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Desus and Mero changed late night TV. Now, their show is ending after 4 seasons

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

The Showtime talk show "Desus & Mero" abruptly announced yesterday that it was ending after four seasons. The hosts, The Kid Mero and Desus Nice, were a charismatic duo, two guys from the Bronx who met on Twitter, hit it off and started a podcast where they roasted rappers, basketball players and other pop culture figures. And as NPR's Andrew Limbong reports, the two ended up changing the landscape of late-night TV.

ANDREW LIMBONG, BYLINE: The end of the show, the duo, the brand, all of it, kind of came as a surprise seeing as in the latest season, they came out with a string of top-tier, as they'd call it, illustrious guests - Derek Jeter, Wanda Sykes, Denzel Washington.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "DESUS AND MERO")

THE KID MERO: Denzel Washington in the house.

DESUS NICE: That is right.

THE KID MERO: Make some noise, a living legend in the building.

LIMBONG: And the thing about this Denzel interview is that it really encapsulates what made "Desus & Mero" stand out in the world of late-night TV. Washington was hitting up all the shows to promote his latest movie, "Macbeth." And on those shows, he'd recite Shakespeare and talk about the joys of acting, which he did on "Desus & Mero." But the duo also had him talking about growing up around the Bronx, the best pizza places along the 2 train and the women who'd approach him after Broadway shows.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "DESUS AND MERO")

DENZEL WASHINGTON: And it was about an 80-something-year-old woman. She said, boy, if I was about three years younger...

(LAUGHTER)

NICE: (Inaudible).

WASHINGTON: Gladys, only three?

THE KID MERO: The cougars are out here.

WASHINGTON: Straight lookin, you know, sizing me up...

NICE: Yo.

WASHINGTON: ...Checking the package.

SONIA SARAIYA: They brought such a different energy to the late-night space.

LIMBONG: That's Sonia Saraiya, a former television critic who reviewed "Desus & Mero's" first season on Showtime for Vanity Fair, calling it, quote, "a breath of fresh air, even in the ever more crowded landscape of late-night comedy."

SARAIYA: The late-night space has been kind of dominated by very similar personalities and, honestly, even, like, sort of similar visuals.

LIMBONG: A white guy in a suit behind a desk, maybe with a mug or something to the side. "Desus & Mero" was different.

SARAIYA: It was two men who were from the Bronx who brought their style and their esthetic, which was very different from what we saw in mainstream late-night TV, and then also really found a way to bring the audience into that space.

LIMBONG: Desus Nice and The Kid Mero - real names Daniel Baker and Joel Martinez - met on Twitter and in 2013, started a podcast. Originally, it was called "Desus Vs. Mero."

(SOUNDBITE OF PODCAST, "DESUS VS. MERO")

THE KID MERO: Yo, what's good, man? It's the "Desus Vs. Mero" show.

NICE: Yep.

THE KID MERO: The [expletive] premiere.

NICE: Yep.

THE KID MERO: World premiere - we got a red carpet outside right now.

LIMBONG: Which eventually became "Bodega Boys."

(SOUNDBITE OF POCAST, "BODEGA BOYS")

NICE: If I - if you put a gun on Instagram in New York, the cops...

THE KID MERO: You'll go to jail.

NICE: ...There is a good chance the cops will find you and kick in your door.

LIMBONG: And what differentiated them in the podcast space was their chemistry, their ability to pull from their shared experience of being Black in the Bronx and immediately join in on each other's riffs.

(SOUNDBITE OF PODCAST, "BODEGA BOYS")

NICE: Officer Buckowiski (ph) is on - he's in the 47th precinct right now on Facebook looking for guns, pot, marijuana.

THE KID MERO: Prosciutto, come over here. Look at this.

NICE: Look at this over here.

THE KID MERO: Look at this [expletive] guy.

NICE: OK, The Kid Mero - Kid Mero over here has the .45 ACP. He's taking the photos.

THE KID MERO: Look at this. Look at this [expletive] guy. He thinks he's all...

NICE: I got the throwback Thursday when I throw your [expletive] back against that holding cell, all right? That's your throwback Thursday.

LIMBONG: They got big, especially on Black Twitter, which led to a TV show, first on VICELAND and then on Showtime. The rumor mill is currently churning as to whether the two are still a team or if they're still friends. But what's a fact is that they'll leave a mark on media forever.

Andrew Limbong, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Andrew Limbong is a reporter for NPR's Arts Desk, where he does pieces on anything remotely related to arts or culture, from streamers looking for mental health on Twitch to Britney Spears' fight over her conservatorship. He's also covered the near collapse of the live music industry during the coronavirus pandemic. He's the host of NPR's Book of the Day podcast and a frequent host on Life Kit.