In every moment there exists millions of worlds, and from these millions only one is chosen to become a reality. These worlds are invisible, smoothed over by social norms, and have become mostly inaccessible as a result. Our social lives exist on-rails. Performances that we have seen over-and-over again become internalised, they shape us and the lives around us. Within these scripts and semiotics is a petrified reality, a wealth of possibility broken into digestible constructs, funnelled through what Aldous Huxley calls the “reducing valve” that condenses our consciousness into a “measly trickle.” For Huxley, the antidote to this reduction was mescaline, a psychoactive drug that reprioritized what his brain had deemed as unnecessary, allowing a view of reality unmediated by the tremulous tenor of culturalised interest. To follow in his footsteps, I eat some edibles, put on I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson (ITYSL), and as I begin to feel them kick in, step back from myself and slowly open the doors of perception.
Tim Robinson’s work, and arguably all comedy, relies on the rupture of conventions, with each of ITYSL’s sketches featuring highly understood social scenarios such as a TV courtroom drama, a shopping-channel ad for a doggy door, or the experience of having a man with long hair act weirdly shocked you don’t listen to some now-dead jazz musicians who were apparently “really good”. We have all experienced these things or we feel like we have. The music, set-design, and acting of a courtroom scene is indelibly inked in our collective consciousness, even if we’ve never sat down to watch an episode of Law and Order or its seven spin-offs. ITYSL takes the formulaic constructions of these social shorthands and injects the real-world into them. It dresses the scene of a boys’ night-out, with Robinson’s character promising that him and the guys “[are] not going to want to leave the house.” The doorbell rings, the music crescendos, Robinson and his boys turn to the door. We’ve seen this before, it’s reminiscent of all those male wish-fulfilment movies like The Hangover or any mid-2010s Zac Efron movie.
By now I’m floating an inch above my chair — my sense of time has ended. The warmth that rests under my skin has begun to protrude across my whole body. And I can see it. The tapestry of life that holds us together. Robinson slouches himself into a suit, knowing that he looks uncomfortable. He wants you to know his character before he opens his mouth. In that suit, he is exporting the social imagery of what it means to wear an ill-fitting suit. Why must a shoulder seam that sits an inch too long/short dress a person in subconscious social ridicule? To what end does that benefit us? Robinson wrings the enormity of this meaninglessness from each character he embodies. I curl up a little bit more as my limbs swirl within my body. Huxley described the drug-induced de-conceptualisation of an image or event as “the final stage of egolessness… an ‘obscure knowledge’ that All is in all.”
I return to the boys’ night out. In any other show, this would be where the stripper or whatever walks in, but in ITYSL, the door opens and in walks Don Bondarley, the king of dirty songs. If there was an improv-night at the Marley, this would be the climax. What’s funnier than a man with a silly name? ITYSL is better than this. Don Bondarley is nervous, he hasn’t done these songs in a while and dirty limericks aren’t as popular as they used to be. We watch as he begins one song, forgets the words, and then forgets another. No punches are pulled, we watch as Robinson’s friends put their heads in their hands. The focus is not on the lyrical content of the limericks, but on the role both parties play for each other. Don Bondarley has been paid to be there, his role is determined, and he is failing to perform. The guys are uncomfortable, unwilling to comfort Don Bondarley, instead pretending that he isn’t there.
On seeing a chair in the centre of a room while on Peyotl, Huxley describes it as such: “A rose is a rose is a rose. But these chair legs were chair legs were St Michael and all Angels.” Perhaps he’s questioning the chair itself, it’s Platonic ideal. A chair doesn’t just have four legs and a back, it must also answer to its own context. Imagine an office chair in a McDonald’s, The Iron Throne in a café. These are foreign entities in their new homes. The office chair is just as much a chair as any other in a McDonald’s, yet it is not a chair there.
I get up to get a glass of water, I look at my phone: I’ve been watching ITYSL for three hours. I go to take a glass out of the cupboard, moving past the coffee mugs. My hand pauses before I reach the glass. A chair is an angel, perhaps a coffee mug is a vessel for water, too. Maybe I could even drink water out of a wine glass? I return to the couch. Before me, after me, the door to a new world opens.