What is one to do with a man who goes around calling himself Lil Dicky? It is a question that has been on the mind of philosophers for time eternal and in the FX series Dave, in which the deeply weird yet engaging David Andrew Burd plays a version of himself. As the show has progressed, it has grown into an exploration of the trappings of celebrity as well as the abundantly awkward rapper himself as he finds higher degrees of success. The more we have come to know about this truly strange man, we have seen his flaws brought into often surreal focus. This is not just physical — even as the titular Dave frequently discusses his deformed genitalia in what seems like every episode and has even exposed almost all of himself to us as the audience, but something greater. The longer it has gone on, the show has managed to tap into a compelling wavelength by showing just how self-centered he can be. This is no vanity project and is instead a way of deconstructing exactly who this man is underneath the facade of fame. Though he came from humble beginnings, the Dave of the show has increasingly gotten caught up in his own ego and lost sight of the connections he has formed along the way. This continues in a third season which, in its promising first three episodes shared with critics, shows there is still so much more left to explore.


At the conclusion of the last season, it seemed as though Dave might have had a breakthrough. He finally acknowledged the contributions of his friend GaTa, played by the real-life rapper himself, who was actually Lil Dicky’s hype man, by bringing him out on stage for his big VMA performance. It was a great end to the season that very well could have been a series finale in how it brought all the deeper conflicts and uncertainties to the surface. Still, there is something also fitting in how the show goes on, with Dave falling back into many of his own worst impulses.

Structured around him going out on tour, Season 3 sees him getting caught up in silly shenanigans that end up both bringing the show’s particular sense of humor and revealing yet more of his selfishness. The main crew is all accompanying him, with Emma (Christine Ko) making a documentary about the trip, Mike (Andrew Santino) continuing to serve as Dave’s agent, Elz (Travis Bennett) still making beats for various artists, and GaTa still frequently being the one holding everything together. As they head out to places like Texas, Philadelphia, Atlanta, and beyond, Dave remains as good as it has ever been in exploring the multifaceted characters at the core of this madcap yet melancholic comedy.

Image via FXX

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It must be acknowledged that there were some lingering threads from the conclusion of the last season that, at least at this point, seem to have been forgotten. In particular, the fact that Mike had explicitly said that he wouldn’t be going on tour with Dave felt significant and like the next step of the character going more in his own direction. When he then walks into the frame in the first episode as his friend and client exposes himself to the world on the side of the road, as he is wont to do, it is more than a bit surprising. Don’t be mistaken — Santino is a great counterbalance to Dave and brings some of the best jokes as he takes him down a peg. It just is hard to square Mike being there with all of what he had been doing in the last season to carve out other opportunities for himself and how he seemed to want to possibly part ways. Obviously, there is still plenty of show left to explore his character, and we could come to understand why it was that he seems to have changed his mind. However, there is still something that feels strange and a little forced about just throwing everyone in an RV to hit the road with little care put into what brought them there in the first place. Season 3 settles in with each of the characters remaining a real joy to be with and every member of the cast funny in their own distinct ways, though it does require jumping a narrative hurdle to get back on board with them.

Thankfully, as each episode subsequently places us in a different place in America with its own unique storyline, the journey it takes remains both as goofy and bittersweet as ever. As you peel back the silly exterior, there is something more somber hidden away that sneaks up on you. This begins with Dave who, having sabotaged his relationship with Taylor Misiak‘s Ally, is hoping to form a bond with someone who likes him for who he is and not his fame. He still has next to no game, continuing to humorously spout out whatever pops into his head, and is also trapped in his own uncertainty. An encounter with a woman he meets in Texas seems to start out well enough, but the vibes soon get very bad and it all ends in disaster. Though much of it wasn’t entirely his fault, a rarity when it comes to the problems that befall Dave, there is still the sense that he hasn’t learned much of anything about how to find balance.

Image via FXX

This is brought to life most astutely in Season 3’s second episode, where he decides to make a music video about his past. Punctuated by a stressful score and extended takes that hammer home the chaos of the production, it is also about how Dave is still desperate to protect his own fragile ego. Without going into much more detail, the story of the video is about a close friendship he had as a young kid with a girl in his old Philadelphia neighborhood. Though Dave claims the video is about expanding his appeal to a “female demographic,” his insecurity and resentment are woven into every frame. As he grows angrier and angrier with those doing their best to bring his vision to life — including Emma, who is futilely trying to get him to trust her — we see how much he still has to grow not just as a musical artist, but as a person.

In the midst of the many vulgar gags about everything from explosive fake semen splattering all over the floor to darker ones about the exploitative aspects of celebrity, the series really also works as a character study. Dave is, true to his stage name, often a dick to everyone around him. It is more than just him being incredibly annoying, which could very well turn some people off from the show, but often cruel. He is just a tough person to be around — and that is the point. No matter how much success Dave finds, it isn’t enough to fill the gaping hole of insecurity that is constantly threatening to swallow him whole. As he flounders about and tries to forget all that he can’t seem to figure out about himself, the comedy brings laughs just as it lays bare how lost he is. Whether he will ever find serenity as he crisscrosses across the country on tour, Dave has never been more literally and thematically naked than he is now in Season 3.

Rating: B+

The first two episodes of Season 3 of Dave premiere on April 5 on FX and stream the next day on Hulu, with the remaining eight episodes releasing weekly.

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