'The Bodega Boys' Desus And Mero Offer Life Advice In New Book
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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
Desus and Mero shot to fame with their podcast, where they riff from their home borough, the Bronx. That turned into a show currently on Showtime with some pretty impressive guests. Most recently, a possible future VP talked about everything from police reform to Chucks.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "DESUS AND MERO")
KAMALA HARRIS: Like, I just got through washing and putting away my white Chucks 'cause, you know, after Labor Day, you're really not supposed to do...
DESUS NICE: Yeah.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Kamala Harris there. Yeah. And they have their very own beehive named after their fan base. Their new book is called "God-Level Knowledge Darts: Life Lessons From The Bronx," where the duo deliver advice on dating, having kids and being broke and being broke and having kids. Welcome to Daniel "Desus Nice" Baker and Joel "The Kid Mero" Martinez.
THE KID MERO: Hey. What's popping?
NICE: Yerr (ph). What's going on? NPR, thanks for having us on.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah, it is great to have you. There's a lot of advice in here, I got to tell you. And a lot of it's R-rated. And, obviously, we're on the radio, so we're going to keep it clean here. But I want to give (laughter)...
GARCIA-NAVARRO: ...A highlight of a dart from the chapter on relationships. And that's - to find a match, you suggest matching your gastrointestinal issues. Can you explain?
NICE: Oh, yeah. I mean, if you - if you're dating someone, you have to be able to enjoy the same food. And there's nothing more romantic than if you're about to eat a burrito with your mate, you both reach for a Lactaid pill because you know you're lactose intolerant. And that's intimacy right there - just avoiding flatulence. So that's just the key to every good relationship.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: I mean, is that really, like, what goes on when you're sort of, like, going through and deciding, all right, is this person going to be actually a good match for me?
NICE: I think - I should let Mero answer that 'cause he's the married one.
THE KID MERO: I did not mask gastrointestinal issues. That's been a point of contention in my marriage over this last decade.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. To you both, why did you write the book? You know, obviously, the Bronx clearly has a lot of life lessons to impart, but what motivated this?
NICE: We wrote a book because it catches us. Like, we still remember what it was like to be in the Bronx, to come from the Bronx, the struggle that we've gotten to because our life is changing rapidly. Like, we're - this - I mean, not to brag. We were just, you know, on a Zoom meeting with the - possibly the next VP of the United States...
NICE: ...You know? But, you know, like - so it's just a chance for us to remember who we were, what we were, what made us who we are and just impart that.
THE KID MERO: Yeah. That's - and that's - going back to, you know, gastrointestinal issues, that's really a super important part of the book. It's what I like to call chunky. As a former educator and teaching kids to read in chunks, like, you can read chunks of this book and walk away satisfied.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: How did you do it? - 'cause this is like a conversation. You two are, like, sort of talking to each other. It's like your sort of podcast but in book form.
THE KID MERO: So, like, that's kind of like - the theme across the board is that we've always been conversational and just, like, back and forth. And, like, you know, between the two of us, like, we toss jokes back and forth - you know what I mean? - like, and try to, like, build off of each other all the time. So using that approach was perfect for this book because it was so - it made it, like, super, super, super collaborative.
NICE: And I just want to jump out there - I know there's going to be some people confused. No, Tom Wolfe and Stephen King did not write this book, but it does feel like it's on that level. Just want to make sure people understand - no, it was me and Mero, OK?
THE KID MERO: It's canon. It's going to be on a lot of syllabi.
NICE: That's another reason we wrote this book. We wrote this book 'cause I'm an English major. And, hopefully, this book becomes so popular in about 40 years, English majors are forced to read it. And they curse me and Mero's name before they enter the classroom. So that's what we - that's why we made this book.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: There is advice on child-rearing and family life in here. I am struck by the fact that both of you fought or at least physically confronted your dads. And you write about it as though it's just part of becoming a man.
NICE: Where we grew up and just - and also probably the immigrant background, it's kind of - it kind of is a rite passage to manhood.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: 'Cause you're Dominican.
NICE: Well, I'm Jamaican. He's Dominican. But, I mean, it's - the immigrant culture is just - it doesn't matter the country. There's certain displays of dominance that just come with being the child of an immigrant, which - you know, it could just be, like, your parents are - basically, they left a country, and they came to set up a whole new life in a new country. And as a child, you don't see that. So you're just kind of mad at them for being different than your friend's family. And eventually, if you don't have good communication skills with your father, it comes to a head. And it usually results in fisticuffs.
