Thankfully, money doesn’t change everything. Desus & Mero is still funny, still informal, still high energy and still unlike most talk shows, even though it now has more to work with after moving from Viceland to Showtime.
Desus Nice and The Kid Mero debuted the new version of their show last night, marking Showtime’s first late-night talk show. The featured special guest was fellow Bronxite and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Having risen from the Twitter and podcast world, Desus & Mero now have a writing staff and a budget to augment their fresh takes on pop culture, politics, sports and more. The new show is pure New York, all manic energy and yo-yo-yo arm waiving, with the hosts riffing so fast that flyover country may have to record the show or watch it with subtitles to get the full impact of the jokes.
The first episode saw the duo open with a clever bit in a schoolroom, trying (unsuccessfully) to convince kids of their fame, stomping out when the kids turned on them. That segued to a studio home base and a news run-down. A taped segment with Barack Obama talking hip-hop fashion and a bit on Duke basketball star Zion Williamson’s knee injury when his Nike sneakers failed were the highlights. “If you are an immigrant child and your parents got your sneakers from Payless, you know this pain,” said Desus.
Other segment targets: Tekashi 69, Vladimir Putin, an opioids scandal in Boston, radio broadcaster Mike Francesca, and the white guilt behind Green Book. Some of it was hilarious. Some of it tried too hard to convince viewers it was hilarious, and no amount of arm-waving can make it so.
The show’s highlight was a visit by homegirl AOC, who noted “I could be just, like, teaching in high school right now.” The softball interview swung and missed in a rare opportunity to see a different side of a popular politician, instead devolving into a fairly straight and unchallenging chat, with AOC explaining the Green New Deal and tax structures as everyone nervously nodded.
AOC ended by defending her recent role in the lost Amazon headquarters deal for NYC, rambling about Jeff Bezos’ helipad and not the 25,000 jobs that went up in smoke when the corporation decided not to come to the city. No one challenged that, but maybe that was the joke.
Desus & Kid Mero followed up the live segment with a taped visit to the AOC offices in Washington, D.C., featuring more tedious political boasting by the young congresswoman about how women are shaking things up. There was lots of forced chortling by those on screen, but few laughs for the audience, unless they were amused by lines like, “We’re fighting over how it’s getting done” in congressional matters.
The comedy duo did present AOC with a Puerto Rican flag and a free NYC newspaper as housewarming gifts, before leaving behind that tell-tale urban landmark: sneakers in the wire, in this case, an office chandelier, one of the more inspired bits of the show.
Desus & Mero will air from New York City each Thursday night via Showtime. AOC has just started a two-year House term.