The brand is … well, not doing so great. Last Monday, fans of the comic duo Desus and Mero received crushing confirmation that their favorite fast-talking, Bronx-repping, Timbs-rocking, Knicks-stanning commentators were not only ending their acclaimed late-night Showtime series but fully splitting apart as a duo. Rumors of a rift between Desus Nice (real name Daniel Baker) and his longtime creative partner, the Kid Mero (real name Joel Martinez), had been circulating among the fan base for over a month, thanks to some cryptic tweets and Reddit comments, but that couldn’t prepare anyone for what was later revealed (ALLEGEDLY).
A split between Desus and Mero doesn’t just mean the end of a TV show, the much-loved Bodega Boys podcast, and an increasingly recognizable brand; it signifies the end of an era. The two have undergone an incredible decadelong journey together, using their wits and internet savvy to rise to prominence and show off a side of New York—and the internet, and comedy—not often seen on mainstream TV, from the perspective of two Black men no less. Not long ago, they were anonymously tweeting snarky comments and hounding the Okayplayer boards to distract from the boredom of their daily jobs. Then, both Desus and Mero were regularly going viral, teaming up as both digital and IRL friends, and launching shows. In the mid-2010s, the two could trick people into believing Desus was white; by the following decade, they were interviewing current and former presidents on camera. For those who’ve remained loyal #BodegaHive members throughout—including yours truly—this is the close on a significant cultural chapter.
Still, breakups like these aren’t uncommon, and this fiasco probably won’t end either’s career: Desus has been guest-hosting Jimmy Kimmel Live! this summer, and Mero has retained his controversial manager and held Twitch streams for followers. Yet to see how fans of the Bodega Boys have continued to react just a week after the split, it’s clear the hive is in a daze, many having predicted this moment yet reeling from the finality and the implications. There may not be so many Breaking Bad references or invocations of hell this week, but to look at where the fan communities congregate and what they’ve been up to is instructive, not least because Desus and Mero themselves often interacted with the #BodegaHive (and one of them is keeping that up).
Close watchers of the duo had been publicly speculating about their relationship since late last year, as new episodes of the Bodega Boys podcast arrived less and less frequently than usual—until it stopped altogether after November with no explanation. (If you look at replies to the official tweet for the last episode, you’ll find anxious listeners asking for new episodes month after month.) On Twitter, comms executive Brittany Cummings posted screenshots from the BodegaBoys subreddit, where she found comments from as far back as two years ago speculating on frosty vibes between Desus and Mero, gauged simply from listening to Bodega Boys. By June 16 of this year, one Redditor had surmised that Desus and Mero’s separate gigs plus the unofficial Bodega Boys hiatus meant that “it’s over.”
It took only a month for another online fan to help break the news, spurred by desperate messages from the Desus and Mero community asking what happened to the podcast. On July 17, the admin of the Bodega Boys Daily Twitter and Instagram accounts posted their supposition that the duo was done for, putting together a June 19 tweet from Desus claiming the podcast would return, a July 12 Reddit comment by Mero directly countering that “ITS A WRAP,” and subsequent tweets by Desus three days later in part stating that the fans “deserved better than this ending.” Shortly after, that guess was confirmed and, as the woman behind the accounts told Gothamist, Desus himself messaged the accounts to apologize about the abrupt conclusion to the brand.
After the official announcement, more fans threw out retrospective guesses as to when things soured, such as an early-pandemic podcast taping and a particular fit change. (This, naturally, culminated in a post titled “Who didn’t see this coming?”) Deeper conspiracy theories came quickly, with some thinking this was a false flag or a temporary dissolution. A stranger narrative arc coalesced from allegations that Desus wanted to sell out while Mero and his manager were trying to keep things together, so Desus split off with his (maybe?) girlfriend Anna Kendrick. A Puck article cited inside sources who claimed the show ended due to the alleged misdeeds of manager Victor Lopez—whom Mero supported out of loyalty, in opposition to Desus—but that didn’t end the conspiracizing. One poster took Mero’s side and wrote that the Puck report “seems kinda scapegoatish.” (Mero himself appeared to agree.) But as other fans dug up alleged confirmations from other Desus & Mero insiders regarding Lopez’s behavior, the subreddit strayed from the initial Desus theories, kickstarting separate apology threads for both him and Anna Kendrick. Members of r/bodegaboys then told others to calm down and to “PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD STOP DM’ING OR ASKING THE STAFF FROM THE SHOW ABOUT THE SPLIT.” (One former employee of the show tweeted on Friday: “Y’all need to stop asking me shit about Desus & Mero.”)
So yes, the #BodegaHive has been going through it, understandably. But curiously, one of the most involved and speculation-driving Redditors appears to be the Kid Mero himself. Last month, Mero had cryptically implied Desus “CANT TAKE A JOKE WITHOUT THINKIN ITS SHADE” and made a dig regarding Desus’ investments, though he later claimed that actually was “NO SHADE.” And in more recent days, Mero has liked tweets implying Victor Lopez was the hero in the fight against a villainous Showtime and responded to Reddit comments theorizing that the Puck stories were “leaked by people with a vested interest in Desus looking better in this whole thing.”
We may not know the whole story for a while, even as Desus would advise us that we “gotta hear both sides,” but if there’s one thing we can gauge for sure, it’s that Desus and Mero are undergoing an especially messy divorce and asking the kids to pick a side. Seems like many conflicted and confused fans may end up heading to Smack City.