The creators of HBO's 'Silicon Valley' say the tech industry's lack of self-awareness is what makes it a good punchline - and explain why there's no WeWork episode
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- The sixth and final season of HBO's tech satire "Silicon Valley" premieres on October 27. We attending a screening of the first episode of the season at an event with the show's creators and several cast members in San Francisco on Wednesday.
- Mike Judge and Alec Berg, the show's creators, told Business Insider that they're really satirizing the tech industry's lack of self-awareness - which is why things keep happening in real life that seem like they could have come from an episode of "Silicon Valley," and vice versa.
- Judge pointed to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey's controversial retreat in Myanmar, which eerily mirrored a subplot in the show where antagonist Gavin Belson loses himself on a meditation retreat. "Everyone was like, 'How did you get Jack Dorsey to become Gavin Belson?'" Judge said.
- Berg and Judge both said they regretted wrapping up the creative process for this season before the WeWork saga began to unfold. Judge quipped that CEO Adam Neumann, sometimes spotted walking around in New York City barefoot, "could've walked right into our show."
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In Silicon Valley, sometimes the satire writes itself.And no, that's not a pithy reference to an artificially intelligent joke bot, although that wouldn't be out of place in HBO's satire comedy "Silicon Valley." The show's creators, Alec Berg and Mike Judge, have had ample inspiration to pull from as the real life Silicon Valley continues to outdo itself in sheer over-the-top antics. Advertisement
"God, it's all so outrageous," Judge told Business Insider.
Berg says that despite the rapid pace of change in the real-life Silicon Valley, the show has always prided itself on poking fun at the tech industry - which has, in some ways, only gotten easier since it premiered in 2014."I think it went from season 1, the tech industry felt like it was a bunch of very wealthy, very smug people who were walking around congratulating themselves for having solved the world's issues, so I don't know that our relationship with them has changed, but their relationship to reality has changed," Berg said.Indeed, the showrunners say, it's that lack of self-awareness that provides them with the ammunition they need to write the most biting satire. Judge specifically cited the time that Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey's went on a silent meditation retreat in Myanmar, where social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook may have helped fuel a mass genocide. Advertisement
'How did you get Jack Dorsey to become Gavin Belson?'
The whole incident was almost identical to a long-running subplot in the "Silicon Valley" show, centered on Gavin Belson, the CEO of fictional tech giant Hooli and the series antagonist. Belson relies on a grifter, his "spiritual healer," for business advice, and spends much of the most recent season in exile from the company, meditating at a monastery.
"Everyone was like, 'How did you get Jack Dorsey to become Gavin Belson?'" Judge said.Berg added that the lack of self-awareness that Dorsey showed in not only taking the retreat, but promoting tourism to Myanmar afterwards, is exactly what makes the tech industry so ripe for comedy in the first place.Advertisement
"He was in a country where they are in desperate need of a non-censored social media platform that could somehow allow them to communicate beyond the prying eyes of the government. If only someone could invent something like that," Berg said. "Yeah, stuff like that, that's been our bread and butter from the beginning, is like: there's a lack of self awareness, a lack of humility that has always been red meat for satire."
No WeWork episode
One might think that the WeWork saga would be similarly meaty enough for "Silicon Valley" to skewer. Unfortunately for those keen on schadenfreude, WeWork cofounder Adam Neumann and his entourage will be absent from the show's final season.They had just wrapped the last episode, Judge said, when the drama around its IPO began - much to the chagrin of everybody working on the show. If there were to be a seventh season, it could easily include a character based on Neumann, known for his distinctive long hair and predilection for walking around barefoot, Berg said.Advertisement
"The CEO just looks like he could walk right into our show," Judge said.
Even with endless rewrites, sometimes right up until shooting, both creators said there was no way they could get every piece of real-life news into the final season of "Silicon Valley."At the same time, after six seasons of tearing apart the tech industry, they said it was about time the tech industry tore itself apart.Advertisement
"I don't know if they've quite owned the reality of everything that's happened yet but it does feel like there's starting to be this reckoning, and I've heard stories of people who would brag about what company they worked at now being afraid to tell their friends that they work in the tech business, because of the repercussions," Berg said. "And that is the polar opposite of what it was when we started."
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