I Think You Should Leave” is best understood as a sketch comedy show about what happens “when the social rules break down.” Many skits begin with a seemingly casual interaction that escalates dramatically when one character, usually played by Robinson, takes things a little too seriously or literally, whether it’s apologizing for a friend being late for a party or with hugging a tour guide instructing them “to say whatever the hell (they) want”.

“I Think You Should Leave” is intrigued by this basic constellation – the idea of ​​an individual who either doesn’t understand or doesn’t care about social norms and conventions and who uses another person’s politeness as a conversation starter to indulge their worst self. Putting aside how this might affect the internet, this is an approach to comedy that obviously resonates in the current moment.

The first season of I Think You Should Leave came out in April 2019, at a time when many Americans had discovered that established social norms weren’t rules. Instead, it was just an unspoken agreement that could be exploited or violated by malicious actors. I Think You Should Leave isn’t an explicitly political show, although it’s worth noting that the show’s third season opens with a skit about a late-night chat show host who “never had a fight he didn’t like ‘ and ends with A sketch beginning in a campaign office.

Although this recurring preoccupation with violating societal norms obviously affects a broader cultural aspect, it seems to relate in particular to online dialogue. Finally, one could argue that much of modern political discourse has its roots in the internet subculture. It was not uncommon for observers to label President Donald Trump’s behavior in internet jargon as that of a “troll” with his own “troll army” and his legacy as “a party of shit posters.”

There is a credible (if depressing) argument that modern American politics has been reshaped by the conventions of Reddit or 4chan. In the early days of the internet, many observers believed that it was possible to replicate the real world in cyberspace, a dream that has shaped projects like Second Life or the “Metaverse”. In reality, the opposite seems to be the case. It seems that the real world has been colonized and overwritten by the digital in the last decade.

Watching “I Think You Should Leave” often feels as if the characters are translating literally the pathologies of those who might be termed “terminally online.” These are people who reshape their whole personalities based on seemingly mundane events, who turn their small grievances into all-consuming vendettas, and who consistently refuse to back down or acknowledge that they were wrong. Everyone who has shared an online space has met one or the other I Think You Should Leave protagonist. They might even have been one.

The very first sketch of the series takes place after a job interview. It went well. On the way out, the applicant accidentally pulls the door instead of pushing it. Instead of admitting the mistake and laughing about it, he insists the door must open both ways. As the interviewer looks on in horror, the applicant makes an incredible effort and breaks the door frame. The show immediately makes this guy famous. It’s the person in every comment section who will definitely not back down.

“I Think You Should Leave” is full of these guys. Will Forte plays both a stranger who has harbored an irrational grudge for years and one who would rather crawl under a parked SUV than walk around it. The show is full of narcissists, who tell all about them and their hilarious jokes at important events like sexual harassment training sessions. Many sketches focus on characters within friend groups who are desperate to perform, even if they don’t know how, and are eager to be “the main character”. It’s often exhausting to keep up.

Sometimes the jokes seem more specific. A character played by Beck Bennett complains about having to pay to join his friend group, which appears to be made up of aggressive, rude, and insecure individuals. In a fake commercial, Sam Richardson is portrayed as the owner of a park created specifically for marriage proposals that was overrun by wrestlers, ruining the intended atmosphere, reminiscent of the tragi-comic tales of so many troll-haunted internet spaces. What is “Coffin Flop” but the voyeuristic impulses of the internet on a large scale?

While there are very few direct references to the internet or social media, I Think You Should Leave consistently feels like it’s a show about the internet and social media, about how bizarre the online space is to human interactions and distorted the horror that arises from the imagination. These behaviors manifested themselves in the real world. On the Internet, nobody may know that you are a dog. However, I Think You Should Leave is about what happens when the real world goes haywire.