cazzie david’s comedy is mortifying, in the best possible way
The co-creator and star of web series "Eighty-Sixed" premieres two new episodes on i-D — in which shameless lead character Remi offends a new friend and then offends an old friend.
photography emily knecht
One of the episodes in Cazzie David's web series, Eighty-Sixed, is called "Tight Vagina Melissa." It gave Cazzie's mother pause.
The premise: shortly after breaking up with her boyfriend, relatably neurotic but wildly oblivious L.A. resident Remi (played by Cazzie) drags herself to a house party only to hear a worrying, anatomically detailed rumor about her ex's new partner, Melissa. ("I hear she actually has to take medication for it," one girl gushes.) Remi then meets one of Melissa's former lovers in the kitchen and asks him to conduct a quick comparison test.
While her mother was "horrified," Cazzie's dad (Larry David) was not. "He's done so much in the same realm, so I knew he would understand that type of humor," she says. This is, after all, the man who once christened his TV alter ego "Long Ball Larry." "But my mother then had a good point: he did earn the right to be controversial and inappropriate," Cazzie adds. "But I just think, if something's funny it's funny and it doesn't matter what you've done or how much people know you or respect you already."
Eighty-Sixed premiered in April and explores all things millennial — in the most self-aware (and least predictable) way you can imagine after reading that description. There are no jokes about low-hanging fruit like avocados. Instead, there are very funny scenes written around our half-serious belief in burning sage, the trauma of accidentally making a public Spotify playlist, and the horror of being tagged in inspirational memes.
Cazzie and her writing partner, Elisa Kalani, understand the very precise anxieties of anyone with an Instagram account because they are those people, and each of the now six episodes is a pitch-perfect parody of a specific kind of modern, public life. One in which breakups become a game to win or lose over Snapchat, people discuss "going live" while wearing Justin Bieber Purpose tour hoodies, and everyone has just deleted Uber in the name of social justice.
"I don't want to do anything that feels like it's been made into a joke already," Cazzie says. "There are things that are too obviously embarrassing. Especially with the internet and Instagram, you see memes so you know what's already been made fun of. I try to be as unique in the parody as possible. Because if you've heard something before, you won't find it funny."
One very meta example of this: In the sixth episode (premiering here), Remi is sitting with two friends at a restaurant and asks if one of them can put away their phone so she can use hers. "One of us has to not be on our phone or we're a table of millennials on our phones," Remi explains, "I don't want someone to take a picture of us and have us become a meme." (In another meta turn, Cazzie's boyfriend, SNL castmember Pete Davidson, plays the table's waiter.)
"We're all definitely the subject of these jokes. I'm not innocent," says Cazzie, "[Remi's] character is definitely familiar to me." She describes Remi as an amalgam of contradictory qualities, at once hyper self-aware and self-absorbed. "It stems from the idea of perceiving yourself in a certain way on social media and and how ironic that can be," she continues.
Cazzie and Elisa began writing together in college at Emerson, after meeting in a screenwriting class. Though they've collaborated on several screenplays, they decided to shoot Eighty-Sixed first because it was the easiest to make on their own, without a professional production team or large budget. Much of the show is shot in and around Cazzie and her friends' homes, which aligns well with Cazzie's renowned love of pajamas.
"If I'm home, I'm going to be wearing pajamas," she confirms. "I don't really understand people who walk around their house in jeans. Like, why put yourself through that? I try to be in pajamas as much as I can." In the show's first episode, Remi reprimands a friend for sitting on her bed in "city pants."
While Cazzie can relate to Remi's neuroses, she is also conscious to clarify that she's not just playing herself. "The only way I could really do that is by giving the show a decent plot, instead of just doing everyday situations for this character," she says. "The fact that she's going through [a breakup] that's taking over the storyline makes it more clear it's fiction."
Cazzie is less uninhibited than Remi, too. "Obviously, I would never take things as far as she does. It depends on how much shame you have. And I have the most amount of shame ever!"
Cazzie has previously described herself as "the most anxious person ever." But, she argues, "anxiety is a close relative of fear, and fear is probably the basis for all comedy. I also think that if you're able to make fun of things that you're afraid of, other people are probably afraid of them too."
When everyone is live streaming their own curated version of perfection, there's nothing more comforting than realizing everyone else is just as neurotic as you are. "I think Remi will probably make people feel better about their own social media use," says Cazzie, "At least, I hope so."
Text Alice Newell-Hanson
Photography Emily Knecht