Desus and Mero Are Proud to Be the New Susan Lucci

Desus and Mero. Photo: Greg Endries/SHOWTIME

Desus and Mero have plenty to be happy about these days. Their Showtime show just got renewed for its third season, and their first book, God-Level Knowledge Darts, is out today. The COVID pandemic pushed the book’s release back from April and that’s a sunk cost, since the duo would rather do a virtual book tour over Zoom than risk their fans’ health to hear some guys from the Bronx speak. As The Kid Mero says, “If you just sat in front of a computer with your kid all day and want to decompress? Roll something up, crack a beer, and open up God-Level Knowledge Darts.”

In co-writing this advice manual — which features Mero writing in all caps and Desus opting for a more standard version of the English language — the pair discuss a swath of topics including relationships, gambling on sports, the right and wrong ways to consume drugs, and what it’s like to be a man of color growing up in New York City. Casual fans of the show and the Bodega Boys podcast might be surprised at how serious they get, but as they explain, it’s a natural progression of gaining perspective while becoming washed, the inevitable part of the aging process when cable news becomes more of your routine than staying out all night, and realizing your position and potential.

Before the book’s publishing, Vulture caught up with the duo to discuss their writing and interviewing processes, their Emmys snub, getting more vocally political, and how they hope their success inspires younger generations of Black and brown kids. (And, we’ll note that their joke about Jimmy Kimmel is not a shot at their fellow late-night host and friend, and that some of their comments about Emmy voting should be read in the most sarcastic tone. They’re actually quite respectful of the institution.)

Between the show and your podcast, you guys are used to a pretty off-the-cuff style. What was it like writing a book together?
Desus: It was weird because you’d be working in the Google doc and you could see people in there at the same time. It felt like, Keep it real hip-hop, like a freestyle session, just in there, kind of like rapping with each other. But me and Mero work together so much that it wasn’t hard. Even though we weren’t in the same room, we were in the same room mentally.

Mero: I feel like we finished each other’s sentences, even when we weren’t simultaneously writing. The chemistry we’ve built over the years is very clear in the book, and the process wasn’t as arduous as we thought it was going to be precisely for that reason.

Was there a point when you were like, Shit, we, we have to write a book?
Mero: No.

Desus: It was more like, Wow, we’re writing a book. We’ve had a lot of success in our careers, but we don’t take anything for granted. The idea that we’re writing a book and it’s through Random House … It’s not like we’re publishing ourselves and selling it on the subway, stapled together, ten pages we printed out at FedEx Kinko’s. This is a real, actual book that’s going to have a real ISBN. It’s going to be in libraries. Hopefully, some mean professor in the future does a course on it and forces kids to read it and they hate us. So, you know, it’s a chance to be remembered.

Getting published by Penguin Random House is certainly better than printing it on your own.
Mero: Yeah, Random House is like the Nike of publishing, dog. You realize, Yo, not only am I putting out a book, I’m putting out a book via Random House. That’s like your signature shoe coming out.

Desus: When you walk into the Random House office and you see the other books they publish.

Mero: Like Obama and all this crazy shit. You’re like, Whoa.

Desus: Yeah, this is serious shit, okay? I’m turning into a bit of a book snob. I’m meeting other authors and I’m like, “Oh, you were published by who? Oh, haha, sorry about that.” Random House gang, ah ah ah! Me and Mero are getting Random House tattooed on our necks. That’s how serious we are about this.

Mero: Yeah. “Simon and who!?”

Desus: Right. They don’t want no smoke.

Does being published authors make your parents say, “Oh, I’m finally proud of you”?
Mero: Yeah. My mom is definitely feeling that way — until she reads the part about drugs. Then, she’s going to be like, “Fuck, this is going to be a best seller, and here’s my son talking about doing angel dust.”

Desus: Yeah, my mother’s a retired librarian and she’s proud of me, but at the same time she was like, “You know, they’re going to steal this book from the library.” Sorry, New York Public Library. Put some extra sensors in it.

Where did the idea for the book come from?
Desus: It was a natural progression. People love the podcast, love the TV show, and it’s the next medium. People were like, “Yo, we want something we can hold in our hands and read while taking a wild dump.” We got you.

You were snubbed by the Emmys. How do you feel about it? And do you feel like the Emmy voting bloc is racist?
Mero: We know what it is.

Desus: I kind of enjoy it. It’s very on-brand for us because it’s like Hollywood saying, “Hey, we don’t rock with y’all.” It’s put us in Susan Lucci territory, where even if you weren’t rooting for us, you’re like, “Why did those guys get passed up?” We don’t need the recognition from outside. We know what we bring to the streets.

Mero: That’s a fact. We’ve always been outsiders. We don’t put too much weight on that stuff. As long as the people fuck with it and we get somebody to come out after the show like, “I had a rough three months, I was super depressed. But watching the show, listening to the podcast, reading this book, it got me through that.” That’s more valuable than any hardware than you can ever have.

