The Showtime duo set the new standard for late-night comedy in the pandemic era.

By Darren Franich
July 09, 2020 at 02:03 PM EDT
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Late-night TV had to adapt quickly to the coronavirus. Hosts sheltered in their places, welcoming audiences into curated corners of their significant households. And no series was better prepared for the freakish surrealities of perpetual quarantine than Showtime's Desus & Mero, currently airing Sundays and Thursdays.

Daniel "Desus Nice" Baker and Joel "The Kid Mero" Martinez turned their twice-weekly chat sesh into the world's best Zoom call. As performers, they didn't miss a step, joking through COVID-19 calamities with a tone of playful exasperation. You felt like 2020 was a bad horror movie they had already memorized. And the at-home setting suited their low-key charms. There are so many shows that could qualify for the Outstanding Variety Talk Series Emmy, and the Bronx duo makes those other shows look embarrassingly stuffy: The network hosts mummifying a structure unchanged since Johnny Carson, cable's politi-comics preaching for viral clicks. Desus & Mero had no artifice left in the pandemic era. Mero seems to be calling in from a room full of cleaning supplies, perpetually concerned that one of his kids will interrupt the call. Desus' background is his apparently museum-sized sneaker collection, the colors shifting every episode.

The light (and cheerfully NSFW) banter really sparkles in dark times. Desus and Mero can talk about anything, and more crucially, they can make anything interesting, whether it's big news about bees...

...or their hilarious reaction to an extremely specific clip from ESPN's buzzy Michael Jordan propaganda The Last Dance.

In the midst of the pandemic, Desus & Mero also completed the gotta-catch-'em-all game the show was playing with Democratic Party presidential hopefuls, scoring a playful convo with presumptive candidate Joe Biden:

The parade of politicians confirms Desus & Mero's status as a tastemaker for Important Stuff, and maybe that alone will earn the Bodega Boys a slot in the Outstanding Variety Talk Series lineup. "Comedy That Is Also Societally Serious" seems to be what Emmy voters expect from that category, which explains Last Week Tonight's iron grip on the trophy. The guys give good political humor, and offer a necessary late-night perspective purely by virtue of not being a white guy named Jimmy or a Daily Show alumnus. What's even more impressive is how the hilarious hosts have found room in their riffy free-associations for moving segments, like their chat with 13-year-old mega-brain Dr. Nina...

...or the pandemic wedding they successfully officiated via Zoom, complete with teleconferenced bachelorette parties:

Emmy voters: Don't overlook the constant joy that is Desus & Mero. Voting closes on July 13. That's just enough time to cry laughing through the bee segment a hundred more times.

The Emmy nominations will be announced on Tuesday, July 28 at 11:30 a.m. ET/8:30 a.m. PT.

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Desus and Mero

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