Humor Mags #5: Berg's Lighter Side Fashions

Anyone familiar with MAD during the seventies will well remember Dave Berg's regular feature "The Lighter Side"  It wasn't a particular favorite as a kid, but as an adult I appreciate it much more.  The gags are a tad on the lame side, but what made these strips special was the timeliness.  Unlike the Don Martin and Spy v. Spy segments which stood independent of any time period, the Dave Berg strips had more in common with Doonesbury which definitely was "of the day", featuring current issues and characters who wore the latest fashions.

And this is where Retrospace comes in.  You can tell Berg put a lot of effort and attention into the fashions in each strip.  Indeed, it was every bit as important as the gag itself.  I would be remiss to not have a post highlighting Berg's great illustrations of fashions past within his "Lighter Side" strips - perhaps, second only to the Archie comics in their depth and detail in bringing to life the styles of the seventies in comic form.

Just take note of this one panel.  Berg pays attention to the style of boots, the pockets on the purse, the type and fit of the coats..... he didn't have to be so detailed, but he must've known that was part of the appeal to his strips.

January 1974
This strip is particularly telling.  My understanding is that Berg was a conflicted dude - on one side a very liberal open minded guy with a great sense of humor - on the other, a veteran with an honorary doctorate in theology who wore his Christianity on his sleeve.  Not that the traits are mutually exclusive, but it did cause issues in the MAD office.

One day we'll look at Berg's strips with a more sociological eye.  So, stay tuned.

Ahhhh, short shorts.  I remember them well.  I also recall the sports jerseys that were so popular - no identifiable team with just a random meaningless number.

Eye-wear wasn't the best back in the seventies.  The "Velma look" was almost inevitable for girls.

He's sporting the Herb Tarlic blazer and she's got a turtleneck and cowboy boots.  Is this heaven?

this one as late as 1984



  1. AnonymousMay 23, 2013

    God help me, I actually had clothes like some of these. And I always love Dave Berg.

  2. K PencheMay 23, 2013

    This theological guy sure took a lot of time drawing curvy babes (even in the 50s). According to Frank Jacobs' "Mad Mad World of William M Gaines", Berg would greet atheist Gaines with a religious homily to which Gaines would reply "Dave Berg, shut the hell up."

  3. I remember reading an interview with Bill Gaines in Playboy back in the early 70s and he mentioned that when MAD's features criticized the right, all of his friends thought it was hilarious but when he criticized the foibles of the left, they were incensed. He said he lost more than one friend because of it.
    I think that was the brilliance of MAD.
    Berg (and the rest) mocked the contradictions in society regardless of where they were on the spectrum. Berg mocked preachers and hippies, conservatives and liberals with equal vigor.

  4. Fourth from the end: Turn in your "Let's Boogie" shirt, mister!

  5. Awesome. I used to have a big "Lighter Side Of…" book which was a collection of the best of Dave Berg's strips. All I can remember is the cover showed Dave Berg inside a black trash bag (Hefty?) with all this trash strewn around him. I mostly remember his earlier strips from the late '50s and early '60s in which Berg captured the great fashion, hairstyles and cars from the era. He was a huge inspiration and influence in my venture towards illustration and commercial art. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Ah, The Lighter Side. I had a love/hate thing going with it. I enjoyed the strips and even looked forward to that section of every issue of Mad. But sometimes the corniness made me embarrassed to be reading it, even if I was reading it alone in my room or whatever. Another thing was the realism of his illustrations, especially when compared to other cartoonists like Don Martin. Sometimes they were in the uncanny valley, where they looked too real, yet slightly distorted, which pushed them into the creepy zone. And yeah, the guy knew how to draw chicks. On the downside, his men often had really girly figures as well (see tow-away zone, packets, and bikini examples above).

    He also did a good job capturing the beatnik/hippy vibe, drawing very tired, unhealthy looking faces with dark circles under their eyes, and those long, super tight blue jean "shorts" that were cut off right around the knee, making them almost look like capris.

    I still have issues feature 2 of the above; mess my hair and bikini. I remember looking at the bikini one a LOT.

  7. Thanks, I love these! I remember thinking his characters dressed goofy back then but I grew up in a pretty conservative household. They dress a lot like this in Bob Newhart episodes.

  8. Utterly superb post. Berg realy captured the essence of the look of the times

  9. The one with the lady with the Velma glasses looks like Berg was predicting the Clippy Office Assistant there too. :-)

  10. Berg sure could draw pretty eyes. I can clearly remember as a 12 year old one Lighter Side strip where the girl character was galactically pretty; blonde ponytail and innocent expression asking a butcher for steaks so her boyfriend can burn them to a crisp on his hibachi. Ah, hibachis....

  11. AnonymousMay 27, 2013

    Berg's first "Lighter Side..." was of "... The TV Set" in 1961. The five-page Lighter Side[s] became regular features soon after. He often drew himself as character Roger Kaputnik, who was shown reacting to some crisis with the rest of the family. The young man with the glasses and dark goatee (sampling yogurt above) was almost certainly Berg's real-life son.

    Compared to his detailed artwork in the 1950s, I noticed Berg began to run out of steam by 1980, after ~100 topics (Cars, Hair, High School, Money, Television, The Generation Gap, The Me Generation) had been exhausted. Later issues were simpler comic strip drawings of various topics. Complete list here:


    Berg often lampooned hypocrisy and selfishness. From the original-content paperback Dave Berg looks at People: Humanity can be rotten to the core, but the core can be beautiful.

  12. I remember Berg captured the styles of the 1960s and 1970s counterculture really well, and most of his fashions were pretty authentic, except for his portrayals of punks. He would get the mohawks and torn clothes right, to a point, but would have them wearing KISS style makeup and clown shoes. I find it hard to believe that, living (or at least working) in New York City, he hadn't seen one or two actualy punk rockers. Maybe he should have taken his sketchbook down to CBGB on a Saturday night, or at least rented a copy of DECLINE OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION for research.