Rapper reinvents himself with new comedy series

(Vincent Leo | Daily Trojan)

Most students may have expected Dave Burd’s first appearance on campus to be as rapper Lil Dicky, possibly performing at USC Springfest. But in a departure from his rap career, the artist and activist visited the School of Cinematic Arts Tuesday night to screen the pilot episode of his new FXX show “DAVE.” 

“I just feel like it’s bizarre to address me as Lil Dicky,” Burd said to the audience in the Ray Stark Family Theatre. “I love my rap name. I hate it as well. But I think I’m supposed to hate it, but I love it, too.” 

Although Lil Dicky has a reputation as a comedic rapper, as hinted by his title, the show reveals a side of him that most fans may not know. 

Inspired by Burd’s real-life journey, “DAVE” revolves around a goofy Jewish man who goes viral on YouTube and plans on becoming rap music’s next big star. Juggling his kindergarten teacher girlfriend with his hectic lifestyle demanded by his career pursuits, he is extremely talented and confident, yet ill-prepared. 

Created by Burd and Jeff Schaffer, the “Seinfeld” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm” director who also attended the screening, the show captures audiences with its witty dialogue and Burd’s comic delivery. 

Before the screening, Oscar Ramos, a first-year student in the film and television production MFA program, expressed his interest in the rapper but was unfamiliar with Burd outside of his musical endeavors. 

“To be honest, I came for Lil Dicky, but I’m hoping that’s kind of an introduction to Dave Burd,” Ramos said. “I don’t know much of his outside work aside from his rapping.” 

Ramos got what he hoped for. Both the show and the Q&A that followed introduced the audience to Dave Burd, the person, and Dave, the subject of Burd’s comedy. 

Burd and Schaffer joined the audience for the screening, and Burd said he enjoyed watching the viewers’ enthusiastic reactions to the episode.

“DAVE” is similar to FX’s “Atlanta,” which follows two cousins’ experiences in the Atlanta rap scene. Burd acknowledged the show as an inspiration for his own, which has been in the works for about six years.

“You guys work for ‘Atlanta?’” Burd joked when the crowd applauded his praise of the show during the Q&A. 

Lil Dicky (center) and “DAVE” creator Jeff Schaffer (right) chatted with SCA’s Alex Ago (left) about the new FXX series. (Vincent Leo | Daily Trojan)

Throughout the night, Burd proved that more than just his music is comedic. With each question and crowd reaction, Burd offered a clever response, much like his not-so-far-fetched character. 

One question after the screening regarded Burd’s use of a Jewish slur in his 2013 song “All K.” Burd stumbled through the beginning of his response but later argued that he took control of the typically offensive word and that, for the sake of a joke, its use was permissible. 

“I really believe in my moral compass,” Burd said. “I think it’s clear that in anything I make, I’m not remotely anti-Semitic.”

Following that, Burd was hit with a follow-up question about his 2018 collaboration with singer Chris Brown, who was charged with felony assault in 2009. 

“As a society, we have two choices: We can never hear from him again, or we can allow him to use his talent for good,” Burd said. “I want you to know that I really respect that question. That’s the first time I’ve ever even been asked that question, surprisingly, and I don’t know how I’m not asked it at every moment.” 

Ironically, earlier in the conversation, Burd admitted to being tone-deaf and said he hopes that comes through in “DAVE.” 

“You’ll just see kind of the most tone-deaf, narcissistic version of me … but I certainly am narcissistic, and I’m honestly tone-deaf a lot,” Burd said. “But I think it’s slightly hyperbolized for the show. I really want people to see that — see me for me.”

Olga Khaminwa-Joseph, a freshman majoring in narrative studies, was initially familiar with Burd’s music career alone but noted similar themes between his rapping and the show. 

“He’s very vulnerable but in a way that it doesn’t feel like vulnerability. It just feels very natural,” Khaminwa-Joseph said about the show. “And I think you kind of hear that in his music, too. It’s sort of self-deprecating, but I think in the show it’s not too self-deprecating — it’s just fun.”

The show’s relatability shines through as Dave, the character, also experiences the awkwardness of seeing a doctor about a possible case of herpes that is actually only razor bumps. With considerably raunchy moments like these, the show also presents itself as an opportunity for the real-life Burd to take some creative liberty in telling his own life story. 

“Why would I tie myself to reality when I can do anything?” Burd asked the audience. 

“DAVE” is currently  on Hulu and new episodes will premiere Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on FXX.