Why ‘I Think You Should Leave’ Season 2 is a major meme event

My editor had never seen the Netflix sketch series I Think You Should Leave — a fact I insisted he remedy — but I could still reference the show to him. Let me explain.

Being capital-O Online is a prerequisite to what we do here at Mashable. So I told my editor, you know the hot dog guy meme? Yeah that’s the show.

And that’s a particularly interesting fact. It’s knowing a show without knowing a show. I mean, hell, a congresswoman tweeted that meme out.

Tweet may have been deleted

I Think You Should Leave (ITYSL), if you’re unaware, is a truly unhinged, hilarious sketch show helmed by comedian and SNL and Detroiters alum Tim Robinson. The name of the show is almost a thesis: Much of the humor in the series revolves around people acting unreasonable and detached from the reality in front of them. I Think You Should Leave is also memeable in a way most shows aren’t but it’s also particularly memeable to a certain crowd. For lack of a better phrase, it’s popular among the terminally online.

…it’s popular among the terminally online.

Season 1 was a goldmine of memes. Consider the Hot Dog Guy. In the sketch, a wienermobile plows through the front door of a clothing store. Everyone scrambles to figure out what happened, until they notice the a man in a hot dog suit, played by Robinson. The Hot Dog Guy refuses to admit, despite it being obvious, that he crashed the car into the store. Along the way he rants about porn, and his grandmother, and attempts to casually steal suits. But it gave us a man, in the hot dog suit, clearly guilty, saying, “We’re all trying to find the guy who did this.” The meme was born.

And it was far from alone. Season 1 also gave us the Focus Group Guy, Vanessa Bayer cursing wildly, Bart Harley Jarvis, and The Bones are Their Money Guy, to name a few.

Adam Downer, a senior editor at Know Your Meme, a site dedicated to cataloging and explaining memes, said I Think You Should Leave became a show that people felt like almost needed to reference. The show is so much like the best jokes you’ll see online that it became a show for the Online.

“It’s a particularly online sort of show,” Downer said. “You post about it to sort of gain cred online”

So when Season 2 dropped this month. It was like a sprint to post new memes. Seriously. Being online began spoiling the show for me the very day the new season came out. My favorite ITYSL meme account, I Think You Should League Pass, was firing off NBA/ITYSL posts right away. A site to search through screenshots popped up to make meme-ing easier. For me, it’s been a nonstop barrage of ITYSL memes. There were even memes about memes spoiling the show.

Tweet may have been deleted

Tweet may have been deleted

Tweet may have been deleted

I corresponded with Ryan Perry, the 39-year-old head of the digital agency Pennant Digital, who is also, importantly, the mad genius behind I Think You Should League Pass (the handle is @NBALeave). It’s an account that somehow mashes up the NBA and I Think You Should Leave in memes that work impossibly well.

Tweet may have been deleted

Tweet may have been deleted

Though Perry said that making memes based on I Think You Should Leave — even those that have to tie back to the NBA somehow — feels like breaking the rules.

“[It’s] cheating,” Perry wrote in an email. “The show is so tightly spun with hilarious lines, usually delivered in a super unique way, and the visuals are absurd. So the screengrabs and GIFs are inherently very funny, no matter how you use them.”

ITYSL is, by its very nature, an exceedingly memeable show. Think about it: What is more relatable to people online than kooky characters who are unreasonable and disconnected with reality?

ITYSL has had an online life kind of like Uncut Gems, the Adam Sandler-led film that’s had a long meme shelf-life due to its leading man and memorable dialogue that made for great screenshots with closed captioning turned on. There’s some sort of alchemy that has to happen for a show or movie to become heavily memed. It has to be popular but not like too popular because it has to also be cool. NBC’s This Is Us is incredibly popular, but when’s the last time you saw a This Is Us meme, if ever? There needs to be a little bit of cache, some humor, and some inherent outlandishness that lends itself to jokes on the internet.

“Within whatever fandom, the show needs to be quotable, needs to have extremely good lines, and memorable scenes,” Downer said about a show creating memes.

But ITYSL is different than say, The Sopranos, a show with a million memes, in that it’s not really all that popular by comparison. Downer seemed to suggest that while not all the Online people love ITYSL, all the people who love ITYSL seem to be very Online.

Perry, himself an Online person who spends much of his day on Twitter, said he started the @NBALeave account “thinking the niche was too tight to entertain anyone beyond my friends who incessantly quote the show.” It has more than 50,000 followers now.

That sort of incessant quoting made Season 1 an obsession for lots of folks. It kind of came out of nowhere, making it a fun surprise. After a pandemic and a long wait for Season 2, people were itching for new sketches and thus new, preposterous memes.

Perry said when he watched Season 2 for the first time, the potential memes were already flying through his head.

“The show has broken my brain to the point that any time something happens my head is flooded with ITYSL references. I need an intervention at a total party house,” Perry said, while, of course, making an ITYSL reference.

“There’s such a limited amount of content to work with, it’s a fun challenge to think of new ways to wring it for meme material,” he added. “You know how writers of sitcoms and short stories say the limitations of their medium drives them to create better material? It’s like that, but less pretentious and with more chode jokes.”

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