After realizing that soul-sucking jobs were draining away the hours in their day, Desus and Mero turned the struggle of the grind into a podcast and much, much more.
Desus Nice and the Kid Mero — the professional aliases of Daniel Baker and Joel Martinez — were two guys from the Bronx who gained social media followings from Twitter rants about their stale jobs. The pair's chemistry attracted more fans and gave them opportunities to do something they loved: comedy. In 2015, they started their acclaimed podcast, “The Bodega Boys," in which the two chat away about pop culture trends and hip-hop music. They've had multiple TV stints, including with Complex, MTV and Viceland. In 2019, Desus and Mero found a home on premium cable with "Desus & Mero," joining the ranks of late-night personalities like John Oliver and Trevor Noah. They're Showtime's first late-night hosts.
Both of their personalities shine through their work, as does their hometown pride. Austin fans will be able to catch the pair’s live comedy show July 20 at ACL Live at the Moody Theater. We spoke with Desus and Mero before the show about late-night hosting, the current state of social media and their love of touring.
On creating “Desus & Mero” for Showtime
Mero said the pair wanted to make an unfiltered show true to the spirit of late-night comedy.
“We’ve always said from the beginning that what makes our late-night show is that it’s on late at night,” Mero said. “We just wanted to make a really good show, and it just so happens you can say things at night that you can’t say at 8 a.m.”
“A lot of other shows are monologues, talking at you. We are talking with you," Mero said.
The pair interacts with the audience and captures unscripted reactions, Desus said.
“Our backgrounds and viewpoints are so different from all the other late-night shows. That will always set us apart,” Desus said. “Other late-night shows look and sound the same. We can come in and break that.”
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Mero said a lot of inspiration comes from the duo’s background growing up in the Bronx, as well as their life experiences.
“There are no two dudes who look and sound like us on TV, who are reacting to the world like we view it,” Mero said. “I don’t want to sound high and mighty, but it is important to have people you can relate to on TV. For example, the kid that’s a senior in college, who is stressed out, may just want to relax at the end of the night with two dudes who look like him and sound like him.”
“The show is all us. We don’t have any stylists trying to look for an outfit,” Desus said. “This is the stuff we bring from home, then we even design the sets.”
On social media trends
Social media is hard to escape in today's culture, and Desus and Mero tackle online trends and videos on their show. The pair agree that experience is needed when filtering through endless amounts of tweets, and that social media is headed down a troubling path.
There is some stuff that "pops off on Twitter and is super hot for two hours, but no one will talk about the next day,” Desus said. “We look at it and say, 'OK, the timeline is talking about this, but will it resonate for the Monday show or the Thursday show? What’s the life expectancy on this?'"
Desus and Mero are social media veterans. Mero even has a history of engaging in Twitter battles with other users.
“I guess it’s a Bronx mentality. You aren’t going to diss me and I’m gonna stay dissed,” Mero said. “Also, if you come at somebody who’s a friend of mine or colleague, I’m gonna say something about you.”
“I’m starting to realize Twitter ain’t real, that it’s just some random guy in his basement, and people actually think being blocked is a badge of honor,” Mero said. “I don’t block trolls at all. Some people put (that they have been blocked) in their Twitter profile, ‘Blocked by Cher and Kanye West.’ That’s the goofiest (expletive) I’ve ever heard in my life.”
Desus said most creative ideas have already been posted on social media, and now it is turning into an echo chamber of political and social views.
“It kind of has manifested into a very negative culture. Social media used to be fun with a lot of lighthearted jokes, and it was playful,” Desus said. “I do find myself not using it as much as I used to. Our interactions have completely changed.”
“You spend so much energy just trying to go back and forth. You could have done anything else with your time,” Desus said, also pointing out Twitter's inconsistent record when it comes to blocking trolls and hate speech. "When you defend yourself, you end up in Twitter jail. If the website itself don’t want you, why would you go there voluntarily?”
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Mero said you might assume the pair are glued to their phones 24 hours a day, "but that’s not the case at all. It’s literally bad for your health. On a Friday, when everything is done, I get home and throw my phone in a drawer.”
This is the pair’s first time performing in Austin, and they said they love going to different cities to meet fans.
“Meeting people on the streets, they will be gushing about how much they enjoy the podcast or how we got them through a dark period,” Desus said. “I owe it to these people to give them the performance of my life. Even if I’m tired, I feel like I’m about to go Steph Curry and just light this place up.”
Mero said they actually feel more energized after seeing reactions from a crowd.
“I never thought being funny was so helpful to other people. We provide that little escape hatch for them to laugh and have fun,” Mero said.
Desus said the pair are at a place where they are happy with their careers. Their job never feels like a chore.
“It feels like fun. We are helping people, and we are having a good time doing it,” Desus said. “It doesn’t matter if we are super rich or super famous.
"We are doing something that we are good at, and people enjoy it. You can’t beat that.”