Desus Nice And The Kid Mero : It's Been a Minute with Sam Sanders Desus Nice and The Kid Mero went from calling up "anyone in their phone book" in the early days of their podcast Bodega Boys, to booking big names in politics like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and President Barack Obama on Desus & Mero, their late-night show airing on Showtime. Covering a mix of pop culture, politics, headlines and internet hijinks, Desus and Mero talk to Sam about keeping their show's vibe while working from home, how their view of politics has evolved as their platform has grown and the strange ways that life has changed now that these Bronx natives are famous.

You can follow 'It's Been a Minute' on Twitter @NPRItsBeenAMin and email us at samsanders@npr.org.
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Desus And Mero On Politics, Fame And Life In The Pandemic

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Desus And Mero On Politics, Fame And Life In The Pandemic

Desus And Mero On Politics, Fame And Life In The Pandemic

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  • Transcript

SAM SANDERS, HOST:

It is such an honor to talk to you both. I know both of your voices so well, but some of our listeners might not. So both of you, one by one, say your name and the first concert you're going to attend once the pandemic is over.

DESUS NICE: Yo, it's your boy Desus Nice. You know it from Showtime's "Desus & Mero." I am the chocolate one.

SANDERS: (Laughter).

DESUS NICE: The first concert I'm going to attend when this panoramic is over is going to be Coachella, and it's not going to be attending it. Me and Mero are going to be headlining it, and it's going to be great.

SANDERS: Wow.

THE KID MERO: (Laughter) Yes. And I am The Kid Mero, the human durag. I am the caramel one. I'm the Steph Curry-flavored one, if you will. (Laughter).

SANDERS: (Laughter) Love it.

THE KID MERO: Yo, we headlining Coachella, bro. That's - we dropping a bomb right here on NPR. We're going there in a chopper.

SANDERS: OK. So if y'all are going to headline Coachella, is it going to be, like, a Beychella situation with, like, the marching band and all the dancers in the bleachers?

THE KID MERO: You know it.

SANDERS: Like, how big will this production be?

DESUS NICE: It's going to be great. We're going to bring in classic Bronx icons. So, you know, J.Lo's going to come through. We're going to have Justice Sonia Mayor (ph) come through on a hovercraft.

SANDERS: (Laughter).

DESUS NICE: We're going to have the Big Pun hologram. It's going to be fantas (ph) - it's going to be mind-blowing. We're going to have French Montana singing an opera.

THE KID MERO: It's - oh, man, you guys aren't ready. Y'all not ready for the French Montana doing sotto voce.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SANDERS: You're listening to IT'S BEEN A MINUTE from NPR. I'm Sam Sanders. And you just heard my two guests for this episode, Desus Nice and The Kid Mero. The two of them host a late-night show on Showtime called "Desus & Mero." So this show, it is an incredibly hilarious mix of pop culture and politics and Internet and random headlines. And also, these two on this show, they book some pretty big guests - fellow Bronx native Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez...

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "DESUS & MERO")

DESUS NICE: Is it hard to get a good bacon, egg and cheese in D.C.?

ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: Impossible.

DESUS NICE: Yeah.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: There's no bodegas anywhere. I don't know how anybody eats in Washington, D.C., which probably explains why everyone's fighting all the time.

DESUS NICE: Yeah, they're cranky.

SANDERS: ...Stacey Abrams...

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "DESUS & MERO")

DESUS NICE: "Buffy" versus "Battlestar Galactica."

STACEY ABRAMS: "Buffy."

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

DESUS NICE: "Buffy."

ABRAMS: Look, love "Battlestar" - I do have to explain this one because the hate mail will be real.

THE KID MERO: Yeah, yeah. They don't play.

ABRAMS: I love "Battlestar Galactica," but Buffy was there for me when I needed her. And...

SANDERS: ...Barack Obama.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "DESUS & MERO")

THE KID MERO: They told - they said, we were going to hoop. I thought you were going to come in with some, like exclusive Jordans or something and just...

BARACK OBAMA: Let me just say that I saw some of the footage of y'all with Booker.

DESUS NICE: Yeah.

THE KID MERO: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

OBAMA: And...

DESUS NICE: Before you say anything, that was a deepfake and fake news.

THE KID MERO: Yes, it was.

DESUS NICE: So do not misrepresent us. If you post that video on Twitter, it will be disclaimed, and there'll be a little note on the bottom.

OBAMA: Dude, I'm just saying. Here's the good news - looks like y'all could play for the Knicks.

