Lil Dicky on Dave: 'Everything the show says about my penis is true'

The hit sitcom about a white Jewish rapper in the world of hip-hop takes male insecurity to profound levels. Its star Dave Burd, AKA Lil Dicky, reveals where it all comes from

‘I couldn’t ignore this thing that was the driving force of my childhood and my neuroticism,” Dave Burd tells me over the phone from Los Angeles. “I wanted to get the monkey off my back. Even though most people think it’s all a joke, it’s a serious confession of one of my biggest insecurities.”

So … does Burd, AKA Lil Dicky, really have two “pee holes” and a “dick made of balls”, as he says in the opening episodes of his sitcom Dave? “Everything about my penis in the show is true,” Burd affirms, saying that he was born with a tangled urethra and the condition hypospadias, where the opening to the urethra is on the underside of the end of the penis rather than the tip. “I wanted the show to be as real as possible and to be written from my own experience.”

Lil Dicky at the Los Angeles premiere of Dave in February.
Lil Dicky at the Los Angeles premiere of Dave in February. Photograph: Frank Micelotta/FX/Picturegroup/Rex/Shutterstock

Dick jokes have been the cornerstone of Burd’s craft since he began his music career in 2013 with the release of the song Ex-Boyfriend (about meeting his ex’s boyfriend and standing next to him at a urinal: “This dude’s got a dick that I don’t comprehend / I had to move my neck to see it end to end”). Burd and his 10-part series Dave exist on the knife-edge of profundity, absurdity and hilarity. Co-written by Burd and produced by Seinfeld showrunner Jeff Schaffer, the show focuses on Burd as the eponymous Dave, a Jewish rapper trying to make it in the world of hip-hop as his alter ego Lil Dicky while negotiating his whiteness and litany of insecurities. It largely reflects Burd’s own experience – he quit his job as an advertising copywriter to become a rapper after Ex-Boyfriend hit 1m views in a day once he put it on YouTube.

Throughout the show, the penis material underscores a continuing meditation on masculinity, especially in the face of the bravado promoted by Dave’s rap idols, such as Kanye West. We see Burd negotiate an intrinsic belief in himself and his greatness as a rapper with charges of cultural appropriation and the general disbelief of those around him. That meandering between arrogance and humility is reflected in reality too. “In record label meetings in real life, am I saying, ‘I’m Kanye but I’m white?’” Burd asks. “No. But I am saying, ‘I’m Kanye.’”

Burd spent a year working on his rap material while working in advertising. “I’ve always believed for no particular reason that I was meant to be a star,” he says. “I always pictured myself being on screen but when I started telling people I wanted to be a rapper, they all thought I was insane. I was on vacation with my parents and my girlfriend in Hawaii just before I put anything online and they went around the table each saying why it would ruin my life.” When Burd’s videos went viral, he finally felt validated.

“Imagine believing your whole life that you could be the greatest with nothing to base it on and everyone telling you it’s ridiculous, and then you get a million views in one day,” he says. “It was the best day of my life.” Initially releasing songs for their comedy value – “ridiculous tunes grasping for attention” – Burd soon realised his talent for verbal dexterity and his passion for rap was overtaking his satirical ambitions. “I stumbled into being a rapper,” he say. “I was the kind of guy who wouldn’t even do karaoke since I found it that hard to perform but now I’m so competitive I just want to be the best.”

Yet, as a white rapper, Burd understands he exists as a privileged minority in hip-hop. It is an issue he tackles in the show as others question his use of a black hype man – who is also his real-life collaborator GaTa – and his description of some beats as “too urban”. “Cultural appropriation is when you’re stealing from something and not making it your own,” he says, “but when I rap, I try to be objectively unique in myself at all times. If there’s still an issue, then I don’t know what more I can do for you, since I am just explaining my own perspective via rap.”

