VICELAND

Early Emmy plea: Desus & Mero is a late-night contender

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One year ago today, I began a new morning ritual: 1) Arrive at the office; 2) turn on my computer; 3) cue up the latest Desus & Mero YouTube clips; 4) laugh so hard I cry; 5) fix my mascara; 6) start actual work.

This routine was spawned by a 4:48 segment called “Shea Moisture Cancelled?” — about the beauty brand’s tone-deaf attempt to appeal to white women — which posted in the early morning hours of April 25, 2017. Before we go any further, do yourself a favor and check it out:

I was first introduced to Desus Nice and The Kid Mero — hosts of the Bodega Boys podcast — by my former colleague Ken Tucker, who reviewed their late-night talk show a few months after its premiere on Viceland. At the time he called it “often the best late-night show period,” and that description still applies today. The two Bronx-born comedians bring more spontaneity and belly laughs to their free-flowing news and pop culture commentary than most late-night hosts can muster in a full week of monologues. Their April 11th recap on Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony before Congress was filled with so much off-the-cuff brilliance (“High-tech for Orrin Hatch is a can opener,” noted Mero), I had to pause the clip several times to catch my breath.

While any infusion of color into the late-night landscape is welcome, what truly makes Desus & Mero special is the hosts’ effortless style, and a format that blends the traditional late-night desk bit with the sharp-witted comedic assault of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Simply watching Desus and Mero watch the basketball-themed opening for the recent Jeopardy! College Championship is a joy in itself, as the pair reacts in real time with shrewd, stream-of-consciousness hilarity — they work just as hard to crack each other up as they do to make the audience laugh. (Mero, by the way, has the best guffaw on television.) Of course, race is an ongoing theme on Desus & Mero, and it infuses all of the hosts’ commentary with a perspective rarely seen on late-night TV — as when Desus and Mero imagined how the predominantly white audience reacted to Beyoncé’s Coachella performance, which was steeped in black culture. “Everybody in the audience was very confused…like, ‘This just turned into Essence Fest very quick.’”

As two millennials who were raised on the Internet, Desus and Mero (both 34) are fascinated with bizarre local news stories. This obsession has spawned some of the duo’s funniest bits, as they dissect low-level crimes and neighborly disputes with a stoner’s gleeful attention to detail. I give you “The Cheeto Bandit”:

Whether they’re talking politics, pop culture, or quizzing The Americans’ Matthew Rhys about a Felicity reboot, Desus and Mero consistently bring a fresh energy to a late-night lineup that’s still overwhelmingly dominated by white men. (For the last three years, all shows nominated for an Outstanding Variety Talk Series Emmy were hosted by white men — except for Full Frontal With Samantha Bee.) Perhaps it’s time, dear voters, to consider clearing out some of the cobwebs (cough Real Time With Bill Maher cough) and inviting these two nice boys from the Bronx to the party? Your consideration is appreciated.

Desus & Mero airs weeknights at 11 p.m. ET on Viceland. For more Emmys coverage, check out EW’s new CHASING EMMY podcast:

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