The makers of “Desus & Mero” are not exactly modest.
Promos for the new Showtime series (11 p.m. Thursdays) state: “Desus & Mero host the greatest show in late-night history, featuring only illustrious guests.”
That’s not totally off base. The half-hour program, from the stars of the “Bodega Boys” podcast and a Viceland talk show, is definitely the greatest late-night talk show in Showtime’s history because it’s the only one. And the guests are definitely illustrious, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, John Legend and Ben Stiller.
The hosts are actually named Daniel Baker (he’s Desus Nice) and Joel Martinez (The Kid Mero). They use the typical late-night format — a mix of interviews, skits and commentary on current events. With their own wit and the help of veterans from the Stephen Colbert and John Oliver late-night shows, they bring a fresh and funny take and add all-too-rarely heard black and Latino perspectives.
Poking fun at news clips, they seem like two streetwise guys shooting the breeze, like when they look at Vladimir Putin in a judo outfit jogging in circles with members of a Russian team. Mero astutely observes: “That motherf---er runs like my 2-year-old daughter.” (Obscenities do fly.) Their hilarious “Green Book” parody is the definitive word on why “literally every black person” is not a fan of the Oscar winner. In the spoof, the Italian driver for a black musician is described as “a white man who had the courage to know a black person.”
A visit to the congressional office of Ocasio-Cortez is an example of how the show can deftly skip from silly to serious. Since they all have roots in the Bronx, Desus and Mero decorate her walls with cut-out heads of themselves and other locals made good (look, it’s Cardi B!). They even bring in a bodega-style rack of plantain chips. A relaxed Ocasio-Cortez jokes that her office is “bigger than my apartment” and discusses her agenda: If someone makes $10 million a year, she’d like to tax every dollar after that at 70 percent. “Isn’t $10 million enough?” she asks.
Even though they hobnob with celebrities, the duo own up to their relative obscurity. In one segment, they chat with elementary schoolers. “If you’re famous, how come I don’t know who you are?” says one. Little child, perhaps one day soon you won’t have to ask that question!