THE KID MERO: Wow, wow.

SANDERS: Of course, like anyone trying to work during the pandemic, The Kid Mero and Desus Nice have had to make some adjustments. If you watch the show now, everything looks pretty seamless as they broadcast from their homes. But Desus Nice and The Kid Mero told me that it wasn't always that way, especially at the start of this whole thing.

DESUS NICE: If you remember, there was like a little a little gap between our last studio show and our first show that we did in the pharmacy. And so, like, when we did our last show, we didn't have an actual audience.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "DESUS & MERO")

THE KID MERO: Damn, I was going to gas it and be like, yo, every other late night show is wild buns and doing [expletive] with no audience.

DESUS NICE: No, we are also wild buns. We have no real - no, it's still real to us. We have our staff, crew and loved ones in here.

(CHEERING)

DESUS NICE: So it was already - we were kind of veering off. And so, you know, put it in a weird way, you know, like, we were kind - we were getting a little dope sick. We wasn't getting that straight-to-the-vein stuff that we were usually getting with the show. So then, you know, we have no show. I haven't seen Mero in a couple of weeks. To go into a Zoom and I see Mero, I see Julia, I see Tony. I see everyone from Jax Media. I see the production staff.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "DESUS & MERO")

DESUS NICE: No, in this time off, I've taught myself three new languages. I've been doing yoga. I've been making bread. I've raised pigeons. And I am writing...

THE KID MERO: This nigga lying.

(LAUGHTER)

DESUS NICE: I'm lying. No, I'm lying. You know what I've done? This is the biggest achievement I've done - I adjusted the sensitivity on my controller for Call of Duty, and it's made a big difference.

(LAUGHTER)

THE KID MERO: Yo, huge difference.

DESUS NICE: It felt like the first day of school. It was fantastic to be back in there.

SANDERS: Really?

DESUS NICE: It was like a relief. And to be able - like, the idea that we were able to make the show from our house - that's like some James Bond kind of high tech. Like, looking back, the idea that we transformed our - the homes we live in into Hollywood studios and we're able to not just make a show, but make a fire show that actually stepped up what we were making before is just mind-blowing. Every now and then, I just stop and think about it. And it's like, if we ever, you know, get out of this pragmism (ph), you know, we're going to sit back and look at this like, wow, we really this.

(LAUGHTER)

SANDERS: So how did y'all decide where to make the setup in the home studios? Because like - Desus, you're like recording from your shoe room, your shoe closet. Is it a shoe - I mean, like, what do you call it? How did you decide that space?

DESUS NICE: Oh, you know what, this is the sneaker room. This is my pride and joy. This is what I've worked hard for. And now that we are now inside the press room, it doesn't make any sense 'cause I have all these sneakers, and I have nowhere to wear them to, especially 'cause there's 16 inches of snow outside.

But no, I felt like this is - like me and Mero were like, yo, we got to make fire backgrounds. We can't let people think we're out here living like brokies. So you know, had to throw up some sneakers in the back. So I threw it up in what we call my foot locker.

SANDERS: I love it. Now, so Mero, you don't record in the shoe room. But you have - like, I've seen your setup. Describe that for me, for our listeners.

THE KID MERO: Yeah. I mean, like, it's changed, though, for Season 3 'cause, yo, the basement was becoming a fire hazard, bruh. Like, it's dope to do TV because, like, framing was crucial.

DESUS NICE: Yep.

THE KID MERO: There's so much stuff out off to the sides that's out of frame. It was out of control.

DESUS NICE: Wardrobe, props...

THE KID MERO: Wardrobe, racks...

DESUS NICE: ...A green screen, everything.

THE KID MERO: ...Tables, all types of stuff. Then I got my kids running down here talking about, I want to use the PlayStation, them throwing [expletive] all over the place. I was like, oh no, no, baby. Like, the final straw was, like, I'd come down here and there's like a power strip with like 80 wires coming out of it. And there's just, like, paper on top of it. And like, there's lights on. And I was like, no, no, no, no, no. I was like, ain't waking up to no smoke in the middle of the night like, oh, no, I need to go put out the studio.

(LAUGHTER)

SANDERS: So you both seem to be, like, making the best of working from home and making your show from home. But like, what's the worst part?

DESUS NICE: Um, the worst part - I think the worst part is the lack of human interaction because, you know, we've done field shoots. And like, we did - we shot the cold open. We actually went back to the studio. But you know, like, going back to the studio now costs - I'm going to age myself here - it cost an arm and a leg in the middle - 'cause, you know, you got to do all the COVID testing. You got to set up Zone A, Zone B, all of this in the middle. You know, it's just so much. It's just so much. But you get the chance to - I get the chance to see Mero. We get the chance to feed off our energy in person.

