Showtime's comedy duo had a big 2020. Next: The brand gets stronger.

By Darren Franich
February 22, 2021 at 04:20 PM EST
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Credit: Greg Endries/SHOWTIME

They made TV history from a Bronx sneaker closet and a New Jersey basement. That's where Daniel "Desus Nice" Baker and Joel "The Kid Mero" Martinez started recording remotely last March. Their Showtime series, Desus & Mero, hit new heights in the shadow of COVID. The duo interviewed presidents and late-night luminaries, officiated a Zoom wedding, and turned "Arrest the cops who killed Breonna Taylor" into a regular sign-off. All that plus a best-selling book, God-Level Knowledge Darts, and their hit Bodega Boys podcast. With season 3 airing Sundays and Thursdays at 11 p.m., Desus and Mero look back on a transformative year — and ahead to a brighter future. 

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What's new this year?   

MERO: I had to get a separate shooting space. I got four kids, a dog, and my wife is home a lot. [Points to Zoom background] This is an apartment in Fair Lawn [N.J.]. No more working from home!

DESUS: What I'm super excited for this season is, there's gonna be no Trump. Even when we didn't want to talk about Trump, he kept doing things. It was like we had to talk about him. So now that he's removed from the headlines and everything, you have to find humor in other places, and it's not the easy layup that it's been for other comedians.

How hard was the transition to filming at home?

DESUS: Now we're tech geniuses! We might open a Genius Bar on the side. You gonna see us fixing MacBooks while we're doing our monologues.

MERO: We're children of immigrants, we're supposed to have multiple jobs. We have the No. 1 show in late-night, but we're also members of the Geek Squad.

DESUS: I remember someone saying to me, "The idea that every time I see you on the show, you're still working from home makes me not feel bad about the fact that I've been home."

MERO: From the inception it's always just been Desus and I, you know what I mean, going back and forth. We are each other's audience. I feel like we didn't have that difficulty transitioning as much as other hosts, because we entertain each other. Having a crowd was just like a bonus. We paired back down to the OG version of what we do. 

DESUS: We had a meeting to figure out what's going on as far as going back [to the studio]. Time is so nebulous now. Are we gonna be around in October? Are we even gonna have a functioning government in October?

MERO: Is it October now? What month is it? Hanukkah feels like it was two years ago.

Showtime already expanded Desus & Mero from one night a week to two. Would you ever do more, like in the Viceland days?

DESUS: The way the Showtime show is set up, it takes a little more editing and time to film than the previous iteration of the show. We also have a lot of side projects we're doing. We got the book out, we got ice cream, who knows, we might have some potatoes dropping next week. Shout out to Showtime: having the show on Sunday night and Thursday night kind of bookends the week.

MERO: That's always been the thing: How do we catch as much of what's going on as possible? Those two days just work perfectly.

DESUS: I don't think you want to see us livestreaming four nights a week. It's not fun. You're gonna get hot takes from me about a Frasier episode from years ago that nobody cares about.

Did you expect to become an essential campaign stop in 2020?

MERO: In the beginning, when the field was so large, it didn't feel as important, so to speak. We're just bringing them on our show, doing it our way. We're not doing it the way a political pundit show would do it. When the field got narrower and it became Kamala and Joe, then it was more like: okay, we gotta still keep the energy and fun and humor of the show, but be mindful of the consequence of this.

DESUS: Having our show be a political stopping point is wild. We could be kingmakers! Low-key, we might start taking bribes. You wanna talk to the urban audience, you gotta grease some palms, you know what I'm saying?

MERO: We're the hood lobbyists.

You also hit a whole new level of illustriousness with your guests. Does that raise the stakes for the new season?

DESUS: At this point it's not a matter of "Do you want to be on our show?" Now it's a matter of people writing us: "Yo, when am I gonna be on your show?"

MERO: Having David Letterman be like, "This is what a late-night show should be" is like Michael Jordan telling you that you're good at basketball. 

DESUS: We're trying to do back-to-back championships. Corona tried to stop the wave, and we're still going. We interviewed Obama, and now people are like, "Who do you interview now?" The only person right now we'd get intimidated interviewing is Putin.

MERO: As long as we have a Geiger counter with us around Putin, we're good.

You've also found room for more serious-minded segments, like the wedding or your great chat with aspiring doctor Nina Leach. What's it like blending humor with heart?  

DESUS: In the beginning of COVID, I would walk around my neighborhood and see those white trucks by the hospital full of dead bodies. When people are dealing with that all day, you want to give them something good to come home to.

MERO: 2020 was a dumpster fire, and it feels like it's leaking into 2021. Those moments, like Desus said, people need them. It's not a fluff piece on the 6:00 news about a cat stuck in a tree that got rescued by a fireman. It's real stuff that's really happening, that relates to what's going on today.

Does your show have a feud with Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, and if not, is there a way for me create that feud?

DESUS: We did the sketch parodying his show on our show, and their staff loved it. It doesn't feel like we're competing against these guys. It's like we're all family. We gotta stick together! Late night gotta stick together!

MERO: John's mad cool, man. And his show and our show are very different. The only thing that makes us similar is that we're in the same category for awards. 

If you're successful in the late night world, you can wind up doing job for decades. Is that your plan?

MERO: The book proved that what we do translates to almost any medium. We've done TV. We've done podcasts. We've done radio. What else is there to do? Movies! So, you know, that's next on tap. 

DESUS: We can still do this for a couple more seasons. Season 60, we'll be out here with the hoop earring and the gray beard and the hologram children.

MERO: Rockstar [Games], holler at your boys! Maybe you need two main characters in Grand Theft Auto VI?

DESUS: Everyone is like, "You and Mero should have a radio station in GTAVI." No, we want to be the main characters.

A version of this story appears in the March issue of Entertainment Weekly, on newsstands now and available here. Don't forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.

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