The Tim Robinson Interview

Tim Robinson interview Opening title NEW
Interview by Kevin "Spanky" Long  /  Photos by Atiba

Even if you haven’t watched the undeniably hilarious Netflix show I Think You Should Leave, you have certainly seen something from it in your feeds. Maybe it’s a guy in a hotdog costume or a book-long list of fast-food items, there’s a reference for almost any awkward encounter on the internet. So, of course we were stoked to see the man with the vision also yearns for the streets when he’s not on set. Spanky and Atiba linked up with their friend to talk about his skate life and the hard work of humor, as seen in this interview from our August ‘23 mag.

First of all, the trailer for season three of your show dropped today. I just saw it and I’m hyped! How are you feeling right now?
Stressed. It comes out May 30th.

How is this compared to other seasons? Is it always stressful?
It always is what it is. This is the part where it’s just like you’re scared and nervous. I hate this part.

Well, we’re fuckin’ psyched. Like a lot of people, I was shocked to hear that you skated. I was a fan of I Think You Should Leave before we met, and then I found out you skated and I was blown away. I feel like people who get into your show get obsessed with it, so this seems like a big revelation. But I’ll start off by saying, you’re a real fuckin’ skater. You’re not just sort of into it—we skate a lot. How’d you get into it?
Yo, I took a huge break, though. I grew up skating and then I quit the year after high school. Then I took time off when I started doing Second City in Detroit. And so I was just focused on comedy and I wasn’t skating really at all. I would pick up a board once in a while, but I wasn’t, like, going on sessions.

Were your friends that you were skating with before still skating?
They were kind of in and out, too.

It’s just that age where people are dropping off.
Yeah. But then we had the one friend, my friend Pat, who ended up going out to Chicago and skating, then to New York and he skated the longest out of all of us. But then I just started again when I moved here about five years ago. I started back up again.

Tim Robinson interview front crooksSurprisingly, the front crooks is the least funny grind

Back then in Detroit and Chicago, were you making videos at all?
Like comedy videos?

No, like skate videos, or did the two things ever intersect back then?
No. Me and my friends in my neighborhood, we made a video, but we couldn’t figure out how to get music on it. So we just—you had to get a tape, you had to press play on the tape at a certain point so you could watch it with the soundtrack. So you had to be like, Okay, at this moment press play then you’ll get to watch it with the music.

Did you finish the video? Did you make the whole thing?
We made a video, yeah. But it was short and the part that everybody wanted to watch was our friend’s. He landed on his board in our slam section and it popped up and hit him in the tooth and broke his tooth off. That was the best part of the video.

Amazing. Were there sketches or skits or anything, or was it just a straightforward skate video?
Just skating. We couldn’t even get the music on it!

And you had a full part?
I mean, we were kids, so it’s like—I had a frontside flip off of a really narrow planter in a shopping center. It was super narrow and I had a frontside flip off that. That’s the one thing I remember I had.

Sick. You have a good frontside flip. I gotta see that. Does it exist?
I don’t think so. One friend had it. My friend Rob had it on one of those little tapes.

Don't be a stupid fuckin' idiot and watch this Season 3 banger

So when you moved here, what brought you back into skating?
It was growing up watching videos of all the spots here. And seeing the tables, seeing the benches, like the plastic benches in the schoolyards, I was like, Goddamn, I really wanna skate that stuff, but I hadn’t skated in so long. Then I got a board and I slowly just started getting back into it. It was seeing all the stuff that I grew up seeing in videos. It was like, Well, I have to skate this stuff now.

Were there videos or teams you were super into? Who did you love?
Yeah, I was super into Daewon. I was so into him! And obviously those Rodney Mullen vs. Daewon Song videos.

Me too.
So good. And then I think we really got excited when Menace and City Stars came out. We were super into that whole team.

Dude, I gotta re-watch those Rodney vs. Daewon videos. They were so good.
They’re so good.

And those videos had little parts from the other companies, too.
Yeah. There was one that we used to watch all the time that had—who skated to “She’s Like a Rainbow?”

Oh, Ronnie Creager I think.

That was one of my first videos, for sure. It was right in the beginning.
It was also my first time hearing that song and I was like, Oh my God! So good.

Tim Robinson interview kickflipLive from a ditch... it’s a Saturday afternoon kickflip!

A lot of kids grow up looking at videos and magazines and fantasize about what it would be like to be a pro skater. It seems like an impossible dream for most people. I’m sure there are kids out there who feel the same way about comedy. How’d you go from a kid skating in Michigan to where you are today?
So I was just lucky enough for there to be a Second City nearby, which is a sketch-comedy theater where a lot of SNL people get started. You know what that is?

Yeah, it’s legendary.
So I went to Chicago because my mom was working for Chrysler and she took me and my wife, who was my girlfriend at the time, to go see Second City and I was blown away. Then I went to school and my teacher told me, “You know, there’s a Second City here.” There was a Second City in Detroit and I started taking classes. And I got lucky that I was around for the ten years that there happened to be one in Detroit. If there wasn’t a Second City in Detroit I don’t know if I’d have been able to do anything. But then I was able to go to Second City in Chicago and then SNL.

