When the creators and stars of Comedy Central’s Corporate sat down with The Daily Beast back in January, they warned us that their season finale might piss some people off. They weren’t joking.
The final episode of their remarkably funny first season is called “Remember Day.” It imagines a world, not too unlike our own, in which their fictional corporation Hampton DeVille has turned the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks into a national holiday, complete with traditions like serving goose and gifting stuffed red, white, and blue “memory elephants.”
“I would be shocked if there’s no response,” the show’s co-creator and star Jake Weisman tells me. “Honestly, I want Fox News to see it and I want them to get really mad. Because I think that’s the best possible thing for the show. I want Fox News to see the finale and say, ‘This is why America is being destroyed.’”
“Yeah, I want to be called a ‘cuck’ by Fox News,” his partner in crime Matt Ingebretson adds.
Along with the show’s director and co-creator Pat Bishop, we’re seated outside at Stubb’s BBQ, enjoying one of SXSW’s many corporate-sponsored events—this one by Lightspeed, GIPHY, and Fenwick—about as far away from Fox News as it gets. They have just come from a Getty photoshoot sponsored by Pizza Hut.
“It’s funny, because people might get mad, but all we’re suggesting is that a company might exploit something they shouldn’t to make money off of it,” Ingebretson says.
“I mean, 9/11 has been used to justify multiple wars so it feels like to get people to buy gifts is not a controversial use of it,” Bishop adds.
And it’s not as if the commercialization of 9/11 isn’t already happening, as comedian Joe Mande has been chronicling with ironic retweets on an annual basis for years. “Twin beds, on sale!” Weisman jokes, highlighting one way that brands have actually attempted to profit from the anniversary of the terror attack.
In the exclusive clip below, Matt and Jake are shopping for Remember Day decorations when they come across a sale for “twin touch-screen obelisks for the price of one.”
“I don’t know, something about Remember Day just leaves a bad taste in my mouth,” Jake says.
The episode opens on the morning of Sept. 12, 2001. “Yesterday will always be remembered as a somber day in American history,” the company’s powerful CEO Christian DeVille, played with deadpan gravitas by The Wire’s Lance Reddick, tells his employees. “Now more than ever, Americans need to shop at Hampton DeVille-affiliated stores. We have a moral duty as a company to monetize this tragedy. Because if we don’t, the terrorists win.”
Cut to 16 years later and Reddick is serving as the official “Santa Claus” of Remember Day on morning television. When a member of the show’s crew calls him a “sick piece of shit who’s totally comfortable exploiting emotional people to get a quick buck,” Christian DeVille embarks on an Ebenezer Scrooge-like moral journey.
The Corporate cast jokes that this is their version of a Christmas episode. And that DeVille is “so warped by capitalism” that he truly believes he’s doing a good thing for America.
The reason they are expecting an impassioned response to the finale has a lot to do with what happened a few weeks ago. Earlier in the season, an episode called “Casual Friday” landed the first-time showrunners in an unexpected battle with the Catholic League.
In a statement headlined “COMEDY CENTRAL SHOW ATTACKS CHRIST,” the group’s long-serving president Bill Donohue assailed the show for sending sent a “Valentine’s gift to Catholics by portraying a lay person dressed like a nun who gives an advertising executive the finger.” His conclusion? “The writers, directors, producers, and actors are sick people.”
Weisman gleefully responded on Twitter later that day.
That second joke, about wanting to “bring the whole system down,” prompted Donohue to call on Viacom president Robert Bakish to take action against the show.
“If anti-Catholicism were treated as seriously as sexual harassment is these days, Hollywood would become a ghost town,” Donohue wrote. “In the meantime, Bakish has a hotheaded bigot on his hands. This calls for a serious response.”
Asked if they heard from the president of Viacom about Donohue’s letter, Weisman replies, “No comment.”
When they put a statement like “we all know there’s no God” on television, they figured there might be a bit of a backlash. The imagery of Kate Walsh’s nun character sensually licking a cross-shaped popsicle didn’t help.
“He’s a little troll who’s just trying to make people mad. He doesn’t actually care about what’s being said, he’s just trying to inflame people,” Weisman says of Donohue. “We don’t want to do stuff just to piss people off but we also don’t want to be afraid of saying things we know are true but might offend some people who are in a cult.”
Yet just as that episode mocked the corporatization of religion more than religion itself, the finale has more to say about efforts to make people “forget” the real tragedy of 9/11 than it does to disrespect the victims in any way.
“It’s the episode that’s the most cynical, but also has the most heart,” Ingbretson says.
As soon as the first season ends, they are diving directly into pre-production for season two, which Comedy Central officially announced was a go at the end of February.
“We’re trying to up our game a little bit,” Weisman says of the second season, noting that they “know what they’re doing a little more” this time around. They are promising an even “crazier” group of episodes that will tackle gender discrimination in the corporate world and include an extended arc about the symbiotic relationship between cable news and big business.
Before we part ways, Weisman asks if I could somehow leak the finale to Fox News before it airs this Wednesday night. “If you could create a Twitter profile with you and a Nazi flag and just DM it to Fox News,” he says, “that would really help us out.”