How Kareem Abdul-Jabbar dunking on 'Dave' fits rapper's self-deprecating TV persona

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When it comes to big basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and rapper Lil Dicky, opposites don't necessarily attract.

Abdul-Jabbar is a hero to star Dave Burd, aka rapper Lil Dicky, but things quickly go sideways when his TV alter ego meets the hoops legend and cultural commentator in this week's episode of FXX's "Dave" (Wednesdays, 10 EDT/PDT, then streaming on Hulu).

"Dave," inspired by the life of Burd and created by Burd and Jeff Schaffer ("Curb Your Enthusiasm," "Seinfeld"), became FX Networks' most-watched comedy in its first season and a cool hangout for celebrities. Kendall Jenner, Hailey Bieber, South Korean rapper CL and Burd's close friend, record producer Benny Blanco, have appeared in Season 2. Rapper/singer Lil Nas X and actor/comedian Kevin Hart, a "Dave" executive producer, are due later in the 10-episode season.

Dave (Dave Burd) finds himself in an uncomfortable position when he meets basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on FXX's "Dave."
Dave (Dave Burd) finds himself in an uncomfortable position when he meets basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on FXX's "Dave."

Burd, 33, who's known for such songs (and videos) such as "Ex-Boyfriend" (2013), "Freaky Friday" (2018), "Earth" (2019) and his album "Professional Rapper" (2015), took time Sunday to talk about "Dave," the comedy of discomfort, handling criticism and when his second album might be arriving. (Edited and condensed for clarity)

Question: How did Abdul-Jabbar's appearance happen?

Dave Burd: I'm a huge fan of basketball and Kareem. What a life he's led, where he's the leading scorer in NBA history and then also an incredible cultural writer. I was blown away by that. We were talking about having an interview-go-wrong episode and he (came to) mind.

Q: What inspired the pool scene early this season in which Kendall Jenner, Hailey Bieber and Elsie Hewitt laugh at Dave's witty comments, before fooling him into thinking he might have a chance with Jenner? (Jenner's half-sister, Kourtney Kardashian, and Bieber's husband, Justin, appeared in Season 1.)

Burd: I remember the first time I ever met Kendall and Hailey, we happened to be swimming and I was making a bunch of comments and they were laughing and I was feeling like, 'Oh my God, I'm being so impressive right now conversationally.' I thought that'd be a cool scene to have them in the show.

Rapper Dave (Dave Burd), right, talks to Hailey Bieber, from left in the pool, Kendall Jenner and Elsie Hewitt, as Dave's friend and record producer Benny Blanco looks on in a scene from FXX's "Dave."
Rapper Dave (Dave Burd), right, talks to Hailey Bieber, from left in the pool, Kendall Jenner and Elsie Hewitt, as Dave's friend and record producer Benny Blanco looks on in a scene from FXX's "Dave."

Q: When Dave sees ex-girlfriend Ally (Taylor Misiak) in Episode 3, there's a touching moment when he changes the surgical dressing on her back. But it gets messy when he vomits on her wound, a side effect of the medication he's taking. What inspired that mix?

Burd: I love that ending. It's like the sweetest moment, so tender and heartfelt, and it's totally undercut when I vomit. It's almost a microcosm of the show, where something funny has happened, but it's in the midst of something real and emotional.

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NBA and college basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, left, challenges Dave (Dave Burd) while interviewing him on FXX's "Dave."
NBA and college basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, left, challenges Dave (Dave Burd) while interviewing him on FXX's "Dave."

Q: In the Kareem episode, a fictional rap video from Dave's past causes him present-day heartburn. Is that a reference to "White Dude," a YouTube video that you later removed?

Burd: I wasn't drawing from one particular thing or another, but I'm a comedian and I put a lot of work out that can sometimes be insensitive, even though I'm a very sensitive human being. I don't like offending people, but I'm sure I have in the past. I obviously have dealt with some things in my career, so that probably inspired some of the thinking in the episode.

Q: How important is it to talk about insecurity, especially masculine insecurity, in your music and "Dave"?

Burd: My rap name is like literally a small penis joke, you know? This is all ingrained in the DNA of who I am. Everyone has insecurities, but the more we're able to cope with them and possibly even embrace them, (the better). I was at a party and a guy came up to me and said, "I just want to tell you I've got a micro-penis. It just means the world to me, what you're doing." When people come up to me like that guy, it is meaningful. The years in my life where I didn't take my shirt off at a pool or didn't have the lights on when I'm with a girl because of body acne or my penis, that's all true. It's very liberating to be honest and open about it.

Dave (Dave Burd), second from right, and his manager Mike (Andrew Santino), right, talk to Korean rap star CL (playing herself), left, and her manager, Jae (Karl Yune), in the second-season premiere of FXX's "Dave."
Dave (Dave Burd), second from right, and his manager Mike (Andrew Santino), right, talk to Korean rap star CL (playing herself), left, and her manager, Jae (Karl Yune), in the second-season premiere of FXX's "Dave."

Q: TV Dave has writers' block while working on his album. What's the status of your second album in real life?

Burd: The album is being worked on, but not right now. From writing, editing, shooting and acting, I work seven days a week, 12 hours a day. When I finish working on the season, I'm going to devote a large chunk of time to finishing my album. Even before I started working on the show, it had been, like, two or three years and no album, because it just takes me that long to make music. Part of it is because I'm a perfectionist and I overthink things and I want things to be great. But another part is it's not easy. With TV and comedy, the way I express my perspective naturally flows out of me easier than with music. I just need more time. My album is going to be incredible, but it just needs the finishing touch.

Q: You’ve talked about rap as a means to get into comedy and television. With the success of "Dave," has your perspective changed on rap?

Burd: No. Maybe initially as I started rapping, I was thinking, "Man, I hope the guys from 'South Park' see one of these videos and bring me into their writers room." I was trying to get noticed as a comedian. And then I fell in love with rap. I couldn't be hungrier and more competitive as a rapper now. A lot of people probably just say, "He doesn't need rap because that wasn't what he wanted to do in the first place." And it's just not true. I have a lot to prove as a rapper and I look forward to proving it.

Hype man GaTa (GaTa) is never too far from good friend Dave (Dave Burd), although there is tension in the relationship in Season 2 of FXX's "Dave."
Hype man GaTa (GaTa) is never too far from good friend Dave (Dave Burd), although there is tension in the relationship in Season 2 of FXX's "Dave."

Q: How do you respond to the critique of cultural appropriation in your music career and how do you deal with it in "Dave"?

Burd: You couldn't be a white rapper without having that be a thing and understandably so. These are things that occur in reality and there's a lot to mine for the show.

Q: Are there any topics that are off-limits for you?

Burd: I don't believe so. I feel honesty and authenticity are what make art special. If I had a sad thought about myself or a really embarrassing thing happened to me, I'd be down to explore it.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Kendall Jenner, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar join Lil Dicky for 'Dave' Season 2