Desus & Mero on Hosting TCA Awards, Late-Night Camaraderie and Covering the 2020 Election
The Bronx-bred pair, who will emcee Saturday's awards, also discuss the "podcast saturation point" and the best advice they've gotten: "So far, it’s been all sunshine and daisies and s***."
Desus Nice and The Kid Mero, promoting their aptly titled Showtime series Desus & Mero in January, did the impossible: They won over the stony, often despondent members of the Television Critics Association at the biannual press tour.
So, when the time came to tap emcees for the TCA's summer awards ceremony, the Bronx-bred pair proved an obvious choice.
Hitting Los Angeles for that and two shows at The Ace just as their talk show crosses the six-month mark, Desus, 38, and Mero, 36, caught up with The Hollywood Reporter to talk about growing pains, finding their groove and the excitement and fatigue of covering their first election on TV.
The show looks different since it premiered. What's been the biggest change?
THE KID MERO The only thing we really changed was the intimacy level. When we debuted, it was a full-on audience in bleachers. It took away from the intimacy we'd cultivated. We shrunk the audience down, and now they sit on the floor like two feet away from us.
DESUS NICE We let things breathe now. Some segments ended too quickly, or the changes were too abrupt. The biggest change was really going from once a week to twice a week.
MERO Going twice a week gives us the ability to cover so much more and follow up on stories that have legs — rather than be late. Now we're actually early on stuff.
People get very hung up on format, especially in late night.
DESUS The late night game reminds me of MLB right now. There's all these unwritten rules. You have to have a monologue. You have to wear a suit. We're that new generation, flipping the bat and standing in the box after a home run. There's no predicting how our show will go. Just because we start talking about Trump doesn't mean we aren't going to end with a video of two anteaters having sex.
What's the best advice you've gotten?
MERO To follow our instincts. What we did got us here, so we're just going to keep doing it. And so far, it's been all sunshine and daisies and shit — so shout-out to Showtime.
DESUS For a guy like [Jimmy] Fallon, who inherited this legacy, to tell us what we're doing is innovative — that's a real boost of confidence that you cannot quantify.
There seems to be more camaraderie in late night now.
DESUS You'd hear stories about Johnny Carson or people banning guests from shows because they appeared on another one beforehand. We've encountered nothing but love. We've gone out to dinner with Hasan Minhaj. We hang with Fallon and Seth Meyers. We're all affected by the same issues. We all have to figure out the balance of Trump jokes. It's a godsend to be able to pick each other's brains.
You got to where you are because of your podcast. What's your take on all these trend pieces about the "podcast saturation point"?
DESUS For every podcast that's created, a podcast dies. I don't think there'll ever be a point where there's too many of them. People look at us, like, "Yo, they got on TV because of a podcast. Let's start a podcast!" And then after a little while of the grueling cycle of actually producing a podcast, they're like, "Fuck this!"
MERO You could say the market is saturated, but there's so much niche stuff, you can find what you want. You can have your entertainment a la carte.
DESUS If you want a podcast about medieval sword-making, you can have that.
What's appealing and what's annoying about covering the 2020 presidential election?
MERO I'm just looking forward to approaching interviews and segments from angles that people aren't expecting. We try to present presidential candidates as people. You've seen them on 15 different shows. You know their policies. You get a robotic spiel on health care and jobs, but who are you as a person?
DESUS It's boring! There are so many candidates. It's just so taxing! I'm not going to lie, I'll be happy when this election is over. Who knows, maybe we'll end up doing a post-election special of Day 50 of Donald Trump refusing to leave the White House.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
This story first appeared in the July 31 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.