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“Desus & Mero,” Modern Late-night TV

March 23, 2019

Desus Nice and The Kid Mero.

 

 

In media, particularly the stagnant form of late-night television, rarely can one instantly perceive radical change in real time. This uncommon phenomenon is happening right now with Showtime’s first ever

late-night show, “Desus & Mero”—a show without a monologue, a house band, and a white host named James. Keeping the same name and general format from their Viceland show, Desus Nice and The Kid Mero (real names Daniel Baker and Joel Martinez), a pair of Bronx natives, bring their distinct take on late-night television to their biggest platform yet. Their self-proclaimed “number one show in late-night” truly lives up to the braggadocious statement. New installments air on Tuesday nights at 11 p.m., beginning with the duo’s take on the week’s events. They cover everything from major stories in pop culture, politics, and sports, to unique topics in the world of late-night such as viral stories from Twitter and local news in the Bronx (AKA the BX). For example, their third episode covered everything from R. Kelly’s interview with Gayle King, to the viral clip of Rami Malek creepily promoting a hotel chain, to two cousins fighting for their right to marry in Utah. Showing clips as they pause and narrate over them, their style for these segments akin to an expertly executed reaction video from YouTube. Commenting on the R. Kelly interview, when the singer tells King what help he needs to improve as a person, Mero interrupts and continues for him, “I need y’all to let me f*cking skate on these charges.” The two then break into an improvised riff on one of his famous songs, singing “I Believe I can Skate.” Earlier in the segment, Desus stops a clip of Kelly yelling to calmly interject, “Sir, this is a Wendy’s,” emblematic of their Twitter-friendly sensibilities and senses of humor.

 

Speaking of the social media platform, Twitter is where the two first connected and did comedy together. Vaguely aware of each other as they both grew of up in the Bronx, they soon met up in person to pursue comedy. After a series of web-shows and podcasts, they eventually wound up at Viceland, where they did four shows a week and a total of three hundred episodes. Their relationship with the network ended on poor terms; after they accepted Showtime’s deal, Viceland cancelled the show immediately instead of having them continue the show for the last few months of their contract. The move has proven for the better so far. Moving down to one show a week, the pair can relax their workload, which still includes their weekly podcast “The Bodega Boys.” Their now-increased budget allows for even more “illustrious” guests, as well as an expansion to pre-recorded sketches. Desus and Mero have put these elements to good use, interview-

ing the likes of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Vince Staples, and John Legend, and doing hilarious sketches on the controversy surround Green Book and the gentrification of Bronx bodegas. The show’s interviews remain a highly underrated part of the show. The duo’s laidback nature creates a relaxing environment for many guests, letting them feel as though they are casually chatting with friends, unlike the standard talk show interview full of promotion and pre-rehearsed stories. Their interviewing skills often lead to irreverent yet revealing interviews that rarely disappoint. Another benefit of the switch to premium cable: no language filter. On Showtime, the pair can use language just as colorful as that on their podcast, no longer bound by censors.

 

Desus and Mero’s innovativeness is not to say late-night shows have not evolved at all in recent years. Stephen Colbert has finally found his groove hosting CBS’s “The Late Show,” actually managing to beat out his rival Jimmy Fallon in viewership recently. Colbert’s approach and recent success indicate the country’s desire for more thoughtful commentary from their talk shows. This can probably be ascribed to their continued success of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight.” While John Oliver’s model for punchlines has barely changed over the course of his program, his show remains incredibly influential. This can be seen in Netflix’s “Patriot Act,” their own style of Oliver’s routine with fellow former “Daily Show” correspondent Hasan Minhaj. With new episodes available to stream every Sunday, the show has dazzled in its initial episodes. Different enough in design from “Last Week Tonight” (Minhaj does not sit behind a desk, instead standing in front of massive screens with dynamic graphics), “Patriot Act” succeeds in its giving a voice to people of color in a space utterly dominated by white men. The show feels refreshing, though not as refreshing as “Desus & Mero” with its entirely unique structure.

 

With the media landscape and how people consume shows changing at an unparalleled pace, late-night television must continue to change to maintain its relevance in the culture. Shows like “Last Week Tonight” and “Patriot Act” already upload the majority of their episodes to YouTube. The traditional network late-night shows use clickbait titles to entice denizens of the Internet to check out whatever whacky story a celebrity told the previous night. Hell, even Desus and Mero’s show on Viceland reached its level of attention and acclaim due to its segments being uploaded to YouTube. People simply do not watch live television anymore. In an effort to adapt to this reality, Conan O’Brien recently revamped his TBS show, switching from a traditional sixty-minute show to a thirty-minute one. The best, and most viewed online, part of Seth Meyers’ “The Late Show” remains his “Closer Look” segment, basically his own spin on a typical “Daily Show” routine. Who knows if he will ever follow Conan into the thirty-minute model, keeping this stand-out segment among others? The introduction of “Desus & Mero” into the late-night world will surely speed up these inevitable changes. For a glimpse of what the future of the format will look like, look no further than “Desus & Mero.”

 

Rush is a Marketing Sophomore and Managing Editor.

PC: Showtime.

 

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