It takes a brave man to jump in feet first into the over-saturated US television time slot that is late night but that is exactly what perennial tweeters Desus Nice and The Kid Mero did. Last year, when the US presidential campaign was in full flight and Jimmy Fallon was busy fluffing Donald Trump’s hair, the new kids on the block launched their own show Desus & Mero.
Their freeform-improvised banter, fresh and foul mouthed, a million miles from John Oliver’s brilliantly scripted political diatribes and James Corden’s desperate YouTube click bait. Talking trash about the news stories of the day, sports and pop culture events that have caught their eye, the pair delight in dissing Trump, teasing the Kardashians, trash talking rappers and discussing sport.
The long-time friends from the Bronx, born Daniel Baker and Joel Martinez, skipped the regular stand-up route to comedy stardom instead taking lessons repeatedly watching Eddie Murphy’s Raw, Martin Lawrence routines and Def Jam Comedy. It all really started when the pair, who first met at summer school, were both stuck in jobs they hated. Mero was at a middle school and Desus "a niche financial magazine for black people. I was writing articles for small businesspeople about tax codes. It was the worst,” he told Rolling Stone magazine. They started tweeting about their dissatisfaction and the internet listened. And laughed. “It was comical to some people. It was therapy to me,” Desus added.
It’s not often that an online sensation makes it big on TV but Desus and Mero have made the transition from dueling twitter accounts to late night talk show with relative ease. The tweet storms led to their Desus Vs Mero and Bodega Boys podcasts. With an eye to the future Desus Vs Mero played like a The Daily Show spoof, letting the boys riff behind a stack of milk crates evoking a New York bodega. Appearances on MTV2's Guy Code, Uncommon Sense, and Joking Off followed. When they showed up on MTV2 the channel’s lawyers sweated, paranoid that the boy’s diatribes would land them in hot water.
Now the pair are taking on the late night slot with Desus & Mero. Like all of the late night hosts, the new and much maligned president of the United States has provided the comedians with a constant stream of material. From challenging themselves to conjure up new names for POTUS (“President Cheetoh,” “Human Dorito Dust” and “Tangerine-in-Chief”) to discussing reviews of the fries at the Trump Grill, The Donald is a mainstay in their repertoire and as long as he stays to form, which the President will if recent events post inauguration are anything to go by, Trump is guaranteed to remain one of their top targets.
The show also has a strict “no plug” policy. When guests appear they are friends of the comedians like Rashida Jones. This means it’s all-natural on screen. The boys tell it as it is, no holds barred. It’s instantly quotable but not at the water cooler. Unless you want to get fired.
With a who’s who of Hollywood as a fanbase - Seth Rogen is a huge fan - stars are lining-up to collaborate. With Vampire Weekend's Ezra Koenig planning a sitcom about Mero’s experiences as a teacher, now is the time to catch Desus and Mero while their star is on the ascendant and soak up the joy that is, what Variety calls "the most improvised show on television".
Catch Desus and Mero weeknights on SBS VICELAND starting Monday 30 January at 11:15pm.