Ever since our country damned itself to new levels by electing Trump, late night comedians have struggled with their place in the cultural zeitgeist. Do they go hard on him? Are they not going hard enough? Yeah, it’s probably asking too much for a hosts of a tv genre whose whole point is to be entertaining and play cutesy games with celebrities to be political voices of reason, but at the same time, we’ve come to expect more from our entertainers, which is a good thing I suppose. But all the same, late night has stumbled with their relationship to Trump. Jimmy Fallon could leak Trump’s taxes, but the gif of him running his hands through Trump’s hair will be the first thing in his obituary. Colbert doesn’t quite deliver like we thought he would because like it or not he’s not doing The Colbert Report anymore, his best work only coming when Jon Stewart hijacks his show. James Corden is too concerned with going viral to get involved, and Jimmy Kimmel probably can’t get Trump to read mean tweets on camera.
Desus & Mero have become the unlikely heroes of late night television in how they handle Trump. When I wrote about this show a few months ago, I described their show’s aesthetic as “talking shit with your friends who are funny” and somehow that manner of discussion is perfect for reacting to whatever stupid shit Trumpito is up to. Trump has become unavoidable in topical discussion, because he’s doing awful things every single day. On one episode Mero can’t believe they actually made it through the first segment of the show without talking about Trump. They strike this weird cathartic balance of making total fun of this nightmare while also earnestly acknowledging how horrible it all is.
The only player in the major network late night shows that has actually responded well has been Conan O’Brien, who put on a special show in Mexico City to try to bring empathy between countries. I know, I can’t seem to write about Desus & Mero without comparing them to Conan, I only hope that I’m communicating that comparison as a compliment. If anything, Conan is the only major late night host on Desus & Mero’s level.
I’m going to be honest, I get my political news from them at this point because any other coverage just makes me want to light all the hair on my body on fire. I’ve bypassed the news cycle and just wait for their take. They avoid the exhaustive “gotta hear both sides” binary and just roast away. Here’s a clip of them comparing Trump rallies (which he’s still having for whatever reason) to a concert. I haven’t seen anyone else capture the collective groan of being underwhelmed by Rachel Maddow’s unveiling of Trump’s taxes from 2005. They’ve taken to referring to Sean Spicer as “The Spiceman” complete with bitchin graphics. Also, Mero has the most hilarious, perfect impersonation of Trump I’ve ever heard. If you close your eyes, it’s uncanny.
They’ve become almost folk heroes, men of the people in their nightly take-downs of Trump. They’ve become appointment viewing in our political climate, which is unique for a show that also features the hosts reacting to videos of animal sex on a weekly basis. They understand that sometimes you have to laugh to keep from crying.