I missed out on the pre-show smoke session and I was pissed. I was already nervous about profiling two guys, Desus and Mero, that I was fairly cool with and have known for a minute now. But the fellas did their best to make up for leaving me and my photographer out of one of their most important rituals before taping Desus & Mero, their Showtime series. We met up in their green room, where we were greeted by a boisterous Mero shouting my name like a Dominican Joe Budden. We laughed, we dapped, and we bullshitted before they went out into the crowd. There was a plethora of Rap Snacks to choose from, along with a bunch of other shit one would eat while being wild smacked.

I almost got emotional seeing my guys being treated like the stars they are, especially since they never switched up on me. We were co-workers during their initial run here at Complex and have kept in touch since, here and there. Desus, Mero, and I have shared a couple blunts in our day at various industry events when they were hosting parties on the side. This is way before they were selling out shows and interviewing presidential hopefuls, and they’re still the same guys, impressively enough; they’re just more famous these days, and have more money in their bank accounts.

This piece was supposed to drop before all this crazy COVID-19 shit popped off. I visited the set of the Showtime series on the day that Desus and Mero were taping an interview with Lakeith Stanfield to get a behind-the-scenes look into one of the best late-night shows on TV. There was a small, diverse crowd of native New Yorkers and gentrifiers there to watch the two kick shit off top. Their pre-show ritual is pretty simple: talk shit in their dressing room as Desus drinks a bottle of Beck’s and both of them get their hair and makeup done. I wasn’t used to seeing movie magic unfold before my very eyes. Both got the Walt “Clyde” Frazier Just for Men treatment so we can see the West Indian goatees in HD, and they were having a full-on off-the-record conversation with me as the makeup artists grew impatient because of all the laughter. Not sure why both don’t just go full Carlos Boozer and give the people what they want! Anyway, before we left the room, I had the pleasure of being included in the prayer circle, and it felt like Randy Brown setting shit off in a pre-game Bulls huddle. We asked what time it was, and God answered back, “Game time!”

Watching the pair come up has been surreal. David Letterman called them the future of late-night television—that’s really all that needs to be said. They’ve established a great relationship with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and had her yelling “YERR” in the White House halls. They’ve interviewed Bernie Sanders, and since quarantine started they’ve sat down remotely with Democratic nominee Joe Biden and Dr. Anthony Fauci. Packed between the Biden and Fauci interviews was one with John Legend where the guys revisited their underrated hit “Chocolate Galaxy.” They were also hand-picked to interview Twitter founder and CEO Jack Dorsey recently, where they asked about the edit button and whether Donald Trump’s Twitter account should get suspended (both aren’t happening anytime soon). The brand has gone mainstream, you fucking dweebs.

Still, Desus and Mero’s profile can’t be measured by the numbers tied to what they proudly proclaim to be “the No. 1 show in late-night” alone. They’re not doing millions of viewers each episode like their counterparts on national television, but their influence can be seen in more traditional shows in their space that have leaned into the internet world the pair thrive in. Twitter is where they reigned supreme before the platform really went mainstream and turned into everyone throwing jokes around. That’s where they made their bones and built their individual names. It was Complex’s very own Donnie Kwak who had the wherewithal to bring these two together for a podcast like none other, effectively changing the lives of a couple of regular, shmegular hood dudes from the Bronx. Kwak’s pitch came at the perfect time, according to Desus. “That Donnie email came two days after I sent out an email to Mero and our homegirl Koku about making a podcast.” And they haven’t looked back since. Their brand of criticism and street knowledge can only be found in an ungentrified New York, a place where guys like them still existed in bulk. There are still brands out there that make New York feel like New York, and Desus and Mero are at the top of that list.

They’ve come a long way since those early days here at Complex, but make sure to keep the podcast, Bodega Boys, alive in order to stay sharp and stay original. “That's the petri dish. That’s where all the ideas, all the sketches, everything comes from there,” the kid known as Mero proclaims. Check out our sitdown as we touch on a range of topics that include the Brooklyn Nets and how the duo feels about being labeled “sellouts” for taking a deal with Showtime.

[Ed. note: This interview took place back in February of 2020.]

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