Showtime’s Desus & Mero is not for background viewing. Viewers have to strain to listen, to make sure they’re not missing the latest throwaway joke or tangent from Desus Nice (Daniel Baker) and The Kid Mero (Joel Martinez), who host the premium-cable network’s first late-night talk show.
The duo keeps you on the edge of your seat, and that means everything in this high-stakes world of distracted viewers. It’s the same in real life: They finish each other’s sentences, jump in when one feels the other is rambling or quickly pick up on a riff, raising their voice to match the other’s enthusiasm.
Desus and Mero first crossed paths as teens in summer school in the Bronx (though they weren’t close then) and reconnected six years ago on Twitter, which they both used as an outlet to complain about their day jobs (a small-business reporter and junior high school paraprofessional, respectively). Their witty online banter quickly got them attention. “People really enjoyed any time we interacted with each other on Twitter,” Desus says. Complex noticed too. The media company offered them a podcast, Desus vs. Mero, and soon after developed a web series around the pair. By 2014, they were joining the cast of MTV’s The Guy Code.
Mamadi Doumbouya for Adweek; Styled by Satthra San
Craving creative control, the pair launched their own podcast in 2015, dubbing it Bodega Boys. It was an instant success and hurtled them into a whole new league of stardom complete with merchandising, acting opportunities and a late-night show four nights a week on Viceland. Last year, Showtime announced it was producing its first late-night weekly series, and it would be hosted by, well, you know who.
Now Desus and Mero’s legacy includes their regular podcast, a soon-to-be-published life-advice book from Random House and a gig hosting the Television Critics Association Awards this August. Desus & Mero, their Showtime series, recorded live in front of a studio audience in New York, has been so successful with the Bodega Hive (their nickname for their passionate fan base) that the network announced in April it was giving the duo two weekly slots for the summer.
To say the least, it has been a wild ride for the former small-business reporter and junior high school paraprofessional—and for viewers too. There have never been late-night hosts this diverse (Desus is Jamaican and Mero, Dominican), this candid or this Bronx. How could we resist kicking off this year’s Creative 100 with them?
Adweek: Do you ever look around and feel surprised that you’ve gotten here so quickly?
Desus: Our lives are so good. My biggest fear is I’m going to wake up in bed one morning and my phone is going off and it’s like my boss, like, “Why aren’t you here? You got to do a small-business article.” I’m like, “No, no, no!”
Mero: Getting on TV was not that hard. Staying on TV is the hard part. You’ve always got to evolve and get out of your comfort zone, but at the end of the day you’re going to get Desus and you’re going to get Mero. You’re not going to get some weird, watered-down version … unless the check is fucking immaculate.
Why did you make the move last year from Viceland to Showtime?
Desus: It was a business decision because our contract was up at Vice, but shout out to Showtime—how can I say this without it sounding terrible?
Mero: They give us room to do what we need to do while having our back, resource-wise.
Desus: It’s like when you hang with your mother and then you go see your grandmother. Showtime was like, “Come here, baby. Did you eat? What do you need?” They’ve got like a platter of ribs for you.