The Last Lighter Side of…Dave Berg
June 24, 2002
By Avi Green
This May 16, Dave Berg, one of MAD magazine’s most popular
humorists, who wrote and drew The Lighter Side Of… satirical
cartoons which parodied all sorts of things in everyday life, died
at age 81 of cancer, in his city of residence, Los Angeles.
Aside from writing some of the funniest cartoons in the now 50
year-old history of MAD, he even drew himself into his own
strips, as a character named Roger Kaputnik, who appeared in the
roles of businessmen, fathers, and even medical patients. Even some
of the Usual Gang of Idiots at
MAD used to turn up in there as well many times,
including the late, legendary publisher and guru Bill Gaines
himself. And the results were so often hilarious. His family
immigrated from Lithuania at the turn of the 20th century, and he
was born in New York City. He first attended the Cooper Union Art
School, and later, he got himself a job as an inker on Will Eisner’s
now classic comic strip, The Spirit. He even later worked
for Marvel at the time that they were still called Timely, under the
auspices of the legendary Stan Lee.
When Berg first began writing and drawing freelance work for MAD
back in 1956, his first works were satires of such phenomenons as
pizza pies, teenagers, skin diving, and children’s playgrounds. I've
got a compilation of some of his early works called MAD Trash,
and they were very funny.
Later on, when Bill Gaines encouraged all of MAD’s staff
writers to come up with a special style for themselves, so in 1962,
Berg began drawing what he called “The Lighter Side Of…” in
which he spoofed “the human condition”, civil rights movements,
disgruntled youngsters, office life, parties, romance, classes in
school, the young and the old, plus a lot of satires on movies,
commercial broadcasts, and television programs. His spoofings were a
wonderful take on society and culture in the everyday life of the
United States. As Nick Meglin, one of MAD’s editors said,
"Dave was a visual critic, but a warm-spirited critic, not a
hard-nosed critic. He saw the American scene as a wonderful example
of our culture, our society and our life, and did comments on that."
One of his most clever gimmicks in writing and drawing, as
previously mentioned, was to draw many of his co-workers at
MAD, including the late, great Bill Gaines himself, into his
strips. And, as mentioned before, he even had his very own alter ego
in drawing whom he named Roger Kaputnik, who even served as the
central figure in one of two humorous books he wrote “Roger
Kaputnik and God.”
Take a look at some of these unforgettable lines of lunacy from some
of his strips:
From Nags to Riches
Rich man to wife: “When do I ever stop being hounded?
When I was a kid, my parents hounded and hounded me ‘YOU GOTTA
MAKE GOOD, YOU GOTTA MAKE GOOD!’
Now my kids are hounding me…
Because I did!”
It’s a classic parody that reflects the change in values that took
place in a short period of time during the 1960's. Whereas the man's
parents nagged him to succeed, his children criticized him for his
very success. It shows that no matter what you do, sometimes you
just can't win. And, here's this one:
Sunday Kind of Love
Little girl to father: "Oh daddy, I
love the Russian Communists and the Red Chinese."
Father to little girl: "WHAT?!? Are
you some kind of subversive? Didn't anybody tell you that they
are planning to destroy us and that they are our ENEMIES?"
Little girl: "Yes, I know. But in
Sunday school, they said we're supposed to love our enemies."
Father: "Oh! Yeah, I remember learning that when I was a
And then, there's this one:
Black girl to white guy: "I'm conducting a survey for my
social studies class project! Where does your family fit on the
White guy to black girl: "Well, judging by the way my
mother complains about not being able to afford a new washing
machine, I guess we're not high-income!
And hearing the way my father complains about how much it's
costing to keep my brother in college and us not being qualified
for any assisstance programs would mean we're not a low-income
So put me down for middle-class!"
And then, finally, there's this one:
Football coach to team: "...and
remember this above all! Football is more than a game! It's the
best education you can get in becoming your own man! You'll
learn to develop initiative and make split-second decisions!
Now go out there and don't do anything except what I tell you
A great example of how some people don't even follow through on
their own words.
In later life, he was actively involved as a director of the US Boy
and Girl Scouts division in Westchester County, NY, and was also the
president of B’nai B’rith’s Marina del Rey branch in California.
Dave Berg will be one of the most missed of the MAD-men, and
his last set of strips will be published in the September 2002 issue
of MAD. He was one of the best they had who could satirize
what everyday life is like, and it’s something to treasure for years
to come. Who says nothing in MAD is worth keeping? The
Lighter Side Of... most certainly is.
Avi Green, who often spends even more time at the doctor's office
than Berg did, can be reached at email@example.com
Copyright 2002 Avi Green. All rights reserved.
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