Desus Nice and The Kid Mer are known for their wide-ranging and incisive celebrity interviews with everyone from former President Barack Obama and New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to Season 4 guests such as Michelle Yeoh and Denzel Washington. For even a seasoned journalist, sitting down opposite those bold-faced names could be a cause for intimidation or apprehension. But the hosts of Showtime’s “Desus & Mero” are anything but cautious.
“We meet people that other people completely lose it talking to, and we’re just like, ‘Hey, you used to be the president, Obama, has was that?” Desus tells Gold Derby in an exclusive video interview. “We’re on the same level as these people and that comes through in the conversation. We’re never going to be like, ‘So, oh my God, this is so great, Denzel.’ It’s going to be like, ‘Okay, Denzel, you’re in Hollywood, we’re in Hollywood. We’re basically coworkers. Let’s have a discussion.’ So that’s kind of the energy [we bring] and I think the people respect that. Because when you come kissing a person’s ass during an interview, the people realize it and you hear the canned responses and they’re just trying to get through the interview. We’re having a natural conversation. We’re asking questions we earnestly want the answer to – real questions that these people haven’t been asked in years.”
Desus and Mero were both born in New York City and grew up in the Bronx. As hosts, their conversational approach and easy rapport have roots in the city’s talk radio hosts – specifically Mike Francesthe legendary broadcaster who co-hosted WFAN’s “Mike and the Mad Dog” show with Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo for years. It’s a style, Desus says, that didn’t necessarily win over television executives at first – but something Francesa himself told the hosts to stick with throughout their careers.
“We had him on our show on the previous network. He basically was just like keep being who you are and they’re gonna respect you for that,” Desus says. “Because we’ve been in boardrooms and we’ve been in situations where people have literally said, ‘You guys are too New York, people in Iowa will not listen.’ And we’re just like, ‘Who cares about Iowa? No one cares about Iowa except for primaries.’… He embraced us in that interview. What he’s done… he’s built a legacy for himself. And that’s what we want to do.”
“Desus & Mero” won at the Writers Guild Awards for Best Variety Talk Series in 2021 and were nominees in the category again this year. But the series has never been nominated a the Emmy Awards in the talk show categories. Asked if they broadly think of their fellow late-night hosts as competitors, both said no.
“There are very unique challenges to being a late-night host,” Desus says. “So, to me, someone else who is going through the same thing, you can link up on those things and just kind of talk to each other about how you deal with it.”
“We’re playing like a different game – you know what I mean? That’s not like in a derisive way, either,” Mero adds. “It’s not a traditional late-night show. We said from the beginning that the only thing that makes us a late-night show is that we’re on late at night. Do you know what I mean? Like, if the show was on at noon, there’ll be a lot more bleeps but it would still be the same show.”
New episodes of “Desus & Mero” air Thursdays on Showtime.
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