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Viceland’s ‘Desus & Mero’ Improvises in Late-Night

Variety logo Variety 1/13/2017 Cynthia Littleton
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Viceland’s fledgling late-night series “Desus & Mero” may be the most improvised series in television.

Hosts Desus Nice and the Kid Mero are two longtime friends from the Bronx. They have built up a following via podcasts and social media with their trenchant observations on pop culture, politics and hot topics of the day. The Monday-Thursday half-hour series snuck on to Viceland Oct. 17 and is now starting to raise its profile as a new entrant in the late-night arena.

In a session at the Television Critics Association on Friday, Desus and Mero assured the crowd that they improvise virtually everything on the show. They don’t have scripts, per se, but that doesn’t mean they don’t put thought into it. Viewers who give them a shot and listen to what they have to say will realize “these guys aren’t just cursing and smoking weed all the time,” Desus said.

The guests that join in are mostly friends of one or the other. To date the list has ranged from actress Rashida Jones to MSNBC’s Christopher Hayes (a high school friend of Desus’ ), and the show has a strong no-plug rule for those who visit the show, which is shot in a conference room at Vice Media’s Brooklyn production headquarters.

“There’s no Hollywood booker saying ‘Come show your product,’ ” Desus said. “No one’s pushing a book or promoting a movie. There’s no unnecessary conversation. It makes the conversations with guests a lot more authentic. We don’t want the interview to be the same as you’d see on any other show.”

Desus and Mero have been dining out regularly on Donald Trump and the material he provides. They’ve challenged themselves to come up with a new nickname for the President-elect each night. Examples so far: “President Cheetoh,” “Human Dorito Dust” and “Tangerine-in-Chief.”

Most of the show revolves around Desus and Mero riffing off of each other. The references fly fast and furious and they can be opaque for those not up to speed on hip-hop and urban culture. But the decision was made by exec producer Eric Rydholm, an alum of ESPN’s “Pardon the Interruption,” to let them go in their rapid-fire pace without any kind of glossary, even online.

“You have to put some work into it to get the references,” Desus said. “It’s going to be you and that weed and some cereal. You gotta put something into it.”

Desus and Mero are slow starting to add more elements to the show — a recent field trip to New York City’s famed SantaCon pub crawl was a highlight. The have the ultimate motivation to make the show a success, albeit on their own terms.

“We’re both poor and from the Bronx, so that’s what makes it work. The desperation and the hunger — we don’t want to be poor again,” Desus said.

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