MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Now we're going to tell you about two guys from the Bronx who used to spend long days being bored at their day jobs before they connected on Twitter. And there, they found their calling - telling jokes about news headlines and offering hilarious takes on viral videos. Then it was on to a popular podcast, the "Bodega Boys," and then to a talk show on VICELAND. And eventually, Showtime came calling, and now Desus and Mero are taking their act to late-night with a new show that debuted this past week with their first guest, representative and fellow Bronx native, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "DESUS AND MERO")
DESUS: We got a little guest coming up from the BX. It's our homie, AOC.
THE KID MERO: The congresswoman. You know what I'm saying? Or Congress - should we just, like, congressperson at this point?
DESUS: I like to call her the notorious AOC.
THE KID MERO: The notorious...
DESUS: Like that - like a rapper or something like that.
THE KID MERO: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
DESUS: Yo, but let's get it started.
THE KID MERO: So you don't get filibustered out of here.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
MARTIN: And there it is. They're joining us now from the NPR bureau in New York.
Desus and Mero, thank you so much for joining us...
THE KID MERO: Yeah.
DESUS: Thanks for having us.
THE KID MERO: Thank you. Thank you.
MARTIN: ...On this big week for you, your big launch at Showtime....
THE KID MERO: Yes.
DESUS: Thank you. We're still buzzing from it. We're still a little hungover from the premiere party.
THE KID MERO: Yes. Like, I can barely speak. I'm so exhausted. I can only do one thing today.
MARTIN: How does it feel, though? How does it feel? I know it's the corny question - as corny as possible question - but how does it feel? I mean, honestly, five years ago, would you have envisioned this?
THE KID MERO: Not at all. Not at all. You're asking me if five years ago, Vanity Fair would've called me handsome? I would have been, like...
DESUS: Like, we really - definitely, last night was one of those moments, like, in a movie. We just sit around just staring at everything, trying to take it in - like, yo...
THE KID MERO: Yo.
DESUS: ...Is this for real? Like, now it's starting to feel like this might just be, like, a really long dream.
THE KID MERO: What is happening? I'm going to wake up out of a Xanax nap in, like, White Castle on Fordham Road. Like, oh, what happened?
MARTIN: All right. Each of you tell me a little bit about your backstory. Desus, why don't you start? And then tell me how you all met.
DESUS: You know, you know, regular New York story. I probably had every possible job. I've worked construction, worked as a mechanic. I was working as a writer for a small business company, a small business magazine. And listen - it was just, like, the most monotonous, brain-draining job ever. And I'd just go on Twitter, and I'd tweet about my job, and I'd talk about, like, the people I work with, just the ridiculousness of my job. Like, one time, we had a 10:00 meeting, but there was a 9:00 meeting that we had ahead of it for the 10:00 meeting.
And Mero also had a job he hated, and we'd just, you know, tweet at each other about how we both hated our jobs, and people found it very funny. And they decided to turn it into a podcast, and it took off and running, and here we are.
MARTIN: But, you know, the other thing about it though is that I think people who followed you at all noticed that you can riff on anything. And it's very - I don't know how else to describe it. It's like high-low. I mean, you can talk about foreign policy. You can talk about like what your co-workers are wearing and things of that sort.
DESUS: It's very New York. It's - that's the tradition in New York City public schools 'cause you have to learn how to be really quick and fast and be able to roast people. And I think the fact that, while we are like pretty hood, we do have very eclectic backgrounds. Like, I was working in a financial magazine. I probably know more about tax forms than the average person. So stuff like that you can work into your riffs, and people appreciate that 'cause there's certain jokes there's only going to be like three or four takes on it. And we're able to be like, oh, this reminds me of, I don't know, the Treaty of Versailles. You could just really mix it up with people. They're like wow, OK, this isn't all just hood jokes about drugs and guns. Like, there is a level of intellect here.
MARTIN: So there are a lot of late-night options out there now, and obviously, you two are different. You know, you're not wearing the suits. You know, you talk to all kinds of people, you know, former Attorney General Eric Holder, Whoopi Goldberg. I mean, you run the sort of gamut obviously. But what do you think you have that these other shows don't have?
DESUS: Our show is like a deconstructed late-night show that what you see on our show, hopefully you won't see on any other show. And, you know, shoutout to Seth Meyers, shoutout to Jimmy Fallon. We know all these guys. We've done their shows. And their show, there is definitely a market for it. But the show has been done so many times in these - and even they say, you know, the format - monologue, house band, boom, guest one. While that works, there has to be some sort of change or a different option in late night, and that's what we're trying to deliver.
