catching up

The Stars of Corporate Want to Keep You Up at Night

Photo: Chris Buck/Comedy Central

2018 was a landmark year for Matt Ingebretson and Jake Weisman. It marked their biggest step forward into the entertainment industry yet after a long journey involving the usual open mics, writing gigs, and short films that many comics go through but rarely result in creating and starring in a television show. Several years after striking a deal with Comedy Central, Ingebretson and Weisman, along with co-creator and director Pat Bishop, saw the premiere of their show Corporate last January. Nearly a year to the day, season two makes its debut on the network tonight.

How did the last year go for them during this unique experience that they’ve worked so hard for since moving to L.A. to be comedians nearly a decade ago? It’s mostly been filled with the long hours that come with running and starring in your own show, but 2018 also gave Matt and Jake a chance to meet some of their fans and heroes and piss of the Catholic church. It’s all in day’s work that comes with being Corporate.

It was a year ago that you did press for Corporate season one, and I’m guessing that can be an overwhelming learning experience. How has it been the second time around now that you’ve been on the circuit before?
Matt Ingebretson: It’s been a little easier because we don’t have to explain the whole show and justify why we made it over and over again to people who haven’t seen it or maybe have seen one episode. We seem to be talking to more people who know what the show is or maybe even might be a fan of it. It’s always easier to talk to people who have a point of view on the show versus someone who is just like, “Who are you and why are you doing this?”

Jake Weisman: When you talk about yourself, you can only say so many things — you have the same point of view in a lot of different interviews — so it really inspires you to be a more interesting person so you have something to talk about. If you’re constantly talking about the same things about yourself, you can’t grow. Luckily, we’ve had a year now to be slightly different and have had good and bad things happen to us, and hopefully we have something a little more mature to say about life.

Matt: Or not.

Did your families have a lot more questions and curiosities about the business than they did before, now that you’ve had two seasons of your own TV show?
Matt: For the first seven years in Los Angeles when I was just doing open mics, my family and relatives were all confused by what I was doing because there was barely any evidence. At the very least, now I can say, “I have a show on Comedy Central,” and they can understand what that is, so they’re not confused about my well-being anymore.

Jake: The structure of life and families is that you grow up, you go out, you get a job, and then people ask, “How’s your job?” And then a few years later they go, “Are you gonna get married?” And then a few years after that, “Are you gonna have kids?” And that’s just every family because that’s what life is. So we are very selfish and career-focused, none of us is married or have kids, but now there’s something to ask about. “It’s okay you’re not married and have kids, you have a show.” Being on lists and the fact that people like the show is just a way for parents to have something to ask about and feel okay about.

Matt: I enjoyed hearing my very sweet mom talk about what her friends think of the show, because it doesn’t necessarily fully line up with what they typically watch. Thankfully, they all like it or at least have lied to my mom and said that they like it, which is very nice of them.

Jake: Some of my parents’ friends are like, “It’s a little over my head, but I can tell people think it’s funny.”

Jake, you got into an online dispute with the Catholic League last year over some religious imagery in the episode “Casual Friday” that they didn’t take kindly to, so I’m curious: What’s your problem with Catholicism, and why are you trying to take down religion?
Jake: I have no problem with Catholicism at all. I think every religion is beautiful, and however someone finds peace in this crumbling world, God bless.

Matt: Did the Catholic Church buy out Vulture?

Jake: I have nothing but unbelievable respect for the incredible pope. All religion. Especially Judaism. Again, peace on Earth and all religion is obviously so good.

Did that whole thing surprise you? When you were making the episode did you ever think, The Catholic Church is gonna be mad about this? Or were you completely caught off guard?
Jake: I think when you’re creating work, it’s a really good sign if people are reacting strongly to it. You don’t want to do it just to be transgressive because that’s immature and not artistic, but if you do something that you think is artistically sound and people have really strong reactions, I genuinely believe that’s a sign that what you’re doing is working. So it was a delight just to know that people had strong feelings on both sides. Or on many different sides. I think it’s a really good thing when people are talking about what you’re doing.

Was any of that reflected back into season two? When that stuff happens, does it turn the wheels on “What’s my comedic opinion on this?” Because you also did a very funny bit called “Abortion Is Good” last year.
Jake: When you’re training as a comedian, your job is essentially to look at the world and look at your actions throughout the day, and you become this machine for bits or your point of view: “This is happening, so how do I feel about it? How do I look at it?” Everything that’s happening in the world ends up being reflected into your point of view in the show. You can’t help it. It’s just how you live. Everything that’s happening now, even this interview, it’s all funny, it’s all potential material. If you’re good at what you do, everything that’s happening essentially becomes filtered through your point of view.

Matt: We’re not specifically interested in offending someone. That’s never the goal for us. I think that people who are performers, who are purely into offending people, it’s just a little lame or pedestrian. But I do think that a lot of the job, or the comedy that I enjoy, are people talking about things that you maybe shouldn’t talk about or touching on subjects that are a little risky. We just try to approach an episode with a sense of risk-taking but also empathy, and hopefully we land somewhere that doesn’t piss off the Catholic Church again. Or maybe we will — who gives a shit?

Jake: I don’t care who it pisses off. If what you’re writing is fundamentally sound and a good argument and is logical, if people are upset, they should investigate why they’re upset because they might be wrong about it. It’s not that all press is good press, but I do think people having strong reactions to your work is what you want. There are so many shows that literally just wash over people. They’re a balm that people put on their bodies before they go to bed so they can sleep well, and we’re not trying to make something like that. We’re trying to make something that people will talk about and think about, because that’s how we live our lives and we’re still at a point where we care about things and want to talk about things, and strong reactions show that you care and you’re making something interesting. Most things are just garbage you watch to fall asleep.