THE KID MERO: And I had good communication with my father. But the only problem was that, like, I didn't give a [expletive]. And I was kind of a [expletive]. Now, as a parent, I realize that teenagers are [expletive]. So, like, you're going to - like Desus said, like, you don't understand the sacrifices that your parents made to put you where you are. So you're just looking at it as like, oh, you just don't want me to have a pit bull in the house, you know what I mean? Like, no, it's not that. It's - we can't afford to buy dog food.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: I mean, toxic masculinity is in the book, sometimes tongue-in-cheek but mostly as a real and destructive thing. I mean, when did you realize that toxic masculinity was, like, a thing?
NICE: It's like when you become woke, when you start realizing the world is bigger than your block and your crew and the people on your block 'cause when you're growing up, the things that represent masculinity and manhood for you are just, like, representing your block, making sure people don't speak down on your crew, the idea that if someone's looking at you funny in the bodega, you got to approach them. And you could - that right there could end up with you going to jail for murder over a dirty look.
Once you start realizing, like, life is more than that and, like, why am I attributing my masculinity to such futile things, like the sneakers I'm wearing, what block I'm from, you start seeing that. And then once you get that out of your life, you're allowed to live. It sounds stupid, but just removing toxic masculinity allows you to wear different colors on your shirt than you would if you were concerned about what other people on your block think. Like, even the idea of, like, wearing a pink T-shirt - that's revolutionary in the hood.
THE KID MERO: I define what masculinity is to me, you know what I mean? Like, it's not an umbrella - you know what I mean? - that I fall under. I define it.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. I saw Kanye's name in the book. And this isn't a side, but it does make me want to ask because, you know, you guys are all into the politics now. How do you feel about Kanye's run for the president? How do you interpret it?
THE KID MERO: I actually kind of feel bad because it's like there's serious mental health issues there. And it's, like, funny and ha-ha and memes and stuff. But, like, at the same time, it's like, damn, dude, you're watching a Black man break down in real time in front of an audience of millions like it's a joke.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: I'm curious how you both feel having sort of really hit the big time.
THE KID MERO: (Laughter).
GARCIA-NAVARRO: I wanted to ask you what your parents say 'cause, I mean, coming from a Hispanic family, like, I'm really curious how your parents are sort of dealing with this.
THE KID MERO: Well, Lulu, I can tell you right now that my mother Dulce (ph) is very proud of me. Pero you have to be serious, and you have to prepare for all your work, papi, OK?
GARCIA-NAVARRO: (Laughter) Oh, my God. It's like you're my mother.
THE KID MERO: It's not - I know that you creative, OK, papi? You were always very funny. Pero, you know, you're - now you're on TV. You know, you're feeding your family. You're feeding people that need you. So you need to be serious and be, you know, punctual and prepare for everything that you do, OK, papi? I love you.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: (Laughter) I want to end on being washed, which isn't necessarily being old but may mean acting old, being unhip. But as you describe it, it's like being comfortable and being confident enough to allow yourself to be comfortable.
NICE: Oh, yeah.
THE KID MERO: Yeah.
NICE: Listen. Don't fight it.
THE KID MERO: It's just about being - yeah, just don't fight it. Just be who you are, you know? Like...
NICE: Listen. It comes for everybody.
THE KID MERO: Yeah. Like, you know, Father Time comes for everybody, you know? Like, you can't be the cool guy forever. You know what I'm saying? Like, at some point, you're going to hand over the mantle.
NICE: Wash comes for everybody. Like, the other day, I definitely felt a wave of washedness (ph) 'cause the NBA playoffs are on, and I was stuck on the Game Show Network...
NICE: ...Wrapped - like, watching a game show. And I was standing up, rooting for a team called the Yoga Mommas (ph) on a show called "America Says." And I - like, everyone on Twitter is - they're like, yo, oh, my God. This game is so close to the fourth quarter. And I was like, no. I have to see. Like, they're like, you put this in your junk drawer, and it starts with B. They have 45 seconds left, and they cannot figure out what starts with B and you would put in your junk drawer. And I'm just there yelling at the top of my head.
THE KID MERO: Bottle opener.
NICE: Batteries, batteries.
THE KID MERO: Oh, batteries.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: I'm like, beer.
NICE: They're saying berries. They're saying bells. And I'm - beer. And I'm - I am cursing at the screen as if I am watching Game 7 of the 2004 Yankees-Red Sox playoff. And I am totally embarrassing. If any - if they ever caught me on video, I'm losing the show on Showtime 'cause they're going to be like, that man has to be 80 years old. But that's the definition of washedness.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's - (laughter) sorry 'cause that's me. That's Desus and Mero. Their new book is called "God-Level Knowledge Darts: Life Lessons From The Bronx."
Thank you both so much.
NICE: Thanks for having us on.
THE KID MERO: Thank you. Thanks for having us on. Yeah, shoutout to the Bronx.
NICE: Shoutout to NPR.
(SOUNDBITE OF COOKIN' ON 3 BURNERS' "KEB'S BUCKET") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.