Desus and Mero Have Conquered the Five Boroughs and Late Night—Whats Next?
On a Sunday night earlier this month, Desus Nice and The Kid Mero—hosts of the eponymous Viceland late-night show Desus and Mero as well as the podcast Bodega Boys—strutted onstage at the LeFrak Concert Hall in Queens. Desus, born Daniel Baker, held a Jamaican flag aloft. Mero, born Joel Martinez, carried the Dominican Republics. The audience went wild, though it was later apparent that the D.R. crowd far outnumbered the Jamaicans in the house.
“Thats cause all my good Jamaicans are working right now,” Desus replied.
Though the duo had microphones and a table waiting behind them, they never sat down, instead standing to deliver stream-of-conscious jokes about current headlines and whatever else came to mind: the Mets and the Yankees, why vosotros sounds like a Harry Potter spell, why diapers are cruel (“Youre paying for someone to shit on the money you earn,” Mero, who has four children, reasoned). As they often do on their podcast, the pair reminisced about their early days in the comedy world, when Mero said he “had more kids than I had shirts.”
“You had two kids back then,” Desus said.
“And I had one shirt,” said Mero, finishing the gag.
This is a familiar set-up for their live shows. The pair, both Bronx natives, just concluded their first New York tour, making a stop in every borough and wrapping things up over the weekend with a sold-out performance in Brooklyn. While their Viceland series established them as brash, new voices in the homogenous, mostly white suit-and-tie realm of late night—youll never catch the duo in formalwear on Desus and Mero—the New York tour displayed their status as hometown heroes, acute voices of an ever-changing city. Desus and Mero might have arrived thanks to their show, but theyre only getting bigger. Throwing a five-borough tour in the middle of their jam-packed TV and podcast schedule? Thats a flex.
The warm but rowdy live shows are “like a giant basement hangout with all your friends,” Mero said in a phone interview with the pair last week. After their Apollo Theater show in Harlem, he had a particularly humbling moment. “That was my first time ever being inside the Apollo. Ive walked past it a million times . . . but to go from never being in a venue, to selling it out? On the ride home, it kind of blew my mind.”
“Were rubbing the same stump, getting the same reactions, in the same green room,” Desus added. “We have to take it in, like yo, we did this.”
Just a few years ago, Desus and Mero were two separate, but very funny guys floating around the Internet. Mero blogged about pop culture, parlaying it into absurdist, all-caps music and style reviews for Vice. Desus was an oft-retweeted comedian with a regular, degular day job who punched out 140-character observations about pop culture through a Bronxite prism (tweets about Timberlands and camo shorts and Jennifer Lopez were—and still are—plentiful). They eventually built a quick rapport, with Desus as the quick-witted, punch-line king to Meros unpredictable, blue humorist. They ran through a few projects before eventually hitting their stride on the Bodega Boys podcast, which is stacked with so many inside jokes at this point that newcomers might get whiplash (the introductions to the podcast alone runs several minutes long because the duo have to recite their laundry list of nicknames). Their fanbase grew so large that they, too, earned a nickname—the Bodegahive. Then, Viceland came calling, and fans got to watch their favorite Twitter personalities become the most brolic brand on late-night television. They may not pull in the same ratings as late-night king Stephen Colbert, but theyve captured the zeitgeist. And if you need hard proof of their success, you could do worse than observing a series of sold-out live shows in the media capital of the world.
The tour has given them plenty of material to riff on. At the Queens show, Desus had a very serious discussion with a couple about going casket shopping together. At the Apollo, a woman flashed them during the Q&A. (“What is this, a Travis Scott concert?” Mero remembered thinking.) Desus and Mero are known for working off the cuff, churning out the sort of gold that other performers could nail only after careful rehearsal. At the start of each show, they run over a few potential topics and hype each other up—but thats about it for serious prep. Desus also makes sure he keeps a stream of Becks beer ready, while Mero drinks some lemonade and maybe lights a cigarette. Their riders are, admittedly, pretty plain—but they tell me that next time, theyll step things up by requesting five birthday cakes, champagne, a dog, and an elephant thats about to give birth.
It doesnt take long in conversation, or during live shows, for them to crack jokes about D.J. Envy, co-host of popular New York–based morning radio show The Breakfast Club, and frequent target of their riffs. In a Desus and Mero segment in February, the two made fun of an interview between Envy and his wife, Gia Casey, in which the pair discussed the D.J.s past infidelity. Desus made a light joke about Casey staying in the relationship for the money; when the pair later appeared on The Breakfast Club, Envy demanded an apology for it. After he got one, Envy walked off the show.
“If you go on a nationwide platform and talk about your messiness with your wife, thats on you, thats not on us,” Mero said on the phone.
“Id like our new enemy to either be a network or a country,” Desus added. “No more little potatoes.”
Desus and Mero dont limit their criticism to those who publicly pick fights with them, either. These New York natives are both deeply apprehensive about Cynthia Nixonsgubernatorial campaign, for example: “Can we leave politics to people who have studied politics and are politicians?” Mero asked me. “When you turn an election into a popularity contest, thats how we ended up with Donald Trump.”
