Thank You, Bodega Boys: A Fan’s POV on the Impact of Desus & Mero
This Thursday marks the last episode for the most brolic brand in entertainment, Desus & Mero, and Joi Childs just wants to share her thanks.
When it was announced that Desus Nice and THE KID MERO were going to be hosting a late night talk show for Viceland two years ago, I was elated and also concerned. Elated, because I was an avid fan of the Bronx comedy duo from their Complex podcast, Desus vs. Mero. When the audio podcast transformed into a visual podcast, surrounded by Quarter Waters and Santa Maria candles, it was apparent that they had potential. Leading up to the Viceland announcement, there were some missed opportunities: MTV2, in particular, didn’t fully display the duo’s star power. Finally, there was a vehicle that they could lead. But my concerned stemmed from one thing: how far would Viceland allow them to wild out, so to speak.
Viceland’s reputation as a millennial-focused, progressive, “cool kids club” preceded them. Later on, viewers discovered that the media company’s reputation masked a lot of practices of sexual harassment and racism, under the guise of cool, bro culture. With this culture consistent, questions popped up in my head regarding how this company would treat them both. You have one black man and one Afro-Latino man as the show’s stars: will they be able to “bring their whole self to work?” How granular can they get in Bronx references and culture with a larger platform (which is the core of their comedy)? With a weekly show, can they say nigga? In hindsight, I realize that these questions all focused on keeping the heart of the duo’s content the same.
When the first episodes of S1 aired, admittedly the episodes seemed unpolished. It was clear that Desus (government name Daniel Baker) and Mero (government name Joel Martinez) was trying to find their footing and cadence. Still funny throughout, the vibe was not yet solidified. What felt like the turning point for the show was the 2016 Presidential Election. Suddenly, there was a gap in current late-night show commentary on 45’s antics: casual commentary that was laced in comedy that sounded like you and your friends spitballing to stop from crying.
Articles have been written about how the late night slate has been historically white and male. For black late night hosts, the tide is turning slowly with Trevor Noah and Robin Thede (and formally Larry Wilmore). But the uniqueness of Desus and Mero’s format was that they lacked formality. It starts from the set, with them sitting while talking about the daily topics versus the standard talking head format (though in early episodes, they did stand). The styles of the hosts are unique as well, substituting suits and business professional clothing for shirts, hoodies, jeans, sneakers, Timbs and fitteds.
The message that they are communicating here is clear: we’re telling jokes with you, not at you. And that casualness should never be confused for lack of professionalism. When they interview their guest or talk about the current political climate, they are always sharp, always witty, and always on.
An insider level of pop culture that is typically not covered in current late night also helps separate them from the pack. Whether it’s arguing about dogs on the New York subway, or an expose on an underground Instagram braces operation, daily topics do have an aspect of black social media rumblings. They’ve created an atmosphere that engages audiences in a way that feels like inside baseball. From their catchphrases (“SMDFTB!”), to their visuals (Sonic rings), to their accents (Mero can jump from LaVar Ball to Ben Carson to Yesenia with ease), there’s a community that’s been built, just by watching the show.
But above all, there’s a love and pride of their hometown that’s a common thread throughout their episodes. And seeing how they show their love of The Bronx as a fellow native Bronxite, is a joy to watch. An open community has been built, but there’s also a special shoutout to those from the borough. The Bronx is many things, but to describe it with one word, I would have to say: colorful. And for the past two seasons, Desus and Mero has been in full technicolor; bright, bold, and beautiful.
The brand has been strong.
Joi Childs is a brand marketer, sarcasm enthusiast, and film critic. You can find her on Twitter (@jumpedforjoi) tweeting about the intersection of marketing, nerd, and tech.