THE KID MERO: Bruh, just the - something as simple as like, yo, if like I say, a fire joke and Desus says a fire joke and you just dap each other up 'cause it's so funny, like, in the midst of laughing - like, just that - just that, that physical - yo, that hit.

SANDERS: Yeah.

DESUS NICE: But a socially distanced dap. We used the elbows, OK? We're not - 'cause listen, we not - listen. We had Dr. Fauci on the show. He has our personal numbers. If we start wilding, he's going to call us. And He's going to G-check us. I don't want that problem.

THE KID MERO: He's like, hey, it's Tony from Brooklyn. I told you to keep your hands to yourself.

DESUS NICE: I'm sorry, Dr. Fauci. I'm sorry, Doctor.

SANDERS: Do y'all just, like, call up Fauci to chat? Please say you do.

DESUS NICE: Yeah, yeah. Hey.

THE KID MERO: Yeah. I be like, yo, what's up? What kind of...

DESUS NICE: What's up, Big Fauch (ph)?

SANDERS: He seems like a homie.

THE KID MERO: Yo, you got a D.R. mask I can rock?

DESUS NICE: You know what? You know what? But in all honesty, when we had Dr. Fauci on, you know how - if you've seen our interviews, you know they're pretty rip-roaring. There's no - we don't tell - we don't come up with questions ahead of time. It's all on the spot. And when we were interviewing him, there were times he just kind of, like, laughed and was like, I can't - I'm not going to answer that; I can't answer that.

So to see him now in the press conferences and to see him smiling and being able to answer - 'cause we - he wanted to...

SANDERS: He's free now.

DESUS NICE: He wanted to rip in our interview. You could see it. You could see he wanted to say Trump was an idiot. He wanted to be like, what the hell is this guy doing? But he had to keep his job. Like, that was painful to go through - just seeing someone - like, seeing someone who's an expert in a field not being able to do their thing. It was like telling Steph Curry...

THE KID MERO: With a muzzle...

DESUS NICE: ...You can only take shots from the other side of the half-court line. Like, no, that's not - but you know what? If you tell Steph Curry that, he's like, yo...

THE KID MERO: Layups only, Steph - only layups.

DESUS NICE: You tell Steph Curry that, he's still dropping 54. So I don't know what to do. I don't know what to do.

SANDERS: Yeah, yeah.

So - I mean, just hearing you talk about your interview with Dr. Fauci, that was a big deal. That was serious stuff. He's an important person. You know, you had Stacey Abrams on for your season premiere. You interviewed Barack Obama. You've talked to AOC a few times. You've talked to Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg. When you started the podcast years ago, did y'all want to interview politicians and world leaders like this? How did the show move into that space?

DESUS NICE: I mean...

THE KID MERO: We just wanted to interview anybody, really. Like, we'll just talk to - like, that's really where we were at. Like, in the early incarnations of the show, it literally was like, yo, who's in your phonebook?

DESUS NICE: Yeah.

THE KID MERO: Like, who's the most poppin' person in your phonebook? You know what I'm saying? So like, we'll talk to anybody. You know? And then in the case of Fauci, that was, like, a real smart move on his part 'cause he came on and spoke to a community that really needed to be spoken to about what's going on and is super underserved in terms of, like, media 'cause, like, you know...

SANDERS: Oh, totally.

THE KID MERO: ...Julio that drives Bx12, he's not watching you, like, CNN at, like, 10 p.m. He's on the job. So...

SANDERS: Yeah.

THE KID MERO: ...When he gets home at 11 o'clock and he wants to have a little cognac and relax with his boys, he gets to - you know, he gets the info.

SANDERS: Desus, Mero, and Dr. Fauch.

THE KID MERO: I mean, you know - Tony from Brooklyn.

DESUS NICE: It's your boy, just a...

SANDERS: Tony from Brooklyn.

DESUS NICE: ...Couple of New York boys, yeah. But no, like, we'll interview anybody. And like, I think - the people we've interviewed are mind-blowing. Like, when we stop and think about - we've had Diddy on. We've had David Letterman. We've had - and then it's just - it's weird because, like, the people we've had on are huge outside looking in. But then if you know our relationship and, like, our relationships to, like, Bodega Hive and our podcast, like it's mind-blowing we interviewed Obama. It's more mind-blowing that we interviewed Mike Francesa. Like, it's little things like that...

