4 out of 5

Created by: Lil Dicky, Jeff Schaffer

covers season 1

So you’ve told me about an internet rapper with the brilliantly dumb name ‘Lil Dicky’ who’s had guests like Chris Brown and Snoop Dogg and has an m.o. of confronting the stereotypes of rap culture and… no thanks.  My instant judgements on youtube stars run pretty hott, and that especially tends to be the case for people with “messages” they want to impart while riding alongside people like, uh, Chris Brown.  Now you’ve told me that Dave Burd – a.k.a. Lil Dicky – has a TV show chronicling his pseudo-fictionalized rap career and so that’s also a no thanks.

But let’s reverse it.  ‘Dave’ – Dave Burd’s show – is premiering on FXX, and while I’ve not been sold on everything FX / FXX runs, it’s definitely a station I keep an eye on, and so why not give it a shot.  I have no idea what it’s about.  The premiere is rather laugh out loud funny, spotlighting the neurotic Mr. Burd as a fledgling internet rap star with a couple of tracks getting hits, playing off of the dichotomies between Burd as a humble but intelligent businessman / influencer, his hilariously honest idiosyncrasies with his friends and girlfriend and parents, and then the crass persona of his rap alter ego, Lil Dicky.  Burd has a funny bickering relationship with his producer and buddy Elz (Travis Bennett) and manager and roommate Mike (Andrew Satino), and gains a supporter and eventual hypeman – GaTa – when trying to hustle his way into a studio session; his girlfriend, Ally (Taylor Misiak) is fully aware of his work, but also somewhat views it as a hobby, shocked by how Dave’s social media lifestyle butts up against the reality she knows.  The “I’m a superstar, but no one else realizes I am” concept isn’t new, but there’s something a little more grounded in Dave (the show), which comes into focus when we get to the end of the episode and realize: holy shit, this man can really rap.

That had me going back and reading up on Mr. Burd, and then feeling conflicted over how much I enjoyed the series, since it didn’t combine well with my hott takes.

Over the course of the season, Dave plays up the aforementioned juxtapositions during Mr. Burd’s quest for legitimacy, leading to hijinx and miscommunications, but it’s that grounding that ends up making the series stand out.  An episode where Dave is hired to rap a eulogy at a funeral is a prime example, taking what could be a setup for any given cringe-comedy show, but somehow milking it for all possible humor and injecting it with pathos at the same time.  The humanity backing things up is also what allows for actual character progress – watching Dave and Ally’s relationship evolve, for example – and for episodes to fully focus on Elz and GaTa without it seeming like it takes away from a particular focus, or without it at all coming across as filler: all of the characters / actors are rather real, but also skilled at hitting comedic beats and pitching their various eccentricities with the same accessibility as Burd’s.

While I don’t want to sell that there’s especially excessive depth to any of this – I didn’t “learn” or “confront” anything, and the m.o. of the show is still to make you laugh – Dave deserves note for taking a very modern, ephemeral concept – internet fame, already highlighted on lesser shows like The Other Two – and giving it a human face.  That there are exceptional comedy chops on top of that sets the show clear above its peers.