EXCLUSIVE: Desus & Mero Had 2 Months Left Of Viceland Gig, But The Network Cut Their Reign Short Out Of Showtime Envy
Desus & Mero Talk To BOSSIP After Their First Live Show In Atlanta
Desus Nice and The Kid Mero were welcomed with open arms for their first ever live performance in The Dirty South. The room erupted with equal parts cheers and “YEERRRRRs” as the Bronx’s best exports came to the stage parading their Dominican and Jamaican flags in one hand, and gas canisters filled with Brugal in the other.
2,000 people were hanging onto every syllable Desus and Mero uttered for the better part of 2 hours–and with how quickly they both talk, that’s a hell of a lot of syllables.
Their set consisted of a dozen or so completely off-the-rip tangents, which included everything from Jay Z on a jet ski, to rappers in Atlanta referring to guns as “d*cks.” These two are masters at not only talking to one another, but picking out literally anyone in the crowd and making conversation as if they did so at brunch every Sunday.
Their familiarity is what makes them seem like two of the most accessible celebrities ever—which is probably why some fans felt betrayed by their decision to go to a network with a paywall.
We sat down with the Bodega Boys backstage following their Atlanta baptism, where they revealed that ditching Viceland so quickly after signing on Showtime‘s dotted line wasn’t a plan of their own.
“Can I just be messy off the rip right now?” Desus began. “Vice has us for 2 more months….we did not leave Vice, Vice ended our contract. They were in their feelings because we were leaving.”
He continued, explaining, “We could still be doing the show, and it bothers me because now people are tagging us like ‘do this, do this, what would your reactions be for this?’ and I’m like, ‘yo wow, what would my reaction be?’”
Mero summed up the situation succinctly: “Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face.”
It was clear that both comedians were dissatisfied with Viceland’s decision to let them go early, having given so much of themselves during their 2 years in that small Williamsburg studio. Desus seemed relieved to get the weight of the premature termination off his chest, though both still had a stench of unresolved confusion about the whole thing. Everyone in the room was equally befuddled that any network would give up the chance at having Desus and Mero on their screens for a little bit longer.
It wasn’t just the bigger bag that got Desus and Mero wanting to move onto their next chapter, though. They express their gratitude for Viceland “popping the cherry” after other networks (including their former home MTV2) were too apprehensive to bet on such wild cards–but the unforgiving workload in particular seemed to cause some resentment between the network and the talent.
“Viceland wanted 160 episodes a year,” Desus divulged. “We have no writers, it’s literally me and Mero talking to one another every day. If you want us to do this for 160 episodes, pay us 160 million dollars—otherwise we would have killed each other.”
“We were carrying that network on our back, and we felt the weight,” Nice continued. “They were talking about, ‘do not take the weeks off because we don’t get ratings,’ and it’s like, yo, we’re just two people”
“We were literally the LeBron of that network,” Mero replied. “As a dad, you wanna be around for milestones for like graduations, birthdays…and it’s obnoxious to have to be like, ‘I can’t go to my kid’s graduation because we leave the studio at 3 o’clock and the graduation is at 4.’”
Desus lamented, “The channel wanted us to die for this f**king network. We’re also the highest rated show on the network, put some respect on our name, have someone come massage my feet.”
“And we are not divas, we’re flexible dudes,” Mero said. “They kinda undervalued us a little bit.”
“Not even a little bit, straight up,” Desus replied.
But their collective frustration with being over-utilized isn’t to be confused with a lack of passion for their fans or their craft. Both of their faces light up when discussing the fact that Showtime means a bigger budget and more fleshed out content. As the only talk show on television without a writer’s room, the weight of the world is still on their shoulders—and they were visibly relieved to find an outlet that will help nurture their content instead of squeezing it out of their dead, overworked hands.
Their social media comments might be polluted with a select few complaining about the switch to premium cable, but the boys are sympathetic to the struggle– and they thought about that way before the public even knew a deal was in the works.
Desus reasoned, “every time someone complains about the price, I think of myself. It doesn’t bother us, it’s just when people are negative and like, ‘yo, you guys sold out.’ You’re still gonna get the show you want, and it’s gonna be like $5.99. Relax.”
“It’s not like we ran off on the plug,” Mero added. “The very fact that we’re going to Showtime means that the show is going to get bigger and better. It’s gonna be on a bigger scale, bigger budget, more exposure, more likeliness to win a f**king Emmy.”
“Imagine listening to the podcast and you don’t have to imagine what’s going on,” Desus continued. “I get it, people are afraid, your favorite show no longer comes on at 11pm…but listen, we’ll get our way back in y’all hearts.”
Mero resumed, “people are scared because they think it’s gonna be wild inaccessible, and it’s not gonna be wild inaccessible.”
“You don’t have to have a Showtime login to watch what we’re gonna put out,” Desus assured. “Bodega Hive is something very personal to us…we cannot just sh*t on this f**king fanbase.”
Desus and Mero both describe their fame as a path that came from complete left field, but these Bronx-bred bosom buddies are taking advantage of every opportunity that comes their way. In an unexpected parallel, Desus quoted New York’s welcome ambassador Taylor Swift when discussing how comedians have to navigate their career in the modern day:
“We’re just trying to give people as much content as possible. It’s no longer like Adam Sandler where you can get 30 years and make terrible movies. You gotta be hot and stay hot for at least 5 years. There was a quote from Taylor Swift, ‘if you do 3 years that’s lucky, if you do five years that’s a career.’ We’re going on our 5th year. We have the game in the palm of our hands right now…networks want that.”
Neither had aspirations of stardom growing up, but Mero attributes his infectious authenticity to watching shows like In Living Color and The Wayans Bros.
“At that point in my life, I wasn’t thinking I could be on TV, but it was just refreshing. The optics of seeing people that look like you, dress like you, and talk like you on TV gave me the confidence to be like ‘I can just say what I want, I can do what I want.’”
While Desus insists he did “everything in [his] power not to be famous on Twitter,” the signs pointing to something bigger were all around him; He recalls attending a taping of Chapelle’s Show and making the host laugh.
“Chappelle made a joke and I just yelled out a response…and he buckled down and started cracking up. I was like, ‘I made Dave Chappelle laugh? We got something right here.” Later on, following the success of the podcast, things came full circle as the duo met Neil Brennan. The Chappelle’s Show co-creator told them, “you guys are the truth” and said that Desus “reminded [him] of a young Chappelle.”
With some of the most impressive co-signs in the game, it’s a miracle that these two are still just as humble as they were from the very beginning, missing episodes of their Complex podcast because they couldn’t get time off from their regular jobs. But they’re not doing this for the fame, they’re just trying to feed their families (or in Desus’ case, his cat) and give people something to smile about in the process. Oh, and Mero has an affinity for Versace that won’t pay for itself.
In a room full of people who had never met, it was obvious that for so many, the Atlanta Symphony Hall felt like home on Saturday night with the Bodega Boys onstage–And two dudes who can brighten the spirits of so many just by talking is no small feat.
A 5 year run makes it a career, but 5 years in, it’s clear that Desus and Mero are just only started.
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