(LAUGHTER)

DESUS NICE: ...That are just - it's levels to it, bro. Like, every now and then, you look back, and you're like, yo - oh, wow - bro, we interviewed Ty Dolla Sign. Whoa, like...

THE KID MERO: Whoa.

SANDERS: So when you have interviews with politicians, how do you figure out, you know, what you think your responsibility is to the listeners? Y'all are, you know, podcast hosts. You're entertainers. But do you feel a pressure to hold those in power accountable in any way when you talk to them?

THE KID MERO: Like, in a workaround kind of way. Like, you're going to talk - you can't talk in talking points on our show. That's it.

SANDERS: OK.

THE KID MERO: That's, like, the rule.

SANDERS: OK.

THE KID MERO: Like, you have to be a real person and talk like - you know, have a dialogue with us. And if Desus asks you a question, answer it straight up. If I ask you a question, answer it straight up. Don't hit the cliche. Like, whatever you just said on, you know, "Good Morning America" or whatever, don't come on our show and repeat it.

DESUS NICE: Even on that level, there's only but so much you can ask a person when they come on the show 'cause they have a publicist. There's - you know, like, our show is not a gotcha show. We're not coming on there to, like - hey, you messed up; we have this clip of you saying this in March 2014, and now you flip-flopped. Like, that's not - we're not reporters like that. We don't have - we're not "Meet The Press." That's what that show is for. Our show is like - we can't - like, we're pretty much introducing these people to our audience sometimes. So it'd be weird to be like, hey, here's this guy you never heard about; now we're going to put his feet on the fire. Like, it's like, that's just weird. So our thing is more like a conversational quality. We're going to ask you real questions about a real life and just see what you are as a real person before you were a candidate.

(SOUNDBITE OF FLEVANS' "FLICKER")

SANDERS: Coming up, Desus and Mero for mayor - we talk politics.

(SOUNDBITE OF FLEVANS' "FLICKER")

SANDERS: I have read y'all mention in interviews a lot recently about what an interview between the two of y'all and Donald Trump might feel like, might be like. If y'all could book him in his post-presidency life...

THE KID MERO: Oh, my God.

SANDERS: ...What is the first question y'all ask Donald Trump?

DESUS NICE: I would - very West Indian way, I'd be like, are you happy? You happy with the mess you made, hmm? Look around. Look around.

(LAUGHTER)

THE KID MERO: No, I'd be like - it's not a gotcha show, but we would definitely be like, yo, my man? Like, you know what I mean? We would be the voice of every New Yorker that had to, like, watch this bozo.

DESUS NICE: Yeah.

THE KID MERO: The wildest thing is like, this guy is from New York. And somehow he painted himself as, like, some champion of, like, the Rust Belt.

DESUS NICE: Yeah.

THE KID MERO: I'm like, fam, how did you do that? How did you do that? You're the grifter of all grifters.

DESUS NICE: I think what we have to do is be like...

SANDERS: Yeah. He's from Queens, right?

DESUS NICE: He's from Queen, QU. You know, he used to hang in Queensbridge with Mobb Deep before he switched up.

(LAUGHTER)

DESUS NICE: But no, we're going to ask him - we'll just be like, yo, Trump, list off all the things you accomplished as president. And once he answers, I'll be like, nope, wrong. Nope, nope...

THE KID MERO: Nah, (imitating buzzer).

DESUS NICE: ...wrong, not valid, incorrect, (imitating buzzer). He's only putting up with maybe a minute of that 'cause he's very - that's the thing. He's also supersensitive. Remember, he couldn't stay for that interview on "60 Minutes" with Lesley Stahl. So there's no - he - bro...

SANDERS: Oh, yeah, he walked out.

DESUS NICE: ...He couldn't even handle getting on a train at rush hour with New York City junior high schoolers. There's no way...

THE KID MERO: They're some kids.

DESUS NICE: ...He'd be able to handle us.

(LAUGHTER)

THE KID MERO: For real - that's it. Put him in a junior high school assembly, and he's toast.

DESUS NICE: They'll be like, yo, who's this orange old guy? Yo...

THE KID MERO: Yo, get him out of here.

DESUS NICE: Yo, my man look like orange...

THE KID MERO: Yo, you bozo.

DESUS NICE: Yo, you look like Tang. He'd be like, yo, wow.

SANDERS: (Laughter).

THE KID MERO: Yo, why your hair stay like that? Why your hair is like T.I.'s hat? It don't move.

