An ode to Desus and Mero, the eternal kings of New York


An ode to Desus and Mero, the eternal kings of New York

So Desus and Mero separated. Your amazing late-night talk show Showtime is over after four pretty revolutionary seasons. They’re clearly super mad at each other. It’s devastating. (Anna Kendrick is said to be marginally involved; that part is just confusing.) The word destructive is no exaggeration. This is a legitimate moment from Love Is Dead, Friendship Is Dead, or Perfect Talk show host Chemistry Is Dead. Even if you acknowledge that this is all classic parasocial projection, it’s still devastating to use that word again. To be honest, I don’t want to talk about it.

Instead, I want to talk about how Desus and Mero first made me cry, about two minutes and 30 seconds into the first episode of anything they’ve ever released. December 2013. Episode 1 (titled “THE WORLD PREMIERE”) of Desus versus Meroa messy new one complex Podcast that seemingly by accident brought together two super social and extremely online guys in their early 30s from the Bronx named Desus Nice (aka Daniel Baker, single) and Kid Mero (aka Joel Martinez, married, two kids). “I feel like I have a lot more to offer than Twitter,” Kid Mero noted in one New York Times Profile earlier this year, in a rare moment of hilarious understatement. (The understated part was rare, I mean.)

The podcast title Desus versus Mero meant rivalry, or at least healthy competition, but no, within 150 seconds it was clear that Desus and Mero were indeed an inseparable and invincible partnership with the undeniably best podcast host chemistry in podcast history. But I understand: Desus & Mero vs. the world would have been a much chunkier title. In any case, their first target was J. Cole, whose new album was immediately and enthusiastically compared to rainforest noise, airport nature sounds and the “lyrical Nyquil”.

Desus: “Each verse is like a cup of warm milk with cinnamon on it, and you lay your head on your Abuelita’s chest.”

mero: “They sell his CD at Bed Bath & Beyond.” (I paraphrase a little here sometimes.)

Desus: “Right in front when you come in. He is Beyond. Bed Bath and J. Cole. His album comes in King, Queen, Full…”

mero: “[Laughs uproariously.] ‘Hey, what’s the thread count on his album, dog?'”

Desus: “A thousand damn Egyptian linens.”

At this point I am crying with laughter. I had probably just started when Mero started laughing. I remember that moment vividly: I was walking around my neighborhood, it was freezing cold, dodging patches of ice on the sidewalk, hands crammed into jacket pockets, earplugs in, shaking with laughter, tears freezing on my face. I remember them overlap I walked by when this all started. Sorry to have to do that about me for a second, but that’s how parasocial relationships work. I’ll say it again: the best podcast host chemistry in podcast history, two minutes and switch to their first episode. The ampersand in Desus & Mero became a bright, happy, bulletproof, seemingly permanent thing.

Everything Desus and Mero did from that moment on felt inevitable, necessary and irreplaceable. That complex Podcast (mastermind, BTW, by real genius and former ringtone cohort Donnie Kwak) lasted over 40 episodes and spawned an accompanying web series. Then the pair launched their own Blockbuster pod, Bodega Boyswhich spawned more than 250 episodes of phenomenal camaraderie (“The Brand Is Strong!”) through November 2021. Meanwhile: They hosted an ecstatically chaotic late-night TV talk show in Viceland. Desus & Mero, which launched in October 2016 and lasted until June 2018 when they transitioned the circus to Showtime, into something nearing the big time. The revised Desus & Mero premiered on Showtime in 2019, with AOC as the opening guest. It was awesome but still messy, still easygoing, still just two guys doing bullshit, still the two funniest guys on planet earth making even funnier of each other, right in front of you, just for you. Desus & Mero & you.

Find your personal favorite moment. your favourite target, I suppose. Desus & Mero against Ben Carson or Anthony Scaramucci or DJ Akademiks or DJ Akademiks and Joe Budden. On Showtime, they interviewed Barack and Denzel and Issa and (!!!) Shea and Bernie and Maxine and dozens of other first-name luminaries, all as their own brand (which also included a 2020 book dubbed God level knowledge arrows) only got stronger. Even if you haven’t subscribed to Showtime and/or watched the show religiously, it was immensely comforting to know Desus & Mero was there, still raging, still expanding, but still just two seemingly randomly paired guys from the Bronx who were destined to revolutionize late-night talk shows forever.

It’s not that they weren’t separate people with their own personal projects and interests. I was a little startled when Kid Mero appeared in a silly but endearing little 2020 Netflix film titled Vampires vs the Bronxbut there he was, playing a surprisingly affectionate bodega guy, and I was thrilled to see him, even though a lot of his affection was his vulnerability, was that Desus was nowhere in sight. What a ridiculous thought to me – what an unfair expectation that these guys would spend their lives carrying around that ampersand Desus & Mero just because we could only ever imagine them together.

Yes, that absolutely sucks. I still don’t want to talk about it. Let’s just wish both of them the best in their surely fantastic future solo endeavors, and let’s quietly and awkwardly long for the moment when they put aside any personal and possibly Anna Kendrick-related animus and reunite, and let’s in meanwhile, comfort us by going all the way back to the beginning, to the big bang, to our dear friend J. Cole. “He is the Beyond” is still probably the funniest thing I’ve ever heard on a podcast. It doesn’t matter which of them said it. Let’s assume the ampersand said it. Let’s say that Desus & Mero, in all their fabulous iterations, were really the afterlife all along.

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