“I Want People To Feel A Ton Of Different Ways After Watching This” Dave on ‘Dave’
Who’s heard of a white rapper in L.A. who goes by the monicker Lil Dicky? Dave Burd. It’s what you heard. Is that absurd? (Could this be part of Creative Screenwriting Magazine’s attempt at rap?) Together with comedy co-creator Jeff Schaffer (creator of The League and an executive producer on Curb Your Enthusiasm and Seinfeld), Burd and Schaffer created rap history with Dave, a critical and ratings hit on Hulu this year.
Dave dissects the life of a somewhat egotistical, manic, self-deprecating Jewish white guy in the middle of a quarter-life crisis who thinks he may be the chosen one from the rap gods of his hood. Is this a joke or Dave’s delusion? Dave is an honest, grounded comedy born from the heart and soul of real-life comedian and rapper Dave Burd. He branded himself Lil Dicky back in 2013 and has worked on a range of rap mixtapes (his first took almost two years to complete) and videos with heavyweights like Eminem and Childish Gambino. His first video Ex-Boyfriend garnered over a million hits in twenty-four-hours, so he knew his Lil Dicky alter ego was onto something.
Transitioning a well-known star into a television series is nothing new. Dave needed a nuanced approach to the small screen because it wasn’t simply a logical extension to capitalize on the rap star’s success. Dave Burd and Lil Dicky are simultaneously distinct entities and one and the same.
Although it appears that Lil Dicky was ahead in the popularity stakes, Dave also had something important to say. Lil Dicky focused on his mission to make rap more accessible to the people as Dave bluffed his way through the world one big mistake at a time. The two are inextricably linked like twins so Burd wisely chose not to surgically remove them. But he did choose Dave as the dominant twin.
The tightrope walk in the TV series was to balance character with caricature – Jeff Schaffer
Burd wanted to explore the man behind Lil Dicky. He wanted to unshackle himself from the restraints of the YouTube megastar and introduce the real Dave to the world as a flawed human being doing the best he could as he carried the burden of his outsized ego. The series loosely begins where the YouTube buzz left off.
Dave didn’t have to travel far for story ideas because Dave is the source material.
As for his stage name, there’s a true backstory there begging to be revealed in the series. Dave chose to unfurl an unredacted, ‘straight for the jugular’ burst of the story of his appendage in the opening scenes.
Make no mistake. Dave is no gimmick. It is no satire or spoof. Some may argue that’s it not even a real comedy. In some regards, it’s not even a dramedy. It’s a serious, gut-wrenching examination of Burd’s life served with a side of (sometimes) awkward laughs.
Dave is a hyper-real TV series whose time had come. It mines his lofty ambitions to rap with the best, but also convincing his family, friends, and manager that he is worthy and talented. All while navigating his stormy romantic life. Jeff Schaffer said that one of the reasons Dave was successful was that, “It was a North Star for creatives. Find a goal and work towards it every day. Do it with vulnerability and authenticity.”
Vulnerability and Authenticity are the two biggest ingredients that made Lil Dicky an empathetic hero and hooked audiences. He could have easily been a chronic underachiever or unrealistic dreamer. His rap success almost becomes secondary because his brutal honesty, rawness, and sheer willingness to put his private life on display made Mr. Burd an everyman chasing a dream.
“I wanted to see people ripped open and see how they really feel,” said Burd. And rip them open he did. Wide open. Dave is a lot more layered, nuanced, intelligent, and dense than one might expect from a typical comedy. Dave’s sole mission was not to play a gag for laughs. The laughs had a lot of heart behind them. “Dave had more on its mind than people thought,” mused Schaffer.
His co-star GaTa (Lil Dicky’s Director Of Hype) added that apart from Dave’s journey into the rap kingdom, the show also explored salient issues, especially among black men. “Dave explored toxic masculinity and mental health issues in black men.” GaTa is bipolar in the series. Prior to being on the show, he had no previous acting experience, yet he delivered a powerful, award-worthy emotional wallop during his apparent meltdown.
Despite the gravity of the issues explored, Dave is not a Public Service Announcement. Burd and Schaffer were determined not to make their show too worthy.
The creators did a deceptive deep dive into the issues their show explored. “We wanted to make an episode about an issue, without it being about an issue,” said Schaffer. “Dave was always a story about friendship about people on the fringes trying to break in.”
Dave could have fallen off the rails at every turn with its flawed, yet innocent, anti-hero. Its central premise could have ignited the ire of more established rappers. Instead, it endeared them because Lil Dicky took his rap so seriously.”Dave had a cartoon-level delusion before he rapped, so we let him continue with it,” said GaTa. Far from discouraging Dave suggesting he follow more white, Jewish pursuits, they indulged and supported him. They admired Dave’s fearlessness and irrational confidence in his art.
Lil Dicky doesn’t mess up in half measures. He typifies the “flawed protagonist” by also infuriating his manager Mike (Andrew Santino) and jeopardizing his tenuous friendship with GaTa. Just another day in Lil Dicky’s brash, topsy-turvy, rap neighborhood.
Dave’s love life is the other dominant storyline of the series – balancing romance and rapping. Dave’s eventual breakup with his girlfriend Ally (Taylor Misiak) was always conflicted. “My career and relationship clawed at each other and we didn’t see the break up coming until the very the end of season 1,” said Dave.
There’s a lot more going on in Dave’s life than rap. When he’s not making appointment television, he’s involved in numerous causes surrounding pollution, global warming, and the environment in general.
Despite its provocative promotional poster and deeply-cutting rap lyrics, Dave is no one dick joke comedy. However, “There is not a dick joke on Dave that didn’t bear my soul,” confessed Burd. His audience responded to his humility, sweetness, and kindness.
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