(LAUGHTER)

SANDERS: Oh, man. How has the last few years of seen your show blown up and being able to talk to a lot of these politicians and talk about politics through a really big audience maybe change the way the two of you as people think about politics?

DESUS NICE: Oh, definitely. Now it's - now I think you're more aware of the dangers of cults of personality in politics or just getting swept up in embracing just the charisma of a candidate versus the actual substance. And the biggest idea - the biggest example of that is Donald Trump. And you kind of see - it's kind of happening again. We have the mayoral race here in New York City. And you're seeing people, and they're like, I'm behind this candidate. And these candidates haven't even said anything. These candidates have not laid out any policy. They haven't said what they're going to do for nightlife coming back in New York City, how they're going to help restaurant workers, what they're even going to do about bike lanes - little things that really matter.

It's going to be a huge - one of the biggest elections in New York City's history, and you have people that are just doing photo ops. You have people just - it's not serious to them. It seems like it's some sort of popularity contest. And then you think about that. And you're just like, OK, if this person isn't really helping New York City, should we have them on the show? Like, are we just helping inflate someone who's going to possibly harm New York if they get elected? It it changes the way you look at things 'cause now - you know, we joke and say we're kingmakers, but we are a platform for visibility for these people, and we have to use that power accordingly and be responsible with it.

THE KID MERO: A hundred percent, that's been the thing is just like, OK, like you did a cool video, and it got, you know, 10 million views.

SANDERS: (Laughter).

THE KID MERO: But what are you going to do about the homelessness situation? What are you going to do about...

SANDERS: There you go.

THE KID MERO: ...Child hunger? What are you going to do about COVID responses in schools and, you know, all these, like, real-deal stuff that's coming up? But it's like, hello, regular person...

SANDERS: Yeah, I'm doing a photo op. I will shake your hand.

THE KID MERO: ...Let me help you tie your durag.

(CROSSTALK)

DESUS NICE: I mean, if you're read between the lines, low-key, what we're saying is me and Mero are going to run for mayor. Like, it's time.

SANDERS: What?

DESUS NICE: We're going to be first...

SANDERS: Campaign slogan, go. Campaign slogan - do it. Go.

DESUS NICE: We're fixing it, dawg. That's our campaign slogan. All right?

THE KID MERO: Yeah.

DESUS NICE: You know how Ed Koch was like, how am I doing at every press conference? They're like, what are you doing about the vaccine rollout? It's been slow. We're like, we're fixing it, dawg. Next question.

SANDERS: We're fixing it, dawg.

DESUS NICE: OK. What's up?

SANDERS: There you go. I'd wear that T-shirt.

DESUS NICE: Exactly.

THE KID MERO: Boom. NYC, we fixing it, dawg.

SANDERS: What color is the hat, though, that has the slogan on it? It can't be a red hat.

DESUS NICE: No, no red hat. It's orange and blue 'cause orange and blue is the flag of New York state. And it's also the color of the greatest basketball team in New York City. You know the vibes - ah, ah, ah, yerr, yerr (ph).

THE KID MERO: That's right.

SANDERS: Can I just - wow. OK. I'm from San Antonio, Texas.

DESUS NICE: OK.

SANDERS: So I have strong feelings about the Spurs.

DESUS NICE: OK.

SANDERS: But I'm going to let y'all go off.

DESUS NICE: OK. You're allowed. You're allowed.

(SOUNDBITE OF FLEVANS' "FLICKER")

SANDERS: Coming up, Desus and Mero on being famous while living in the Bronx.

(SOUNDBITE OF FLEVANS' "FLICKER")

SANDERS: Can we get into some backstory?

DESUS NICE: Yeah.

SANDERS: Can you tell our listeners who might not know how this dynamic duo began?

THE KID MERO: Oh, man - summer school.

SANDERS: What grade?

THE KID MERO: A lot of people - for me, it was - I think it was freshman or sophomore year, going into sophomore year. And then fast-forward to the inception of Twitter. You know, there's a - Bronx Twitter was a thing, believe it or not. And we would go back-and-forth, like, just talking about similar stuff, similar backgrounds. We're both children of immigrants, same age bracket. So a lot of stuff that we talk about, you know, we go back-and-forth.

SANDERS: How long was the gap between y'all connecting on Twitter and y'all first meeting in summer school?

DESUS NICE: That had to be over a decade. That was quite some time.

SANDERS: Really?

THE KID MERO: Yeah, a long time.

