The former chief executive officer of the beleaguered social network Twitter has a new job that some might view as a promotion—contributor to the writers room on HBO’s hit show Silicon Valley.
Dick Costolo, a onetime stand-up comedian, says he's spending a couple of days a week working in the writers room for the third season of the tech-industry parody show. "I'm in the writers room, and it's more consulting than writing. There's plenty of writing talent in the room," Costolo wrote in an e-mail. "I'm answering questions and describing how interactions would work between executives, VCs, employees, etc."
In an interview on Bloomberg TV, show creator Mike Judge said the writers use Costolo as a sounding board to ensure that story lines are plausible. "He's a funny guy," Judge said in the interview, taped at a Vanity Fair conference in San Francisco. "It's just great to be able to be spinning stories, coming up with ideas, and just go, 'Hey, Dick, would this ever happen?'"
Those in the technology industry have fallen in love with the show's mocking, painfully authentic take on the industry. The program follows a group of coders who run a software startup that specializes in file compression. The characters fumble through the processes of building a technology company, including unsuccessful pitch meetings with investors and acquisition offers that go awry.
The show's writers have tapped others in Silicon Valley to instill some realism in the story. Dan Lyons, a technology journalist who has covered the industry for years, also has worked in the writers room.
Costolo's own experiences may serve as fodder for future episodes. "He does have great stories that I think I can say—like going to China, and he has to buy a separate phone to use and throw it away when he leaves because the minute your phone connects to a cell tower, it's automatically hacked, and they can listen to it when it's off," Judge said.
Judge appreciates Costolo's unique pedigree. "He has a comedy background," Judge said. "He did improv comedy in Chicago back in the day. Comedy and the tech world rarely cross paths."