MARTIN: I love how you humble brag - dropped in all those names right there. Like, I love how you, like, dropped in Jimmy Fallon and Seth Meyers. You know, I've been hanging out...
THE KID MERO: Oh, yeah, those are the homies.
DESUS: I mean, we did Seth Meyers earlier this week. It's not bragging if it's true, you know what I mean? We also did "The View" and bodied it.
THE KID MERO: Just casually dropped in on Joy Behar, you know what I'm saying, say what's up.
DESUS: But no, like, even our show, like yesterday's show, a lot of the comments were just like, wow. What you guys did in the show, no other late night show could've done. Like, that "Green Book" sketch, there's no other hosts could even - would even touch that.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "DESUS AND MERO")
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: From the producers of "Green Book" comes the story of a white man who had the courage to know a black person. It's a movie critics are calling brave, powerful and made me feel great about being white.
DESUS: We call it late night for the people because there's just a demographic of people who do not see themselves represented in late night or don't see the comedy and information they want represented in late night. So we're trying to deliver that to people.
MARTIN: Well, let me ask you about that, though, because the fact of the matter is that there have been other hosts of color, and for whatever reason, those shows have not survived. There was - Arsenio did have a good run. It was seven or eight years. But then there's Larry Wilmore, a very highly regarded comedy writer who was on "Daily Show," had a following; W. Kamau Bell, who's doing fine on CNN but had his show. Wanda Sykes had a show. And I just have to ask you, do you have any concerns that, you know, for whatever reason, that something about late night hews to that kind of mid-market mainstream?
THE KID MERO: You can say white people (laughter).
MARTIN: I could say that. I'm just going to say that - is there some reason you think that these more particular points of view don't last long in late night?
THE KID MERO: You know what it is? I think those people, you know, were kind of brought up in that framework of, like, Hollywood. You know, being writers, being in writers rooms, working in - under the structure of like, you know, Hollywood and whatever like that.
DESUS: I think the other thing is a lot of those shows were marketed as black shows, and that's going to already cut the audience in half. Our show has never been advertised as a show for black people. Yes, I happen to be Jamaican. He happens to be Dominican. But if you watched the first episode, the jokes - they weren't like coded in ebonics that you couldn't understand, right? They're very accessible. We talk a little faster than most people, but anyone can get this content. And it's not - we're not doing, like, like a full Juneteenth episode to just, like, confuse people. But we definitely want to get as many people as possible.
THE KID MERO: And then like people like Eric Holder, who you would think would be like, you know, a government stiff person, like, you know, we sit him down. And they get comfortable around us, you know what I mean? So you get the human side of that person.
DESUS: Right. We're talking to Eric Holder. I'm like, oh, do you ever get confused for Stedman Graham? Everyone's asking him, like, serious questions. These are the questions we're asking. These are human questions that people want to know about other humans.
MARTIN: Well, before I let you go - and congratulations again.
DESUS: Thank you.
THE KID MERO: Thank you so much.
MARTIN: How will you know if you've succeeded in this gig? I mean, come on. When you really think about it, doesn't it make you cry?
DESUS: No. We're from the Bronx. We don't cry.
MARTIN: Oh, sorry. You don't cry. OK. What about your parents? Doesn't it...
DESUS: They're just confused.
THE KID MERO: Yeah. They're just like, papi, I see you on the TV. It's good. Can you please give me $5,000 because I have to fix the house?
DESUS: Like, my father texted me last night. He was like, yo, I laughed during your show - which doesn't sound like a lot. He's gone from not acknowledging that I was on TV to actually being excited for the Showtime show. So for him laughing at this is just like - because he's like an older Jamaican man. They don't laugh at anything except like if the price of heating oil comes down. So for him to laugh at last night's show means the world.
THE KID MERO: You know, I'm not even going to lie. Like, talking about crying and feeling like emotional and stuff like that, like, my cousin sent me a video of all my old uncles huddled around the TV watching the show last night. And I was just like, wow, all that making fun of them and impersonating them when I was like 6 years old all paid off. And they're super proud of it.
MARTIN: That was Desus and Mero. Their new late night talk show debuted on Showtime, and they were kind enough to join us from NPR's bureau in New York. Desus, Mero, congratulations. Thank you so much for talking to us.
DESUS: Thanks again.
THE KID MERO: Thank you.
DESUS: Thanks for having us. Thank you NPR.
THE KID MERO: (Unintelligible).
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