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FXX’s Dave Returns with Sharp, Funny Start to Third Season

What does a man who has built his public persona on self-deprecation do now that everyone loves him? And what does that love mean when it’s so reliant on the trappings of celebrity? What I find so wonderful about FXX’s hit comedy “Dave” is how the writers and razor-sharp ensemble can thread a needle of broad, physical, ridiculous humor and deeper philosophical themes about sexuality, masculinity, and culture. It’s a show that opens with an episode that features its title character running around a neighborhood wearing nothing but a massive diaper to protect himself from sexually transmitted diseases (it’s called a Scroguard) and yet also a show that smartly unpacks how artists rewrite their own biographies to be Insta-friendly. I wish FXX had a habit of sending more than a handful of episodes, so it’s possible this junior season of “Dave” goes off the rails, but I doubt it.

“Dave” is about a fictional version of Dave Burd’s real alter ego Lil Dicky, who blends his neuroses and lewd sense of humor into successful rap songs. He’s the Eminem of the YouTube Generation, a guy who constantly pops up on TikTok feeds with his goofy songs, several of which are about his penis. On the show, Lil Dicky is now a star, and the third season gets him and his team on the road, taking place on a tour bus, in clubs, and with fans. It’s clearly a season about what a man built on a pile of neurotic anxiety is supposed to do, knowing that everyone wants a piece of him. In the premiere, Dave is looking for love, entranced by a girl he meets outside a club who claims to have no idea who he is. He ends up back at a house party at her place and discovers that the kids of the generation below him might be even weirder. It’s an odd start to the season, the least effective of the three episodes sent, but still a funny chapter that ends in the kind of total chaos that can only happen on “Dave.”

The second episode is fantastic, chronicling the filming of a video for a new Lil Dicky single that he hopes will help him reach a female demographic—it’s mostly dudes drawn to the man whose hit album is called Penith. It leads Lil Dicky back to his childhood home, where he tries to direct a video for a song that chronicles his first true love, a girl he obsessed over as a pre-teen. When the actual girl, played by the always-wonderful Jane Levy, shows up on set, he incorporates her into the video, but she has a different memory about what happened. Lewd, weird, and moving, this episode—which includes some spectacular one-shots through the chaotic music video set—is one of the best of the series to date.

And I’d say the same thing about the third chapter, which incorporates how white rappers like Lil Dicky can feel like guests in the house of hip-hop culture and how damn confusing social media can be. Lil Dicky and his posse end up in Atlanta, going to a strip club with Rick Ross, but Dave is distracted by a Killer Mike tweet that he thinks may possibly have been a slam on him. The episode is action-packed, including a six-figure chain stolen at gunpoint and phenomenal development for the great co-star GaTa. It all culminates in a great scene with Ross, Mike, and Usher.

All three episodes are like nothing else on TV, but they also speak to how often FX has allowed creative voices the freedom to express themselves in deeply personal and ambitious ways. Think of Donald Glover with “Atlanta” or Pamela Adlon with “Better Things.” The best comedies often blend what’s universally funny with what’s distinct to their creator. We can all relate to pre-teen infatuation or worries about being subtweeted, but only Lil Dicky can turn those into songs. Ones that are usually also about his penis.

Three episodes screened for review. Returns to FXX on Hulu on Wednesday, April 5th

Brian Tallerico

Brian Tallerico is the Managing Editor of RogerEbert.com, and also covers television, film, Blu-ray, and video games. He is also a writer for Vulture, The Playlist, The New York Times, and GQ, and the President of the Chicago Film Critics Association.

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