Dave Berg, 81, Mad Magazine 'Lighter Side of' cartoonist

LOS ANGELES — Dave Berg, 81, one of Mad Magazine's best-known writer-artists, whose slice-of-life cartoon strips "The Lighter Side of" were one of the humor magazine's most popular features for more than 40 years, has died. He died of cancer May 16 at his home in Los Angeles.

Mr. Berg's insightful comic take on American life first appeared in the pages of Mad in 1956, when he began free-lancing for the magazine.

"The Lighter Side of" began in 1961 and appeared in 365 issues.

"Dave was a visual critic, but a warm-spirited critic, not a hard-nosed critic," said Nick Meglin, co-editor of Mad.

"He was not a cynic at all. He saw the American scene as a wonderful example of our culture, our society and our life and did comments on that.

"There were not major political statements being made here. It was just vignettes that he personally witnessed and did variations on of everyday life wherever it occurred."

Mr. Berg often incorporated friends, family members and Mad colleagues into his cartoons, such as drawing the head of Mad publisher William Gaines hanging on a wall like a mounted deer head. He also regularly included a strip featuring his alter ego, Roger Kaputnik.

Mr. Berg was born in Brooklyn in 1920, the son of a bookbinder. Displaying artistic talent at an early age, he received a scholarship to attend a Saturday morning art class at the Pratt Institute when he was 12.

After high school, he attended Cooper Union Art School in New York, where he met his future wife, Vivian.

At 20, he landed a job inking backgrounds of the newspaper comic feature "The Spirit" at the studio of Will Eisner. In time, he and fellow artist Jules Feiffer wrote the scripts together, with Mr. Berg doing the rough art.

Mr. Berg moved on to writing and drawing the comic book series "Death Patrol" and "Uncle Sam." As a member of the Army Air Corps during World War II, he served as a war correspondent on Iwo Jima, Guam, Saipan and later in Japan.

After the war, he worked under Stan Lee at Timely Comics (the original name for Marvel Comics) and at Archie Comics. Then came Mad, which Mr. Berg referred to as "the main attraction, the big event, the grand opening."

Mr. Berg was heavily involved in the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts in Westchester County, N.Y., and later served as president of B'nai B'rith in Marina del Rey, Calif. He wrote two humorous religious books: "My Friend God" and "Roger Kaputnik and God."

The final "The Lighter Side of ... " by Dave Berg will run in the September issue, which will mark the 50th anniversary of Mad.

In addition to his wife, Vivian, Mr. Berg is survived by a daughter, Nancy Berg, and a son, Mitch.