Was there someone in that world who gave you your big break?
You just kind of move up. You work at it and try to get better and then you hopefully move up in the ranks. And I got SNL because I did a festival in Montreal and John Mulaney suggested I audition for SNL. Along the way in Second City there are tons of people who help you—too many to name!

When you auditioned for SNL, did it seem like a super critical moment for your career?
No, I wasn’t putting too much pressure on it. I had known that people get it and people don’t get it. From Chicago a lot of people would get flown out to audition, so I wasn’t putting that much pressure on it. I mean, it was stressful, obviously, and I was trying my hardest. I wasn’t phoning it in, but I also didn’t feel like, Oh, this is make or break.

During the journey were there any big mistakes or setbacks you experienced?
Oh my God! That’s all it is! That’s just part of it. The whole way to SNL, that was crazy hard! It tests you in a way that can really sap your confidence. But those happen in small and big ways throughout the whole journey. But SNL was probably the most substantial.

Do you still get those feelings now? Like, you have no confidence?
Oh yeah, you’re never 1000% confident. You’re always second guessing. It never goes away. And I’m an extremely anxious person. It can be crippling, to be honest.

What do you do? How do you deal with it. Do you push through?
I don’t have an answer! I haven’t fixed it! Anxiety can get so bad you just feel like, Man, I don’t want to do anything. I mean, that’s what this industry is—it’s tons of setbacks and disappointments, but there’s not really one big one. It’s non-stop.

A cosmic gumbo.

Tim Robinson interview Pull Quote 2

It seems like maybe there are a lot of other funny skaters out there, right?
Yeah, there’s so many funny skaters. Just in our crew we’ve got Whitmer Thomas and Doug Lussenhop. The crossover is not really surprising. There’s a lot of comedians who grew up starting.

The crossover became apparent all at once to me. I met all of you guys at the same time. I didn’t know how many really funny people there were that skate out there.
Yeah, I don’t really know how to articulate why it makes sense, but it just does.

They’re real skaters, too! Even guys on your crew are ripping skaters. I get asked a lot by young skaters how I made a career out of it and I just tell them to foster the obsession you have with skating and not really worry about any sort of career trajectory. Try to be competitive with yourself, wait for the opportunities and try not to kook it. I don’t know how the comedy world works, but what advice would you give a kid who wants to do what you do?
I’m bad at giving advice like this because I think it’s so different for so many people. There’s so many different avenues to start in. But as far as broad advice: just do what you think is funny and don’t try to chase what other people are doing. There are people who work at SNL and still try to write for themselves. This is what I think is funny. I don’t know how it fits into the show, but this is what I like. I think that’s really cool.

Did that work at SNL, when you’d stick to your own thing?
As a cast member, no. But as a writer, because I had already had that experience as a cast member that went poorly, once I was a writer I was like, me, Zach Kanin and Michael Che, we’re just gonna write what makes us laugh. I don’t know if that was majorly successful, but it was fun. And we got stuff on the air.

It definitely worked out in the long run for us fans.
Thanks! I appreciate that. It made the job so fun. Me, Che and Zach shared an office and we’d just try to make each other laugh. It made the job extremely fun.

That ended and then why did you move to LA?
So when I was at SNL we did Detroiters. My last year of SNL we were writing the first season of Detroiters. So I left SNL and then I went right to Detroit and shot Detroiters season one. And then I moved here right after that and was working on Detroiters for the first three years I lived here.

Tim Robinson interview On SetRepping Sci-Fi on the set of I Think You Should Leave

And Detroiters is fucking epic. I think some people found I Think You Should Leave and then went back and watched Detroiters like me because of not having Comedy Central or whatever.
Yeah, it was really hard to find.

But yeah, that show, that’s a fuckin’ masterpiece in itself. But I Think You Should Leave, I guess we should talk about that. When you created it did you have any sort of expectations of how it would be received?
No. I truly just kind of thought it was gonna be nothing. It was one of those things where I was kinda like… we had low expectations.

How the fuck could you know? Picking skating back up and bringing that into your life, is there any part of that that’s made its way into the process of doing comedy? Do you find that there’s any part that crosses over?
I wish I could say, yeah, but I don’t really know. I’ll tell you what, you’ll get inspired by something in the skate world. It’s people that you get inspired by—their craft and how they do it. Seeing someone who’s really good at what they do is inspiring.

I can see what you mean. I definitely get stoked to make stuff from watching things that are unrelated to skating.
Yeah, you’re like, Oh, that’s really cool. Even if it’s not what you’re working on.

Without reaching to try to compare them, the two things that are so unrelated—but when I talk to you about editing I’ve noticed that it does seem like there are some similarities between putting together skate videos and TV shows.
Yeah, we talked about that. We were talking about enders and stuff like that and front loading certain clips and all that shit. There’s some similarities.

I mean, how long do you spend editing something?
A long time. It takes forever.

