Comedy Central has gold on its hands with Corporate, a workplace comedy in its second season about a group of co-workers struggling through the madness of monotony.
Created by Pat Bishop, Matt Ingebretson, and Jake Weisman, the series finds the delicate balance between going extremely dark and grim with its dead-end job commentary, and still allowing pure, hilarious bliss in the insanity unfolding on the screen.
Some episodes can be absolutely wonderful in their witty and direct takedowns on corporate culture and how careers run people’s lives. Simple things, like going out after work, working over the holidays, and punctuation in e-mails, all become incredible treasure chests of comedy, where, mixed in with the peculiar tone of the show, go down absurdist avenues instead of being easy and uninspired jokes.
Other episodes dig deep into society as a whole, commenting on societal norms, treatment in the workplace based on gender and appearance, and turning national tragedies into social media post wars. Corporate does not shy away from subjects that could monumentally fall apart in less capable hands.
The second season is just as dark as the first, where incredibly depressed people try to survive the daily grind while their life choices collapse around them. It takes a lot for something so dark like this to work, but its specific tone threads the needle of being dark but strangely poetic about the slices of life it pokes fun at.
“Natural Beauty” is the hallmark of the season, where brilliant writing and execution help shatter a window into social norms. It takes the idea of how women must present themselves with the right clothes and the right make-up, all about appearance, while a man can walk in like a slob and be just as presentable to the workplace.
The episode turns the concept on its head and goes down the hole of how women are treated, how the inverse of appearance can be turned back on men just as easily, and how working in a world dominated by men is an endless uphill battle with small, personal victories few and far between. It’s a strong showcase episode for Anne Dudek’s Kate, whose normally guarded performance opens up in fascinating ways to allow Kate exude more vulnerability and humanity.
But even if the dynamic of the episode may be short-lived, it creates enough of an impact as a viewer to make it a really powerful exclamation point of what Corporate can do. The surreal nature that reveals itself from time to time is another classic of the show. In “Vacation” (airing March 12), there are pieces of absolute mania at play under the surface, cracking reality and giving way to some comedy genius. There are moments throughout the season where the curtain is peeled back and a hint of disturbing nefariousness feels like it’s bubbling up to the surface.
Matt and Jake are the perfect odd couple to lead the show. Both are corrupt and broken in their own way, but there is enough about them where there can be redemption in their everyman routines. The show does not shy from showing those flaws, making them incredible character points in these absurd scenarios and allowing the comedy to play off their shortcomings or how they will act in such a messed up situation.
The supporting cast around the two leads are just as flawed and fascinating. Lance Reddick as their boss, Christian DeVille, is an absolute treasure, exuding class and fear while also unafraid to do some completely ridiculous things on the side, like cut fruit with a sword in his boxers while singing show tunes.
Grace (Aparna Nancherla) is effectively the third lead of the show, and is always a joy in every scene she’s in. She accepts the crushing depression of the job head-on, and becomes a great voice of reason, and a beacon of relatable one-liners. Nancherla is great at expressing so much in a somewhat monotone character, becoming one of the favorites in a cast full of fantastic performers.
Corporate makes a strong case for being one of the year’s best. The tireless drive to keep its characters on the cusp of breakdown, while doing so in such a creative and exciting way, is to be commended. The show is bursting with ideas, and its second season is a brilliant addition to Comedy Central.
Corporate airs Tuesdays at 10:30pm ET/7:30pm PST on Comedy Central. Its second season finale is on March 19th. All episodes were provided for review.