Don’t frown on promotion.
It was well before the COVID-19 outbreak that I serendipitously saw David Burd on The Daily Show. I was about to turn off the television, but something about the gangly Burd caught my eye. He was there to expel the virtues of his new FX on Hulu show Dave. I wasn’t interested in the least based on promotional posters I’d seen in a few magazines.
But this Dave guy. He was funny. Dry as hell, but funny.
I suppose it’s here that you need to know that Dave Burd may be better known for his stage name, Lil’ Dicky, whom I had never heard. Dave Burd is quite aware that he’s a skinny, nerdy Jewish guy who looks as though he has a more working IT in front of a computer than fist pumping in front of a rowdy club audience. He’s self aware, but there’s more. He’s self deprecating enough to call himself Lil’ Dicky. The joke is exactly what you think it is.
As it turns out, all of this carries over to his show Dave. And if nothing else, watch on until the final scenes of the first episode where a particular lingering question about the talent of Dave Burd is stretched out no longer than those final five minutes.
The affable Burd is the centerpiece of the series but that self awareness allows him to build an entire cast around the show’s Dave: a guy desperate, yet on the brink, for fame. There are plenty of rap tropes throughout and the series gets a lot of fair comparisons to Atlanta. But where Atlanta examines the surreality of the world that we live in, including how social class and race butts up against fame and dictates who can have what, Dave engages in how cultures clashing create humor and love or dissolves those same concepts. What makes Dave a nicer, more thoughtful show than others currently airing is its fully realized characters. Before the first scene, every one of Burd’s friends from his girlfriend Ally to his roommate Mike step into a scene as if they’ve just come off another show of their own that’s been on for seasons.
The greatest example of that is GaTa (pronounced a lot like “gator”), a brilliant character so desperate for any attempt to get a foot into the rap world’s door. At first glance, he’s the comedic relief, but a damn good one in a show that has plenty of laughs already going. A few episodes later, though, his depth is unraveled like thick onion with enough layers of pathos to propel him to a series favorite. When he’s on screen, the show crackles with energy. Everything he says is in a cadence which sounds like rap at its best.
Dave’s roommate and girlfriend both are lived in, sweet, and believable. Learning more about each of these people is a treat that doesn’t distract from the centerpiece of Dave’s career in rap.
Dave himself has an arc not too unlike any Breaking Bad character, just less life and death and more internalized. In a moving moment midway through the first season, Dave kills himself — but not in any sort of suicidal way that sentence may imply. Perhaps it’s there in that moment that Dave fully becomes Lil’ Dicky.
No matter how the season resolves, one thing’s for certain: promotion still helps, even for small-time rappers. I needed Dave, or Lil’ Dicky, or Dave on FX on Hulu. Whoever he is, I’m a fan.
The final episode of the first season of Dave airs on Hulu on Thursday, April 30th.