Desus and Mero
If you didn't know about the New York-bred comedians already, you do now. (Illustration by Anastasia Willard, Moore College of Art and Design)
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Desus and Mero

Get ready to meet the Bodega Boys, bringing the Bronx to your television screen.

Bronx-born comedians Desus and Mero have been making huge waves in the latter half of this decade. The comedy duo kicked their careers into overdrive after starting a podcast together and gradually worked their way up through TV shows until they had their own program on Viceland, but this year they got an even better one — a late night program on Showtime.

Desus Nice, whose real name is Daniel Baker, spent time in various writing jobs before pursuing his comedy career full time. His counterpart, The Kid Mero (born Joel Martinez), wrote over-the-top, caps-locked music reviews for Vice and worked as a substitute teacher before following Desus. Notably, the two comedians have been lifelong friends, having met in summer school as children.

Known collectively as The Bodega Boys, Desus and Mero rocketed into stardom after debuting their podcast “Desus vs. Mero,” which ran from 2013 to 2015. Shortly thereafter, they both appeared together on MTV2’s “Guy Code” and eventually infiltrated other shows on the channel with their trademark charisma and bombastic wit. After acquiring an impressive amount of guest appearances on television, Desus and Mero were offered a deal by Vice, which evolved into their talk show “Desus & Mero.”

Before venturing into the world of Desus and Mero, you should probably know that the Bodega Boys both heavily identify with the Bronx, the borough of New York City that both comedians grew up in. Understanding this identity is integral to understanding their sense of humor, and whereas the majority of comedians employ a classic set-up/punchline structure to their comedy, Desus and Mero dispose of the playbook entirely, riffing on topics in a freeform fashion, tossing about countless jabs at the speed of light and constantly incorporating local slang.

“Desus & Mero” premiered in October 2016, but transferred to Showtime in February 2019. The show, both on Viceland and Showtime, was an immediate hit. The New York natives’ unmistakable style of humor was refreshing. Plus, their on-air drinking didn’t hurt enhancing the laughs. Do not expect toned-down, safe-for-work humor.

In 2019, there are approximately 12 late night talk shows in circulation; most of them air five days a week, and, at this point, it is getting difficult to decipher the differences between them. Nearly every late night show follows the same structure: The host gives a monologue, moves behind their desk, tells jokes and transitions to an interview with a celebrity plugging their new project.

More than half of these shows are currently hosted by white men, and it is only recently that women and people of color have gained any significant presence in the late night scene. To be fair, that’s not to say there have never been any popular late night hosts who happened to also be people of color. In fact, “The Chris Rock Show” was applauded for its quality, but it has been overshadowed by Rock’s career as a whole. Likewise, “The Arsenio Hall Show” ran for several years in the late ’80s and early ’90s and even gave an unforgettable interview of Magic Johnson opening up about his HIV diagnosis. Nevertheless, both shows have largely faded from mainstream pop-culture consciousness.

The 2010s saw a shift in popular culture. In the past decade, there has been a large demand for more diverse voices across all media. Trevor Noah took over “The Daily Show” from Jon Stewart in 2015, bringing an African immigrant’s voice to the late night political scene, and Samantha Bee — also of “The Daily Show” fame — hosts her own talk show on TBS; Bee is also one of two women who have late night shows, the other being Lilly Singh, who also happens to be the daughter of Indian immigrants.

With regard to the formula of traditional late night talk shows, “Desus & Mero” uses a comparable set up, but the show’s delivery stands out due to its leading talents, Desus and Mero themselves. Famously, Stephen Colbert cracks jokes about the major political headlines of the day — as does Jimmy Fallon and Conan O’Brien — but Desus and Mero watch and comment on less-talked-about issues or videos that you’d likely stumble across on WorldStar in addition to their political commentary.

In addition to their news and entertainment coverage, “Desus & Mero” also features man-on-the-street interviews that take place in various parts of the Bronx, a densely populated environment with a diverse population. In a recent episode, the duo interviewed the children of immigrants, discovering the idiosyncrasies of the immigrant experience and reminiscing over curious superstitions.

Even though “Desus & Mero” airs on the premium cable network Showtime, if you are not subscribed to the service, you’re in luck; the show posts extended interviews from every episode to YouTube along with some of their commentary, and you can also find tons of digital exclusives on YouTube too. The show is currently on hiatus between seasons, but “Desus & Mero” is scheduled to return for a second season on Feb. 3, 2020. Until then, you can listen to their weekly podcast, “The Bodega Boys,” on any other streaming app and you can follow Desus Nice and The Kid Mero on Twitter.

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