Desus and Mero Talk Interviewing Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Keeping Brand Strong for Showtime

"We’re gonna be who we are, because that’s how we got to where we are," the duo said at the premiere of their weekly late-night show on the premium cable channel.
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Last night's Desus & Mero premiere marked Showtime's first foray into the late-night space, and saw Desus Nice and The Kid Mero adapting their formerly daily Viceland series into a weekly show that incorporates sketches, field pieces and in-studio interviews.

The duo appeared at New York's Edition hotel Thursday night for the show’s launch, where they greeted press with their trademark energy and off-the-cuff humor and teed up a premiere night interview with Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. As a rising Democratic star who also happens to represent their native Bronx, AOC was "a no-brainer" as their first guest, Desus told The Hollywood Reporter. "We’d actually hung with her before, we had lunch together in the Bronx, so it was just a matter of calling her. It wasn't like we had to go to her office, she was just like 'Tell me when and where.' She's the real deal: What you see is what you get." Mero called Ocasio-Cortez "a quintessential New Yorker, in that she speaks her mind. She’s the antithesis of Donald Trump."

Ocasio-Cortez is the first of many buzzy guests; the lineup announced so far includes John Legend, Issa Rae and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. "We want to get some names that’ll shock you, that make you go 'How did you get this person?'," Desus teased. "So I don't want to ruin it, but we've got Vladimir Putin on episode two. Because you know he has an album coming out, so it's him and Kendrick Lamar."

Given that they’ve been working together since 2013, beginning with their still-beloved Bodega Boys podcast and a show on Complex TV, Desus and Mero’s dynamic is well-honed enough to be unchanged by the move to Showtime. But for the first time, they are working with a writing staff. "It's dope, because when it comes to the rapport and the back and forth between us, that doesn't need to be fine-tuned, that’s just natural," Mero said. "But when you get to the level of doing highly produced sketches and field pieces, you need a team around you. You can’t just throw us in a street with two GoPros and be like 'Yo, make a movie parody!'"

The writing process involves a lot of give and take between the duo and the writers, Desus added. "Our writers get the sensibility of our humor and work within those parameters. They’re like 'Okay, here’s a situation, what would Desus and Mero do in this situation?’ It's a back and forth at the writers table where we're just cracking each other up, and often they'll write something and we'll change it on the fly, or they’ll be like, 'Say this. This would be even funnier.'"

Despite Desus and Mero's new platform and vastly expanded potential audience, their show will not lose any of its New York specificity. "We got that a lot at previous networks," Mero said, referring to a concern about the show being too New York-centric to have broad appeal. "We were just like, 'No. Pardon my French, but fuck that.' We’re gonna be who we are, because that’s how we got to where we are.” Desus said that the Showtime series will present "the news from a New Yorker’s perspective. Yes, there's gonna be references that you don’t get if you're not from New York, but generally you can figure out what we're saying. And we're set in the real New York, not Friends New York — it’s not a coffee shop with no black people.”

Discussing their long-term hopes for the show, the pair joked that they aim to vastly overstay their welcome. “We want the show to keep going until season 20, like The Simpsons, where everybody’s sick of it and when it comes on you're like 'Ugh, who still watches this?’” Desus deadpanned. “It gets renewed again and everyone’s like 'Take it off the air! Put it out of its misery!' And we don’t even talk any more; they have to do a CGI composite of us onscreen together.”