clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Lil Dicky Is Crossing Streams

He’s fresh off the third (and maybe final?) season of his acclaimed FXX show. He’s also back to rapping, with a new album named ‘Penith.’ So where does Dave Burd go next?

Getty Images/Ringer illustration

Lil Dicky wants to be taken seriously. The rapper born Dave Burd released his first album in nearly a decade last week, titled Penith (The DAVE Soundtrack). As the name states, it doubles as the soundtrack to Dave, Burd’s TV show not-so-loosely based on his own life as a rapper. Together, the show and the music create a meta feedback loop. The FXX show chronicles Burd’s creation and promotion of an album called Penith. (“Penith,” naturally, is pronounced like “zenith” crossed with the word “penis.”)

In addition to writing and starring in his own comedy, Burd also created the music for the show. Now he is releasing the songs featured in the show as a real-life album. Appropriately, he gave it the same inappropriate name from the show: Penith. It’s art imitating life imitating art imitating dick jokes.

“I’m just over here redefining the alpha male,” Dicky raps on his new song, “HAHAHA,” a nearly uninterrupted three-minute verse intended to flex his rapping bona fides. Later on the album, on the song “No Fruits or Vegetables,” the chorus goes, “I don’t eat fruit or vegetables, no fruits or vegetable.” Burd is the alpha man-child. But Burd’s show is so good that the next phase of his career will be taken seriously.

Dave has perhaps the best celebrity cameos in a television show since Entourage. At various points, the show features Justin and Hailey Bieber, Kendall Jenner and Kourtney Kardashian, and Megan Fox and Machine Gun Kelly. But the star power isn’t as impressive as the way it is used. In Season 1, Dave learns that a young fan of his has died, and the kid’s parents ask Dave to perform at the memorial service. But when Dave arrives, he sees Macklemore showing up to a hero’s welcome. The parents ask Dave to cancel because their son liked Macklemore better. In Season 2, Dave releases a song called “Kareem Abdul-Jabbar” and is elated when Kareem reaches out to talk to him about the song. But to Dave’s horror, Kareem ends up interviewing him about white rappers appropriating Black culture for a profile in Time.

Burd’s greatest strength has been taking his weaknesses and making them his armor. His rap name is based on his insecurities about having hypospadias, a birth defect that led to a surgery that accidentally created a second hole in his penis. (When Burd explained that childhood trauma to The Ringer back in 2020, he explained that when he pees, he has to cover the second hole with his finger or it comes out “like a Super Soaker.”)

On the show, Burd’s craven, shameless desire for fame is spun into an episode in which an internet rumor that he is dead goes viral. When he sees that he is the no. 1 trending person on Twitter, he decides to hide at a motel and wait an extra day for his songs to reach no. 1 on Billboard before announcing that he is still alive (even to his parents).

With the help of Seinfeld writer and Curb Your Enthusiasm producer Jeff Schaffer, the show touches on a stunningly wide range of jokes and emotions. Burd’s friend and real-life hype man GaTa, who also plays himself, gives a genuine and stunning view into the relationship between childhood trauma and sex addiction. This is from the same show where Burd, who is Jewish, hallucinates a conversation in which he teaches Anne Frank how to do the “Whip/Nae Nae” dance.

Burd’s next trick is blurring the lines between his TV show and his music. At the end of the second season, Burd buys an ad on a billboard in Los Angeles to announce his (then-fictitious) album, Penith. His plan in the episode is to tape himself, practically naked, to the billboard as the t in “Penith” like Jesus on the cross. But Ariana Grande releases a single the same day, and nobody shows up to see him. The image is now the real-life album cover for Penith.

(Incredibly, two years after that joke appeared on the show, Grande released a single on January 12, 2024, one week before Burd’s Penith album came out in real life. Art imitates life, etc.)

Burd is hoping to do what his show did and defy genre. For white guys with white-collar jobs who love rapping Drake lyrics alone to themselves in the car, Lil Dicky is the embodiment of the American dream. He had an excellent career at the powerhouse advertising firm Goodby, Silverstein & Partners working on campaigns like the NBA’s legendary playoff commercials. But Burd quit a potentially lucrative and relatively creative job to become a rapper. Wear your weaknesses like armor, and you too can quit your job to be a famous rapper who writes a TV show about his own life and then convinces Brad Pitt and Drake to be in a season finale. We sat down with Dave to discuss his new album, cold-emailing Brad Pitt to be in his show, what comes next, his custom sex doll, and why he does not eat fruits or vegetables at 35 years old.

