‘Silicon Valley’ Bosses on How Show Handles Key Character’s Death – And TV’s Smartest Dick Joke Ever

Mike Judge and Alec Berg tell TheWrap alternative way they considered writing off Christopher Evan Welch’s Peter Gregory after the actor died of lung cancer

Last Updated: April 11, 2015 @ 10:34 AM

“Silicon Valley” Season 1 concluded with one of the most epic scenes in sitcom history — and definitely the biggest hand job joke to ever grace to small screen.

So how do showrunners Mike Judge and Alec Berg top that for the HBO comedy’s sophomore run? They don’t, the duo told TheWrap during an interview.

“That’s no way to think about it,” Judge said of his young show’s most memorable scene to-date. “I think those things happen when they happen.”

“I have enough motivation just not looking like an idiot on national television,” Berg said, admitting: “The fear of disappointing people is certainly higher.”

The “middle-out” scene was so epic that TheWrap dedicated a magazine piece to “TV’s Smartest Dick Joke,” which can be read here. Still, we needed to hear more.

“That was sort of a long time in the making,” Judge recalled for TheWrap. “Early on, I mentioned to Alec and the writers that it would be cool to have a moment like ‘The Beautiful Mind,’ but with something sillier.”

While the duo had the story arc of an emergency overnight Pied Piper rebuild in mind for the TechCrunch Disrupt finale, they needed a smart-but-hilarious way into it.

“One of our writers … was just talking — completely unrelated — about this joke he had with his friends about how you could jerk-off more guys at once if they stood tip-to-tip instead of beside you,” Berg remembered. “We were like, ‘Holy shit! That’s the thing!'”

Now, how do they follow that act? Fans will be happy to know that the very first word uttered in Season 2 is “fuck,” a fact that the two show bosses didn’t even realize until TheWrap pointed it out to them.

“It could have just as easily been ‘shit,'” Judge joked of the scene’s many takes.

Beyond competing with their own explosive ending to Season 1, Judge and Berg had another challenge born out of a real-life tragedy. When actor Christopher Evan Welch died of lung cancer at age 48, the guys had to write out popular character Peter Gregory. At first, they considered not killing Gregory off.

“We had a lot of discussion about, ‘What if Peter Gregory were off on his personal nuclear-powered submarine meditating under the polar icecap, and he was sending little directives every once in a while?'” Berg told TheWrap. “Then it just occurred to us: fans of the show are going to know that Chris passed away, and they’re going to know that this character is not coming back.”

Meeting the moment head-on, Judge and Berg sought advice from friends who had worked on shows in which performers died and asked them how it was handled and if they would have done something differently with the benefit of hindsight.

“You don’t want to seem callous.” Berg explained of their dilemma. “His family is going to see this, and we want to respect him, and we want to do right by him.”

So the two talked it over with Welch’s family.

“One of the first things his mom said was, ‘I hope you made it funny,'” Judge remembered.

And they did, though we won’t purposely unsatisfying way the show handles the death of Gregory. We’ll just promise that it’s humorous and not disrespectful in any way — but this is the Internet era, and Berg is realistic about possible blowback anyway.

“There’s a small, vitriolic portion of the Internet that will scream their heads off about anything,” he told TheWrap. “So there’s no way to cut it to zero. We live in an era where outrage is a recreational activity on the Internet — so you’re not going to shut it down.”

“I hope we got it right, and some people I’m sure will lose their minds for whatever reason,” Berg finished the thought.

Shifting gears to the duo’s other projects, TheWrap asked about the possibility of a sequel to “Office Space,” the 1999 cult comedy which Judge wrote and directed.

“I kind of don’t think so,” he replied, citing a “not very well done” recent HipChat short that saw Gary Cole resurrect his Bill Lumbergh character from the film as the probable “nail in the coffin.”

Judge added that he would have considered doing one years ago, but following a bad experience with Fox on a pilot and the huge growth in office-based humor (i.e. “The Office”), that ship has likely sailed.

For now, he and former “Seinfeld” writer Berg have this other group of lovable losers to write for, a challenge in tonal balance that the funnymen take seriously.

“These guys are definitely the ‘Bad News Bears’ … this is a show about outsiders,” Berg told TheWrap. “It’s not like ‘Entourage,’ where they were like the cool kids, and we got to like hang out and watch them drive the car and fuck the girl.”

But, “Once the ‘Bad News Bears’ won the championship, they’re just the Bears,” he added, explaining why the gang won’t and can’t stay on top for the sake of comedy.

“There’s nothing funny about the good-looking guy winning the game,” he said. “That’s not funny. At all.”

“Silicon Valley’s” Season 2 premieres Sunday at 10 p.m. on HBO