By: Lucas Polack
January 10th, 2021
The sensational sketch comedy show “I Think You Should Leave” and its singular characters are inspired by visionary co-creator Tim Robinson’s upbringing in Michigan.
“You’re surrounded by a lot of assholes,” he told Vulture ahead of the show’s season two release in July. “They’re not as blatantly asshole-ish as you’d see in a bigger city or whatever, but they’re there. And they get very embarrassed. They like to have their lives in certain ways, and if anything doesn’t match that, they fly off the handle.”
Between irreverent child pageants hosted by an intense showman, the secret society Calico Cut Pants and the professor who “housed” your burger, it was tough to limit this list to just 10 of the show’s most memorable characters. But, without further ado, presenting the top ten assholes from “ITYSL”:
10./ Bart Harley Jarvis (Season 1, Episode 1)
At the start of this skit, the host (Sam Richardson) of the Baby of the Year competition references “a grueling three months” leading up to the selection of three finalists: Michael Patrick Porkins, Taffy Lee Fubbins and bad boy Bart Harley Jarvis. It’s hard to imagine the kind of havoc Jarvis must’ve wreaked during that time for him to become such a deeply loathed contestant. During the competition, he faces a non-stop barrage of heckling (including the “Fuck you, Harley Jarvis!” that multiple adults yell) and an assassination attempt. Did this infant asshole have it coming? His pediatrician Dr. Skull thinks so: “Mr. Jarvis is one of the most aggressive babies I’ve ever met.”
9./ Tim Robinson as the guy in the hot-dog suit (Season 1, Episode 5)
This classic skit from season one rang especially true during the Trump administration era. Clad in a full-body hot-dog costume, Robinson stands next to a hot-dog car that has crashed into a clothing store, and says, “We’re all trying to find the guy who did this.”
Everyone in the store, cops included, are ready to put Robinosn behind bars, but there’s one problem: no one can think of his name. So, Robinson laments about how we’re so “buried in our phones” while grabbing as much clothing as he can hold, which devolves into him naming off every porn site he can think of (“I know these names better than I know my own grandmother’s”). Then, he ditches his weinermobile and flees on foot. “You’re fucking dog shit,” he screams to the cops chasing after him, not admitting so much as an ounce of guilt. It takes a real asshole to try and sell the preposterous idea that Robinson is not the driver of this vehicle, but his character bolsters his claim for a spot on this list with his ridiculous exit.
8./ Tim Robinson as the former piece of shit (Season 2, Episode 2)
“Hey Meredith, I’m worried the baby thinks that people can’t change,” Robinson’s character says to the mother of a child that cried when he held them. Robinson is certain the baby doesn’t like him because it knows he was “a piece of shit” in a former life. “Slicked-back hair, white bathing suit, sloppy steaks, white couch”—that’s the person Robinson used to be.
Of course, the asshole here is not his former self but his current. He forces his ordeal with the baby into the center of attention. He undermines Meredith to her mother, screams about the difference between slicked-back and pushed-back hair, preaches the wonders of sloppy steaks (“Water splashing around the table makes the night so much more fun”) and accuses Meredith’s dad of being a former piece of shit like himself—all in an ear-piercing, obnoxious voice. “I think I’m ready to hold the baby now,” Robinson concludes.
The mother defers to her father. “Spiked-up blond hair, little bitty jeans, chicken spaghetti at Chikaleny’s,” the former piece of shit admits. “People can change. Let the boy hold the baby.”
7./ Ruben Rabasa as Focus Group Man #1 (Season 1, Episode 3)
Veteran actor Ruben Rabasa emerged as one of season one’s most memorable characters in this skit, which flexes a signature move: unpredictable role reversals. It starts with Rabasa being the odd one out in a focus group tasked with imagining a new car model—he suggests a smelly interior and no room for mothers-in-law—and concludes with everyone yelling to group member Paul (co-writer Zach Kanin) that he has to marry his mother-in-law because Rabasa landed a bottle flip and he flinched.
What makes this such an inexplicable ending to a subtle feud between teacher’s pet Paul and class clown Rabasa, is how the bystanders rally against the latter. Technically, it doesn’t end with Rabasa being the asshole (“Who is the popular one now, Paul?”), but the cold and methodical way he entraps Paul in his social purgatory is deserving of placement here.
