With their distinct style of late-night talk, a duo ticks up viewing for Viceland.
Desus & Mero, a thoroughly modern anti-late-night show for the social-media generation, has quietly become a hit since making its debut on the upstart network Viceland last October.
Desus Nice and The Kid Mero, both 34, have parlayed Twitter success and their popular podcast (Bodega Boys) and web series (Desus vs. Mero) into a Monday-through-Thursday late-night free flow of “verbal graffiti,” as Viceland co-founder Spike Jonze has described it.
Desus (real name: Daniel Baker) is Jamaican American and single; Mero (real name: Joel Martinez) is Dominican American and married with four kids. Their guests have included everyone from Malcolm Gladwell and Desus’s childhood classmate, MSNBC anchor Chris Hayes, to hip-hopsters like Diddy.
The half-hour show feels like you’re sitting in your basement with your snarkiest hip-hop-loving friends — which is exactly how the hosts want it. They recently sat down at the Vice offices in Brooklyn with emmy’s Bob Makela .
What was school like in New York when you were growing up?
Mero: It was absolutely wild. ’Cause the campus was huge. There were, like, 5,000 kids in the school. And how do you keep track of 5,000 teenagers? So people [would] be in the back staircases smoking weed, doin’ all types of wild shit. It was definitely like 21 Jump Street, like, times a thousand — if there was no white people on 21 Jump Street.
Desus: That was the golden era of hip-hop. It was also kind of dangerous. The crime rate was really bad in New York. But you just assumed that’s how life was like for everyone. You weren’t, like, “Yo, I live in a bad neighborhood.” I just lived in the neighborhood. There was crack and things like that, but you actually had more freedom back then. You could ride your bike with no helmet.
Do you watch other talk shows?
Desus: I watch a lot of MSNBC. Shout-out to Chris Hayes. Growing up, I always had noise going on in my house. I grew up with six people. So if I’m in the house and it’s quiet, it drives me insane. I usually have a TV set to the Yankee game and to MSNBC at the same time.
Sometimes I’ll be sitting there watching MSNBC and have a little window open to YouTube videos, because I constantly have to be taking in information. Sometimes I’ll watch Fox News to see what they’re saying. Lotta PBS. I don’t really like the fiction. But nonfiction things, history, documentaries, stuff like that.
Mero: [I watch] a lot of the stuff HBO puts out. A lot of the Viceland stuff is super experimental, and I [like it]. I watch our show like Kobe watches game film. Just watching it, watching it, watching it. And the graphics, the bells and whistles, elevate the show to such a higher level. Even though we were here and we recorded it, the final product still is amazing to me. And I’m not just saying that because I’m on it.
Is there more stuff you want to do?
Desus: Way more stuff.
Mero: Movies, books. Basically, any format that you feel like you would want to see us in, we’re gonna try to give you that. So if you wanna see us in a movie, we’re gonna give you a movie. If you want to see us in a book, we’re gonna give you a book. But I feel like we’re at a level where, like, it’s not a cash grab. We’re gonna make quality shit, no matter what.
Desus: We want to do everything. Probably do an opera.
You guys have been doing a lot of press. What’s the one question you’re tired of answering?
Desus: People are like, “Who’s the guest you want the most?”
Good thing we didn’t ask.
Desus: Well, my favorite episodes are the ones where we have no guest. We had an episode when there was a blizzard and no one could get to the studio. And it was just us riffing for the full 22 minutes. And everyone was like, “That was f-ing amazing. You guys don’t even need a guest.”
So your ideal guest is…
This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 7, 2017