DESUS NICE: Yeah - 'cause, you know, we weren't - it wasn't like we were, like, best friends or anything. We just ran in circles. So he was like a friend of a boy - a homie I knew. So it was just like, oh, that's that kid from there. Then we reconnected on Twitter. And then - yo, shout-out to our guy Donnie Kwak at Complex, who I've been known forever. He was in charge of new products or whatever. And he was like, yo, do you and Mero want to do a podcast? And I was like, I don't know what the hell the podcast is. So sure, why not?

SANDERS: (Laughter).

DESUS NICE: I was working at a - I was working at a job I hated. And, you know, I had to sneak out of the job in a full suit to come to come to Complex.

SANDERS: What was the job?

DESUS NICE: It was for a mag - I don't want to give them any shine, so I'll be very cryptic in this. It's a magazine for Black people about money.

SANDERS: I know what mag - can I say it?

DESUS NICE: You know what magazine it is.

SANDERS: Can I say it?

DESUS NICE: Don't say their name. I don't want to give any props 'cause me and them still got beef.

(LAUGHTER)

DESUS NICE: But you know - every Black person knows 'cause it's on the table...

SANDERS: Oh, we know.

DESUS NICE: ...At your grandma's house.

SANDERS: Well, 'cause our - exactly.

DESUS NICE: Exactly.

SANDERS: And you be like, who was reading this magazine? Ain't nobody reading this magazine.

DESUS NICE: OK.

THE KID MERO: It's five pages long.

DESUS NICE: OK. Now you're like, ain't nobody reading this magazine. Imagine if every day you wake up and go into the office to write articles for that magazine, knowing no one's reading it. Imagine you writing yourself a nice 400-word article. You put it up. And at the end you check your traffic and it has 17 views.

SANDERS: Oh, man.

DESUS NICE: How do you keep yourself from jumping out that window, my brother?

(LAUGHTER)

DESUS NICE: You know how you do it?

(LAUGHTER)

DESUS NICE: You reach into your desk and you pull out that cold Lime-A-Rita you bought on Monday and you crack it open at 2:30 p.m.

SANDERS: (Laughter) He said Lime-A-Rita.

THE KID MERO: (Laughter).

DESUS NICE: You crack open at 2:30 p.m. before that 3 o'clock meeting. You know what I'm saying?

SANDERS: He said Lima-A-Rita - the specificity.

DESUS NICE: OK.

SANDERS: So Mero, what job were you doing before all this took off?

THE KID MERO: I was working at a school, and I didn't not like my job. It was just hard. I was a paraprofessional on the accelerated teaching path. Shout-out to all my paraprofessionals out there, all my TAs. You are the most underappreciated people in the Department of Education, bar none. It's like you've got to be a teacher, a bouncer, a counselor....

SANDERS: A bouncer.

THE KID MERO: ...A big brother.

SANDERS: Yeah.

THE KID MERO: Yo - 'cause yeah, you got to break up fights and [expletive]. And it's wild because, like, you know, school safety is supposed to do that. By the time school safety gets up off the ass and gets up to the fourth floor, you know...

SANDERS: You got to break the fight up.

THE KID MERO: ...Rameek and Jose about to tear each other up. So I got to jump in there and make it happen. But, yeah, no, like, I - and it was funny 'cause, like, I would leave there, and I knew we were going on video. So I would, like, leave there, try to get a quick shape-up or whatever, hop on the D train and then head down to Complex to do the podcast and link up with Desus. And it was funny 'cause, like, the first time we met, he came in a suit. And I was just like...

SANDERS: Oh, snap.

THE KID MERO: I was like, what? I was like - bro, we're talking about, like, bagging up and all this wild and he's then he comes through in, like, the suit and tie. And he's just like, it's for my job, bro.

DESUS NICE: Yeah, my job...

THE KID MERO: I was, ah, ah, ah.

DESUS NICE: We had to wear a suit every day. We had to wear a suit every day.

THE KID MERO: (Laughter) Facts.

SANDERS: Wow.

DESUS NICE: I was like, why? We work in an office. Why are we wearing a suit?

THE KID MERO: Nobody's seeing us.

DESUS NICE: And I swear to God, HR said, because white people are watching us. And I was like, what?

SANDERS: What? This Black magazine said that?

DESUS NICE: Yes, yes.

SANDERS: Oh, my God. Stop.

So what I love about y'all's energy is that it still feels like that energy y'all had years ago when this was starting out. And it seems as if your sensibility hasn't changed. But I'm guessing that, like, the world has changed how it treats you and how it looks at you and how people interact with you. Like, what's it like now walking through the Bronx as the two of you...

