Welcome to Thanks, I Love It, our series highlighting something onscreen we’re obsessed with this week. 

I Think You Should Leave Season 2 has lots of good one-liners. “Sometimes I put my dad in JibJab videos so he’s alive again,” “I made all my money off the big Charlie Brown,” “They’re saying Coffin Flop‘s not a show!” — just to name a few.

I laughed, and then sobbed, all the way from the couch to the floor.

But the line that sent me over the edge, the sentence that turned me from functioning human woman to incoherent puddle, wasn’t delivered by Tim Robinson or another member of I Think You Should Leave’s stupidly talented cast. No, instead, it was my boyfriend who politely asked, “Are you OK?” mere moments before I laughed, and then sobbed, all the way from the couch to the floor.

Anxiety is an emotion plenty of shows rely on to tell stories. Dramas create suspense to keep us invested, while comedies make their characters more relatable through embarrassment. But the lived-in experience of intense social anxiety — the mental, emotional, and sometimes physical process of rapidly descending into self-consciousness while in public and then frantically grasping for ways to cope — is something I’ve never seen accurately recreated on screen until now.

The hilarious representation, it seems, came just in time for me to enjoy some much needed catharsis. That catharsis manifesting as a blend of crying and cackling as I Think You Should Leave‘s theme song blared across my living room stands to prove just how overdue it really was.

Credit: Adam Rose

See, even though I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression most of my life, coming out of the pandemic has been uniquely hard on ya girl’s noodle. Like many people facing life after lockdown, the aspects of my mental health that were actually soothed by solitude are now up against a crash course in socialization and outside-ness I’m not totally ready for. Like I’ve told my partner, parents, and therapist, I’m short-circuiting. Just a bit.

Of course, Netflix’s hit sketch show played odd-one-out comedy games for much of Season 1, and I related to some of those sketches then. (Who among us hasn’t eaten the metaphorical gift receipt?) But in the series’ sophomore season, Robinson and co-creator Zach Canin take more precise aim at the not-so-funny motivations behind some of I Think You Should Leave‘s more belligerently inappropriate characters.

Rather than stopping at making it clear who should be embarrassed by their ridiculous behavior, Season 2 dares to drill down into why some of the show’s characters act the outrageous ways they do. In the process, the series tap into a hyper-specific feeling us anxious folks contend with often that is at once incredibly funny and a bit sad to see on a popular TV show in 2021.

"I don't think you can do that."

“I don’t think you can do that.”
Credit: netflix

Take, for example, the case of Carmine Laguzio (Robinson). Introduced in the third sketch of episode 1, the host of the hidden camera show Everything is Upside Down transforms into “Karl Havoc” for a day of pranks at the mall. But when Carmine/Karl gets in front of the cameras, the heavy prosthetics that form his disguise make it impossible for him to perform the stunt.

Standing in a crowded food court with a hidden earpiece, Carmine tells his producers, “There’s too much fucking shit on me. I can’t breathe.” He looks around frantic, a liquid latex nightmare all alone in a glossy shopping center. “I’m gonna rip the fucking head off,” he says, growing agitated. Producers insist Carmine can do the pranks; he just has to calm down and push through.

“No. I don’t know what any of this shit is, and I’m fucking SCARED.”

“I don’t even want to be around anymore,” Carmine finally says. The crew confirms Carmine is saying what they think he is saying: When Carmine is in the Karl Havoc suit he doesn’t want to live? Carmine says yes. So they scrap the scene, and the sketch ends.

Yeah, it’s pretty sad. But I, for one, have definitely wanted to rip my head off before — prosthetics or no prosthetics — and these nuggets of humanity are essential to what made the show’s second season work for me so well. Sure, Carmine should be able to do the scene. You could even say it’s unprofessional that he won’t do the scene. And yet, in a moment of unintentional honesty for Carmine and surprising compassion from his producers, the conflict was averted. The anguish ends then and there, because Carmine didn’t want to do the scene. And that was OK.

In another, simpler sketch — the one that pushed me onto the carpet — our new hero isn’t shown the same compassion. A man (again, Robinson) is yelled at by a stranger as he’s struggles to park his car. The stranger asks, “Don’t you know how to fucking drive?” Desperately, Robinson’s character screams back, “No. I don’t know what any of this shit is, and I’m fucking SCARED.”

That, my friends, is me on the highway.

Little Buff Boys is no Baby of the Year, but... it's close.

Little Buff Boys is no Baby of the Year, but… it’s close.
Credit: netflix

Like the more somber songs of Bo Burnham: Inside, these startling moments of vulnerability are difficult to watch against a backdrop of borderline surrealist comedy. (To be clear, I am in no way arguing the Carber Hot Dog Vacuum, Corncob TV, or the Little Buff Boys Pageant have anything meaningful to say about social anxiety.) But the stark contrast allows their brutal and honest emotion to shine especially bright.

Worrying a baby doesn’t like you to the point of dissociation, flipping a conference table because you took a joke too far with your coworkers, getting kicked off a ghost tour for saying say “horse cock” one too many times — I Think You Should Leave injects searing sympathy into all of these bizarre Season 2 scenarios. Robinson’s real-life struggles with social anxiety undoubtedly played a role in these scenes’ creation. But my own anxious experiences made them ring true for me.

I Think You Should Leave Season 2 is now streaming on Netflix.

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