Dave Is an Uncomfortable Look at One Man’s Single-Minded Pursuit of a Dream

Dept. of Rap and Rapture


Google’s SEO algorithm is really going to hate me for this.

There is a show on Hulu called Dave that I am absolutely enamoured with. Dave tells the story of Dave, stage name Lil’ Dicky, who is a neurotic white man trying to make it in the rap game while having the biggest Kanye West complex of anyone not named Kanye West.

Meet the Burds


First off, there are some parameters I need to define. When I say Dave, I’m referring to the show. When I say Dave, I’m referring to the character the show revolves around. And when I say Burd, I’m referring to the actor/rapper/show creator Dave Burd, who plays the titular character Dave, in the show Dave. 

I won’t go so far as to say that Dave is genius. But I will go so far as to say that Dave is genius-adjacent.

If a dramedy is drama punctuated by moments of comedy, then Dave is a coma (comedy punctuated by moments of drama). Yes, I know, coma isn’t great. I’m still workshopping it.

There is a simplistic nature to the TV show. Our titular character is a white man trying to fulfil his self-prophesized place as the greatest rapper that ever lived by hustling his way to the top. Dave really is just a rap version of every “rise to the top” story we’ve all seen before. Except that it isn’t.

It’s very easy to come into Dave thinking that it is everything that is bad about white culture. That he is trying to reappropriate a black art form for a white audience by making it funny, and goofy, and as non-threatening as possible for the white suburban household. On the surface, Dave looks like the white bread suburban version of Donald Glover’s Atlanta.


But there is so much more here. You have to look past the episode of Dave trying to explore his sexuality with his girlfriend, or the episode where Dave is trying to get a record deal by calling himself the white Kanye. At times, Dave plays like a satirical look at the music industry, and fame associated with it (both earned and not). At other times, Dave plays into something deeper. Like when his hype-man GaTa admits to being bipolar. Or when Dave goes to Korea to shoot his music video “I Took A Shit In Korea.” Or when he releases a song about prison reform that is so distractingly vivid, and vulgar, and gross, that anyone who listens to it will miss the point entirely.

On the face of it, Dave feels like everything bad about Hollywood culture and the entertainment machine. But when the show decides to makes its point, the mic drops that come hit just that much harder. 

Molly (feat. Brandon Urie)

There is so much that is silly in Dave, but if you stick through all of that, the punctuations of real emotion and weight come even harder because of every silly stupid thing you’ve seen. Dave takes its time in delivering that weight. I found myself coasting through these 30 minute episodes, but ended up feeling like a piano had been dropped on me whenever those punctuations hit. The penultimate episode in Season 1 absolutely wrecked me.

Episode 9 of Season 1 is the perfect culmination of everything that came before it. In it, Dave and his long suffering girlfriend Ally go for a trip away and things come to a head when she realizes that she will forever be second to his music. The episode is beautifully bookended by a song that he begins to write and record at the beginning, which comes full circle in the end. It is the episode where Dave has to decide to follow his heart, or his gut. Does he stay with Ally, or look towards the superstardom he knows is coming.

Dave never comes off as the hero here. He is a self-centred, delusional, self-aggrandising jerk throughout it all, but in this moment, Dave comes to a crossroads that will determine the rest of his life, for better or for worse.

The heartbreak, soundtracked by that beautiful melody, and the memory of what had happened earlier in the episode, is truly heartbreaking. Unlike a flashback to a time outside the show, or a story the audience has been told about, here we are part of that memory. We were there when that sweet moment between two lovers was created, and that melody is as much part of that moment for us as it was for them. As the audience, we felt complicit in wanting his success, and in his mistreatment of Ally.

Professional Rapper

This isn’t a comedy you can take at face value. To do that would be to do the show, and its creator Dave Burd, a disservice. Burd, or Lil’ Dicky, is an actual rapper, and he is actually very good.

In fact, a great way to describe the show Dave is to look at two of Lil’ Dicky’s tracks. The first is called “$ave Dat Money,” featuring Fetty Wap and Rich Homie Quan. The song (and music video) is about how saving money is really the way to go, and that spending money on fancy cars, and boats, and clubs really is not. The song is great, the video is funny, and the message is about not getting caught up in the trappings of the high life. Sure the video has women in skimpy bikinis on a boat, and a Lamborghini, and a wild club scene at the end, but that’s playing to the satire of the song.

The other track is “Molly,” featuring Brendon Urie of Panic at the Disco, which is about a true love lost, and how moving on may never be possible. The song shows a depth of emotion and sensitivity that is rare in music, and even more so in rap.

Those two songs best describe this series, which is a semi autobiographical story about Dave’s journey to becoming Lil’ Dicky. It is an uncomfortable and unflinching look at being single-mindedly focused on a dream at the expense of all those you love and everyone around you.

Dave is available now on Hulu.

Bahir likes to review movies because he can watch them at special screenings and not have to interact with large groups of people who may not agree with his idea of what a movie going experience is. Bahir likes jazz, documentaries, Ken Burns, and summer blockbuster movies. He really hopes that the HBO MAX Green Lantern series will help the character be cool again. Also don’t get him started on Jason Momoa’s Aquaman (#NotMyArthurCurry).

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