Showtime gave Desus & Mero a big vote of confidence when it moved the late-night talkshow to Sunday nights following their most recent hiatus.
The show, which moved from its previous Monday night slot earlier this week, in addition to its Thursday night episode, now airs alongside shows such as The Chi and Black Mondays.
“The network believes in us, and Sunday night, you know, that’s the night for the big shows,” says Desus, otherwise known as Daniel Baker. “Imagine it like a baseball lineup. You just want to have your best hitters right after each other, boom, boom, boom. You’ve got all the crème de la crème shows in one package on Sunday night, and it gives our show a chance to be in front of more eyes so more people could see it.”
Mero, otherwise known as Joel Martinez, adds, “The lead-in to your show is super important. “If you have American Ninja Part 3 playing before your show, you’re not going to get a lot of [viewers]. But if you have The Chi or Billions, you get more eyeballs.”
The show, which launched in February 2019 following the pair’s former show on Viceland, is an anomaly among late-night shows in that it airs twice a week. “We recognized this as a huge vote of confidence from the network, and that goes into our creative process. We definitely want to put the best show out there, and I think we’re doing that. I think we’re doing that, Emmy voters,” adds Desus.
The pair, like all of their late-night peers, have been filming remotely for the past few months. Desus says filming the show breaks up the “monotony” of the lockdown days, “it’s like sundials”. “The only thing that changed was the type of work, but at the same time, it really works. It feels like we’re just hanging out, talking shit. It’s fun,” adds Mero.
Desus has been filming in front of his impressive wall of sneakers, while Mero has a lock on his basement to prevent his kids from crashing the show. “The original place I was going to do it was in my living room, and I got cooked on Instagram Live because I have no paintings on my wall. I just have a blank white wall behind me. It’s the most boring thing ever. So, I had to go around my apartment to find the coolest place, and thankfully, after I shifted some stuff, I was able to position the camera in the sneaker room,” says Desus. Mero adds, “For me, it was natural. Go lock the door in the basement because you got four kids, and you don’t want them cartwheeling in the background like that guy on the BBC.”
The pair used their recent hiatus to “rebuild” their home studios with HD 4K cameras and improve their sound and lighting. They laud their production team, particularly producer Julia Young, who is often heard on the show.
“Given the corona thing, we have kind of a newfound respect for television. It’s kind of like, we’ve always made it, but before it was just like, ‘hey, guys, go and go into wardrobe, get your hair cut, and then you go to this role, and you perform’. Then there’s a million people behind the scenes. You’re not going to ever seen them. You don’t know what they do, and it’s no longer that. Now, we had to learn how to put together a microphone [stand],” says Mero.
One of the challenges that the show faces compared to other late-night shows is that there are two hosts rather than one. But given that they’ve known and worked together for years, including on their Bodega Boys podcast, they’ve made it work. Mero says, “We have a soul connection. We could finish each other’s sentences. Like, if he’s on Mars and I’m on Jupiter, but we have a strong Wi-Fi connection, it doesn’t matter. The physical closeness helps with physical comedy, but like, jokes hit no matter what.”
Desus adds, “It’s just like second nature, and also the other good part is, you know, it’s a built-in audience. I do a joke. Mero’s my audience. Mero does a joke, I’m his audience, and that works so well because shout out to Trevor Noah, shout out to John Oliver, shout out to Conan, everyone else that has a talk show. I watch their shows, and you can see there’s that quietness. They tell a joke on the air, and it’s like, you laugh at home, but they don’t get that feedback. They don’t get that response to their joke, and that’s a big part of comedy.”
Desus & Mero is now past 75 episodes across two seasons on Showtime and they feel like they’re in the swing of things. “We’re always growing and learning. I feel like that’s the beauty of our trajectory. It’s just been like constant elevation, constant growth, learning new things, We’ve had people tell us way back when we were at MTV, you know, this is not your last stop,” says Mero.
The twosome opened up last Sunday’s show with the line ‘America is falling apart, America is the mall no one wants to go to anymore’. How do they feel as two of the only Black late-night hosts to be making a show during these times? “I feel like we’re just lucky to be able to use the platform that we earned. Being two black men on TV talking about these issues, talking to our communities, in a way that other people can’t, because having lived these situations and having been a part of police issues and police violence and all that type of stuff, you can speak to it on a personal level, and I feel like that’s important. It’s kind of like our responsibility to put it out there to the world.”
Desus adds, “Everyone’s like, ‘how are you going to balance being funny while being serious, and you have to talk about what’s going on, but there has to be levity… welcome to living in America. This is our everyday experience. Every day, you have to go and work and worry about police violence. If anything, we just were us, and that’s the show.”
Guests on this season of the show have included Dr. Anthony Fauci, Joe Biden, Alexandraia Ocasio-Cortez, Tracee Ellis Ross, Billy Porter and David Letterman, the latter of whom called them “the future” of late-night. The pair said that they choose guests that they “align” themselves with and who are interesting. “If someone’s doing a press junket because they have, like, a new movie about to launch on Disney+, that doesn’t mean they’re going to be on our show. That wouldn’t be a fit,” says Desus.
Dr. Fauci came on the show during the height of the Coronavirus crisis, largely in part to bring his message to the show’s younger audience. “We have a platform. Let’s amplify him on our platform,” says Desus.
But they add that it’s not just younger people who watch the show, nor is it just a white audience, an accusation that has been thrown their way. “Our fan base is very diverse,” says Desus. “We have super young fans, and then we were at South By Southwest in Austin, Texas, and we met a lady that had to be 70.”
“We’re aware of our demo,” adds Mero. “There’s a lot of people who say ‘Only white people watch your show’, which is weird to hear because that’s not the case at all.”
Apparently, the show is big in New Zealand as well. “I have no idea how that happened, but we’re all over the place. At the same time, it’s just two guys from the Bronx talking, and that’s what they want to see,” says Desus.
The pair recently made a sizeable donation Chef Jose Andres’ World Central Kitchen, which Showtime matched and they have also been sending money to fans struggling via Cash App, which they have a partnership with. “We recognize the fact that if we weren’t on seven years, we’d be in a same situation. We’ve been there, unable to pay your rent, unable to buy food for your family. So now that we’re blessed, it would be really disgusting for us not to help people who are in the same situation as us who are always going to remember that,” says Desus. “We don’t want to become those Hollywood people who just become out of touch and don’t remember what it’s like to have to work hard to pay your bills and pay the lights and pay for the rent. We know the city needs us, the world needs us, and we’re just trying to help in any way we can.”
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