If you don’t know Alec Berg by name, you know his work: “Silicon Valley,” “Seinfeld,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” And actually, if you know “Seinfeld” well, you do know his name.
Berg went from writer to character to punchline on May 11, 1995’s “The Face Painter” episode. An actor named Mark DeCarlo played the ficticious “Alec Berg,” who had primo New York Rangers playoff tickets — something that Jerry (Seinfeld) and overzealous New Jersey Devils fan David Puddy (Patrick Warburton) took full advantage of.
Back in the initial writing phase for that particular episode, Larry David and Seinfeld took full advantage of a running office joke to fill in a script hole. In the halls, the comedians had developed dueling John Houseman impressions, and walked around rattling off material in Oscar-winning British actor’s distinctive accent.
As Berg recalls, it was David who first employed the office-favorite accent to address him: “Alec Buuurg.” Soon, the joke and writer’s name would be on NBC — but Berg wouldn’t learn any of it until the table read.
“It was a complete surprise to me … Literally, it was: ‘Alec Berg Enters,'” he remembered upon reading the stage direction. “I was like, ‘What the f–k is going on?’ It was surreal.”
Berg still has the two pages of mention from his table draft framed on the wall. The “good John Houseman name” label and exaggerated pronunciation would carry over into the scenes.
“To me, the thing that’s sort of most depressing about it, in a weird way, is I would venture that more people know John Houseman because of that, than actually know that he produced the ‘War of the Worlds’ radio telecast and was a phenomenally successful show-business force,” Berg told us. “He was an incredibly traveled, esteemed guy. He wasn’t just the asshole from ‘The Paper Chase’ who did the Smith Barney commercials — he had a real track record.”
Watch a short video of the Alec Berg character from “The Face Painter” episode below. The YouTube user who uploaded the clip? Actor Mark DeCarlo.
Berg’s “Silicon Valley” Season 3 premiere airs Sunday at 10/9c on HBO.