DESUS NICE: You know what?

SANDERS: ...With, you know, the success?

DESUS NICE: A lot of people, they're just like - they ask that question and they forget, we have to wear masks. People have no idea who I am.

SANDERS: (Laughter).

DESUS NICE: People have no idea who I - bro, I go to my supermarket, and I have to show ID to get certain - 'cause I live in the Bronx. And stuff - like, Red Bull is locked up. If you buy alcohol at my supermarket, you have to show ID. So every time I buy a beer, I have to show ID. I got the mask on. They don't know. Every now and then people - like, the other day, I was getting money out my money clip, and my SAG card fell out, and it was on the floor.

SANDERS: Look at you.

DESUS NICE: And I was like, oh - I was like, oh, whoops - my SAG card. No one in the Bronx knows what the hell that is. They're like, what is - they're like, what is that for Best Buy? I'm just like, you know - like, nobody knows.

(LAUGHTER)

SANDERS: It is yellow and black.

THE KID MERO: Papi, that's like your new Social Security card? That's the new Social Security? What's that.

DESUS NICE: Bro, what is that? What is that? Yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

DESUS NICE: So - and then every now and then, though, like, a DoorDash person. Like, if I don't have time to get the mask or like, say, they leave it on my door - like, outside my door and I'm opening the door and they're standing there waiting for the elevator, I'll reach out and I'll be like, yo, thank you. And they'll be like, oh, you're welcome - oh, [expletive], Desus. And like, you'll get that quick moment. But other than that, in the middle of the penguin, brother, like, it's humbled me.

SANDERS: In the middle of the penguin - in the middle of the popcorn pickle.

THE KID MERO: Yeah, bruh.

SANDERS: So I ask this question because I read in one interview, either one or both of you reflected on the way that police treat you differently now. You know, y'all are both men of color who grew up in the Bronx and were harassed in their youth by police officers in New York. And one of you told the story about, like, police officers now, like, wanting to say hi and how much they love the show.

DESUS NICE: Oh, yeah.

SANDERS: What does that even - how - what is that like?

THE KID MERO: It's wild.

DESUS NICE: Yeah.

THE KID MERO: It's like bizarro "Twilight Zone" level...

SANDERS: Really?

THE KID MERO: ...Because growing up, like, we don't stop-and-frisk was, like, normal 'cause, you know, cops just pull you over. All right, yo. Assume the position. You're going to frisk me. Like, it is what it is, fact of life. Like, we thought that was police procedure.

DESUS NICE: Yeah.

THE KID MERO: Come to find out, it's not. But when you're 14, 15, 16, growing up in the hood, you don't know that. So like now, you know, being men of a certain age - I'm not going to blow up our ages - Google it.

SANDERS: I know y'all's ages.

THE KID MERO: (Laughter).

But yeah, now that we're grown-ass men, it's like, yo, that was not OK. You know what I mean? So it's like a weird - it's very weird. It's a very weird feeling. It's cool, but it's also not cool at the same time, if that makes sense.

DESUS NICE: Yeah, it was...

THE KID MERO: It's like, yo, you weren't on the force. It wasn't you that put your boot on my head, but maybe it was your uncle.

DESUS NICE: Yeah. And it's weird, especially like a sports event, especially at Yankee games. A lot of - you get stopped by cops on duty and off duty. And they - you know, like a cop is like, hey, get over here. You - as a person of color, you automatically expect the worst. I'm like, OK, I'm going to Rikers. I did something wrong. And they're like, do that impression. Do the impression. Do the cop impression.

SANDERS: Wait. Stop it.

DESUS NICE: You do it. And they're...

SANDERS: That would scare me to death.

DESUS NICE: And then they hit their partner up. And they're like, he sounds exactly like Joey. I told you. He sounds exactly like Joey. And I'm just like - I'm laughing. I'm like ha, ha, ha. And inside, I'm like shook to death. I'm like, this is wild 'cause, you know, growing up, you never talked to the cops. You never - like, there's - I can only - I can't think of any reason...

THE KID MERO: No eye contact.

DESUS NICE: ...Why you'd talk to the - like, even if I dropped my phone down a sewer grate, I'm calling 311. I'm not calling 911. I'm not calling a cop. We were never taught that cops were our friends. That was never anything that was even brought into our attention as children. So now to just be interacting with them on any level is just so surreal to us.