6./ Tim Robinson as the ghost tour jokester (Season 2, Episode 1)
It’s the late night adult tour, which according to the tour guide (Alex Aionio), means, “We can say whatever the hell we want.” Robinson’s character immediately and innocently responds, “jizz.” His comments and questions only get more vulgar from there. Each one falls flatter than the last, but Robinson simply can’t help himself from referring to the ghosts as “little fuckers” and inquiring about any “horse cocks” or “donkey dicks” they might’ve seen.
The disdain everyone on the tour has for Robinson is palpable. The guide pulls Robinson into another room. “I work really hard at what I do, and you’re totally insulting it,” he scolds. But when Robinson returns from timeout, fighting back tears to ask another overtly potty-mouthed question, you almost start to feel sorry for him. He genuinely does not understand why everyone’s so mad at him. Then he gets kicked off the tour and has to tell his mother, who’s waiting outside to pick him up, that he didn’t make any friends. You definitely feel sorry for him then. Maybe the real assholes are the ones that kicked him out!
5./ Patti Harrison as Tracy (Season 1, Episode 5)
Another skit centered around a socially inept character beating a joke into the ground. Tracy (Patti Harrison) tries to piggyback on a coworker’s joke about their new copier (“I guess Christmas came early this year!”) and doesn’t get a laugh. So, she doubles down, piling on one bad Christmas joke after another—all met with a cold reception—until she has a workplace meltdown.
The asshole-ian beauty of this skit lies in Tracy’s voice as she oscillates between proud deliveries of painfully bad jokes to glimpses of self-consciousness as they all bomb. Then comes her office-bully bark that she defends her bruised ego with. “I’m not stupid. I’m smarter than you!” she monotonously shouts at the coworker getting all the laughs. “Did I stutter, Megan?” she fires back immediately after trailing off into embarrassment when her elf impression got a little Scottish—and not to mention, totally bombed. It’s workplace cringe that puts “The Office” to shame.
4./ Tim Heidecker as Howie (Season 1, Episode 3)
Everyone actually knows one of these guys: a music snob. Howie (Tim Heidecker) derails a game of Charades by writing in obscure (fictional) musicians such as Tiny “Boop Squig.” He’s appalled that nobody knows who “the king of the tuk-tuk sound” is. He tries to level with the crowd by referencing “household names like Roy Donk” and the guy who wrote “The Munsters” theme song.
But his repulsiveness extends beyond music snobbery. Howie makes the host get a nutcracker from the attic for the walnuts he brought along. He then makes her fetch him some gazpacho soup he noticed in the fridge, which allegedly burned his tongue. “If you’re expecting something ice cold, and you bring it up to your lips, and it’s room temp, it’s going to feel like your mouth’s on fire,” he mansplains.
Then, in true “ITYSL” fashion, he and his girlfriend leave the party as she says, “You guys really embarrassed me in front of Howie.” This is said right after Howie detailed excruciating date stories in hopes to jog her memory about one of his no-name celebrities. “Remember? I criticized you for being addicted to your phone and tried to make it up to you by buying the entire dessert menu.” He then turns to the others and says, “She didn’t even take a bite.”
3./ Vanessa Bayer as Brenda (Season 1, Episode 1)
“When you post a pic of yourself where you look really cute, you have to say something a little self-deprecating so it doesn’t look like you’re just bragging,” Brenda’s friend explains to her. Brenda is having trouble writing an Instagram caption to go along with a photo of the three pals at brunch.
She’s going a little overboard with the self deprecation: “Eating crap with these sacks of shit. If they died tomorrow nobody would shed a tear,” she says. Then, it’s redrafted to “Sunday funday with these pig dicks. Hope nobody gulps us.” And the finale: “Sitting here with two bona fide pieces of hog shit. They’re mad ‘cause I won Best Hog at the hog shit snarfing contest, but I’m not mad ‘cause we’re all loads of beef, sitting on the side of a highway getting out butts sucked by flies.”
Brenda is an asshole because she repeatedly fails to come up with anything that resembles a sane caption, but she is also a wordsmith. There’s something to be said about the asshole who can string together not one, but multiple combinations of cuss words and grotesque imagery that couldn’t possibly have been muttered by anyone before Brenda. That’s an asshole hall of fame feat.
