Hey folks! Happy Tuesday again, as I continue to live up to the Sunday-ish promise of this weekly newsletter.
Apologies for the sporadic nature of things — I had a very busy weekend this past weekend, and as I get used again to the wild concepts of “Doing Things” and “Seeing People”, it’s going to throw off my other hobbies like this one.
That reminds me, a Programming Note. This weekend my wife and I are heading, in our best Baltimorian, DOWNEY OCEAN, so there will be no issue for the week of July 17, but I will be back with you the week of July 24.
Any way you slice it, I have some cool things for you to read, so by all means, let’s jump in.
Now, onto the things…
This past week, the second season of one of my favorite comedy series on television, the sketch show I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson, arrived on Netflix. In turn, the head writer, star, and former Saturday Night Live cast member, Tim Robinson, found himself doing press. Why is this interesting? Beyond the fact that I really want to recommend to anyone who will listen to watch I Think You Should Leave, it’s interesting to find out a guy whose sense of humor is so bold, so fearless…is actually kind of a nervous mess?
From Kathryn VanArendonk at Vulture:
Six minutes into my conversation with comedian Tim Robinson, creator, writer, and performer of the Netflix sketch show I Think You Should Leave, my 4-year-old charges into my office and bellows, “I need to go potty!” I’d been trying to seem relaxed, having been thoroughly warned — by a publicist, by other journalists, by his own colleagues — that Robinson does not enjoy press, and has a history of “sinking into nothing” during interviews. He was polite and tense when I introduced myself; when he sees my daughter, a huge grin spreads across his face. She demands to show Robinson a stuffed animal. “I’d love to see it!” he says. He looks thrilled at the prospect of hanging out with my kid rather than grimly staring down the barrel of questions like “So how do you define your comedic sensibility?”
Robinson’s work is a shrine to the glories of interruption. His most indelible characters on I Think You Should Leave, which he created with his writing partner, Zach Kanin, are those who barge into scenes, double down on their own disruption, and lean heavily on toilet material. Although the show’s sketches can fly to absurdist, surrealist heights, its bread and butter are everyday social settings ruled by widely understood norms — corporate offices, casual parties with friends, baby showers, funerals — and the defensive jerks, idiots, iconoclasts, and well-intentioned dinguses who cannot stop themselves from making things weird. Its spectrum of moods is small and well defined, but within that, there’s a universe full of people who do not know, or simply do not care to know, when they should stop. Those characters have often been portrayed by guest actors like Sam Richardson, Vanessa Bayer, and the late Fred Willard, but they’re just as often played by Robinson himself.
“That Schadenfreude that you experience is almost a little too much because you want Tim to be okay,” says comedian Keegan-Michael Key, who has known Robinson since the early aughts. “He doesn’t want to be a loser, and yet he allows himself, he allows those characters to go through the gauntlet of emotions of trying to get to the other side of that. And often they don’t.”
Can one troll their way into a writing career? It doesn’t really make a lot of sense when you think about it, but Rick Paulas says otherwise.
Since January, Paulas has been a ‘reply-guy’, dropping into tweets which have gone viral with a quick reply…that undoubtedly turns into a plug for his novel * Eastern Span*, a neo-noir set amongst the housing crisis in Oakland circa 2013.
Why does he do it? Why is the phrasing always the same? Has it actually worked?
Laura Wagner at Defector finds out:
I’m going to start with the tweets. You said in the podcast you cohost, Industrial Posters of the World, that you first started plugging the book in replies after noticing how much attention Trump’s reply guys would get just for responding to any Trump tweet. I was wondering why you chose Stephen A. as your first target?
Ultimately, it came down to just me staring at 200 books in my closet and being like, “How do I get rid of them?” And that didn’t really happen until earlier this year, where I didn’t know how to get rid of these last 200 copies. I had mentioned it in tweets here and there but I’d never done the reply-guy thing until I happened to be on Twitter—I mean, I didn’t happen to be on, I’m on Twitter all the time—but I happened to be there and the Stephen A. Smith tweet came just as I was scrolling. It was like a minute old. It was super fresh and I’m like, this is going to be a hit. I just put all my info out there and then people started responding to it. The thing that was so surprising to me, because I’d never done it before, was that in a few hours it had 200,000 views. And so that was kind of shocking. And yeah, seven or eight people bought the book off of that one tweet. So all of a sudden it’s like, alright, well I have all these boxes in the closet, there’s a lot of bad tweets every day. In my thinking, the worst tweets are really the best tweets, because that’s what the website is designed to do. And so, there’s a bunch of those around and I have a bunch of books to sell, so let’s just try to see how long I could do this for, and I keep on selling a handful a week. And, in the past few days, it just turned into sort of a thing.
As I’ve gone on record far too many times both here and elsewhere across the web, Ted Lasso is the best television show of the past year. Sure, the premise is ridiculous (a US College Football coach being hired to coach football / soccer in the UK), but it’s so damned earnest, real and sweet, you can’t help but love it. The show is a true joy, and it’s astonishing how fervent a following its established over the past year.
Today, it received 20 Emmy nominations. Next Friday, Season 2 premieres. And there’s no one more excited — or surprised — than its star and co-creator, Jason Sudekis.
Zach Baron chats with him for GQ:
But Sudeikis tries to listen to the universe, even in unlikely circumstances, and for whatever reason the character stuck around in his head. So, in time, Sudeikis developed and pitched a series with the same setup—Ted, in England, far from his family, a stranger in a strange land learning a strange game—that Apple eventually bought. But when we next saw Ted Lasso, he had changed. He wasn’t loud or obnoxious anymore; he was simply…human. He was a man in the midst of a divorce who missed his son in America. The new version of Ted Lasso was still funny, but now in an earned kind of way, where the jokes he told and the jokes made at his expense spoke to the quality of the man. He had become an encourager, someone who thrills to the talents and dreams of others. He was still ignorant at times, but now he was curious too.
In fact, this is close to something Ted says, by way of Walt Whitman, in one of the first season’s most memorable episodes: Be curious, not judgmental. I will confess I get a little emotional every time I watch the scene in which he says this, which uses a game of darts in a pub as an excuse to both stage a philosophical discussion about how to treat other people and to re-create the climactic moment of every sports movie you’ve ever seen. It’s a somewhat strange experience, being moved to tears by a guy with a bushy cartoon mustache and an arsenal of capital-J jokes (“You beating yourself up is like Woody Allen playing the clarinet: I don’t want to hear it”), talking about humanity and how we all might get better at it. But that’s kind of what the experience of watching the show is. It’s about something that almost nothing is about, which is: decency.
In the pilot episode, someone asks Ted if he believes in ghosts, and he says he does, “But more importantly, I think they need to believe in themselves.” That folksy, relentless positivity defines the character and is perhaps one of the reasons Ted Lasso resonated with so many people over the past year. It was late summer, it was fall, it was in the teeth of widespread quarantine and stay-at-home orders. People were inside watching stuff. Here was a guy who confronted hardship, who suffered heartbreak, who couldn’t go home. And who, somehow, found his way through all that. Someone not unlike Sudeikis himself.
Seriously, folks. Ted Lasso and I Think You Should Leave Watch ‘em. Apple TV+ and Netflix respectively. I’m fine with this week’s newsletter almost being an ad, because I think both of those shows represent a little bit of me. Enjoy ‘em.
See you when I get back from vacation, dear readers!