Dave Berg (1920 – 2002): The Life and Legacy of a Prolific Cartoonist

Dave Berg (1920 – 2002)

Berg - Dave Berg (1920 – 2002): The Life and Legacy of a Prolific CartoonistDave Berg was born in Brooklyn, June 12, 1920, died on May 17, 2002. He was an American cartoonist, most noted for his five decades of work in Mad of which The Lighter Side of… was the most famous.

Dave Berg

Birth Date: June 12, 1920

Birth Place: Brooklyn, New York, USA

Death Date: May 17, 2002

Occupation: Cartoonist

Famous Works:

  • “The Lighter Side of…” feature in MAD Magazine
  • Contributions to various magazines and newspapers

Notable Achievements:

  • Known for his humorous and satirical cartoons
  • Long-time contributor to MAD Magazine
  • Created the popular “The Lighter Side of…” feature

Biography: Dave Berg was a celebrated American cartoonist known for his contributions to MAD Magazine. He was born on June 12, 1920, in Brooklyn, New York. Berg’s career in cartooning spanned several decades, during which he became famous for his humorous and satirical works. His most notable creation was the “The Lighter Side of…” feature in MAD Magazine, which provided amusing and thought-provoking insights into various aspects of life and society. Dave Berg’s cartoons have left a lasting impact on the world of humor and satire. He passed away on May 17, 2002, but his legacy continues through his iconic works.

Dave Berg Biography

Dave Berg showed early artistic talents, attending Pratt Institute when he was 12 years old, and later studying at Cooper Union. He served a period of time in the Army Air Corps. In 1940, he joined Will Eisner’s studio, where he wrote and drew for the Quality Comics line. Berg’s work also appeared in Dell Comics and Fawcett Publications, typically on humorous backup features. Beginning in the mid-1940s, he worked for several years with Stan Lee on comic books at Timely Comics (now known as Marvel Comics), ranging from Combat Kelly and The Ringo Kid to Tessie the Typist. He also freelanced for a half-dozen other companies, including EC Comics. Beginning in 1983 he worked for a Jewish children’s magazine, The Moshiach Times.
Dave Berg began at Mad in 1957. For four years, he provided satirical looks at areas such as boating, babysitting, and baseball. In 1961, he started the magazine’s “Lighter Side” feature, his most famous creation. Berg would take an omnibus topic (such as “Noise,” “Spectators” or “Dog Owners”) and deliver approximately 15 short multi-panel cartoons on the subject. In later years, he dropped the one-topic approach. Berg often included caricatures of his own family—headed by his cranky hypochondriac alter ego, Roger Kaputnik—as well as of the Mad editorial staff.
Dave Berg
His artistic style made Berg one of the more realistic Mad artists, although his characters managed to sport garish early-1970s wardrobes well into the 1990s. The art chores for a 1993 article, “The First Day of School 30 Years Ago and Today”, were split between Berg and Rick Tulka, since Berg’s old-fashioned appeal made him an ideal choice to depict the gentle nostalgia of 1963. The artist’s lightweight gags and sometimes moralistic tone were roughly satirized by the National Lampoon’s 1971 Mad parody, which included a hard-hatted conservative and a longhaired hippie finding their only common ground by choking and beating Berg. However, “The Lighter Side” had a long run as the magazine’s most popular feature. Mad editor Nick Meglin often did layouts of “Lighter Side” panels. Sixteen original collections by Berg were published as paperbacks between 1964 and 1987.
Dave Berg held an honorary doctorate in theology. He produced regular religious-themed work for Moshiach Times and the B’nai Brith newsletter. His interaction with Mad’s atheist publisher Bill Gaines was suitably irreverent: Dave Berg would tell Gaines, “God bless you,” and Gaines would reply, “Go to Hell.”
Dave Berg
Fellow Mad contributor Al Jaffee described Berg’s unique personality in 2009: “Dave had a messianic complex of some sort. He was battling … he had good and evil inside of him, clashing all the time. It was sad, in a sense, because he wanted to be taken very seriously, and you know, the staffers at Mad just didn’t take anything seriously. Most of all, ourselves … It came out in a lot of the things he did. He had a very moralistic personality … He wrote a book called My Friend God. And of course, if you write a book like that, you just know that the Mad staff is going to make fun of you. We would ask him questions like, “Dave, when did you and God become such good friends? Did you go to college together, or what?”
In this faith connection,Dave Berg was additionally hired to contribute content to The Magazine For Jewish Children, The Moshiach Times, by Rabbi Dr. Dovid Sholom Pape. According to Pape: “He was a wonderful writer and humorist, and he had a great Jewish heart. I asked him to prepare a series of cartoons that would, in a humorous way, illustrate basic ideas in the Torah. To do this, he invented a fat character called Schlemiel who would always misunderstand things, and then there would be a couple of boys who would correct him.”
His characters occasionally made their way into other artists’ works, such as Kaputnik finding himself a patient in a Mort Drucker spoof of St. Elsewhere, tagged “with apologies to Dave Berg”.
Dave Berg contributed to Mad until his death, a total of 46 years. His last set of “Lighter Side” strips, which had been written but not penciled, were illustrated after Berg’s death by 18 of Mad’s other artists as a final tribute; this affectionate send-off included the magazine’s final new contributions from Jack Davis and George Woodbridge. In recent years, Berg’s Lighter Side strips have been rewritten for Mad with inappropriately “un-Berg-like” humor by longtime Mad writer Dick DeBartolo and others; this irregular feature is called “The Darker Side of the Lighter Side.”
Berg’s other work included the comic strips Citizen Senior (1989–93), Roger Kaputnik (1992) and Astronuts (1994).
After a long battle with cancer, he died in his home in Marina del Rey, California, shortly after midnight on May 17, 2002. Berg was survived by his wife of 52 years, Vivian, and their two children.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about Cartoonist Dave Berg

