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

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

Instead, I’d like to talk about how Desus and Mero made me cry with laughter for the first time about two minutes and 30 seconds into the first episode of everything they’ve ever released. December 2013. Episode 1 (titled “THE WORLD PREMIERE”) of rumors vs. Merochaotic news Complex podcast that paired, seemingly randomly, two colossally gregarious and extremely online dudes from the early 30s from the Bronx named Desus Nice (aka Daniel Baker, single) and the Kid Mero (aka Joel Martinez, married with two children). “I feel like I have a lot more to offer than Twitter,” Kid Mero observed in a New York Times profile earlier that year, in a rare moment of hilarious understatement. (The underrated part was rare, I mean.)

The title of the podcast rumors vs. Mero implied rivalry, or at least healthy competition, but no, within 150 seconds it was clear that Desus and Mero were in fact an inseparable and invincible partnership with, arguably, the best podcast host chemistry in history podcasts. I understand, however: Rumor & Mero vs. the world would have been a much clumsier title. Either way, their first target was J. Cole, whose new album was immediately and enthusiastically compared to the sound of the rainforest, the nature sounds of airports, and “lyrical nyquil.”

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

Mero: “They’re selling his CD at Bed Bath & Beyond.” (I sometimes paraphrase here, slightly.)

Disappointed: “Right in front when you walk in. It is the afterlife. Bed bath and J. Cole. His album comes in king, queen, full…”

Mero: “[Laughs uproariously.] ‘Yo, what’s the number of threads on his album, dog?’

Disappointed: “Thousand point fucking Egyptian laundry.”

At this point, I am crying with laughter. I probably started just when Mero started laughing. I remember this moment very well: I had gone out for a walk in my neighborhood, it was very cold, I was dodging patches of ice on the sidewalk, my hands stuck in the pockets of my coat, my earphones in, shaking laughing, my tears were freezing on my face. I remember the intersection I was walking past when it all started. Sorry to talk about me for a second, but that’s how parasocial relationships work. I’ll say it again: the best podcast-host chemistry in podcast history, two minutes and skip to their first episode. The ampersand in Rumors & Mero became a shiny, joyful, bulletproof, seemingly permanent thing.

Everything Desus and Mero did from then on seemed inevitable, necessary, irreplaceable. The Complex podcast (curated, BTW, by a legit, former genius Alarm cohort Donnie Kwak) ran for around 40 episodes and spawned a companion web series. Then the pair launched their own hit pod, Bodega Boyswhich produced more than 250 episodes of phenomenal camaraderie (“The Brand is Strong!”) through November 2021. During that time: they hosted an ecstatically chaotic late-night TV talk show Viceland, Rumors & Mero, which launched in October 2016 and ran until June 2018, when they moved the circus to Showtime, to something akin to Big Time. The revamped Rumors & Mero premiered on Showtime in 2019, with AOC as its inaugural guest. It was fantastic, but still chaotic, still loose, still just two guys doing bullshit, still the two funniest guys on planet earth making themselves funnier right in front of you, just for you. Desus & Mero & You.

Choose your favorite moment from all of this. your favorite target, I suppose. Desus & Mero versus Desus & Mero Ben Carson, or Anthony Scaramucci, or DJ Academics, or DJ Academics and Joe Budden. On Showtime, they interviewed Barack, and Denzel, and Issa, and (!!!) Shea, and Bernie, and Maxine, and dozens of other first name luminaries, all as their own brand (which also included a book of 2020 called Divine Level Knowledge Darts) only got stronger. Even if you weren’t a Showtime subscriber and/or didn’t watch the show religiously, it was extremely comforting to know that Rumors & Mero was there, still raging, still expanding, but still just two seemingly randomly paired dudes from the Bronx destined to revolutionize late-night talk shows forever.

It’s not that they weren’t, you know, separate people, with their own personal plans and interests. I was a bit startled when Kid Mero appeared in a wacky but charming little 2020 Netflix movie called Vampires Against the Bronxbut there he was, playing a surprisingly tender Bodega Guy, and I was delighted to see him, even though much 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 guys would spend their whole lives lugging this ampersand Rumors & Mero just because we could never imagine them both together.

Yeah, that absolutely sucks. I still don’t want to talk about it. Let’s just wish them both good luck in their future, surely fantastic, solo adventures, and quietly and timidly await the time when they put aside and come together any personal and possibly Anna Kendrick-related animosity, and comfort- us while waiting. back to the beginning, to the Big Bang, to our dear friend J. Cole. “He is afterlife” is still probably the funniest thing I’ve ever heard someone say on a podcast. It doesn’t matter which of them said it. Let’s say the ampersand said so. Say Desus & Seao, in all their fabulous iterations, were truly the beyond all along.

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