What was the weirdest thing about making a show about your own life that you didn’t see coming?

Probably just the amount of people asking, “Is this true? Is that true?”

You want to do a rapid-fire true or false?

Sure.

Rick Ross lent you a chain, and then you got robbed. Is any of that true?

No, no, no, it’s not true. I’ve never experienced anything like that, but GaTa has had a chain get stolen and has had to go through steps to get it back. So it’s like part of the details of that were inspired by stuff that GaTa’s gone through, but I’ve never experienced that.

So do you have a stalker? Was that real?

No, I don’t have a stalker, thank God.

OK. Did you order an absurdly expensive custom sex doll?

Yeah.

What did it cost?

I got the $3,000 model. There were other models that I could have splurged on. There’s a scene in the show where I have sex with the sex doll and very much based on—please, for all the readers, just know that I didn’t bring this up; I was asked this question, and I’m not trying to be intentionally vulgar.

But the first time I did have sex with the sex doll, I just remember being shocked at how heavy it was. Literally. My favorite sexual position is girl on top. So I don’t know why I thought that that was the right thing to do with this 80-pound doll, but that’s where my head went for the first time I ever experienced it. Then it was so hard to get it positioned. I remember by the time I was actually in a position where I could start doing anything, I was so physically tired. The wig started to fall off of it. I remember thinking in my head as it was happening it felt so much like Ex Machina.

Pre-nut clarity?

I didn’t find the experience to be overwhelmingly positive. It was really tiring. But after that, I just immediately went and got on my laptop and started writing things down and details that I don’t want to forget. I remember thinking, “This is such a crazy scene for the show.” So there are times where I’m living life and I’m thinking, “Wow, this is a great scene for the show.”

So you do that a lot? You’ve basically been chronicling this stuff for years?

Even before I had the show, when I was just a rapper going on tour with GaTa, I was like, “I know I want to be a comedian. I know that this life that I’m living right now as I’m a rapper going around the road, it’s really funny.” I don’t have a great memory. I’m not going to leave it up to hoping I remember the insane thing that happened in Iowa. I just have to write it down. So I’ve been writing this stuff down for over a decade.

Did you actually match with Doja Cat on a dating app?

I have matched with Doja Cat.

What happened?

We matched, and we talked. She was very sweet, and we’re friends, but we matched during a time where we didn’t work out. It was always very difficult. I think I was shooting Season 1 or something, or I was just very much doing something and she was doing something. It just was friendly banter, but then I reached out to her for the show, and I was like, “Remember that time we matched?” She was like, “Yeah.” Then I was like, “I want to make an episode based on online texting.”

On the show, you cannot ride a bike. Was that true? And have you learned?

I learned when I was a kid. What’s the phrase? You can’t forget how to ride a bike. Well, I forgot. If you put me in a meadow and there’s a path, I can ride straight. I’m just not good at turning. I’m not comfortable on the road. I don’t know how people can ride. Then if there’s a stick, they get smacked by a car. So, no, I’m no more comfortable riding bikes. I’ve always been a Rollerblader. I’m still a Rollerblader. They always think Rollerblading is a bit or that I’m joking, but no.

On your song “No Fruits or Vegetables,” the chorus goes, “I don’t eat fruit or vegetables, no fruits or vegetable.” When you say no fruits or vegetables, are we talking zero?

I mean, look, 10 years ago, I hadn’t even tried fruits or vegetables.

How old are you?

I’m 35.

Hmm.

When I was 25, I had tried an apple, but I didn’t eat any fruits or vegetables. Today, I’ve tried—when I say tried, I’ve taken a single bite—I’ve tried a lot of them. But I don’t on a regular basis eat any fruits or vegetables. I will eat something like a Caesar salad or a kale Caesar salad. Besides that, no. There’s a lot I haven’t tried. I have never tried a cherry. I could really list endless things that I’ve never tried.

Are you worried about getting scurvy?

I worry about my health in the sense that I live a very high-stress life, and I know that my diet can’t be good. It’s not a good diet. So I don’t know if I worry about scurvy, but I worry about when I go and get my levels checked that they’re going to be like, “Oh my God. The inside of your body is like tar.”

