‘I Just Fired Banksy’: The Mysterious Street Artist Makes a Hilarious Cameo on HBO’s ‘Silicon Valley’ (Sort of)

A megalomaniac tech CEO hires the elusive street artist to redesign his signature.

Hooli staff admiring Banksy's handiwork on the latest episode of Silicon Valley. Screen shot from HBO's Silicon Valley.

Is Banksy so short on cash that he has resorted to accepting a commission from one of Silicon Valley’s biggest and most corrupt companies?

In real life, no. But on the latest episode of HBO’s tech satire Silicon Valley, yes.

While the actual Banksy has been busy creating murals across New York City, a fictional version of the elusive street artist agreed to do some freelance work for Hooli, the show’s version of a Google- or Facebook-like tech giant. The artist’s “cameo” popped up in the second episode of the show’s fifth season, which aired on Sunday night.

Banksy’s task? To design a signature for the company’s megalomaniac founder and CEO, Gavin Belson. (What follows will be familiar to those who watch Silicon Valley, but it’s amusing—bear with me.)

The company had released a wildly successful product called The Box, which is, according to the show, a backup device the size of a cable box that stores massive amounts of data. (It is meant to be an example of visionary tech wizardry—a next-level compression algorithm—being used in the least game-changing way possible.) The Box proved so profitable, however, that Hooli decided to re-issue a new version in honor of its founder, The Gavin Belson Signature Box III.

The ill-fated Gavin Belson Signature Box III featuring the CEO’s signature. Screen shot from HBO’s Silicon Valley.

There’s just one problem: The prototype of the new box design that includes Belson’s signature did not poll well with focus groups. (According to a handwriting expert Hooli hired, “the signature displayed troubling traits… conclusively indicative of sociopathic tendencies.”)

That’s where Banksy comes in. The company commissioned the artist to create his own version of Belson’s signature. Although Banksy never appears in person in the episode, the show cuts to Belson and an associate admiring the new design.

“It’s just so edgy,” Belson says approvingly. But before long, he spots something problematic. Just beneath his new, blocky signature is Banksy’s own name. “Banksy is insisting his signature be on his work,” explains Hooli’s designer. “I’m afraid it’s a non-negotiable.”

A prototype of the Gavin Belson Signature Box III featuring Banksy’s signature. Screen shot from HBO’s Silicon Valley.

“This is supposed to be my signature. On what planet does a signature have a signature on it?” an appalled Belson exclaims.

And with that, Bansky’s brief career as Silicon Valley’s favorite signature designer comes to an end. Belson opts to make the job into a contest among his employees instead. (As you might imagine, that doesn’t turn out well, either.)

But the tech titan seems to be pleased with one aspect of The Box experience. As he proudly tells his right-hand man, “I just fired Banksy.”


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