Desus: But also add that the Emmys are anti-Black.

Mero: Yes.

You’re two of a small group of late-night show hosts that are people of color. What kind of weight does that carry?
Mero: It’s wild because, personally, after the passing of Chadwick Boseman, you do a lot of self-reflection and think about what you mean to people. The way he spoke about having somebody that looks like you onscreen, doing something you thought you could never do, I can put a period on that. That’s it. A kid in the Bronx, just like us, growing up with limited resources, limited everything, can turn on the TV, go on YouTube, and see us doing our thing, representing our borough, our city, sounding like them, looking like them, listening to the stuff that their uncles are listening to — ’cause, you know, we’re not 22 anymore. That representation is super important. You could be inspiring the next generation.

Desus: Being some of the only late-night hosts being people of color, it’s different. Shout-outs to Trevor Noah. He’s from South Africa — he didn’t grow up in America and experience police violence the way we have. That gives us a chance to speak our issues from a very unique viewpoint in the late-night sphere, but not unique in the world. Things affect us differently, whereas other shows had to have a meeting to discuss how they were going to discuss Black Lives Matter. We’ve been talking about Black Lives Matter since day one. We’re able to talk about social issues without forcing it, coming from a different perspective that the viewer might not have seen. That’s an advantage we have, which I think is part of the reason people enjoy the show. You might be living in Spokane, but our message is not so much about the Bronx — it’s the world viewed through a Bronx viewpoint. Hopefully, you seeing the world through someone else’s eyes makes you realize, We all gotta be in this together, and have more empathy and sympathy for the next person.

Mero: There’s no substitute for lived experience. That comes through. We felt like, When we make a joke about police brutality, it’s not about police brutality. It’s highlighting something and bringing it to attention. You laugh and then you’re like, Shit, wait a minute. Shout-out to Jimmy Kimmel, but what the hell does he know about stop and frisk? We could do a two-hour special about all the times we’ve been stopped and frisked.

You’ve gotten more political since moving to Showtime. Was that a conscious decision?
Desus: Definitely. You see what’s going on in the world and you have a platform. People are out there suffering. Dr. Fauci came on to tell people to wear a mask, and that was kind of the moment where we were like, Wow, people are reaching out to us. We’re not reaching out to them. They’re realizing the influence we have and how powerful it would be to come on our show and talk. Realizing you have that power, it’s a choice you have to make: You want to be making dick jokes for half an hour, or do you want to put something out there that could change the world? It’s a balance. And also, you don’t want to turn a comedy show into fucking Tucker Carlson’s Hardball or something.

Mero: That’s literally what it is, man. We put these people on a platter and present them to you. Do we have our political beliefs? Yeah, no doubt. But whoever the guest is — Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala, whoever — we let them speak. Don’t be “Senator Whatever the Fuck.” Be yourself and show people who you really are. Pandering is almost palpable. If you came on here to spin a monologue, that’s not what we’re here to do. We had Fauci talking about the Brooklyn Dodgers like, “Yo, you’re from Brooklyn. Why are you a Nats fan?” You gotta break away from the talking points and get into the human aspects of the person you’re interviewing. That’s what I feel sets us apart.

You’ve risen to fame together. Is there a point where you can see yourselves having a public breakup like Cellino and Barnes, injury attorneys?.
[Both laugh.]

Desus: No, we’re probably gonna work together ’til I probably have some sort of weird night terror and call Mero: “Listen, God just talked to me. It’s time to open a megachurch. Mero, come with me. I’m going to get pierced and get the biggest hoop earring.” We’ll shake hands, and Mero’s gonna continue in Hollywood, and I’m gonna open a megachurch in Guyana. I’ve fucked with a guy named Jim Jones. He told me some things about it, and it should be a good look.

Mero: On some real shit, though, we’re lucky. Not lucky — we did the work. But the right people saw us at the right time, and we happen to possess the talent and the skill set to do what we do. The same way that we got that boost to get where we’re at, I would love to do that for other young Black voices, young Latino voices, voices of color across the spectrum, and just let them tell their stories. We’ve been telling our story for years, and look where we’re at. That means that there’s an audience for almost any person you could think of. Don’t think that you have to be George Clooney to pop. I don’t know why I said George Clooney. He hasn’t done anything in fucking years, except make tequila.

Finally, do you have any specific plans for covering the election?
Desus: I mean, we got no choice.

Mero: It’s the Zeitgeist!

Desus: Matter of fact, if we keeping it funky, it’s not even about the election, it’s about after the election. Trump might be like, “Nah, I’m not leaving.”

Mero: This is a very washed reference, but remember The Real World when they tried to kick the comedian guy out of the house and he was like, “No, I’m not leaving”? Real World: San Francisco or something with Pedro Zamora?

That’s an awesomely washed reference. Love it.
Mero: Super washed. Washed boys in the building tonight!

Desus and Mero Are Proud to Be the New Susan Lucci