Dave on Dave: Lil Dicky dissects season 1 of his breakout series
"How it all ends felt right, and like the most Lil Dicky-in-a-nutshell version of the show."
Warning: This article contains spoilers from season 1 of Dave.
Lil Dicky just went full Lil Dicky.
The rapper and actor capped the first season of his semi-autobiographical FXX series Dave with a fitting finale episode that kicked off on an outrageous music video and ended in a self-referential freestyle. "I think the whole psychology of the episode and how it all ends at The Breakfast Club felt right, and like the most Lil Dicky-in-a-nutshell version of the show," says creator, writer, and star Dave Burd (a.k.a. Lil Dicky).
Between debuting the "extremely offensive" track "Jail" (about trying to avoid being raped behind bars) and impressing Charlamagne tha God, Dave (the character) dealt with accusations of cultural appropriation and feelings of being artistically controlled by his new label. "I can't half go for it, I can't compromise my art," he said. "I'm getting, like, very sick of people telling me how to live my life."
Well, after his breakup with Ally (Taylor Misiak) in episode 9, he couldn't go to her for support, and instead got a lousy thumbs-up in response to his "I miss you" text. Ouch.
To break down the first season of Dave, which is on track to be FX's most-watched comedy, EW chatted with Burd about getting feedback from famous fans, deciding to make a song that the real Lil Dicky couldn't, and having more confidence than ever.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How are you feeling as you get ready to put the season 1 finale out there? It's got to feel like a milestone after all the work you've put in on this very personal journey.
DAVE BURD: Yeah, for sure. It's only this past Saturday that I handed it in. Like, we've been working on this show all the way up until the week before the episodes go on TV. And I feel like I've been just working the whole time, so I feel like this is the first week where I'm free and can really just sit back and be happy about the success of the show. I was worried about it going by so quick and all of a sudden being over, but I feel like it didn't go by that quick. Probably because there's nothing to do every day. But I feel very proud and happy, and I think what you're describing is true, it does feel like a milestone moment. Especially the episode being this caliber of episode. I think it's very next level.
In the last few weeks, my Twitter feed has been full of people talking about Dave and how much they love it, whether it be my friends or celebrities. What's it been like for you seeing that? And are there any people who reached out that you were specifically shocked or elated to hear from?
It's honestly amazing, and everything I've ever wanted. I'm a big fan of TV, and even shows that are my favorite ever, like Breaking Bad, I didn't start watching until it was in like season 3. So even if you have a good show, you don't know when people are going to be watching it, so I'm just happy that there's an audience immediately for it. My bar was so high for this show; I knew it would be good, like I thought that was the floor, that it would be a good, solid TV show. But I knew the ceiling was incredible and the type of show that makes someone want to tweet about it and go, "Oh my God, this is unbelievable!" And that's kind of the vibe that I'm seeing from social media, people are talking about it like it's one of the best shows on TV. And it would be have been hard to make me feel satisfied in terms of the reaction perspective, but I actually do, because the reaction has been so crazy.
As far as celebrities, I would say Julia Louis-Dreyfus reached out to [Dave co-creator and former Seinfeld writer] Jeff Schaffer to tell him how much she loved the show, and she's like the queen of comedy and an icon as far as I'm concerned. Even like Madonna a few weeks posted something. She like posted this whole video about [coronavirus], and it's like a two-minute short film, like totally weird and abstract, and then at the very end she was like, "Okay, I'm going to go watch Dave now." I was just like, "What the f—?!" I felt like I was living in a simulation.
Was there a moment during season 1 when you felt like the show hit its stride or you thought, "Wow, this is the exact show I want to be making"?
The turning point, at least in terms of the respect level, was the GaTa episode, with him dealing with being bipolar and getting so emotional. Just showing that side of the characters on the show was a big moment. But for me, episode 9 and 10, but really episode 9, that to me is the perfect version of the show. It's so detailed and nuanced, and such a good combination of funny and emotional, and so well shot. It just felt like a perfect storm of events in episode 9 that made it the best episode to date. But the finale is definitely like the most masterpiece-esque. If we're comparing it to basketball, episode 9 feels like the Spurs and this champion that wins it all in such grace, with less flash, and a way you expect someone to win it all, while the finale is like the Warriors and they're reinventing the game.
I want to go through the season a little bit. Starting at the end, let's talk about the "Jail" music video. I have a million questions about it, so just tell us everything.
Because I am a rapper and I make music videos, I wanted to use that to my advantage and make an episode. We talked about whether I wanted to make a whole episode as a music video, and that just felt like a pretty difficult thing to achieve. I love long storytelling videos, like "Pillow Talking" was one of my favorite things that I've ever done as a rapper, and that's an 11-minute music video. So I wanted to make something like that for the show. I don't know where I got the idea at from its core, like I can't tell you that moment. There's definitely conversations I've had in my life where there's been all these "would you rathers" in terms of giving head. Like some guys are like, "I would never give head" and "You could kill me before I give head," and some guys are like, "Are you kidding? I'd give head in a second." And I just always wanted to play around with that idea, like men giving head that weren't necessarily gay. And then for the finale, I wanted something with the label and we had to make something that was a little more extreme than even Lil Dicky could do in real life as a rapper. I would never put that song out as Lil Dicky, so we wanted to make something as edgy and straddling the line as possible for the sake of plot, and to know that it's not always about putting art over your relationships and where is the line drawn, and that ended up happening with "Jail." I think the whole psychology of the episode and how it all ends at The Breakfast Club felt right, and like the most Lil Dicky-in-a-nutshell version of the show.