It is clearly a perspective that resonates, as Dave has become the most watched comedy show in its network FX’s history, beating rivals such as Donald Glover’s acclaimed Atlanta. The outcome is, of course, no surprise to Burd. “I’ve always believed that it was going to be a great show because the people who worked on it are too smart and the subject matter is too good,” he says. “I’m relieved because I’ve had one dream my whole life and I did it. It’s a huge weight off my shoulders.”

But what about so many people now having an intimate understanding of his biggest insecurity: his penis? “I’m luckily just sitting in my house all day at the moment, so I’m not facing the reality that when I meet someone they might know about my dick,” he says. “And there’s even crazier stories for the next season, so who knows what things will be like when I go outside.”

Dave is on BBC Two on Sundays at 10pm and on BBC iPlayer.


Ammar Kalia

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
'It sounds like Michael Bubbly!' Big Shaq rates his rivals for Christmas No 1
The coat-obsessed Man’s Not Hot rapper has made the viral pop hit of the year – and could now be the Christmas No 1. So does he think he can beat Ed Sheeran, Mariah Carey and Gregory Porter?

Ben Beaumont-Thomas

15, Dec, 2017 @6:00 AM

Article image
The rise of Donald Glover: how he captured America
The award-winning writer, actor, singer and rapper has dominated the internet with his provocative, politically charged hit This is America, the latest step in an illustrious, unconventional career

Katie Bain

12, May, 2018 @1:34 PM

Article image
Ben Bailey Smith on groovy dancing, UK rap stars and quiz show hell
The rapper, standup and actor – AKA Doc Brown – answered your questions on writing children’s books, the best of British hip-hop, Brexit confusion and rapping with Ricky Gervais

Guardian TV

22, Jan, 2019 @2:09 PM

Article image
Saturday Night Live: Chance the Rapper leads the laughs in Thanksgiving special
The rapper’s hosting was a highlight of the season in an episode that addressed Al Franken, and gave us an unparalleled Thanksgiving parody anthem

Jean Hannah Edelstein

19, Nov, 2017 @6:42 PM

Article image
Common’s teenage obsessions: ‘Michael Jordan gave me the shoes off his feet’
As he releases his new album, A Beautiful Revolution (Pt 2), the US rapper remembers his terrible chat-up lines and the magic of the moonwalk

As told to Tara Joshi

24, Sep, 2021 @9:00 AM

Article image
Bob Mortimer and Paul Whitehouse on World Cup midges and ageing gracefully
The comedians, who are teaming up for a new unscripted series about fishing, answered your questions about Jacob Rees-Mogg, a ‘vegan fishing’ episode and forming a Bollywood cover band

Gwilym Mumford

20, Jun, 2018 @1:04 PM

Article image
Alan Partridge on his new podcast: 'This is the real, raw, be-cardiganed me'
He’s back – sporting a post-lockdown haircut and hosting a new podcast. Britain’s No 1 raconteur talks about his new hat, driving a Vauxhall, and why Boris Johnson looks like the evil rabbit in Watership Down

Rich Pelley

02, Sep, 2020 @5:00 AM

Article image
Readers recommend: songs about confusion and delusion | Peter Kimpton
Mass public frenzy, hype and hysteria? Or private panic and adolescent crisis? Suggest songs all about seeing it wrongly, whether in history or just in your head, says Peter Kimpton

Peter Kimpton

06, Aug, 2015 @7:00 PM

Article image
Robert Webb: 'The doctor said my heart was about to fail. That got my attention'
Months after emergency surgery saved his life, the comedian is returning with his sitcom Back. He talks about acting with a swollen heart – and why he’s given up booze, cigarettes and Twitter

Stuart Heritage

07, Jan, 2021 @9:00 AM

Article image
Dr Dre threatens to sue over new film depicting him beating his girlfriend
Rapper/producer moves against Sony film Surviving Compton, saying there is no evidence to support allegations he beat ex-girlfriend, R&B singer Michel’le

Alan Evans

10, Oct, 2016 @12:04 PM