In 2018, Vulture coined the phrase “post-comedy” to describe television shows and stand-up specials that use “the elements of comedy … without the goal of creating the traditional comedic result — laughter — instead focusing on tone, emotional impact, storytelling, and formal experimentation.” If that sentence made you feel depressed, an emotion I have dubbed “post-laughter,” you’re not alone.
It’s true that “post-comedy” could be applied to a lot of shows that I’ve loved in the past few years, including Atlanta, Barry, Bojack Horsemen, and Forever. But, generally speaking, I’ve found the post-comedy trend — which is now pervasive among the buzziest half-hour shows that air on cable and streaming platforms, along with the most hectoring, clapter-soliciting political comedies typically found in late night — to be increasingly frustrating and callow, like a cheat-code for garnering retweets, rave reviews and prestigious awards. Though I don’t think I realized precisely how unsatisfying it was until I saw I Think You Should Leave.
I Think You Should Leave is a sketch comedy series starring its co-creator, Saturday Night Live and Detroiters alum Tim Robinson, that first appeared on Netflix last month. It is the funniest show I’ve seen this year, or any year that I can remember this decade. I don’t mean “funny” in the clever, chin-stroke-y, laugh-inside-your-own-head, post-comedy sense. I Think You Should Leave makes me laugh physically harder, and with less conscious thought, than any sketch-comedy series I’ve seen since Chappelle’s Show. And, unlike most post-comedy shows, I Think You Should Leave makes me feel extremely happy, as I imagine inhaling a juicy cheeseburger after being force-fed kale for years would. It’s the opposite of post-comedy — it’s comedy-comedy.
As is often the case with TV shows that appear on Netflix, there’s a very good chance you haven’t heard of I Think You Should Leave yet. It hasn’t had the benefit of wall-to-wall promotion, or reams and reams of online recaps. However, depending on your cohort, it’s also possible that your social media feed has been overloaded with memes and quotes from I Think You Should Leave for weeks. I Think You Should Leave is the kind of show you either haven’t discovered yet or are totally obsessed with — there is no middle ground.
Have you seen a screenshot of a long-haired elderly man with the subtitle, “You have … no … good … car … ideas”? How about Tim Heidecker with a graying ponytail affecting a disapproving look over his fellow partygoers’ ignorance of the tuck-tuck sound? If you’re really lucky, you might have seen my favorite joke from I Think You Should Leave, from an in-memoriam segment for the Baby Of The Year pageant that simply reads: “Little Jeffy Jeremy — Throat Slashed.”