Lil Dicky Channels His Struggles to Get Respect and Studio Time in ‘Dave’

The road to success is never easy, particularly if you tend to be a little goofy. At least that’s how it feels for Dave Burd better known as Lil Dicky. The comedic rapper channels his trials on the road to getting recognized in “Dave,” an FXX series that plays with the fine line between fact and fiction. The writing rings with the spirit of autobiography, even if the general storylines are invented for raunchy sitcom fun. Since Lil Dicky is essentially playing himself, there’s the added feeling that we never doubt he’s lived through some variation of everything being shown on screen.

Dave is a Jewish millennial living in contemporary L.A. who dreams of making it in the rap business. His parents panic when he informs them he’s taking $10,000 out of his “bar mitzvah money” to pay someone to get him a recording session with the rap star YG. He’s dating a school teacher, Ally (Taylor Misiak), who doesn’t appreciate him tweeting raunchy updates for the world to see. His wing man is GaTa (played by Gata himself), who gets him connected with YG’s inner circle in order to record a verse on the rapper’s new album. Every artist needs a particular style and Dave’s catch is that his material focuses on the topic of his penis, its size and other challenges (hence his stage name). When Dave finally gets into the studio with YG the verse doesn’t get recorded, but the rapper puts Dave doing a freestyle on his Instagram which turns him into a viral sensation. 

“Dave” taps into the endearing tradition of the grind to get somewhere as an artist. These stories never get old because out there somewhere there’s always someone defying the odds, their family and other obstacles to prove they can make it doing what they love. Dave is such a character. Of course much of this particular story is fact. Lil Dicky went viral back in 2014 with the track “Ex-Boyfriend” which became a YouTube sensation. In 2015 he released the album “Professional Rapper” with major names like Snoop Dogg and T-Pain making appearances. Now with over 6.5 million YouTube followers Lil Dicky has every right to make a show taken from his memories. 

What works so well about “Dave” is that it never acts as if it’s aware our hero is already famous. Burd plays himself with the complete insecurities of an underdog, looking foolish the first time he tries to enter YG’s studio (“It’s snack time!”) and giving a doctor an entire rundown of his penis’s problems before starting a check-up. The scenes where he gets to rap are also done with a believable tone in the sense that Dave doesn’t just unleash a masterpiece at his first go. He starts the verses a bit clunky before getting totally into the flow. Like Eminem in the much more serious “8 Mile,” this is an insightful portrait of a rapper finding his stride. 

As pure comedy “Dave” bridges endearing portraits with edgy raunch. The humor isn’t about being risqué but about Dave fumbling in getting his brand name out there. He tweets a joke about “getting head” and Ally freaks out, warning him that her principal from school could easily read that. There’s also some sharp humor about how rap has evolved beyond an African American-exclusive genre and Dave gets poked at by black friends, like engineer Elz (Travis Bennett), for having no real struggles to rap about. When Dave gets anxious about the fate of his ten thousand dollars and hints that GaTa might have ripped him off, GaTa goes into a funny but reasonable rant about stereotypes. 

“Dave” is a confident show about those early unconfident days of an emerging artist. Thankfully Lil Dicky is not just an excellent rapper, but a fantastic comedian and strong actor who brings a wonderful authenticity to the show. In a sense this series is a reminder to those who are successful to never forget where they came from, while encouraging those in the struggle to keep knocking on doors.

Dave” season one premieres March 4 and airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET on FXX.