Do you guys shoot tons and then just whittle it down?
Yeah. So sketches, sometimes the first cut of them can be like nine minutes, 10 minutes or something like that and then it’ll come down to two minutes or in some cases a minute. A minute-50 or whatever.

Tim Robinson interview Pull Quote 1

What’s the best part of the process? ’Cause now you’re in a part that you obviously dislike, the waiting.
Yeah, the best part of the process is probably—well, there’s good and bad to all of it, but like, writing is fun because you’re just chilling and talking. I guess there are good parts to all of it and bad parts to all of it.

Yeah, it’s probably hard to choose. It is pretty amazing to watch—I don’t have any experience with comedy other than skating with you guys and seeing the way that you can just break into what I’m guessing is the first part of an idea or something and kind of just riff through or something like that. That part seems really fun.
Yeah. Writing at SNL was stressful ’cause you had to do it in one night. And so to not have to do it in one night and just being like, Okay, today we didn’t crack anything; we didn’t come up with anything. It’s okay, we can just go home. It can wait ‘til tomorrow. That makes it more fun and less stressful.

Yeah. Fuck, that must be so gnarly. There must be highs and lows all the time.
All the time, yeah.

Like anything else.
But yeah, SNL, it took me a long time to like be, Okay, we’re going in for writing night and whatever, we’ll find something. We’ll find it. But the stress of that is hard.

Yeah, fuck that. That’s insane. I can’t imagine.
Sitting in a room with your friends and trying to find something that makes you laugh, just coming up with something that makes you laugh or your friend coming up with something that makes everybody laugh.

What about the music on the show? Were you ever in bands growing up?
Yeah, I was in punk bands. But what music on the show?

Like “Friday Night,” you know? Those are songs that live in my head at all times. I know it’s supposed to be funny, but I was just wondering if that comes from a place of like—were you ever writing songs earnestly?
Not since I was a little kid.

What was the punk band called?
We had a bunch of different names. We sucked. You play in a band, right?

I’ve had some shitty punk bands.
Did you do anything other than punk?

Uh, rap rock.
Oh no.

Yeah, it was funny. How much attention are you paying to skating these days? Like are you watching videos all the time on Thrasher and shit?
Now that I’m done with everything from the show, I’m getting back into it. I’m trying to get out as much as possible. But when I was working I wasn’t watching anything.

Yeah, I didn’t see you much for a bit.
Yeah. You’re gonna see me a lot now, though. I’m gonna be skating a lot.

Tim Robinson interview tre flipLeaving the hot-dogging for the streets with a wicked tré

Back to the show, I was watching some episodes recently and everyone’s screaming. The whole time all the characters are screaming. Usually skating is the time for all the screaming to come out, but I haven’t seen you do it yet. Where’s the screaming? Is that in you when you’re skating?
I don’t scream in real life, I don’t think.

Okay, well, I’m still waiting for it.
I’ve never seen you scream.

I have eaten hot dogs with you, though. Hot dogs play a role in that.
Dude, I’m off ’em.

Yeah, no more hot dogs. You haven’t been eating meat lately. Do you think you’ll stick with being vegetarian?
I do, yeah.

That’s tight. Were you ever vegetarian before this point?
Yeah, I was vegetarian for like five years when I lived in Chicago.

Do you feel a lot better?
No, I don’t ever feel better when I do. You can still find ways of eating crap, you’re just not eating meat. But I do think I’ll stick with it. Hopefully.

Ever since I found out from you guys that Wienerschnitzel’s got veggie dogs it’s all I can think about.
Really good, too. Really good.

Shout out Wienerschnitzel. Since you just mentioned getting dinner, what about skating with your son? How is that experience?
It was—he’s not really skating that much anymore, but when he was skating it was awesome.

Tim Robinson interview wallride shove itTim delivers the punchline during a wallie shove it

Would you guys watch videos or mostly just go out and skate?
We just went out and skated. I mean, he would get into videos here and there but I feel like he just kinda—hopefully he’ll come back to it. But I’m not pushing it either way. ’Cause to be honest, there’s a part of me that loves skating with him, but there’s also a part of me that’s, like, his dad. There’s a huge part of me that’s his dad, so you know you’re getting nervous and stuff like that. Which I don’t think is good. You don’t wanna skate with anyone that you’re nervous is gonna fall.

Do you still consider him a skater?
Not right now, I wouldn’t call him a skater.

Shots fired.
Yeah, maybe he’ll read this and he’ll be like, Fuck, he said I’m not a skater.

Well, if he’s reading Thrasher then maybe he’s a skater. But maybe not. I don’t wanna be too lofty here but there’s kind of a barrier of entry to skating that, it’s like once you break through, you’re a skater. And I think there’s a little bit of that with I Think You Should Leave, like in your comedy sensibility, that once people are in, they’re fuckin’ in. I don’t know, we just appreciate what you do and we’re in.
That means a lot.

So thanks for making another season! Thanks for making us laugh more than anything out there right now. And making skaters look good.
Well, I appreciate it. Thank you, bud. Thanks for skating with me all the time.

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