Desus and Mero — aka Desus Nice and The Kid Mero, aka Daniel Baker and Joel Martinez — have accrued millions of fans who have followed them from Twitter to a successful podcast to their nightly Viceland show (which proved so popular they were recently poached by Showtime — they air on Crave in Canada). But the ratings and accolades all pale in comparison to being called “the future” of the late-night format by David Letterman, whom the duo calls “the Michael Jordan of the format.” “That moment was huge; important,” says Mero. “We got made,” adds Desus. “We’re made men now.” Their show, currently in its second season, refuses to distinguish between high and low brow — everything, in their eyes, is part of the culture, and fair game. “If you go [to a Bodega], you always see the two drunk guys at three in the morning and they’ll talk about any topic but they don’t really know anything about it,” Desus explains. “That’s us!” Here, they discuss how to avoid getting cancelled, Drake’s unlimited winning potential and why their new book (out on September 22) is written mostly in all caps.
You’ve somehow managed to avoid getting cancelled. What’s your secret?
Mero: My advice would be: Do not anger Eminem, do not anger Nicki Minaj fans, do not anger Beyonce fans and you should be all right. Other than that, you can do whatever you want.
Desus: The new rule on Twitter is basically if you have a tweet and you’re worried your tweet is too hot to put out there — like you’re really excited that it’s going to kill the timeline but you feel that it’s an offensive tweet — send it to your draft and wait 24 hours. And if you feel the same way about that tweet the next day, then hit send. If you look at your drafts, there’s probably some stuff in there that’s saved your career. The drafts is where all the real tweets are in 2020.
Mero: It’s like Trump’s taxes. In the future, people will demand politicians release your drafts. ‘We want to see you drafts!’
Speaking of politics, late night shows were blamed for humanizing Trump. Your show has become a stop for political candidates. Are you worried about that?
Desus: We’re not going to endorse anyone. That’s not on brand for us. We’re watchers. We watch and report the news to you and that’s always going to be our thing. AOC is different because we know her and that’s our homegirl, but at the same time you’re not going to see us with Mitt Romney going to look at dressage horses.
Mero: I’m not going to lie, Bloomberg did send me $10,000 dollars.
Your first book, God-Level Knowledge Darts: Life Lessons from the Bronx, is less about pop culture than life lessons. For two people who have made a career off extemporaneous reactions, was it odd working on something for so long?
Mero: Going into it we knew that this is a book that’s going to live forever. This is not like a tweet that’s gonna scroll down the timeline or disappear. So all the topics are pretty much evergreen. Like raising children, dating, what to do if you’re in trouble with the law. It’s kind of a self help book. But everything in there is obviously facetious. Like don’t actually follow my advice on shoplifting.
Mero, did actually submit your half of the book in all caps?
Mero: You know it.
Desus: One of the editors was like, ‘I’m going to fuck you up.’ But you gotta stay on brand.
The Bronx has become a character in everything that you do. Why do you think people all over the world have responded to your very specific references?
Desus: If you think about New York City: ‘The greatest city in the world,” they make songs about it, they make TV shows about it and they never show you the Bronx. Friends or Sex and the City never went to the Bronx. The Bronx is a forgotten borough; the Bronx is the underdog of the boroughs. Everyone likes to root for the underdog. And when you got two people who are saying we represent the Bronx but we don’t do it in a corny way — we’re not walking around with gold name plates that say “The Bronx” or whatever. It’s just our mannerisms, the way we talk, our jokes, our viewpoints. You see that and it’s like rooting for the little guy because you see yourself. Now-a-days, you got like billionaires buying elections and people feel helpless. And then to see two people from the bottom making it, I think there’s some things that everyone can relate to that. We even have fans who are Trump voters and they just like, “Yo, you roast Trump all the time. I hate that part of the show. But I love every other segment.” So there’s an authenticity that people don’t get on other shows or other podcasts that people really need. And I think that’s what makes us so palatable for audiences.
You’ve been praised by many as breaking open the late night world to a more diverse audience…
Mero: It was so obvious that this needed to be done. I’m just glad that we were the ones that do it. Because when you look at the landscape of late night, it is very homogeneous. And we are not that. We’re scooping up a large demographic of people that aren’t really represented on late night and aren’t talked about on late night. So it was time, you know what I mean? It had to happen eventually.
Desus: To me, it is hilarious because for almost two years Mero and I sat in a room and there was like a wall where you could do graffiti. We had these notepads and we wrote down what we would like a late night show to be. Nothing groundbreaking: no writers, no one sitting down. That pad is exactly what the show is now. And it’s just funny that people say this is groundbreaking, this is amazing, this was revolutionary. And it’s like, no, this is just us. Just the two homies. I think that’s why people like it, because it seems so effortless. Like other people couldn’t do it the way we do it.
Mero: I’m a huge basketball fan and watching LeBron James play basketball is fucking amazing. And I know in my heart of hearts, as hard as I tried or if I trained, I would never, ever, ever, ever reach that level. But to him, it’s probably just like “I trained and I do this.” That’s just his talent. So it doesn’t feel like we’re stretching ourselves to the limit to provide this groundbreaking paradigm shifts in comedy. We’re just being us.
Desus: We’re not LeBron or Steph, we’re more like when JR Smith started dropping threes out of nowhere when he was on the Knicks.
Or Jeremy Lin…
Desus: Exactly. We’re the Linsanity of late night.
You’ll have to move to Toronto to get your championship rings then.
Mero: Oh wow. I’m not mad at all because Canadians are so polite and the Raptors have been around for like so long and for years, LeBron was your Jordan. You had so many demoralizing Ls…you deserve it.
Desus: The wild part is the Knicks haven’t even been near a championship. Not only do you guys go all the way, you guys did it really dramatically. So hats off to you. Also shout out to your MVP Drake. I want to be the Drake to the Knicks.
Are you guys Drake haters?
Mero: I’ve always been a Drake fan. People go back and forth on Drake. I’m not ashamed to say he makes good music. I don’t give a shit about what anybody says, when I’m in the club and it’s fucking 12:30 or one o’clock or two o’clock or three o’clock and I just hear one of the myriad songs that he has that all you have to hear is like the opening note and everybody in the club is like [screams], you can’t take that away from the guy. People could talk all the shit they want about Drake, but at the end of the day, the guy’s winning. He makes banger after banger after banger and it’s it’s undeniable. You could be mad and be like ha ha you don’t write your own shit and then you lost this rap battle and blah blah blah like a rap nerd. But if you just are like trying to have a good time and enjoy music Drake is phenomenal.
Desus: Drake is doing what you would do if you had money. Like if you had mad money, you would go to every Raptors game, you’d be sitting court side, you’d be buying planes, dating every super hot chick out there. You can’t even hate on that. Most of the time you hate on Drake doing something and it’s like, are you hating on him doing it or are you hating because you can’t do it? So at that point you just gotta like look at Drake and be like salute, nice to meet you my Canadian bredrin. Also thank you for bringing Top Boy back, I really appreciated that.