Paris Hilton, Charles Oakley, and Why Stand-Up Sucks With The Bodega Boys
It was just a few short months ago that Desus Nice and THE KID MERO dropped by to record episode #133 of the Bodega Boys podcast in the Milk JamRoom. Beginning with that first episode (that’s “4skinBoyz”; listen here), they’ve brought the brand to Milk HQ faithfully every Monday since. Nothing is off limits for Desus and Mero, who hit every topic (and chat with every person) that you’ve ever been curious about; Charles Oakley, Paris Hilton’s rise and fall, and famed Bronx Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez included. The Milk JamRoom is kind of like your high school basement, where the best hangs happen and the conversation flows sans script. Thus, it’s the perfect HQ for the Bodega Boys to get real—with their guests, and each other. We sat down with the pair after they wrapped episode #150 to catch up on what’s new, and what’s next.
So, how have you guys been?
Desus Nice: Great, we just did our 150th show right here in the JamRoom!
Who has been your favorite guest so far if you had to pick?
THE KID MERO: I feel like this is a corny answer, but they’ve all been great—the space lends itself to people being chill and not being like, “I’m being interviewed!”
Desus: There’s definitely a difference between the interviews we do on our Showtime Show versus the interviews we do here– these ones are more intimate and people open up more. When people come here and it’s just the two of us, they’ll say things that they wouldn’t say in any other interview. Like the Charles Oakley interview—that was an amazing interview that could not have happened anywhere else, he just felt so comfortable here.
Totally, because it’s like you’re hanging out in your dad’s basement, no pressure. So do you curate guests based on whether they’ll be on the podcast or the show, and the different environments?
Desus: Certain guests we really want to speak with them on a deep deep level so we bring them here. Here, you can ramble on with them for hours—you can talk to them about their backstory and not just what they’re working on right now or what product they’re trying to promote. Like remember you did this in ‘91? You were hanging with Paris Hilton… you still hanging with her? Wild stories like that.
Mero: Yeah, just less generic shit.
Desus: Now we can be like, you got your start from a YouTube series back in 2007. And then you have moments when people are like, “Holy shit you remember that?” The more time you have in a comfortable setting is so much better than trying to rush.
What’s been the most unexpected or surprising moment?
Desus: Eric Holder was cool as shit. You’re assuming when talking to a government official he’s going to be very wound up— but nah. Very cool with it and went with the jokes—he wore his chain, no he took the chain. [Laughs]
What’s it like talking to politicians in a casual environment? Are they real people?
Desus: They are real people! Like AOC [Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez] is probably the best example. When we talked to her it’s not congresswoman… It’s Alexandria from the Bronx. She enjoys talking to us because she knows we’re not trying to hit her with “gotcha” questions, there’s no cameras. We’re just talking as regular people. We’re not trying to have politicians in and endorse anybody we’re just like, “Yo, this person is running for president and here’s what they’re like—judge off of that. You decide.”
Mero: She’s very down to earth and that’s what scares so many people about her. She’s just in-tune with what’s going on in society, pop culture, everything in general so she can fire back, versus a 70-year-old white dude from West Virginia who’s like, “Uhhh, social media team—what’s does this mean?” But she knows what she’s doing and she has a good staff around her.
Desus: She’s challenging the status quo, and that’s why a lot of people are afraid of her.
She makes people uncomfortable in a good way, shaking things up. On that note, is there any topic you guys are nervous to approach? Anything you avoid or hesitate to speak on?
Desus: Not really, we pretty much talk about everything. We’re not that serious about topics, and if we talk about it it’s like jokingly, we’re never mocking anyone, we’re just like, “Yo this situation is funny.” So there’s not really anything—except like really bad jokes we don’t do that kind of thing…you’d be surprised there’s comedians like that’s all they’re doing… and you’re just like wow ok…
Well it seems like it’s “the more taboo the better” with comedians sometimes.
Desus: And see the problem with that is, are you actually being funny or are you just being taboo? Are you just getting a reaction from people because they can’t believe you said that?
Mero: And also, that shit doesn’t age well. We’re creating content and content is art and art should be timeless.
Desus: I mean there’s jokes we did like years ago that we would not make now because we didn’t know anything and there’s comedians who have made their whole careers off that—but that’s so nuanced and you’re limiting yourself to an audience of ignorant people. It’s not that we’re PC, but we don’t set out to offend anyone—there’s no harm in our jokes, they’re never mean spirited, they’re never like trying to punch down on anyone. And I think that’s what made us to be elevated.
There’s an interesting balance between being a reflection of the times and being timeless, and if you can do both, then you’re golden.
Desus: Right, and that’s why in 20 years we hope people can listen to this podcast and be like that’s what was going on in the times, that’s what New York was like. That is a time capsule and it’s still funny.
So you guys have been in comedy for how long?
Mero: Five years.
How has your craft and process evolved since you’ve been in the industry?
Desus: It hasn’t—our on-stage personalities are the same as our off-stage personalities. It’s just us talking. We don’t write jokes or do any rehearsals so when we do the show it’s blind. It’s been so effortless for us—it’s muscle memory… You have comedians that do the same live show every time they’ve done a show and we’ve never done the same show, and we don’t repeat jokes.
Mero: And when you don’t write jokes you don’t run the risk of burning yourself out. So we have some stuff that we re-shape, but every live show is completely different.
Do you ever get tired or burnt out or run out of things to say?
Desus: Sometimes when you’re filming and you’re out on the street and it’s 15 degrees and if you’ve been out there since 10 am—that physically tiring. But the actual comedy—there’s never even a time when we’ve got nothing else to say. I remember there was a time in Boston where we went so long the manager had to come to the side of the stage and clap his hands trying to get our attention—and he was like no, you have to stop.
Do you guys ever hang out in comedy clubs in New York?
Desus: Nah. I would go as far as to say I hate stand-up comedy. And also because I don’t want to watch someone else and inadvertently steal their joke. A lot of times what happens is comedians accuse other people of stealing their jokes—but sometimes the joke is just there and anyone can say it.
With the viral natural of the internet, how does that change comedy? Do you feel like you’re forced to be more and more unique in what you’re saying?
Desus: No, I think it’s the opposite for us because we were never viral, we started from scratch. We did a slow grind—and the thing about slow grind is that it’s authentic and you gain actual fans vs—look the viral stuff is great…but what happens Tuesday? Are you making another viral video?
Mero: And when you’re doing viral shit you’re just chasing apples, and that brings down the level of your art. We had some opportunities to make some very terrible shit that would’ve been popular, but we want to do it on our own terms.
Who do you guys have coming up on the podcast or Showtime show that we can get excited about?
Desus: Yeah! We got Ben Stiller, Pusha T, Meek Mill, Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand—if you want to be president, you’re probably going to have to come on the show.
Stay tuned to Milk for more from the Milk JamRoom.