Fordham and The Bronx is Reading Host Desus & Mero

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Professor Brandy-Monk Payton speaks with Desus & Mero on their new book “God-Level Knowledge Darts: Life Lessons from The Bronx.” (Courtesy of Sara Tsugranis/The Fordham Ram)

Sara Tsugranis, Culture Editor

Fordham’s Communications and Media Studies Department sponsored a virtual event last Thursday hosted by The Bronx is Reading for Black History Month. The Zoom panel featured the Bronx-bred late-night talk show hosts of “Desus & Mero” and the podcast “Bodega Boys” Desus Nice and The Kid Mero, who discussed their new book “God-Level Knowledge Darts: Life Lessons from The Bronx.” 

The Bronx Is Reading is a literacy program aimed toward children from Title I schools that stems from The Bronx Book Festival. The Bronx is Reading “seeks to create an interest for reading among young people while also promoting reading and writing skills through engaging author visits, reading group guides from publishers, and new books for children,” according to its official website.

Dr. Brandy Monk-Payton, a professor in the Communication and Media Studies Department, facilitated the conversation with Desus and Mero. Monk-Payton began the evening with a discussion on the inspiration for the duo’s book. 

“It was time,” Desus said. 

“We are trying to be the kings of all media … and that includes the written word,” Mero said. 

Desus and Mero discussed the importance of their families’ culture and how growing up in the Bronx shaped them and inspired them to write this guidebook. “We’re immigrant kids. We know nothing but working, and we have strong work ethics, and if someone gives you an opportunity to write a book … Fam! How many people get the opportunity to write a book?” Desus said, as Mero pointed to the Dominican flag on his wall.

In the book’s introduction, Mero writes in all caps, “SINCE I WILL BE 36 (867 IN BRONX YEARS)…I FEEL LIKE I’VE LIVED LONG ENOUGH TO GIVE SOUND ADVICE, AS HAS DESUS.”

“We’re giving you lessons we learned from life experiences, so hopefully, you don’t have to go through it and learn the hard way,” Desus said. 

The pair gives advice on drugs, relationships, the criminal justice system, how to “ball out” when you’re broke and the inevitability of becoming washed. Mero explained that being washed is gaining self-acceptance. “I’m not tryna be a cool guy no more. I’m just me…at 9 p.m. on the dot, I am watching ‘Law & Order’ with a glass of wine.” 

The pair described the book as a good introduction to their work. “It’s a time capsule in written form,” Mero said. This is exemplified in the chapter titles written in graffiti lettering by Mero, a signifier of his graffiti background. As Monk-Payton described, the book reads like a stream-of-consciousness alternating between Desus and Mero as they mix comedy with earnest advice. 

Monk-Payton asked how they were able to balance the silly with the serious. “I think that’s probably one of the traits of being from the Bronx. Every day is a mix of hilariousness and overwhelming tragedy,” Desus said. “You could be having the time of your life, and then your good friend is dead…It happens that fast.”

Another topic the pair addresses is masculinity and the “alpha-male” figure. They described the experience of writing that particular chapter as cathartic. “Helping to destigmatize therapy and taking care of your mental health is big,” explained Mero. “You go into a barbershop, and you’re like ‘Oh I’m going to see my therapist’ [and] ten motherf—–s stand up and say … there’s something wrong with him.”

The two also discussed the importance of the bodega. “It’s the lifeblood of New York City,” said Desus. “It’s our Walmart, our Target.” They also discussed the close bond between bodega owners and the Bodega frequenters. “It’s where you build relationships,” said Mero. “There’s no substitute for that person-to-person interaction.”

The duo also gave some age-old wisdom on subway travel in the city. “If you live in New York more than six months, you should be able to spot undercover cops before you hop a turnstile,” said Desus. “Always a group of three, extremely diverse.”

Professor Monk-Payton asked Desus and Mero about memories they have associated with Fordham. “At night sometimes, unfortunately, I’ve seen this,” said Desus. “You see Fordham students walking to Arthur Ave, and they don’t have shoes on, and I’m like … We in the Bronx, what are you doing!” 

“We’re not in Westport, Connecticut anymore,” Mero joked. 

The panel also talked about how Fordham’s gates close the university off from the rest of the Bronx. Mero said the first time he entered the gates was as an adult with his wife, a Fordham alum. 

Regarding the “Desus & Mero” show, they call it “late-night for the people.” The two are proud to represent the Bronx and put the borough’s name out there in a positive light. Look out for “God-Level Knowledge Darts: Life Lessons from The Bronx” and “Desus & Mero” Sundays and Thursdays at 11 p.m. on Showtime. Their podcast “Bodega Boys” is available on both Apple Music and Spotify.