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Business majors beware: ‘Corporate’ has a gloomy take on office elite

| Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Cristina Interiano | The Observer

Comedy Central’s new workplace comedy “Corporate” follows two junior executives in-training — Jake and Matt — up the first rungs of the ladder in the mega-conglomeration of a company called Hampton Deville. Both Jake (Jake Weisman) and Matt (Matt Ingebretson) have lost their souls somewhere along the way and are now thoroughly entrenched in the “Plan B,” that is working for this company. In fact, their jobs seem to have as much real meaning as they feel their lives do; that is to say, they’re suits used by other suits to complete often random and usually boring tasks that the real executives have no care to do. As much as it is about office life, “Corporate” is a reflection of modern society, with the blemishes that plague us all — smothered dreams, existential dread, a good bit of self-loathing — magnified into full view.

If there is a person who is happy in “Corporate,” that person certainly doesn’t work in a managerial position at Hampton Deville. While Jake stares at his desk plant, which has died with his dreams, and Matt jumps at the ability to tear someone apart and then fire them, the people they encounter in the workplace seem to have some more life.

Although the employees of Hampton Deville are first introduced as sad sacks burning under fluorescent lights, once truly encountered, these people seem real and alive, unlike our junior executives in training. Grace in HR is immune to the depression that hangs over the office. Baron, the company’s social media guru, works with the fervor of a hacker, albiet one who only tweets and does basic Photoshop work. Best of all is Richard, whose knowledge of the location of each cake in the massive Hampton Deville building complicates Jake and Matt’s task of firing the office drone. Instead, the main men spend the day moving from random office party to random office party, eating cake and realize that Richard is so damn fun.

In comparison, Jake and Matt are fairly bland characters. While Jake has a cute and sympathetic personality and Matt has been ruthlessly conditioned to the worst of executive life, they serve as tour guides through the world of “Corporate” rather than legitimately compelling characters. Both are completely resigned to their office life and have little else going on outside of it. Together, they are generally relatable, but rarely interesting; the show could survive easily without Matt, in particular.

At Hampton Deville, moral character and corporate rank are inversely related. The worker bees are real humans, beat up by the world. Jake and Matt, the junior executives in training, are dead inside, but not evil. Up higher, the real executives are reprehensible, but often pushovers — Christian Deville (Lance Reddick), the boss of the whole company, is barely human in his disregard for others. In this world, success and general affability are mutually exclusive. “Corporate” depicts society as cynically as a comedy possibly could.

The cynicism of this show is its best quality. Yeah, I too hate myself on occasion (usually 40 minutes into a Vine compilation binge), but mainstream media rarely reflects that innate capacity for self-loathing all too present in millennials. “Corporate” does a necessary service to the world: it brings sad, fatalistic humor off the internet and into the mainstream media. Soon, with shows like “Corporate” leading this comedy movement, your grandparents won’t be quite so concerned after a self-deprecating social media post. Please, Bubo, I swear I’m not that close to the edge … I’m just venting.

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