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‘Dave’ is a Darkly Funny Look at the Music Industry

The latest FXX comedy, Dave, tracks the meteoric rise of Dave Burd (“Lil’ Dicky”) in the Los Angeles music scene. Partially autobiographical, Dave tries to turn his side hustle as a viral rap star into a lasting career. The series throws profanity, dark humor, and memorable beats into the blender. The result? An engaging ensemble comedy that surpasses expectations. 

For viewers unfamiliar with Burd’s work outside of the show, Dave forces viewers to wait until the end of the first episode to see if its lead actually has the talent to back up his ambition. A Jewish man in his late twenties with a laundry list of neuroses, Dave is used to people underestimating him. But he also struggles with the confidence to prove them wrong. Early on, his long-term girlfriend Ally (Taylor Misiak) earnestly asks for him to rap a few bars. They’re both alone, standing in the backyard with no-one around, but he awkwardly declines. 

In the same episode, he puts all of his bar mitzvah money down on a deal that will hopefully lead to a feature verse on a song. After a lot of hand wringing, Dave finally lands himself in front of the rapper YG, who asks him to improvise lines in the recording booth. He steps up to the plate and impresses YG, landing him a spot on the icon’s Instagram page. He kills it and goes viral once more, but he doesn’t get the feature. Dave’s cautionary message about fame often feels like two steps forward and one step back. 

Dave is an engaging ensemble comedy that surpasses expectations. 

Comedically, Dave hits the strongest when it steps outside of the one-note penis jokes that stem from the moniker “Lil’ Dicky.” It has a surprisingly dark streak to its humor, which is evident from the second episode, “Dave’s First.” After one of Ally’s elementary school students tragically passes away, his parents beg Dave to rap at his memorial service because “He loved guys like you, and Macklemore, you know all those kinds of guys.” Struck by the macabre nature of playing a funeral venue for his first live performance, he struggles with writing a rap for a dead child that exists in a space between somber and fun. It’s a testament to Dave’s writer’s room that the episode itself seems to find that sweet spot effortlessly. 

It’s also worth noting that the series quietly deconstructs toxic masculinity. As a protagonist who worships the music industry, which is riddled with hyper-masculine ideals, Dave has a surprisingly sweet and gentle rapport with his male friends. He often parts ways with a simple, “I love you.” He and his roommate Mike (Andrew Santino) share a roommate bath time ritual. When he takes his crew to Philly to crash at his parent’s house, he tucks his friend GaTa into bed without an ounce of irony. It’s the sort of boundless, intimate affection typically reserved for female friendships in the media, and its refreshing to see it in a new context. 

The show shines when it allows the supporting characters room to breathe.

Additionally, the series thrives when it pulls focus away from Dave’s rap dreams and penis insecurities to showcase the larger ensemble. Notable costars include GaTa, Misiak, Santino, Christine Ko (Emma), and Travis Bennett (Elz). As engaging as the titular star is, the show shines when it allows the supporting characters room to breathe. Unsurprisingly, there is no shortage of television shows set from the perspective of a male in his twenties. By sharing the screen, Dave introduces new depth and makes room for more personal stories. In “Hype Man” GaTa opens up to his friends about his long battle with bipolar disorder. His vulnerable, star-making performance is a highlight of the first season.

GaTa as “GaTa” in the episode “Hype Man.”

Ultimately, the comedy toes a fine line when it comes to parodying the music scene in L.A. At first, the show acts as a satire of rappers caught up in their own hype. But as the series progresses Dave starts to take on that very role in his own story. The idea of self-parody warping into reality reads as meta-commentary. But the show sometimes runs the risk of missing the mark when Dave’s ego goes unchecked for too long. The series sometimes sets him up to play the fool, which humanizes him even as it diminishes his credibility.

It feels good to root for someone who has the odds stacked against them.

Luckily, the finale presents him with a moral choice that ultimately ushers viewers back into Dave’s corner. Dave sits down for a radio interview that challenges him to examine his place of privilege as a white rapper. Dave speaks honestly and swallows his pride, but he also listens. This self-awareness and dialogue appear to set the scene for more complex conversations on race in season two. 

At the end of the day, the central star is likable but flawed. Talented with a lopsided ego. Undeniably witty, but still working on emotional maturity. Above all else, he’s an underdog, and it feels good to root for someone who has the odds stacked against them. The finale is a good reminder that Dave deserves success, even if he’s a little impatient to get there. 

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