Amid the chaos of “I Think You Should Leave” Season 3, a cartoon figure in a computer game shows you its asshole. This crudely animated drawing isn’t an object that typically has an anus — let alone eyes, arms, and legs — but there it is: a black squiggly mark inside a circle, pinched between two parted butt-cheeks. It’s quite a sight, to be honest. An unforeseeable punchline in a sketch with more than a few big laughs. But the reason I mention it isn’t to spoil the joke (I’m trying not to, I swear); it’s because Tim Robinson’s Netflix series is so full of figurative assholes — who transfix and entertain, who scream and rant, who endear themselves to us across their embarrassing escapades, but who are still assholes in the plainest sense — that it’s extra jarring to see a literal asshole staring you right in the face.
This is not a complaint. Quite the opposite. At only 15 minutes per entry — each one pivoting on jerks or loudmouths — it’s amazing how quickly “I Think You Should Leave” pulls you into its orbit. Tim Robinson and Zach Kanin’s sketch show features aggressive salespeople, selfish dates, and children’s pageant hosts who suffer mid-show meltdowns. If a friend came across one of these gasbags and described him to you, it’d be time to split a sixer and lament the state of the world. But especially when Robinson plays these men, he brings such passion, conviction, and bewilderment to their assholery that it’s impossible not to feel something more for each of them. (There’s a reason he won a Best Actor Emmy for Season 2.)
Your brain may sound the alarm bells, arguing, “I think you should leave.” But your heart says, “Stay a while. Let’s see where this is going.”
And you never, ever know where it’s going. Sketches can start in familiar territory like satirizing reality shows or parodying local TV commercials, but they always veer off in wild directions and end wherever they feel is best. The haphazard construction is part of the charm. Length varies, though most of Season 3’s additions are pretty tight. Humor shifts, though there’s consistently great physical gags and the core undercurrent of not belonging. “I Think You Should Leave’s” supporting cast is filled with a steady supply of ordinary (fucking) people, yet Robinson and Kanin pepper in off-kilter oddballs even more often than they bring in colorful guest stars. They, too, keep you on your toes. Some are pitch-perfect stand-ins for Robinson (like Will Forte’s bellowing absurdity) while others put their own twist on the central jerks. (Welcome back, Patti Harrison.)
Sam Richardson, Robinson’s long-time best friend (watch “Detroiters”!), still delivers the series’ best change-up. Having come to fame as the nice guy in hits like “Veep” and “The Afterparty” (plus a zillion other scene-stealing supporting roles), seeing the affable actor go from buoyant to infuriated works every time, and Season 3 deploys his potent gear-shifting well, but sparingly.
It also echoes past sketches. Richardson’s last appearance sees him playing another host, a la “Baby of the Year” and “Little Buff Boys,” but the root of the new scenario skews closer to “Dan Vega’s Mega Money Quiz” (more commonly known as “Chunky: Figure Out What You Do!”). A reunion with Connor O’Malley hearkens back to “Honk If You’re Horny,” and a doggie door ad may bring back fond memories of “Coffin Flop” (without reaching that untouchable level of comic gold). Various group settings like a neighborhood party or an office meeting recall other ordinary events that turn outlandish, even extraordinary. When a character goes too far, sometimes they’re met with confusion, but just as often the scene shifts into something warm or their odd instincts prove out.
Season 3 very much fits the mold of past seasons, though on first viewing, it seems there’s a touch more absurdism and situational humor. To say it isn’t as ambitious as what came before would be to as true as a gut feeling can get, but it would also ignore the bold imagination and earnest commitment that fuels one of TV’s most unpredictable experiences. Maybe Robinson and Kanin are dialing in on the sketch models they prefer to build from, or maybe these were simply the best options from this creative session. It doesn’t really matter. A few sketches are destined for Top 10 status, and while “I Think You Should Leave” will always be somewhat hit or miss, when it hits, there’s still nothing else like it.
Good luck escaping images and references to the first sketch of the season. Try not to scare your coworkers by busting out in laughter at the mere thought of Robinson’s latest dot com idea. And if you can shake the memory of that animated asshole, don’t tell me how. All these assholes are worth remembering, even the ones that aren’t as pretty as the others. The tone they instill, so quickly and so steadily across the six-episode season, keeps you hooked just as much as the wait for your next favorite line.
And the lines are there. If historical precedent holds, viewers will be quoting Season 3 for months to come, if not longer, and rightly so. “I Think You Should Leave” offers a language all its own, and if you speak Tim Robinson, you might as well sing it. Enjoy the song of the summer, everyone. These assholes aren’t here to ruin the party. They’re here to keep it going.
“I Think You Should Leave” Season 3 premieres Tuesday, May 30 on Netflix.