The stars of Showtime’s new late-night series “Desus & Mero” stand ready to unite a bitterly divided nation with rapier wit delivered with Bronx flair.
Desus Nice and the Kid Mero were revved up Thursday night as the they gathered with friends, family and crew members in at the Clocktower in Manhattan for the premiere screening of first episode that was shot earlier in the day before a studio audience.
“The audience gives you that instant feedback and the jokes just keep flying,” Mero said. “We recorded for three hours. It wasn’t because of technical difficulties. It was because we were having so much fun. (Producers) kept saying ‘Stop, stop, stop.’ “
Showtime co-president Gary Levine praised the pair for their preternatural ability to “riff at the speed of light.” He credited Showtime VP Brendan Countee for having the foresight to lure the hosts away from Viceland, where they hosted a nightly late-night half-hour from 2016 to 2018.
Desus said he’s been gratified by the response to the promotional and media blitz that led up to Thursday’s premiere of their new configuration as an hourlong weekly entry that mixes the pair’s signature joke exchanging with sketches and field segments. The buzz for the pair, who first gained fame through their “Bodega Boys” podcast, is reaching well beyond the five boroughs.
“You have to give the audience credit. They’re not idiots,” Desus said. “Comedy is universal. Just because we say things a little faster than most people and we have a New York accent and we pronounce the ‘g’ in sang-wich, you can still rock with what we’re giving you.”
Desus was impressed by a mention that floated into his Twitter feed on Thursday morning as they prepared to record the first show, which featured the Bronx’s own rock-star U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as guest.
“One of my mentions was a guy in a big ol’ MAGA hat. He goes, ‘I’m a Trump supporter but you know what, funny is funny. I hope these two do well. I’ll be watching their show,’ ” Desus said. “I was like ‘Wow.’ “
Mero’s hands shot up in the air as he added: “We’re going to end racism here … Tonight!”
Moreover, the pair promise to leave an indelible mark on the medium with their move to the broad platform of Showtime. And they’ll do it without the constraints of neckwear.
“This is f—— cultural paradigm-shifting s—,” Mero explained. “We’re not wearing ties, we’re not doing monologues. F— all that s—. This is going to change television.”
Comedian Tracy Morgan was among the guests who gathered for the premiere screening, along with Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. Also in attendance were “Desus & Mero” exec producers Tony Hernandez and Lilly Burns of Jax Media.
“It’s going to be very refreshing” to have “Desus & Mero” in late-night, Morgan said. “I could turn on the TV and see people from where I’m from talking the same s— I’m talking.”
Desus and Mero have also been cheered by the warm welcome they’ve received in moving up to late night’s big leagues. The show tapes at CBS Broadcast Center on 57th Street, where one of their neighbors is HBO’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.”
“He’s very loud. He’s always leaving his bike in the hallway. He’s always listening to ‘Mary Poppins’ or something,” Desus quipped of the British host.
Oliver & Co. sent over an English breakfast — a carton full of bangers — to the “Desus & Mero” team on Thursday morning as a bon-voyage gesture. “Desus & Mero” returned the favor by sending “Last Week Tonight” a stash of Honey Buns and other choice packaged snacks found in bodegas.
“We’re trying to end Brexit, too,” Nice said.
Last Week Tonight sent over a full English breakfast for our premiere, which makes sense because one major Desus & Mero/John Oliver crossover is: pic.twitter.com/x1TyZqvUz9
— Josh Gondelman (@joshgondelman) February 21, 2019
(Pictured: The Kid Mero and Desus Nice)