Lots of real-life tech luminaries, including former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo and investor Mark Andreessen, are more than happy to contribute their expertise to making sure that HBO’s “Silicon Valley” is as accurate as possible.
The details of how, and why, tech leaders work with “Silicon Valley” showrunners Mike Judge and Alec Berg are recounted in excellent detail by The New Yorker’s Andrew Marantz in a new long-form story.
But not every executive appreciates the show’s satirizing of the real Silicon Valley.
According to The New Yorker report, the writers of “Silicon Valley” met with Astro Teller, the head of X, formerly known as Google X – the division of Google parent company Alphabet responsible for “moonshot” projects, including Google Glass and self-driving cars. That meeting ended poorly, with Teller “standing up in a huff” and making a dramatic exit, says the report.
“His message was, ‘We don’t do stupid things here. We do things that actually are going to change the world, whether you choose to make fun of that or not,'” “Silicon Valley” writer Carrie Kemper told The New Yorker.
The issue, Kemper says, was that he felt that the show was disrespectful to Google X and its projects.In the second season of the show, fictional Google analogue Hooli forms the HooliXYZ “moonshot factory,” a clear parody of Google X.
But where the real Google X is working on high-minded stuff like universal connectivity and drone-package delivery, HooliXYZ built potato cannons and provided a backdrop for crude monkey masturbation jokes.
The funniest part, Kemper says, is that Teller’s attempt at a big exit was a bit awkward because he was wearing Rollerblades. He “wobbled” to the door and struggled to get the door open with his ID badge … all in clear view of the gathered “Silicon Valley” writers.
The writers weighed turning the event into a joke, but decided that it was “too hacky to use on the show,” Kemper told The New Yorker.
If the episode caused any hurt feelings, then they don’t appear to have had any lasting effects, however.
“We believe in the power of compression to make the world a better place. In fact, X even hired Pied Piper’s CEO away between seasons,” a spokesperson tells Business Insider.
That’s a reference to when Teller appeared alongside “Silicon Valley” star Thomas Middleditch in a Google April Fools’ Day video earlier in 2016.
Earlier, when Google announced that it would create a new holding company called Alphabet in summer 2015, the official press release included a shout-out to HooliXYZ. And Google has even let HBO post fake “Silicon Valley” news to its search results.
This isn’t the first time that the real Silicon Valley has pushed back at the satirical show. Back when it first premiered in 2014, Tesla CEO Elon Musk was extremely critical, saying that “most startups are a soap opera, but not that kind of soap opera.”