Two seasons in, Desus & Mero (11 p.m. weeknights, VICELAND) has proven to be a standout in the overpopulated pool of late night talk shows. Hosts Desus Nice and The Kid Mero (government names Daniel Baker and Joel Martinez) were among the first comics to parlay Twitter fame into showbiz careers, starting with the Complex podcast/web series Desus vs. Mero and MTV’s Guy Code and transitioning into their popular Bodega Boys podcast and current VICELAND gig. The guys routinely refer to the latter as the “No. 1 show in late night.” “The numbers are there,” Mero says. “Don’t Google them.”
From the jump, Desus & Mero has been quintessentially VICE — set in a modest yet hip studio in Brooklyn, the hosts swap boring suits for an enviable collection of sneakers and the standard desk and sofas for a couple of leather armchairs, a graffitied table and taxidermied bear. The loose, improvised vibe is like watching two buddies chilling in a den cracking jokes, busting each other’s balls and talking about whatever’s going on in their lives.
And those topics can range from daily news and politics to animal videos, music and pop culture — all of which get equal play. Throw in a mix of brief, fascinating and varied interviews (previous guests include New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, comic Hannibal Buress, actress Melissa McCarthy and the Sacramento Kings’ Iman Shumpert) and you’ve got something truly unique — a talk show that’s unpolished and irreverent, yet whip smart and hilarious. Which is why it was surprising and unfortunate to learn that Desus & Mero will soon come to an end.
While late night talk shows have always covered some newsy subject matter, audiences have lately become inundated with perpetual political comedy that relies too much on the former rather than the latter. I expect show hosts and comedians to tackle current events, but I’ve been let down recently by the Jimmys and even Saturday Night Live at times.
Tough topics are either essentially ignored in favor of celebrity pie-eating contests or ranted about without any thought-provoking observational commentary. What was once political satire or comedic critique has become merely a regurgitation of the day’s or week’s most troublesome news.
Even Comedy Central’s alt-right news spoof The Opposition with Jordan Klepper failed to get around this increasingly common issue. It was cancelled last week. (That 11:30 p.m. post-Daily Show spot is really a death sentence.)
Desus & Mero met a different kind of fate. After two years of delivering fresh and funny content Monday through Thursday, the boys are ending the show to move on to (what I hope is) a bigger, better opportunity. Desus and Mero just signed a series deal with Showtime to begin sometime in 2019. The final VICELAND episode airs Thursday, and I’m sure they’ll go out in a can’t-miss, wild fashion.
It will be interesting to see how Desus and Mero’s Showtime series will compare to HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver — also a weekly premium-cable talk show. Oliver’s show is superb, and hits the nail on the head when it comes to covering serious issues with intelligent wit. Whereas Desus & Mero offers quick hits on a variety of hyper-current happenings, Last Week Tonight mostly delves deep into one story. Both shows have done what they do very well.
As Showtime’s first foray into the late-night world, I hope this new gig allows Desus and Mero the freedom to keep their brand of humor and the laidback nature that made the VICELAND show so great.
When the world is a dumpster fire, it’s hard to talk about current events in a fresh, funny way. As two men of color from humble beginnings in the Bronx, Desus and Mero have a different perspective on the world than the mostly white hosts that dominate late night.
Many of those other hosts are so detached from some of the atrocities unfolding in the country right now that they’re rendered speechless or incited to rant. Desus’ and Mero’s unique points of view are what set them apart from the pack and at the same time make them so relatable. Hopefully this new opportunity allows them to soar. Congrats, fam!
Contact Jac Kern: @jackern