Why didn’t you try stuff?

I think it’s a textural thing for me and my parents. I put this in the show too. I always blame them for not forcing these foods on me when I was young so I could grandfather them in and eat them today, but my mom always said it wasn’t worth ruining her own life. Apparently, I really objected.

While we’re separating fact from fiction, you have a Coca-Cola commercial where you call Jordan Poole the best stealer ever. Do you want to correct anything on the record?

Yeah. I didn’t write that line. I questioned it when it came out, and I just had to go along with corporate. I didn’t want to put up a stink. I think they only had so many players that could be featured. Of course, I was the guy writing these ads 15 years ago, so I empathize with their position. I don’t want to be the talent on set being like, “No,” but I didn’t write that line, and I know that he’s not. Blame Coca-Cola.

You did a video with Benny Blanco where, among many other things, you ordered an unsliced bagel and said, “I’ll slice it myself.” Was that a bit for the video? Or do you actually want to slice a bagel yourself when you get a bagel?

So I find that if you get the bagel sliced by the bagel place, they have that machine that goes like this [uses his hands to mimic a bagel-slicing machine]. The bagel ends up being very texturally flat. But if you use your own knife and you slice it in a human way, there’s a rigidity and fluffiness to the bagel that you wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. It’s not that difficult to slice a bagel. Whenever I order a bagel from a bagel place, I always say, “Untoasted, unsliced.”

You want to create your own texture, map your terrain, create your own landscape?

Right.

Speaking of your own terrain, your new album doubles as the soundtrack to your TV show. Is this an album, or is it a soundtrack?

I don’t know why it would have to be one or the other. I feel like it’s labeled as Penith (The DAVE Soundtrack) because the common theme of the music is they’re songs that have existed in the show. But my process for making music is whenever I get free time from the show, I then work really hard on making music. I make music to make music, and I think about it existing on an album one day. Or I think about various ways it could exist, and then it’s time to make the show again. The show is obviously about me, and I’m a rapper in the show. So there’s obviously a need for music in the show. So oftentimes some of my favorite work can get plucked up and put in the show.

It varies in the sense that sometimes I make songs that aren’t for the show at all, and then I’m like, “Oh, OK, we’re making the show. We need music. What’s good music that we could build around and put in the show?” Other times I do make music directly for the show. I didn’t envision my second album being a soundtrack album, but I think this is the right thing to do because I love all this music and I want to get it out as opposed to just waiting to finish whatever’s coming next. I want people to have music, and it’s been so long.

Why is the soundtrack to your TV show coming out eight months after the show ended?

I wasn’t going to put it out during the writers strike. You can’t really promote it and do anything like that, and I just needed to finish. Songs will enter the show in this demo, unmixed form. Maybe there’s not a second verse on some things that I want to add a second verse to, maybe. So it’s like certain songs had to get finished, and not only finished, but then mixed and mastered. It’s the whole process. And then we want to shoot videos for it. So it’s like we have to like them. We got to edit the videos, and there’s a little bit of a production timeline. You got to realize I’m working on the show every day up until four days before that episode. So it’s like there’s no time to do all those things that I just mentioned until after I wrap on the season.

You cranked out a lot of TV in a very short amount of time. That’s in an era when people aren’t really doing that anymore. Meanwhile, you have not put out a huge amount of music. My editor always says, “Go where your effort takes you.” At this point, do you like making TV shows, movies, whatever more than the music?

Well, look, I’ll bring it back to the beginning of my career. I always wanted to be a comedian, and that was my grand vision. I started making music with the hope of being found as a comedic presence. Then I fell in love with making music and began making realer and realer music that didn’t even have to rely on being funny as much and started doing real tours. Then my initial dream of being a comedian took a back seat for a few years because I was really rolling with the momentum of music and just going on tour and doing all these things, and the comedy thing had to be put on hold. Then the TV show happened, and it takes up all my time in that way. Then the momentum happened there, and it really started rolling. I had less and less time to make music.

I think what happened was when the strike happened, I was able to finish this body of work, and I thought it was a really good idea. I designed this project to be the type of thing where even if you’ve never seen the show, you can listen to it and sit, and it flows really well, because I think it really is a real album. But in the process of doing that, I’ve re-fallen in love with music again. I’ve always been working on it whenever I can, but I’ve now really been able to start focusing on it without being pulled in all these different directions. If you’re asking me present-day today, what I’m focused on right now, it’s music today. Will that change? Of course. I’ve always loved film and TV, and I will always have a future in that.