“At this point, its too early to make a call on it,” Desus offered of Nixon. “Yeah shes a celebrity and everything, but its not like shes an idiot. She clearly has studied her position, and she made some nuanced arguments. But nowadays, you just have to sit back and wait because it seems like its just a matter a of time before they stick their foot in their mouth, or you find out she has something crazy racist in her past. Or shes gonna say something like, Uh, Im against inmates calling home. But she does have the advantage because shes running against [current New York governor Andrew] Cuomo, and basically anyones better than Cuomo.”
Like most late-night shows, the pair often host political guests—though viewers wont ever see any Trump acolytes on the show, as Desus and Mero eviscerate the current administration with regularity; they would rather roast the president to smithereens than ruffle his hair. Compared to them, the rest of late night looks practically bipartisan. Desus and Mero guests trend liberal, like former attorney general Eric Holder. Prior to their interview, Mero considered Barack Obama his ultimate get. Now that theyve had Obamas first A.G. on, getting the former president on the show seems a little less impossible. “Whats Barack like on a regular day? Do you play PlayStation?” he asked, running through a few potential interview questions.
Desuss current dream guest is a fellow Bronx native having an equally red-hot 2018: Cardi B. The rapper has already been on the show, but the interview was conducted before her explosive debut album, her pregnancy, and her rousing Coachella set. “Thats the homie,” Desus said, adding that he and Mero hung out with Cardi after her recent episode of Saturday Night Live. “That would be bringing it full circle.”
The talk of Cardis come up and their own inspired a moment of public self reflection from the pair, as they consider their particular journey and their growing corner of the media market where almost no piece of content is sacred.
“When we feel tired and dont want to do it anymore,” Desus said, “its like, well, what were we doing before this? Do you want to go back to doing that? The answer is no? Get back in the studio.”
Get Vanity Fairs HWD NewsletterSign up for essential industry and award news from Hollywood.Full ScreenPhotos:Celebrities-Turned-Activists Throughout the Years
In 1989, Hepburn—who survived World War II in the Netherlands as a child—was appointed as an ambassador to UNICEF, and, as the organization mentions on its Web site, she made up to 15 speeches a day for the group on behalf of children in need around the world. In a 1988 Global News interview, Hepburn, who lived in Switzerland and out of the public eye, said that she didnt have to think hard to take on this role to be an advocate for children. “Im moving around the world once again, but Im happy to do it, because for children, Id go to the moon.”Photo: By Peter Charlesworth/LightRocket/Getty Images.
Fonda was a vocal anti-war activist during the Vietnam War, sparking controversy with her infamous “Hanoi Jane” photograph. Since then, Fonda has been known for supporting and championing dozens of causes, including the Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Power & Potential, for which she raised money at her big 80th birthday bash this past December. “If it didnt make a difference for famous people to speak out, the right wing wouldnt object. We are like repeaters,” she told Vanity Fair then. “Repeaters are the towers that you see at the top of mountains that pick up signals from the valley and carry them over the mountains to a broader audience. And thats what celebrities do, if were doing our job right. Were picking up the voices of people who cant be heard and broadcasting their story.”Photo: From Bettmann/Getty Images.
The actor and singer, and friend of both Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy, has spoken up for civil rights and social causes for over 50 years. He helped organize the march at Selma in 1965, and even advised the organizers of the 2017 Womens March. Now at the age of 91, he is encouraging Americans to keep their chins up in the Trump era. “I guess the thing that I most want to get to is that the best of us is still in front of us; the worst of us were experiencing,” he said at the Robert F. Kennedy Ripple of Hope Awards last December.Photo: From Bettmann/Getty Images.
When the Reagan administration did its best to ignore the AIDS crisis of the early 1980s, Taylor faced it. As Vanity Fair wrote in 2015, she reportedly ran an underground pharmaceuticals ring for AIDS medication out of her Bel Air mansion. “She was saving lives,” her friend Kathy Ireland said of the efforts. In 1991, she founded the Elizabeth Taylor Aids Foundation (E.T.A.F.) to provide grants to organizations that help those living with and affected by HIV and AIDS. Taylor was also a leading voice behind AmfAR, the foundation for AIDS research, and is still remembered as an advocate for the cause.Photo: By Jeffrey Markowitz/Sygma/Getty Images.
In 2011, Ruffalo founded Water Defense, an organization that works to ban hydraulic fracturing in the state of New York. “Fracking is an extreme form of oil and gas extraction that leads to water contamination, air pollution, earthquakes, illness, exacerbates climate change, and turns communities upside down,” he wrote on the blog EcoWatch in 2016.Photo: By D Dipasupil/Getty Images.
After Page came out as gay in 2014, she became an active and vocal advocate for the L.G.B.T.Q. community, through Vices Gaycation series, as well as a loud voice for immigrants. At LAX last year, she posted videos during a protest of President Trumps travel ban and was right up in the thick of things. “I am young, yes, but what I have learned is that love, the beauty of it, the joy of it, and yes, even the pain of it, is the most incredible gift to give and to receive as a human being,” she said during her coming-out speech. “And we deserve to experience love fully, equally, without shame and without compromise.”Photo: By Kristina Bumphrey/StarPix/REX/Shutterstock.
George and Amal Clooney
The Clooney Foundation for Justice has supported a variety of causes in the past year, including bestowing a grant to the Southern Poverty Law Center following violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, last summer. The Clooneys most recently joined the March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C., and donated half a million dollars to the cause.Photo: Photograph by Justin Bishop.PreviousNext
Yohana DestaYohana Desta is a Hollywood writer for VanityFair.com.