The ‘Desus and Mero’ split is a significant loss for late-night

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Celebrity breakups can be visceral and wrenching, especially when you don’t see them coming. So it was especially painful on Monday when Showtime announced the abrupt cancellation of “Desus and Mero,” the bold and bawdy late-night show hosted by Desus Nice and The Kid Mero.

The Showtime series represented the love-to-see-it ascent of Desus (born Daniel Baker) and Mero (Joel Martinez), who met as high school students while attending the same summer school. They were just casual acquaintances when they started trading jokes on Twitter in the mid-aughts, and their online banter helped shape their charismatic rapport. The media company Complex tapped the pair to do a podcast, “Desus v. Mero,” which led to a web series of the same name and stints on MTV2’s “Guy Code” and Charlamagne Tha God’s weekly show “Uncommon Sense.”

They launched the popular Bodega Boys podcast in 2015, continuing to build a fan base that appreciated their irreverent commentary on sports, pop culture and everything in between. The first iteration of “Desus and Mero” as a talk show arrived in 2016 on the now-defunct Viceland, where the hosts got noticed for their unfiltered political insight despite a no-frills aesthetic (the show was filmed in a conference room) and jokes that would fly over the heads of most other late-night audiences. Desus and Mero, both raised in the Bronx by immigrant parents (Desus’s parents are from Jamaica; Mero is Dominican American), spoke to an audience — a generation, really — that had long gone ignored in that realm. Their guests, which included journalists, internet personalities and rappers, tended to be people outside the late-night circuit. But even when they hosted more-mainstream bookings, Desus and Mero asked unanticipated questions (“What hood you reppin?,” they asked MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow in 2017).

When Showtime announced in 2019 that Desus and Mero were moving to the network, it felt like the culmination of “the brand is strong,” one of many phrases the pair coined and shared over the years with the Bodega Hive, the name for their legion of fans. Despite the bigger budget, Desus and Mero brought the same energy and ethos to premium cable. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (DN.Y.), a fellow Bronx native, was the show’s inaugural guest; the interview took place in the trio’s home borough. “Desus and Mero” aired twice weekly on Showtime initially, and the duo clocked dozens of interviews that first season, hosting the likes of Stacey Abrams, Anna Kendrick, Issa Rae, Carmelo Anthony, Lil Nas X, the Wu-Tang Clan, Pete Buttigieg, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Zendaya and Spike Lee.

No format, no frills, just unfiltered comedy: Inside Desus and Mero’s late-night insurgency

Throughout it all, they maintained the spirit of the Bodega Boys; the first episode was titled “Series Premiere, Ballbags” in a nod to the glossary of terms the duo has compiled across projects. And although the pandemic threw off many a late-night host in 2020, Desus and Mero seemed to find their footing in a year that saw a global pandemic, widespread racial-injustice protests and a chaotic election. They interviewed rapper Saweetie, chef José Andrés, infectious-disease expert Anthony S. Fauci and former president Barack Obama, and maintained a similarly illustrious guest list in the show’s third season. The fourth installment of “Desus and Mero,” which bowed June 23, was just as critically acclaimed as the first few and a fifth season seemed likely. Until…

Rumors of a fallout between the comedy duo had been buzzing around the Hive since last weekend, when a Bodega Boys fan account posted screenshots that appeared to show Desus and Mero subtweeting each other. Fans were hankering for another episode of the Bodega Boys podcast, which hadn’t released new content since November. When Desus sent a tweet promising the Hive that more was to come, Mero appeared to quickly shut the notion down. “Nah, it’s a wrap brody,” he began before appearing to reference issues on the Bodega Boys tour that brought the pair to Washington (and other cities around the United States) in 2017. “I tried y’all,” Desus said. He later tweeted that “the hive deserved better than this ending.”

“Seems like it’s a wrap, y’all,” Bodega Boys Daily noted. Speculation intensified after Desus and Mero appeared to largely ignore each other while participating in this year’s All-Star celebrity softball game. By Monday evening, Showtime confirmed the bad news: The fourth season of “Desus and Mero” would be its last and the hosts would be going their separate ways.

The show’s end seemed to be just as shocking to its production staff, several of whom took to social media to express gratitude for their time on the series, which helped launch other personalities, including Ziwe, who now has her own Showtime talk show.

There is also a bittersweet irony in how things played out, since the idea of ​​Hollywood causing creative tension has long been a running joke between them and their fans. While the Hive is still grappling with what could have possibly caused the rift, fans of “Desus and Mero” are wondering what it means for late night, an industry landscape that has historically favored older White men (especially those named Jimmy) on network television . Where else but “Desus and Mero” could you tune in to see Yo-Yo Ma cover Britney Spears, Sisqo and DMX, all in one place?

It’s unclear where exactly the duo will end up now that they’ve gone their own ways, but their late-night presence isn’t completely gone just yet: Desus is one of the celebs guest-hosting for Jimmy Kimmel this summer.

The brand may be in flux, but the repertoire, at least, is strong.

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