Season 3 of Dave ended in May. I know it’s up in the air, but will there be more of the show?

I’m trying to operate under the mentality of focusing on one thing at a time. Like you said, I’ve put out just three seasons. The amount of work that it’s taken to get those three seasons to where it’s been, it has been so unbelievably strenuous to the point where I still feel like I just wrapped Season 3. I feel like I just finished that, and I’m sure, yes, eventually, the story of my life will continue. I’m not kidding when I say I’m really excited about being focused on music for the first time in a while.

Last time we talked about how you have hypospadias. Just wanted to follow up and confirm: You did not get the corrective surgery?

No, nothing as an adult, thank goodness. My dick still is fucked up in the sense that I am peeing out of two holes, but I shouldn’t be. So there is a surgery that could fix that that I could get. I’m just not trying to deal with that. I’d rather just piss on myself.

How long were you friends with Benny Blanco until he was like, “I want to watch you pee”? Because I know he’s seen you pee.

Oh, very soon [after meeting]. Me and Benny are just such instant soulmate friends that I feel like within four times of hanging out, our dynamic was that of best friend brothers. So I’m sure I showed him very early.

You guys do seem like long-lost friends. In one of the early episodes of the show, you’re pulling gum out of his ass or something. For people who perhaps don’t have a relationship like that, how would you describe that bromance, why you and Benny are like that?

Yeah, obviously it’s a foreign relationship to certain people, but I feel like other people can relate to it. It’s weird. I get stopped in the street, and some guys are like, “I got friends who were like that too.” Then other people would be like, “That’s the weirdest dynamic I’ve ever seen.” So it varies, but really it’s just we love each other, not romantically, but just as best friends. I’ve never met someone who I just hit it off with. So we make each other laugh nonstop. Then even if Benny was a plumber, we’d still be best friends.

So to have your best friend who, when you meet this guy, you’re like, “Oh my God. That’s the guy who’s always meant to be my best friend in life,” and then he also happens to be the biggest music producer and best music producer in the world. It’s so fantastic to be able to work on this album with Benny, Penith. Literally, it’s like we’re finishing songs that I love while also sleeping over with your best friend. You’re not even a kid anymore, but it feels like you are. It’s really a joyous experience.

You repeatedly have said, “I will be the biggest star in the world.” You’re also one degree of separation removed from Taylor Swift [Editor’s note: Dave’s friend Benny is dating Taylor Swift’s friend Selena Gomez.] Deep down, when you’re watching this Taylor Swift Eras Tour, is any part of you like, “Damn, I got to do that”?

Not really. No, no, no. In my heart, I know that I’ll never be as big of a musician as Taylor Swift. It’s like ambitious, and she’s the biggest and best of all time. You know what I mean? So, yeah, I obviously have always believed in myself for sure. I think maybe 10 years ago or five years ago, we had our conversation, I would be more likely to say, “My desire is to be the biggest star in the world,” but I don’t even think that’s my actual desire anymore. I think my desire is to make the best stuff in the world and to feel really proud of the stuff that I make, and my desire is to be really, really happy in life.

But there are certain things that come along with being the biggest star in the world that I have no interest in experiencing for my fame. You know what I mean? You got to plan every single time you go outside, and I like the comfortable life I live of feeling like I have achieved the things that I want to achieve while not feeling burdened by a toxic level of fame that is truly damning to your life.

Some of Brad Pitt’s last words in the finale are explaining to you that fame is a prison.

I think Season 3 in a nutshell is it’s under the umbrella of looking for love and romance and then the bait and switch of realizing when you’re living in this endless loop of validation seeking, and then you’re not even truly loving yourself if every single moment is based on how you’re being received and whatnot. So the end message is there’s more to life than seeking validation. I think that’s a real valid lesson from Brad Pitt.

About the cameos: You’re just cold-emailing Brad Pitt?

I did cold-email Brad Pitt.

Will you send me a copy of that?

