"No, Dave isn’t quite on the level of Atlanta, but some of the tonal swings that creators Dave Burd and Jeff Schaffer are taking are comparably ambitious, even if they’re frequently buried in that aforementioned onslaught of penis jokes," says Daniel Fienberg of the second season of Dave "Lil Dicky" Burd's acclaimed FXX comedy. "If the new season has a theme, it’s how white privilege is integral not just to Lil Dicky’s success, but to his ability to have his bro-y, semi-comic persona in the first place. The third episode, featuring the return of Dave’s friend and real-life super-producer Benny Blanco takes this to an extreme, as Dave and Benny’s work-avoiding, puerile gags escalate into weirdly graphic homosocial hijinks I’m pretty sure you’ve never seen before on basic cable. The jokes here are, on one hand, about the ridiculousness of the ways Dave and Benny find to waste time. But they’re much more about the latitude that these two Jewish kids from the suburbs might have that would be unavailable to GaTa, still torn between devotion to Dave and his own hip-hop aspirations. Dave can be Lil Dicky because of his race and relative economic comfort — in season one he was still digging into his bar mitzvah funds to support himself — and when he turns out to be terrific on the mic, it’s a bonus. In the same way, Dave as a show can wallow in the low-brow because Burd has a YouTube/online fanbase that really wants or needs nothing more than variations on jokes about his genitals, and if the series wants to reach for shockingly sad or serious beats here and there, that’s the bonus. These new episodes are at least as comfortable with characters descending into paranoia and depression — pretty much everybody here is lying to themselves or avoiding confronting something important — as various sight gags involving sex toys."
In Season 2, Dave finds itself having even more in common with FX’s other, more high-profile comedy set in the hip-hop world: "While Dave is more overtly and consistently going for laughs than Atlanta, there’s a similar sense that each episode could feel wildly different from the one before it," says Alan Sepinwall. "The premiere is a black-comic farce set in South Korea, where Dave’s attempt to record a song for the new album, featuring K-pop star CL, spirals badly out of control because of how little Dave and Mike (Andrew Santino) have tried to understand the local culture. Later installments involve Dave and superproducer Benny Blanco taking their male bonding too far, to GaTa’s disapproval; Dave fending off (completely fair) accusations of appropriation from guest star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar; and contrasting tales of Dave and best friend Elz (Travis 'Taco' Bennett) arguing at a bar mitzvah while GaTa has a tense and sad Murphy’s-law odyssey through the streets of L.A. at night. (That last one has an unexpectedly perfect ending.)"
Dave tweaks its format in Season 2 as a perceptive critique on white privilege: "Dave started broadening its perspective in Season 1, shifting to standout stories led by GaTa, Elz, and Emma, but Season 2 tweaks the format," says Ben Travers. "Instead of devoting episodes to supporting characters, it devotes its season to critiquing Dave’s singular identity — namely, how his viewpoint is rooted in whiteness and privilege. Whether it’s an awkward conversation with two Black men about his unchecked immaturity or a painful interview with Kareem Abdul-Jabaar on oblivious appropriation, Dave is reminded again and again that his silly, seemingly innocent antics don’t translate to meaningful music or a meaningful life; that he might be a good dude at heart, but not meaning any harm isn’t the same as not doing any harm."
Dave is nothing if not a show for a very specific taste: "It’s too smart to be labeled sophomoric, and while it’s packed with really great acting and a lot of heart, it’s also entirely common and accurate to use the word 'weird' to describe it," says Lea Palmieri. "But, like Dave himself, that’s part of its charm. It was one of the shows that benefitted from the pandemic, as a large audience started to watch and spread the word on this show last spring. The Curb Your Enthusiasm comparisons are valid, as the way this show is able to comment on culture, often in that so-obvious-it’s-hilarious way, guarantees to keep viewers on their toes. This show makes me laugh in that involuntary way, almost like my body realizes how funny it is before my mind does, and similar to the way anyone that initially tried to resist liking and laughing at this show soon found themselves under its spell. It’s the perfect summer show, as it feels made to be discussed around a pool with a White Claw in hand with friends, dates, or siblings, as you will very quickly learn who does, or very much does not, share your sense of humor."
The surprise is gone in Season 2, but the show remains on an upward trajectory: "If the first season of Dave was a revelation, a shocker of epic proportions both in the quality of the story and the lengths the show will venture to for a laugh, then the second season is a continued journey on that upward path," says Brian Grubb. "The surprise of it all is gone for the most part because we already know the show is good, but it’s also still there a little bit because… well, the show is still good, even now that it’s showed us all its hand. That’s not nothing. It’s not easy to continue success after a big splashy debut, especially when your show starts with a premise that looks this thin at first glance. But Dave appears to be pulling it off through the first few episodes of season two. I mean this in the best possible way, but I can’t believe how well it all works. It’s a good show. It’s good. I swear."
Dave tries to walk a very thin line in Season 2: "Dave the character is an oblivious, racist narcissist," says Danny Heifetz. "But Dave the show wants to be in on the joke. Burd is pillorying his on-screen persona so the real-life version can be touted as having his finger on the pulse of America’s third-rail issues. The stunning part is it kind of works. In Season 2, Dave is at his worst. But Dave is at its best."