THE KID MERO: Yeah, it's very strange for a cop to be like, yo, can we get a selfie? Like, what?

SANDERS: Yeah. That would creep me out.

Do you think - I mean, we've all watched the protests for racial justice happen over the last year. And I find myself in this new year asking if it's gotten better at all. And I don't know. I can't tell yet. Do y'all think a lot of this stuff with race and policing has gotten better?

DESUS NICE: I don't. I don't think - I feel like, if anything, a lot of the movement has lost its energy in that people who were, you know, saying - you know, people who were all for it, a lot of them online now, they're like, all right, we got Biden - job's done. We're good. Everything's fixed.

THE KID MERO: Yeah, mission accomplished.

DESUS NICE: And it's like, no, there's a lot more work to be done. You got to put pressure on them. You know, like, Kamala and Joe are going to be, like, very pro-cop, so we're going to have a lot of issues going forward that have not changed going forward. And a lot of people - they're still people saying, like, the best solution is more cops. And people are just like, no, that's not how - that's not going to fix the interactions with the community that's causing these problems.

But, you know, I'm not completely Debbie-Downing, and I'm not completely negative because it did bring that attention to the eyes of people who probably didn't even think of it before. So at least they're aware of it. It's just on them what the next step they're going to take with that information.

SANDERS: Yeah, yeah.

THE KID MERO: Yeah. I mean, what I will say is that, like, what does give me hope is that, like, you know, people are getting engaged at an earlier age. Like, you know, there's kids that are like, you know, 10, 11, 12, even younger than that, that are aware.

SANDERS: They know stuff.

DESUS NICE: Yeah.

SANDERS: They're researching.

THE KID MERO: Yeah, they know stuff. They're researching. They're reading. They're looking into stuff. They're asking questions. And these are things that we didn't do as kids. We were just kind of like, you know, ha, ho-hum.

SANDERS: We couldn't. We didn't - like, we didn't get the Internet.

THE KID MERO: We didn't have the opportunity. Yeah, we didn't have the Internet. We didn't have the access to resources that they have. So that that gives me, you know, the not completely like, oh, we did all this for nothing...

SANDERS: Yeah, yeah, yeah. The kids know what's up.

THE KID MERO: ...The youth movement that's swelling, that's growing is giving me hope as a washed old man.

(LAUGHTER)

SANDERS: I could do this all day. I am such a fan of y'all and the work you do and the way you just kind of bring joy in whatever you're doing. And I'm sure we'll talk soon.

DESUS NICE: Thank you so much, man. This was a pleasure.

THE KID MERO: Sam - make 'em say it.

DESUS NICE: Sam the man.

SANDERS: Thanks again to Desus Nice and The Kid Mero. The third season of their show, "Desus & Mero," is now airing on Showtime. You can also listen to their podcast, "Bodega Boys," wherever you get your podcasts. And let me tell you - that podcast, there was one episode recently where they're doing this hilarious, totally, totally bonkers Fauci impersonation which cracked me up. All right. This episode of IT'S BEEN A MINUTE was produced by Andrea Gutierrez, and it was edited by Jordana Hochman. And listeners, we are back in your feeds on Friday. Till then, be good to yourselves. I'm Sam Sanders. We'll talk soon.

(SOUNDBITE OF FLEVANS' "FLICKER")

SANDERS: Can y'all do an aka for NPR?

DESUS NICE: Aka for NPR, you know the vibes. Aka...

THE KID MERO: Oh, yo, NPR, aka Sotto Voce FM aka we talking low, but we loud aka...

DESUS NICE: Yo, aka, leave me on when you leave your house to go to work so your pets become very smart, and they know about conflicts in nations you didn't even know about. Like, yo, and come in and your dog looks at you like, yo, do you know what's going on in Botswana? Do you know about the cartels? How do feel about their rigged elections? And you're like, whoa. Yo, what happened to my animal? He's wild smart.

Also, NPR, if you want to flex on your Uber driver, you come in there - he's like, yo, you want to hear hip-hop? And you go, no, that was kind of racist. Actually, I want to hear NPR. Why would you think...

THE KID MERO: NPR, sir.

DESUS NICE: Why do you think I want to hear hip-hop? And he's like, you requested I took you to a Bow Wow concert. And I was like, oh, that's true. Wow. Sorry. Sorry. Sorry, sorry.

THE KID MERO: Oh, yeah, yeah. You right. You right. You right.

SANDERS: (Laughter).

(SOUNDBITE OF FLEVANS' "FLICKER")

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