I won’t send you a copy. It’s between me and Brad, but it was really well written, and I took my time with it. I didn’t write it in 20 minutes. I wrote it, and then I reread it the next day, and then I thought about it, and then I trimmed it. You only get one shot of Brad reading your email. People always say, “How do you get all the people in the show?” It’s a combination of two things. One, pretty much at this point, anyone who I’m getting in the show has seen the show and loves it. When I didn’t have a show, and I’m trying to get YG in a pilot for a show that he’s never seen, it’s a much harder sell to be like, “Trust me, it’s going to be great.” Now it doesn’t feel crazy to me to email Rachel McAdams and Brad Pitt, the biggest stars of our time, and be like, “Hey.”

Because what I find about the show is that it’s incredibly well respected in the community of artists—I’ll say, the talent of L.A., the pool of actors, the musicians. It’s everyone’s favorite show, and I’m able to really sell them on it. Oftentimes that’s enough. But back in the day, I think when I moved to L.A. and I became friends with Benny, yeah, I think that it’s like our social circle, and I’m at a party, and I meet Kendall Jenner. I try to be a nice person whenever I’m meeting anybody. If someone likes you, they’re more likely to be like, “Yeah, I remember that guy. He’s cool.” But it depends. It’s just living life and meeting people when you meet them, but at this point, I really feel like it’s just the product speaks for itself.

People like Drake and Brad and Rachel and Killer Mike and Usher, these people, they love the show. There’s really no better feeling than having that belief of these people who are just icons, even to the point where I’ve grown up idolizing a lot of these people. Now they’re so willing to come play in my sandbox and trust me. There’s no more gratifying feeling that I’ve ever had than being on set with Brad Pitt, giving him notes, and him respecting what I’m saying. I can tell that he was looking at me the way he would look at any other director that he works with. This guy’s the biggest star of our time, working with my favorite directors of all time. I think that feeling as a filmmaker was so gratifying.

Last time we spoke, you told me the best day of your life was when you put out the video for your song “Ex-Boyfriend.” It was April 25, 2013. Ten years later, April 2023, you’re putting out Season 3 of a show about your life with Brad Pitt and Drake. So, with the utmost seriousness, I ask you, with everything you’ve done, 10 years from now, what would make you satisfied?

The truth of the matter is 10 years ago, if you asked me this question, I would’ve listed out all the things that I have achieved. When I describe 10 years from now, I’m not listing out, “I want an Oscar.” It’s more like, “I have kids and a family, and I’m married. Life is as good as it possibly can be, independent of all the art that I create.” The tricky thing about me is I’m so aware that wrapping your whole identity up in the art that you create is a never-ending cycle. There’s always more—there’s always improvements, things to do—and I try to infuse that in the show. Trying to be that lesson is something that I try to deal with on a day-to-day level.

Having said that, you’ve alluded to making movies next, including a screenplay about your childhood; you’ve said going through puberty with your condition was formative. Is that basically your next project? A movie about being a kid growing up with a messed-up dick?

[Laughs.] I think that I’ve said enough about the dick, if I’m being quite honest with you. There’s other TV series I’m developing, and I have a bunch of other things at play for sure. The future, there’s so many other things I want to do besides just make the show Dave and even just make music. I feel like I’m only getting started. I know I’ve been in this for 10 years, but I do feel like the things that I’ve done for 10 years have all been setups for the future. I don’t think I need to make another movie about [my penis].

I feel like so much of your stuff started with taking this insecurity about your penis and frankly wearing it like armor. Do you feel like you’ve grown up? Do you feel like you’re over it?

I’m not saying I’m over it in the sense that it’s not an important part of shaping who I am. I just think that I don’t need to make art about the same material every time. Do I feel like I’ve grown up? Yes and no. I definitely feel like the things that I’m saying now are different than the things I would’ve said five years ago, are different than the things I would’ve said 10 years ago. Do I feel any more ready to have children today than I did when I was 16 years old? No, I feel like I’m still a kid at heart, but I think a lot of people feel that way even when they have kids.

In 10 years, I’ll be 45 years old. My back’s starting to hurt. I want to figure out ways to make my back stop hurting. That’s one of my main priorities right now, is to fix my back this year. It’s not really answering your question, but do I feel grown-up? No, but I definitely feel like I’m actively growing up at all times. All you can do is just do that as things are thrown at you and as you live life. I don’t think I’ll ever feel grown-up until I’m dead. I think I’m about to enter the second half of my life. Maybe not half, but the middle of my life.

Well, it’ll be the middle third of your life as long as you start eating vegetables.

Yeah, I’m entering the second half if I don’t fix something.