Netflix’s ‘I Think You Should Leave’ Is an Emmy-Nominated Meme Machine

Netflix’s ‘I Think You Should Leave’ Is an Emmy-Nominated Meme Machine

There have been few (if any) days in 2022 when a piece of devastating news — the ongoing plague, myriad mass shootings, the war abroad and the daily incursion on democracy at home, to name just a few — doesn’t elicit one very specific GIF or screen grab on social media. Doom-scroll long enough, and you’re bound to see it … a man, obscured by a grotesque human-skin suit, offering a despondent stare above his defeated quote: “I don’t even want to be around anymore.”

It’s not really a cry for help, just one of the many moments from Netflix sketch comedy series I Think You Should Leave With Tim Robinson that’s been clipped, cropped and captioned by fans on Twitter and Instagram. Context for the image in question, featuring co-creator and star Tim Robinson, is difficult to explain to those not already familiar with the cult comedy. Sketches from the first two seasons are often so absurd that they defy concise retelling. But those viewers who co-opt such moments — Robinson, dressed in a hot-dog costume and claiming ignorance of a hot-dog-shaped car that’s driven into a men’s clothing store is another evergreen hit — use them as a form of shorthand to express rage, frustration and even amusement at current events.

Patti Harrison as Carrie, the beleaguered proprietor of a folding- rental business.

Courtesy of Saeed Adyani/Netflix

The recently renewed series’ status as social media darling might be one of the great unintentional marketing coups this Emmy season. Despite the show’s relative lack of promotion — Netflix’s massive for-your-consideration effort was spread out over dozens upon dozens of bigger titles, with a platform-best 35 projects ultimately nabbing at least one nomination — I Think You Should Leave, ubiquitous online, quietly earned its first two Emmy noms. Thanks in part to a typically tight 15-minute running time, it’s vying in the shortform categories in lieu of traditional variety. Robinson is nominated for actor in a shortform series, while the show itself is up for outstanding shortform drama, comedy or variety series alongside strange bedfellows The Randy Rainbow Show and digital offerings from late night hosts James Corden (Carpool Karaoke), Stephen Colbert (Tooning Out the News) and Seth Meyers (Corrections).

But shortform, still a relatively young Emmy genre, doesn’t yet have enough Emmy categories to capture the scope of the robust medium. There’s no room for, say, actress Patti Harrison, whose farcical I Think You Should Leave season two cameos included an investor on a Shark Tank-esque reality show and a woman in a driver’s ed instructional video whose problems at her job — renting folding tables to horror conventions — distract her from the dangers of the road. (“I don’t know what the hell Eddie Munster did to my table!” she screams into a cellphone moments before crashing her minivan.) Harrison’s pained face in the latter is among the most indelible images of the past year in TV, and that’s a tangible win in an industry starved for metrics ­­­and awards. So maybe it’s time that the Emmys go even shorter with the form and throw TV’s greatest memes a bone. There are already 119 categories. One more can’t hurt.

This story first appeared in the 27 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.