Six years ago, Desus Nice and the Kid Mero — a.k.a. Desus and Mero, a.k.a. the Human Dr. Bronner’s Label and the Human Durag Flap, a.k.a Daniel Baker and Joel Martinez — were two guys in the Bronx using Twitter to vent about their shitty jobs. They amassed followings, thanks to their undeniable chemistry, but it was clear they were destined for more. Figuring out exactly what that more would look like involved a few ill-fitting glass slippers, be it Complex or MTV or Viceland. But now, in 2019, it feels less like they’ve arrived. With Showtime, the duo has finally found a home fit for the Bodega Boys, which means writers and real production budgets that can help make their dreams come true.
One of those dreams is to win an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony. To achieve this goal, Desus and Mero and their field team visit an award winner in their space and try to get them to assist in their EGOT quest. John Legend helped them write a song, Jordan Peele consulted on how to make a movie, and Lin Manuel-Miranda assisted in their attempt to make a musical. The Emmy, hopefully, they got covered themselves (wink, wink, Emmy voters).
This recurring segment, which showcases how they have elevated their world-class riffing by putting it in new settings and structures, is the focus of today’s Good One, Vulture’s podcast about jokes and the people who tell them. In it, Desus and Mero discuss how they’ve evolved while staying authentic, their relationship to Twitter, and what it would mean to win an Emmy. Read a short excerpt from the conversation or listen below. Download the episode from Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.
The two of you knew one another in high school, but reconnected on Twitter. What were some of the early tweets that made you think there was a connection?
Desus: The Bronx always had this identity as one of the worst boroughs — if you fall asleep on the train, you end up in the Bronx, you’re gonna die. We love the Bronx, we’re proud of the Bronx, so we would always defend the Bronx on Twitter. We’d have these wild crime stories that happened in the Bronx, like, “Yo, a mouse held up a bank today,” and we’re like, “Yeah, that’s a regular Bronx thing.” People saw the chemistry there. Also, people don’t know how big the Bronx is, so they assume we live on the same block.
Mero: I feel like people unfamiliar with New York City think the Bronx is just like one set of projects and we all live there.
Desus: It’s not even one set of projects, it’s one tower — it’s me, Mero, J.Lo, Remy Ma, French Montana …
Mero: We all live there like, “Cardi B, can I borrow some sugar?”
Desus: Fat Joe’s the super.
Mero: He just comes through like, “Yo. Crack, crack, crack, crack,” and I’m like, “Nah, I don’t need crack; I need you to fix my toilet.”
Desus: There’s cracks in the roof, my baby can’t breathe asbestos.
People talk about how Twitter is a worse place now than it was when you two were coming up. What’s your feeling about it now?
Desus: Twitter is a completely different beast than what it was. It’s in its death cycle and doesn’t have much time left — probably five years. If you’ve been on Twitter since ’08, you’ve seen every possible tweet in the existence of humankind. People who are just joining now are bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Create an account today and you’re like, “Good morning, Twitter!” Everyone’s like, “Get outta here, you Russian bot.” It’s so hostile. There are people joining for grifting or people who are just like, “Yo, I see you got a TV show off of it so I’m gonna follow.” That was never the game plan for us. Back in the early days, Twitter was more of a personal journal. It was like, Yo, I feel like this this day. Now it’s like …
Mero: Super tribal. Don’t ever say that you don’t like Eminem in Twitter.
Desus: Yeah, his fans go hard. I think they might like hip-hop more than we do.
Mero: I have a therapist now, covered by my insurance. That’s my outlet. I don’t need Twitter to complain about life. I can just go see the doc.
Desus: You’d be surprised how many secrets I tell my dog while walking him.
You two improvised a song with John Legend, “Chocolate Galaxy,” in hopes of kick-starting your EGOT campaign. How did that come about?
Desus: He loved the show and wanted to do something. It’s a chance for their fans to see them outside of their normal situations. Like, you would never expect to see John Legend doing a song about eating ass, but we got him to do it.
Why eating butt?
Desus: That’s near and dear to my man right here.
Mero: You know what I’m sayin’?
Desus: Also, it’s very on brand for us.
Mero: We talk about eating ass all the time.
So, when you’re shooting it, what’s going through your head?
Desus: I’m like, Cha-ching! Here comes this Grammy!
Mero: It’s clear why the dude has ten Grammys: He’s able to freestyle a song about eating butt on the fly in about ten minutes, with the melody and all that.
Desus: Also, you’re like, Yo, we are singing with John. Let’s remove the eating-butt part, we’re singing with John Legend. Look how far our lives have come.
How would describe the comedy dynamic between the two of you?
Desus: It’s my Bronx brother. It’s almost like being the same person. If we weren’t a comedy duo we’d probably either be partners checking TSA at La Guardia, or perhaps co-defendants on Rikers Island.
Mero: The roots are the same, but the tree just grew different, you know what I’m sayin’?
Desus: Wow, Dominican Maya Angelou over here.
Mero: Pow! That’s why the caged pigeon sings.
Desus: Also, if you listen to like the first episode of Bodega Boys, we’re super excited ‘cause we just came back from the VMAs. We met people at the VMAs like, “I hate this,” and we were like, “Fam, we will go to this for the rest of our lives; this is so much fun!” That idea of two guys from the Bronx just experiencing life, there’s kind of like this wink, wink, nudge to the camera like, Yo, we should not be here. We were at the Alexander Wang fashion show, in the front row; Anna Wintour is right there.
Mero: We could feel Anna glowering at us through her sunglasses like, How dare you?
What would it mean for you right now to be nominated for an Emmy?
Desus: People from the Bronx are just like, “Fam, if you guys get an Emmy we might burn the Bronx down.” We got a shout-out on Bronx 12 News — it was like, “There might be a parade.” Just the idea that two people [who] came from nothing started this organic, word-of-mouth joking and could possibly be on that Emmy stage throwing up the X. You allow yourself to dream growing up in the Bronx; you don’t allow yourself to dream this big. Our big dream was a $40,000 a year job with benefits and maybe a Nissan Altima.
Mero: Go into sanitation, retire at 40, buy a GT-R.
Desus: Now it’s like, Sky is the limit. Our fans are just like, Yo, these guys look like me. They sound like me. I get their humor. I think it would mean a lot more for other people than for us. I mean, if we get an Emmy, we’re putting it on a chain and wearing it all the time, but it reminds me of that speech Lupita [Nyong’o] gave where she was just like, “No matter where you’re from, you matter.” And I think that would reinforce it for so many people.