In this episode, both at the beginning and the end, Dave is accused of cultural appropriation and being a "culture vulture." Is that something you've often had to deal with in your career?
Oh yeah, definitely. That's something that will happen to white rappers, you'll just kind of have these conversations, especially a white rapper who is making a ton of jokes about his privilege and being so over-the-top in his music. It's going to come up, and I think that is a question mark people had about me early in my career. And I know how interesting those questions are, and we live in a time now where people are scared to talk about problematic stuff and race. I just really want to dive into it headfirst and have these conversations from a place of honesty and authenticity, because I think that's what I went through in real life, and that's an interesting thing for my character to go through.
You mentioned episode 9 earlier, which was very Ally-heavy and featured their unexpected breakup. Why did that feel like the right arc for these characters at this place in their lives? And was it important to blow this up in a non-sitcom-y way? Her just giving the thumbs-up to his text in the finale hit harder than anything she could have actually said.
I'm always going for that. I say it all the time, "I don't want this to be too network sitcom-y," like I always want it to feel hyper-real and different. Before episode 9, our relationship felt pretty strong, and I didn't want the whole season to be a nagging girlfriend who wasn't supportive and you don't like and want them to break up. I wanted people to be heartbroken by our breakup, and kind of the only way to do that is to do it out of nowhere. Make you love the relationship and then pull the rug out. Then, by that same token, I wasn't interested in making the finale be this thing where I'm showing up at her door. I just wanted to do what you wouldn't expect. Like, everyone is probably going into the finale wondering about me and Ally, and that's just really not the point of the finale, and I like that about it and I like that it gets addressed in such like a cold, technological way, because that's kind of what it turns into when you break up with a girl. I'm not saying the door is closed on our relationship forever.
Throughout the season, you have spotlight episodes for a lot of the supporting characters, and the one that got especially praised was "Hype Man," the GaTa episode. Ahead of the show premiering, we talked about GaTa and why he's so important to you and why you wanted him on the show, but specific to that episode, why were mental health and GaTa's experiences something you wanted to highlight? And what was it like seeing the response to your friend's bravery and performance?
I mean, I've never been prouder of anyone doing anything in my life than GaTa. Like, everything he's doing in this season, it's mind-blowing to me. This is a guy who has never acted before, and to turn in that kind of performance is crazy. But I wanted to tell stories that had emotion to it, and GaTa is a guy who I've known for awhile and I know his story and that this is a big part of his life, and I know how under-talked-about this is in the black community and how much he wants to be a guy at the forefront of breaking that barrier, so to speak. So I just wanted to make the episode, and at the same time, if we didn't execute it well, swinging for something that is trying to be this raw and serious and missing would have looked really bad to the consumer. But then I would have felt horrible as a friend to have my friend put all this out there for himself and it not being the best version of itself. Seeing how much everyone loves the episode and how much everyone loves GaTa as a person, it couldn't be more validating, and I couldn't be happier for a person. Like, I didn't think it could be possible to be happier for anyone more than I am for myself for this show, but I think I'm just as happy for GaTa.
A very different version of someone baring it all was episode 3, which we alluded to in our last conversation, how men aren't usually talking about their insecurities like this. What was the reaction like to that one?
It got a great reaction. I imagine people like when I'm vulnerable on the show. A lot of that stuff came from a very true place. Truth and authenticity wins at the end of the day, and I think there's a lot of people who have their own version of that insecurity, but they were able to see someone like me be so forthright with mine, and maybe it helps them accept theirs. It's similar to the bipolar episode, just in a way different, more kind of absurd, funny way. But that episode is like my baby. What GaTa's is to him, that episode is to me. I was worried that people were just going to look at it as a dick joke, but it's so much more than a dick joke, and I'm happy that people were able to take it as that.
While season 2 isn't official, it seems like a foregone conclusion, so what do you hope to explore next?
I think we can go in a number of directions. Like, I'm not the guy who has it all mapped out like The Wire did. So I'm pretty open-minded. I think I'll be able to look at season 1 and be like, "This episode worked so well — why? Okay, let's make 10 episodes that work this well. This episode didn't work — why?" I think this is our floor, it's only going to get better. It's everyone's first time doing it, and it's a lot of the actors' first time acting. I just think people are going to take it to the next level next season. But again, my expectations are just going to be even higher next time, so it's got to be more and more epically great.
Every time we've talked, I've asked what you've learned throughout this process, and you've always said, "Check back with me when I'm done." So now that you're finally finished, what are some of the takeaways or lessons you've learned and will move forward with?
I think I learned that my instincts are worth trusting. It's easy to feel like you have the right idea, but at the end of the day, I didn't know. And now I know. I know that this show is great because I've seen how people reacted to it. I think just having that peace of mind is going to make me more confident in my gut. When I get into a disagreement with someone, even though I'm really good at hearing every side of it and trying to understand what everyone's POV is, I think I just have a lot more confidence in my own opinions. The answer to your question is that it's still too fresh. I think the more sophisticated and nuanced the show is, the better. In episode 9, beyond me sh—ing in a pond, the jokes are very much throwaway, slice-of-life, conversational, like not these big epic moments, and I think that's where the show thrives.
I think maybe my favorite joke of the whole season was in episode 9, when Ally wanted you to run the animal over for a second time to put it our of its misery, and you said you're not Suge Knight.
My favorite joke of the whole season is when I'm coming back to the dinner table and the dad says, "Is that the one where George Clooney plays the fox?' And I'm like, "No, Breaking Bad is a TV show about meth.' Like, that has nothing to do with anything, but it's little comments like that that make it great for me.
Dave (TV Show)