1. Who was Dave Berg?

Dave Berg was an American cartoonist best known for his work in the satirical magazine Mad. He was born on June 12, 1920, in Brooklyn, New York, and passed away on May 16, 2002.

2. What is Dave Berg famous for?

Dave Berg is famous for his long-running “The Lighter Side of…” comic strip in Mad magazine. He contributed to Mad for over four decades, from 1956 to 2002, creating humorous and satirical cartoons that poked fun at various aspects of modern life.

3. When did Dave Berg start working for Mad magazine?

Dave Berg began working for Mad magazine in 1956 when he contributed his first cartoon. He quickly became a regular contributor known for his distinctive style of humor.

4. What was “The Lighter Side of…”?

“The Lighter Side of…” was a recurring feature in Mad magazine created by Dave Berg. It consisted of one-page cartoons that humorously explored various aspects of everyday life, often with a satirical twist. These cartoons became one of the magazine’s most popular and enduring features.

5. Did Dave Berg receive any awards for his work?

Yes, Dave Berg received recognition and awards for his contributions to cartooning. In 1980, he won the National Cartoonists Society’s Special Features Award for his work on “The Lighter Side of…” in Mad.

6. How long did Dave Berg work on “The Lighter Side of…”?

Dave Berg worked on “The Lighter Side of…” for nearly four decades, from 1956 until his passing in 2002. His cartoons appeared in numerous issues of Mad magazine during this time.

7. What were some common themes in Dave Berg’s cartoons?

Dave Berg’s cartoons often satirized everyday situations, human behavior, and societal norms. He had a talent for highlighting the absurdity and humor in the mundane aspects of life, making readers laugh at themselves and the world around them.

8. Is Dave Berg’s work still available today?

Yes, Dave Berg’s cartoons from Mad magazine are still widely available in various forms. Mad magazine compilations, anthologies, and digital archives often feature his work. His cartoons continue to entertain readers with their timeless humor.

9. Did Dave Berg work on other projects besides Mad magazine?

While Dave Berg is best known for his work in Mad, he also contributed cartoons to other publications and occasionally worked as an illustrator and writer. However, Mad magazine remained his primary and most celebrated creative outlet.

10. How did Dave Berg’s work influence the world of cartooning?

Dave Berg’s work in Mad magazine significantly impacted the world of cartooning and humor. His unique style of satirical humor and ability to find humor in everyday situations influenced many cartoonists who followed him. “The Lighter Side of…” remains a beloved and enduring example of humorous social commentary in cartoon form.


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Written by Olivia Inkwell

I'm Olivia Inkwell from Toons Mag desk. I post every content that we receive by email. Join me in finding joy in the ordinary and celebrating the beauty of the mundane.

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