Speaking of offending people, last year when you were doing press for season one, Jake said on the podcast All Fantasy Everything that Roseanne Barr was “one of the original transgressive comedians who would just say horrible shit because no one else was saying it” and that “she’s a fucking insane person, but so brilliantly horrible.” Which I’d agree is true, but later in the year she went over the line. So do you think she finally misjudged the line, or did the line move? Is that something you think about when writing?
Jake: Well, I think Roseanne was flat-out racist in what she said. I think she’s clearly mentally deteriorating. It seems that way. If you’re just saying horrific racist things and don’t realize how racist they are, you should be fired. As Matt said, someone who makes their living off of just toeing the line, just to be offensive or not offensive, is a little lame and pedestrian and not what we’re trying to do. I don’t think we’re concerned with where the line is, because that’s lame to be mad about PC culture and lame to be mad about being censored. I think it’s our job to create an argument that’s logically sound that we agree with. If we morally agree with it and can back it up in our work, then everything will be fine. If you’re a decent person trying to make a point, you’re not going to get in trouble all that often. But if you’re racist, you do get in trouble, and you should.

Matt, back in 2014, you said on the podcast Jeremiah Wonders … that your goal in ten years would be to write, create, and star in your own TV show. You ended up hitting that goal barely three years later, so were you shocked when you sold Corporate and got a show as soon as you did? How would you adjust that ten-year goal now?
Matt: Wow, I don’t remember that. I feel very fortunate. One thing that we always tried to do is to just focus on the work and not get too caught up in the potential or possibilities of what was happening. When we first got a script deal at Comedy Central to write Corporate, we just really tried to make a really fucking good script, and then when we got picked up to pilot, we tried to make a really good pilot. And so on. I feel very lucky to be where I’m at, and I continue to just want to focus on my own work and not worry too much about where I’m headed, because I had no idea this was going to happen. Maybe in three years I’ll be directing my own movie or maybe in three years I’ll be dead. Who the fuck knows? My hope is to continue to make good work in some capacity.

Jake: You start to sort of base your dreams on what you know is possible. I don’t know that we thought that a TV show would be possible, but now that you know you can do this you’re like, Wow, maybe the next thing would be a movie? Who knows? You’re surprised that your dream can come true when they come true, and then you’re like, What else can I do with my life? It’s very exciting that there are things that we haven’t done that we used to think were not possible and, no, it is possible, you just have to keep working and believing.

Matt: Maybe we’ll make movies and then maybe we’ll take the next step, which is to be president of the United States of America.

Speaking of making movies, in your past interviews it’s come across that maybe you’d like to create things that don’t necessarily fall in the genre of “comedy.” Is that true, and could drama be in your future?
Jake: Yes, for sure. We’re interested in making a lot of different things, especially things that aren’t necessarily just a comedy.

Matt: Pat Bishop [Corporate co-creator and director], Jake, and I, we like working together and we think of ourselves as a collective that will hopefully get to make a lot of different things as the years go on. And hopefully we can make a really fucked-up, insane drama at some point that upsets the Catholic Church. Our main goal is to upset the Catholic Church.

Between your busy lives of making this show, what were some of your favorite pieces of comedy or art that you managed to catch in 2018?
Matt: I love Joe Pera’s Adult Swim show, which he made with Conner O’Malley. Both of those guys are so funny. Any time I see Jo Firestone or Aparna Nancherla do comedy, I love it. There’s an illustrator and comic artist whose Instagram handle is @pantspants who I love a lot. I loved the movies First Reformed and The Favourite, and I like the TV show Succession.

Jake: I liked so many things last year. I spent a lot of last year reading. There’s a book called The Sarah Book by Scott McClanahan and a book called New People by Danzy Senna that I loved. I just want to say that everyone should be reading a lot more fiction and should always have a book they’re reading. It makes you a better, happier person, and it’s better than the internet. And Ottessa Moshfegh’s My Year of Rest and Relaxation may have been the best book of the year and everyone should read it. It’s so funny and dark.

One of the nice perks of running and starring in a show is the opportunity to work with comedians and actors who you’ve always admired. Season two’s guest stars include Kyra Sedgwick, Andy Richter, and Kristen Schaal, among others. What was the process like of bringing them in now that you had a season under your belt?
Jake: Elizabeth Perkins, who played the accountant in “The Expense Report,” we offered her the role, and the reason she said yes was because she had watched season one. We had no idea — she hadn’t reached out or anything, she just said, “I’m a fan of the show and I’d love to be on it.” Which is insane because we’ve been watching her since we were kids and she’s so talented and famous and amazing. And oh, she just likes what we do? That’s crazy!

Matt: We’ve been extremely fortunate with the guest stars that we’ve brought on season two that they were all obviously talented and also just cool. Because when you bring in Kyra Sedgwick or Andy Richter, you’re essentially bringing in people who are higher status than we are and just have to hope that they are down to do the work and be cool on set. Being on set is very difficult work, and everyone was really amazing to work with.

Jake: The other thing that is interesting — and this is maybe obvious — but you meet these people who are famous to you and are extremely talented people, and they’re just people who want to do good work. They’ve been working at this job for 30 years and they’re you before you were you. We’re so lucky, but then you really connect with them because they’re just people who want to do a good job and have all the fears and joys and insecurities that we have; they’re just much further along in the process. That’s always amazing to find out, and you forget that people, as extraordinary as they are, are just people.

The Stars of Corporate Want to Keep You Up at Night