Greg and Zanna try not to think too hard about comedy.
Intellectual justification for laughs: 0
Greg was determined to dissect what makes the sketch comedy series I Think You Should Leave funny. As is becoming a recurrent theme, and probably something to explore with a therapist, I didn't want to do that. Trying to figure out why something is funny feels like looking for ways to ruin its magic. I probably watched The Wizard of Oz one too many times as a child and have unresolved issues around Dorothy's discovery of the bumbling fool behind the great and powerful Oz.
I Think You Should Leave has one purpose, which is to make you laugh. Most television is no longer satisfied with simply being funny. It wants to be funny and poignant and thought-provoking and gripping and and and. In some ways, being more than funny is actually a safety net for comedy: if a joke doesn't land, the show still has the characters and story to keep the audience hooked. I Think You Should Leave has none of that. Each sketch is about two to three minutes long and bears no relationship to the one previous or the one that follows. There are no callbacks and there's no greater meaning to be found.
The creator of the show, Tim Robinson, is a Saturday Night Live alumnus and, while this show does share some similarities with that one, it's also entirely its own thing. Greg and I devoured the second season in just two nights, which is easy to do because the episodes hover around 16 minutes long.
At the heart of Greg's lengthy diatribe about the mechanics of comedy was the idea that what makes something funny is unpredictability, which I think is probably true but, again, I don't care to ponder too hard on this subject lest I lose my ability to laugh at anything. In this case, Robinson's sketches have a generally predictable structure in that they start with someone overreacting to a situation and build with increasing absurdity for so long we end up on the moon, metaphorically speaking. And here I am analysing the humour. Damn it, Greg.
I recently heard the show affectionately described as stupid and full of toilet humour. I don't think the latter is true but it's definitely silly and, because of its singular purpose, if the humour doesn't appeal to you, there's nothing for you in this show. There are some sketches that fell flat for me but for the most part I laughed, sometimes very hard, and I don't care to think any more deeply about it.
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
Here we are again, talking about comedy. It's so frustrating because Zanna believes comedy to be something ineffable, and even though I regularly assure her it is entirely effable, for some reason she refuses to accept it.
Comedy is surprise: the delivery of the unexpected, the subversion of expectation. This is why it ages so badly. If something makes you laugh more than once, you should see a doctor. Why does Zanna not accept this? It's factual and presumably research-backed. What does she think comedy is? Magic? I don't know. She has never made a counter-argument. It's seemingly enough for her to tell me I'm wrong.
Which brings us to the second season of I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson. When we look back at cultural phenomena that have been shifted on their axes, it's easy to see they were ripe for refreshment, but, in the moment, it's rarely that obvious. Sketch comedy has sucked for a long time. I didn't even know they made it anymore. When I stumbled across season one of this show last year and saw it was a sketch comedy, I was obviously not especially keen to watch it, but Zanna told me it had been well-reviewed, so I gave it a chance.
The comedic driver underlying the majority of the sketches was the emotional escalation of minor everyday situations unto absurdity. Of course, that's not a new idea, and since you quickly recognise the format, it should stop being funny. So why didn't it? And why is the second season even funnier?
Zanna and I went out for brunch a couple of weeks ago. It was our first time out without the kids in a long while. It was so pleasant and I found myself enjoying it so much, I said: "I really like you. You're nice."
She said: "Wow. 'Nice' is definitely not a word I thought you'd use."
That wasn't especially funny. In fact, it was quite sad. Nevertheless, it made me laugh. Zanna often makes me laugh, even though she is the person in the world with which I am most familiar. Is that because she surprises me? Or because of something else - something ineffable?
Seasons one and two of I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson are now streaming on Netflix.