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 United States 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 back-up 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 comic companies.
Berg began at Mad in 1956. For five years, he provided satirical looks at areas such as Little League baseball, boating and babysitting. 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 the Mad editorial staff.
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.
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: Berg would tell Gaines, "God bless you," and Gaines would reply, "Go to Hell." Berg's other work included the comic strips Citizen Senior (1989–93), Roger Kaputnik (1992) and Astronuts (1994).
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 contribution from Jack Davis. In recent years, Berg's Lighter Side strips have been rewritten for Mad with inappropriately "un-Berg-like" humor by long time Mad writer Dick DeBartolo and others; this irregular feature is called "The Darker Side of the Lighter Side."
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.
|Mad's Dave Berg Looks At The U.S.A.||1964||ISBN 978-0446354226|
|Mad's Dave Berg Looks At People||1966||ISBN 978-0446861328|
|Mad's Dave Berg Looks At Things||1967||ISBN 978-0446944038|
|Mad's Dave Berg Looks At Modern Thinking||1969||ISBN 978-0446304344|
|Mad's Dave Berg Looks At Our Sick World||1971||ISBN 978-0446944045|
|Mad's Dave Berg: My Friend God||1972||ISBN 978-0451069764|
|Mad's Dave Berg Looks At Living||1973||ISBN 978-0446756976|
|Mad's Dave Berg: Roger Kaputnik And God||1974||ISBN 978-0451061065|
|Mad's Dave Berg Looks Around||1975||ISBN 978-0446304320|
|Dave Berg: Mad Trash||1977||ISBN 978-0446879385|
|Mad's Dave Berg Takes A Loving Look||1977||ISBN 978-0446888608|
|Mad's Dave Berg Looks, Listens And Laughs||1979||ISBN 978-0446886673|
|Mad's Dave Berg Looks At You||1982||ISBN 978-0446347921|
|Mad's Dave Berg Looks At The Neighborhood||1984||ISBN 978-0446303507|
|Mad's Dave Berg Looks At Our Planet||1986||ISBN 978-0446323109|
|Mad's Dave Berg Looks At Today||1987||ISBN 978-0446344234|
- Complete list of Berg's articles for Mad
- How Mad's Dave Berg and Roger Kaputnik Introduced Me to Post-Modernity by Terre Thaemlitz
- Lambiek: Dave Berg