There’s an oft-reposted Maya Angelou quote that’s been co-opted into endless Instagram captions and snarky subtweets that goes something like, “When someone tells you who they are, believe them.” Not to diminish the weight of the message by connecting it to Lil Dicky—Dave Burd’s extremely crude, comic-slash-serious rapper alter-ego—but when Season 1 of Dave opens with a long, strung out monologue describing exactly what’s medically wrong with his penis, I can’t help but be reminded of it.
Dave, a half-hour comedy series on FXX, chronicles a fake version of Dave Burd/Lil Dicky’s quest to stardom. Believing that he’s the greatest rapper of all time (he even compares himself to Kanye West, among others), Dave is willing to do whatever it takes to break into the rap scene. Burd and The League co-creator Jeff Schaffer helm the series, which premiered in 2020 just before the world shut down and it subsequently had a fairly quiet run. It excited established fans of Lil Dicky, but didn’t have a notable impact on those who hadn’t been primed for his crass, expletive-laden brand of comedy. But beneath that layer of lewdness, Dave is an earnest and heartfelt series.
The rest of the first season continued down the path of its opening bit: extremely silly, with endless sex and penis jokes—hell, even his name is a constant reminder of his seemingly dire affliction—but it still found moments of true heart. When pleading Dave’s case to anyone with less of a penchant for sophomoric humor than myself (read: most people above the age of 14), I point them towards an episode early on where GaTa (Burd’s real-life hype man, also playing a version of himself) opens up about mental illness and how it affects his life. After a particularly hard conversation, the tension is cut perfectly with a joke as their manager Mike (Andrew Santino) lovingly jabs, “I think it’s pretty cool we have the first hype man that’s clinically depressed.”
This moment encapsulates what Dave is always trying to do, although sometimes the overt attempts at social commentary earn a cringe. But Burd and Shaffer evidently took the criticisms of its first season to heart, coming back with more confidence and a willingness to push the boundaries of what’s socially acceptable for the white rapper. In Season 2, Dave takes a departure from its immature but endearing first season and delves into more serious storylines. He’s on an upswing of fame, and the first episode finds Dave in South Korea filming a music video with KPop star CL. The writer’s block arc that weaves through the show’s first season takes center stage now, as Dave’s lies and overcompensating overconfidence finally come crashing down on him.
Despite being related to Atlanta for more reasons than one (Atlanta follows another aspiring rapper and his crew and airs on FX, while Dave is on sister network FXX), the two shows aren’t attempting to send the same messages or make the same commentaries. Atlanta is deeper and more abstract, and Dave plays as more of a typical sitcom—though it still provides shining moments of both emotional and comedic nuance.
And these moments certainly come out in the new season. In the five episodes provided for review, Dave’s neuroses and narcissism are still driving people away from him. Even after long-term girlfriend Ally (Taylor Misiak, doing her best with a character Amy Dunne would snidely deem a Cool Girl) left him in Season 1 for being too self-centered, it seems Dave is still sabotaging himself. But out of that self-sabotage also comes the highlight of the first few episodes of the new, stronger season: Dave’s burgeoning friendship with record producer Benny Blanco.
After being introduced as a minor character in the final few episodes of Season 1, Blanco joins the cast of celebrities playing versions of themselves. His role in Dave’s life is more prominent now, and Mike and GaTa are feeling it. But Blanco and Burd’s relationship is so bizarre and hilarious we can almost understand how Dave was so quick to push aside his friends for sleepovers at the real-life Grammy and Golden Globe nominee’s mansion. Blanco gives a great performance as yet another man willing to be refreshingly vulnerable with Dave. Without giving away too much about their bond, I’ll just say a sticky situation brings the two closer together than most friends will ever be.
Yes, Dave and Lil Dicky are still making the penis jokes we’ve come to expect, but even if Season 1 didn’t initially grab your attention, it’s time you give it an honest try. With more focus and subtlety than before, the new season of Dave proves this is a series worth your time. And let’s be honest, those stupid jokes still make us belly laugh.
Dave Season 2 premieres Wednesday, June 16 on FXX, with episodes on Hulu the next day.
Kristen Reid is a culture writer and TV intern for Paste Magazine. She’s been known to spend too much time rewatching her favorite sitcoms, yelling at her friends to watch more TV, and falling in love with fictional characters. You can follow her on Twitter @kreidd for late-night thoughts on whatever she’s bingeing now.
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