clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

An Ode to Desus and Mero, Forever Kings of New York

They broke up. We don’t want to talk about it. We’re gonna try anyway.

Getty Images/Ringer illustration

So Desus and Mero broke up. Their splendid Showtime late-night talk show is over with, after four fairly revolutionary seasons. They’re clearly super pissed at each other. It’s devastating. (Anna Kendrick is reportedly, tangentially involved; that part is just confusing.) The word devastating is not hyperbole. This is a legitimate Love Is Dead, or Friendship Is Dead, or Perfect Talk-Show-Host Chemistry Is Dead moment. Even if you acknowledge that this is all classic parasocial projection, it is still, just to use this word one more time, devastating. Frankly, I don’t want to talk about it.

Instead, I’d like to talk about how Desus and Mero made me cry laughing for the first time roughly two minutes and 30 seconds into the first episode of anything they ever put out. December 2013. Episode 1 (titled “THE WORLD PREMIERE”) of Desus vs. Mero, a chaotic new Complex podcast that paired, seemingly at random, two colossally gregarious and extremely online early-30s dudes from the Bronx named Desus Nice (a.k.a. Daniel Baker, unmarried) and the Kid Mero (a.k.a. Joel Martinez, married with two kids). “I feel like I got a lot more to offer than Twitter,” the Kid Mero had observed in a New York Times profile earlier that year, in a rare moment of hilarious understatement. (The understated part was rare, I mean.)

The podcast title Desus vs. Mero implied a rivalry, or at least a healthy competition, but no, within 150 seconds, it was clear that Desus and Mero were in fact an inseparable and invincible partnership with, inarguably, the best podcast-host chemistry in the history of podcasts. I get it, though: Desus & Mero vs. the World would’ve been a way clunkier title. In any event, their first target was J. Cole, whose new album was immediately and enthusiastically compared to rainforest noise, airport nature sounds, and “lyrical Nyquil.”

Desus: “Every verse is like a cup of warm milk with cinnamon on it, and you lay your head on your abuelita’s chest.”

Mero: “They sell his CD at Bed Bath & Beyond.” (I am sometimes paraphrasing here, slightly.)

Desus: “Right in the front when you walk in. He is the Beyond. Bed Bath and J. Cole. His album comes in king, queen, full ...”

Mero: “[Laughs uproariously.] ‘Yo, what’s the thread count on his album, dog?’”

Desus: “Fuckin’ thousand-count Egyptian linen.”

At this point I’m crying laughing. Probably I’d started right when Mero had started laughing. I remember this moment vividly: I was out for a walk in my neighborhood, it was freezing, I was dodging patches of ice on the sidewalk, hands jammed in my coat pockets, earbuds in, shaking with laughter, my tears freezing on my face. I remember the intersection I was walking past when this all started. Sorry to make this about me for a second, but that’s how parasocial relationships work. I say again: the best podcast-host chemistry in the history of podcasts, two minutes and change into their first episode. The ampersand in Desus & Mero became a gleaming, joyous, bulletproof, seemingly permanent thing.

Everything Desus and Mero did from that moment forward felt inevitable, necessary, irreplaceable. The Complex podcast (masterminded, BTW, by legit genius and former Ringer cohort Donnie Kwak) lasted 40-odd episodes and spawned a companion web series. Then the pair started their own blockbuster pod, Bodega Boys, that pounded out 250-plus episodes of phenomenal camaraderie (“The brand is strong!”) all the way up until November 2021. Meanwhile: they hosted an ecstatically chaotic Viceland late-night TV talk show, Desus & Mero, that launched in October 2016 and lasted until June 2018, when they took the circus over to Showtime, to something approaching the Big Time. The revamped Desus & Mero premiered on Showtime in 2019, with AOC as their inaugural guest. It was fantastic, but still chaotic, still loose, still just two guys bullshitting, still the two funniest guys on Planet Earth making each other funnier right in front of you, just for you. Desus & Mero & You.

Pick your personal favorite moment amid all this. Your favorite target, I suppose. Desus & Mero vs. Ben Carson, or Anthony Scaramucci, or DJ Akademiks, or DJ Akademiks and Joe Budden. On Showtime, they interviewed Barack, and Denzel, and Issa, and (!!!) Shea, and Bernie, and Maxine, and dozens of other first-name-basis luminaries, all as their own brand (which also encompassed a 2020 book called God-Level Knowledge Darts) only got stronger. Even if you did not subscribe to Showtime and/or watch the show religiously, it was immensely comforting to know that Desus & Mero was there, still raging, still expanding, but still just two seemingly randomly paired-up dudes from the Bronx destined to revolutionize late-night talk shows forever.

It’s not that they weren’t, y’know, separate people, with their own personal projects and interests. I jolted a little bit when the Kid Mero showed up in a goofy but lovely little 2020 Netflix movie called Vampires vs. the Bronx, but there he was, playing a surprisingly tender Bodega Guy, and I was thrilled to see him, even though a huge part of his tenderness, his vulnerability, was that Desus was nowhere in sight. What a ridiculous thing for me to think—what an unfair expectation, that these dudes would go their entire lives lugging that ampersand in Desus & Mero around just because we could only ever picture the two of them together.

Yeah, this absolutely sucks. I still don’t want to talk about it. Let us simply wish both of them well in their surely fantastic future solo endeavors, and let us quietly and sheepishly pine for the moment when they set all personal and possibly Anna Kendrick–related animus aside and reunite, and let us console ourselves in the meantime by going all the way back to the beginning, to the Big Bang, to our dear friend J. Cole. “He is the Beyond” is probably still the single funniest thing I’ve ever heard someone say on a podcast. It doesn’t matter which one of them said it. Let’s say that the ampersand said it. Let’s say that Desus & Mero, in all their fabulous iterations, were really the Beyond all along.