In the first scene of FX on Hulu’s new comedy series “Dave,” you get the whole picture on the biggest insecurity faced by protagonist Dave Burd, otherwise known as internet rapper Lil Dicky. Terrified to reveal the physical situation happening “below the belt” for his unassuming doctor, Burd gets way too far into the smaller details, pulls his pants down and lets the laughs ensue.
These three minutes tell you pretty much everything you need to know about the show. It’s sophomoric, slightly gross and even a tad bit offensive — much like some of the popular music videos or freestyle clips you’ve probably heard or seen from Burd’s rap alter-ego in the past.
But in dark, quarantined times like these, a blend of mid-2000s Judd Apatow bro-comedies with the hustle and bustle of the rap industry might just be exactly what the doctor ordered.
“Dave” stars Burd/Lil Dicky as a semi-autobiographical version of himself, beginning sometime in his late 20s and surrounded by his close-knit group of friends as he navigates Los Angeles in the hopes of making a name for himself in the hip-hop world. After quitting a successful job in advertising to pursue a music career, he relies on the help of childhood friend and sound engineer Elz (Travis Bennett), newly discovered hype man and rapper wanna-be GaTa (Burd’s eponymous real-life collaborator) and slightly obnoxious roommate Mike (Andrew Santino) to keep the burgeoning success of his YouTube channel and private life separate. All of this comes much to the chagrin of his kindergarten teacher girlfriend Ally, played by newcomer Taylor Misiak, who tries her best to honor Dave’s life choices even if she doesn’t understand them.
If you think you’ve seen this formula before — it’s because you definitely have. Whether it’s performing a posthumous benefit concert for a student from Ally’s school or trying to get past more than a few awkward sexual encounters, Burd channels the slacker energy of Apatow greats like Seth Rogen and Jason Segel during his daily misadventures and cringe-worthy celebrity encounters. He somehow relies on his slightly narcissistic yet endearing personality to make us question whether he has the “it” factor necessary to become the next big thing — a balance that remains fairly consistent as the first season and Dave’s journey begin to unfold.
Despite the first few episodes possessing similar patterns of previous FX comedies that involved the up-and-down lives of creative-minded individuals, something that showrunner Jeff Schaefer knows too well after working on both “Seinfeld” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm” — Dave represents a fish out of water, quite literally. The show lacks the nuance and world-building that its Donald Glover-sized counterpart on the network perfected just a few years ago, but that’s just fine for the lowest common denominator. It seems fully comfortable embracing the “funny guy chasing a dream” formula that’s worked for low-brow comedies and provides viewers with a brief, but enjoyable escape from their own unfulfilling lives — comfort food in a world of pandemonium.
As each of the supporting characters try to help motivate Dave and give him the confidence he needs to take his rap career to the next level, a wide variety of performers — including YG, Trippie Redd, Young Thug and yes, even Macklemore, make short appearances and serve as potential connecting points through which Dave could finally make a name for himself. Emphasized through the pilot episode’s hype-inducing Instagram Live freestyle for YG and his studio posse, wherein Dave’s remarks on the — private details — surrounding his relationship with Ally blow up, Burd begins to show that maybe all he needs is a chance to reach his full potential. Once these smaller moments of success happen and you feel the social awkwardness peel away, it makes it difficult not to root for the curly-haired, goofy Jewish rapper from Philly, especially with the knowledge of how he ended up with his rather unfortunate nickname.
“Dave” is by no means revolutionary comedy, nor even much of a great show. For anything that’s even remotely sentimental or attempts to serve as deeper commentary on show business standards — there’s three penis jokes, four “I don’t belong here” gags and several other moments that made me squirm in my seat. It probably didn’t help that I tried to watch one of the episodes with my fifty-plus parents asking me what certain “terms” meant (might I recommend not watching the third episode with anyone else), but overall the series has served as a nice distraction during my social distancing experience. It still needs time to figure out if it has anything else to say, much like all of us as we finish up spring semester from our couches.
You can find the first four episodes of “Dave” streaming on Hulu’s “FX on Hulu” right now.