2./ Biff Piff as Santa Claus (Season 2, Episode 3)
Episode 3 of season 2 dedicates two skits to Santa Claus (Biff Piff), who has pivoted from bringing children Christmas joy to acting in action movies. One skit is a spoof-trailer for “Detective Crashmore,” in which he plays the titular cop-with-a-vengeance. The other is an interview with AOL Blast. So much about the trailer is priceless, from Crashmore’s catchphrase (“fuck you, you suck!”) to his response after his love interest tells him the bad guy said he’d kill them both (“He might kill you, but there’s no fucking way he’s ever killing me. Fucking asshole. He said that?”) But the interview takes the cake as the defining portrait of Santa Claus, the asshole.
“If Leonardo DiCaprio was here, would you ask him about Christmases around the corner?” an offended Santa snarls when the interviewer mentions the subject. Once the interviewer asks him about the movie, Santa becomes a full-blown film bro. “It’s hyper-violence, but it knows that it is. It’s a little bit Tarantino. It’s definitely a little bit Michael Mann.” A “cosmic gumbo,” he calls it, that “almost moves to the beat of jazz.” Who knew Santa was so insufferable?
Then, he’s asked if the nude scenes were challenging to shoot. “What are we, ten years old? I’ve seen every cock on the planet,” Santa snaps. Apparently, Santa has seen everybody naked. He has to check if they got a tattoo, because if they did, they wouldn’t get a present that year. “I don’t care about it, but it’s not good behavior,” he explains. You find yourself wanting Santa to drop the Christmas subject even more than he did at the start of the interview.
1./ Tim Robinson as Lev (Season 1, Episode 1)
The crowning asshole of social taboo “ITYSL” is Lev (Robinson), who exploits the object of the gift receipt. You can’t just ask someone to give it back to you to prove they sincerely like the gift. And that’s exactly what Lev does after Jacob (Steven Yuen) has a half-hearted reaction to his present, a wreath. So, naturally, Lev eats the receipt. But this skit isn’t really about gift receipts.
It’s about mud pies. That’s “ITYSL” speak for fecal matter, in what may be one of the most intricate and inventive poop jokes ever told. Lev sets up the premise. “When you went to the bathroom earlier to do the mud pie, you must have used too small a slice of toilet paper when you wiped, and you got mud pie on your hands. And then you touched the receipt, and then I ate the receipt, and now I’m sick off your mud pie,” he says, clutching his stomach.
First the gift receipt and now this? Surely, Lev is a lunatic. He and Jacob start arguing, and a mediator brings them to an agreement: someone will eat another gift receipt to see if it makes their stomach hurt. If not, that must mean Lev’s was tainted with mud pie. “There is no mud pie, and I genuinely like the gifts,” Jacob insists. Bystander Nick speaks up: “Swear to fucking god? Then let my wife eat the fucking reciept.” This is the first pinch.
The wife swallows the receipt. She feels…fine. What initially seems like the furthest possibility begins to materialize: everybody at the party rallies behind Lev, not Jacob. Lev writhes in pain. “Tell ‘em to send an ambulance. Tell ‘em it’s the ugly house on Kenmore.” The mediator throws Jacob’s birthday cake to the ground. It’s madness. “Everybody, let’s get out of here. This place is covered head-to-toe in shit,” Nick announces. Jacob is left alone, house insulted, while everybody goes to party at Lev’s.
Lev tops this list as the show’s premier asshole because he’s the most extreme one. His unparalleled social blunder—eating a gift receipt out of insecurity—that initiates his absurd predicament results in the most bafflingly positive outcome for him. Lev accuses the birthday boy of not wiping properly, and it makes him the man of the hour. He highlights the ludacris but immersive world of “ITYSL” and its defining traits: bizarre language, chronic awkwardness, tangential plots, hyper-focus on social minutiae and, of course, assholes.
Lucas Polack is a senior studying professional and public writing. He also works as a production assistant for Michigan Radio’s Stateside program. When he’s not staring at a blank Google doc, Lucas can be found walking his dog, Lizzy, and listening to his favorite band, Prince Daddy & The Hyena.