Season 2 blurs the line between performer and punchline: "Coming off of Season 1, my major criticism was that the show would need to make Dave the character more likable if it wanted the audience to continue supporting him," says Brandon Katz. "His single-minded ambition, sacrosanct narcissism and occasional cruelty overwhelmed his obvious talent and the abundant insecurities that made him relatable. By the same token, though, no one outside of himself believed in his goals in Season 1. By necessity, he devoted every ounce of his being to prove the outside world wrong. Greatness, as we know, does often come at a cost. But rather than smooth out his rough edges, Season 2 further inflames his own flaws as the external pressure of reaching the first level of accepted success—a record label, expectations, new celebrity friends—begins to weigh down on him. With some hype finally building, the line between performer and punchline is blurred. Facing writer’s block and a looming album deadline, which may be a reference to fans’ real-life frustration that Lil’ Dicky hasn’t released a new album since 2015’s Professional Rapper, Season 2 sees Dave unleashed for better and for worse. In a way, watching the resulting erosion from that pressure turns that character-specific negative into the new season’s narrative engine."
Season 2 has more focus and less subtlety: Co-creators Dave Burd and Jeff Schaffer "evidently took the criticisms of its first season to heart, coming back with more confidence and a willingness to push the boundaries of what’s socially acceptable for the white rapper," says Kristen Reed. "In Season 2, Dave takes a departure from its immature but endearing first season and delves into more serious storylines. He’s on an upswing of fame, and the first episode finds Dave in South Korea filming a music video with KPop star CL. The writer’s block arc that weaves through the show’s first season takes center stage now, as Dave’s lies and overcompensating overconfidence finally come crashing down on him."
Season 2 is a very good season, with enough idiosyncrasy to triumph over some growing pains: "That huge home symbolizes Dave's rising prominence in Hollywood, and maybe Dave's own expanding success," says Darren Franich. "The plucky underdog is now doing pool hangs with Kendall Jenner, and some of the cameos move dangerously close to late-period Entourage territory, so much celebrity for the sake of celebrity. Dave now takes place in an alternate universe where 2021 has no coronavirus but, per Dave, 'We're in a f---ing race war back home.' Now, every artist has to absorb this past year in their own way. Given Dave's subject matter, I understand why the writers are reacting more to America's ongoing racial reckoning than that one time Los Angeles was the epicenter for a global pandemic. (anStill, there's a distancing effect in this COVID-free zone, given how timely Dave can be about the intersection of hip-hop and social media."
Dave has catapulted Dave Burd from a frat-friendly internet sensation with a controversial past to an entertainer with broad cultural appeal: The show "walks a fine and tricky line, politically incorrect, while offering Burd up as the object for our laughter—a clueless denizen attempting to navigate the modern world with almost pathological honesty," says Gabriella Paiella in a profile of Burd. "Offscreen, his whole life is a series of similar balancing acts. He finds himself torn between wanting to make people laugh and wanting to be considered a serious rapper. He wants to make no-holds-barred comedy and yet he hates offending people. He wants to be present for the people closest to him, which can be hard when he also has an overwhelming desire to be as successful as humanly possible."
Dave wouldn't be a success without GaTa, who's won over celebrity fans such as Leonardo DiCaprio with his Season 1 episode on being bipolar: “I’m pretty sure he had Black friends in college and stuff, but I honestly feel like I was the first Black person that was in Lil Dicky’s house with his parents,” says GaTa. “We from two different backgrounds, but he realizes, ‘Damn, I got a real brother onstage with me.'" Burd says Dave wanted to give the audience something more to lean on than just crude humor with its GaTa-focused episodes. “Some of my favorite comedies ever, I love them, they’re my favorite things of all time, but like I don’t really like feel emotionally invested in the outcomes of their lives on television," says Burd. "I want people to feel so emotionally invested in GaTa’s success, my success.”
Dave co-creator Jeff Schaffer wanted Season 2 to focus on Dave's pressure and success: “What we really wanted to explore in this season was pressure and success, and how a little bit of success breeds a lot of pressure,” says Schaffer. “This moment where Dave is feeling the utmost pressure he’s ever felt in his life because he’s expected to create a full album, and all of his people aren’t just there for him,” as his friends begin to find their own paths in the industry."
Dave Burd on the difference between filming Season 1 vs. Season 2: "The issue when you're asking me to compare, it's not like I've done 10 seasons of television," he says. "So, for me, obviously it was so different because of COVID and masks, and it's like a higher serious situation. But in a way it felt like a higher serious situation the first season because I was way more on edge, like, 'Am I even doing this the right way?' There was a sense of unawareness the first season - are my dreams going to be everything, or am I not who I thought I was? I feel like to not have that be in my mind was just liberating, so I actually probably had way more fun this season shooting the show, even though it was so not fun in theory because there was no time for funny business on-set; no one is shooting the s---, everyone is just trying to get in and get out and survive."