BY JOEY SWEENEY
One of the running narratives of the last year, and certainly since November 8th, is how mainstream media (aka television) has failed us: They’ve pussyfooted, gaslighted, and demurred, and now, they’re well into the project of “normalizing,” an effort so vast and frankly unachievable that it’s getting harder and harder to pay any attention at all. This era-defining failure has sadly even extended to the province of late-night comedians: Colbert does everything he can, sure, but Fallon has essentially made The Tonight Show its own kind of Late Nite Vichy, while The Daily Show and the rest have essentially sunk themselves, save for the high lonesome truthsong of Samantha Bee.
This is the context in which Viceland’s Desus & Mero launched earlier this fall, and it is the little woke-as-fuck hidey hole I crawl into on Monday through Thursday nights at 11pm. It is, at present, the only media remedy I know of for the dread that is currently free-floating in your Facebook feed and, if you’re not careful, your actual mind. Each night, from a no-frills set in “Shane Smith’s garage,” Desus Nice and The Kid Mero — who may be familiar to some from an earlier web series, as well as their Bodega Boys podcast — run down the day’s events a la SportsCenter: there’s a little ticker-list on the right hand side of the screen, as the duo move briskly along the show’s 30-minute time slot. Here, Donald “Mr. Brexit” Trump and Rudy “Racist Teeth” Giuliani rub elbows with viral clips and WorldStar fight videos, and instead of the tired celebrity guest interview hawking the new whatever, guests have to bring along clips to watch or drop in midstream a la Howard Stern, so that the flow of the show never quite stops. Consider, for example, this recent visit from New York Times food critic/self-identifying “white devil” Sam Sifton, where the show reached “peak Caucasity,” openly pondered the cultural appropriation of chopped cheese and also gave Sifton the chance to reveal that his occupation is “like death by blowjob”:
Given all of this, it would be hard to explain how Desus & Mero doesn’t totally annihilate the still-living, sad carcass of The Daily Show. But maybe the foremost piece of it is the relationship between Desus and Mero. It’s that of a classic comedy duo, where the chemistry and pure hot take abilities each share puts the viewer in this very rare space, perhaps the rarest space TV still has to offer: You feel like you’re among friends. But there’s also a beautiful trick in play with Desus & Mero, one that’s even more conspicuous in its absence on TV right now: Here, “among friends” also leaves plenty of room for being and expressing the viewpoint of being “other” in a time where “other” is, well, having a really rough time. Desus identifies strongly with his Jamaican roots, with Mero arguably repping even stronger as a Dominican-American. Both know a thing or two about the good, the bad and the ugly that come with "other" status, and never flinch when reflecting on it, whether the joke is landing at someone else’s expense or, just as often, on their own. What comes of this wild mix — a Jamaican/Dominican-American/NYC-centric hot take show on Viceland — winds up not just being the most honest thing on TV right now, but also funny as hell.