Joel Martinez, better known as The Kid Mero of the uber-popular Desus & Mero on Showtime, is not known for his seriousness. As half of the late-night duo beloved for their riffing on current events, Mero seems able to find the funny in almost everything — one of the reasons the former podcasters known as the Bodega Boys have cemented themselves as leaders in the comedy-punditry space. With his adorably, infectiously goofy laugh, Mero turns veritably any topic into an opportunity for lighthearted laughter.
But when TV Guide caught up with him as part of a series of conversations with prominent Hispanic and Latinx voices in TV for Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month (Sept. 15 – Oct. 15), Mero was nothing but earnest as he talked about the importance of representation. As a Dominican man who grew up in the Bronx, Mero says reflections of himself in pop culture were veritably non-existent, which is one reason he’s so determined to represent his culture as hard as he can.
What does Hispanic Heritage Month mean to you? Is it important to you?
The Kid Mero: Well, as a Dominican, the Afro-Latino really comes in because growing up I saw a very narrow view of what being Latino, Hispanic was on TV, you know what I mean? I had these kind of underground Dominican sources of comedy that my dad had — little tapes or whatever. That, to me was my identity. I’m from the Bronx, and my identities were like, hip-hop, all that, you know, to me, my house was like another world. There’s been a kind of narrow view of what being Latino is. And for me, I want to expand it to include people like me — Dominicans who are black, but also Latino. It’s a widening of the lens.
I was curious about your parents. Oftentimes the story we hear about immigrant parents is that they want their kids to be doctors, lawyers, etcetera. What did your parents want you to be and then how do they feel about saying you’re going to pursue comedy?
Mero: I never really had a conversation about it. It just kind of happened. Originally, it’s funny because my mom used to listen to 1010 WINS in the morning, dropping me off at school — I took to science really well. I was always getting perfect scores. Science and reading were my two biggest fortes. I was a voracious reader growing up. So she was just like, ‘You should be a meteorologist.’ My dad wanted me to be an engineer because before he came to the U.S., that’s the path that he was on. He has a degree in engineering, chemistry, all that stuff, and then had to come here and kind of start from scratch, educationally. But my mom realized early on, ‘This dude is not going to be a doctor or a lawyer, or whatever.’ So she kind of like played to my strengths. And at the time I was super into graffiti. She’d look at my sketchbooks and be like, ‘Hey, why don’t you go into art?’ She tried to help me build like a portfolio and try to get me around Pratt and that type of stuff. And that didn’t work. She finally gave up and was just like, ‘Get a city job that has benefits.’ Eventually [after blogging took off] MTV said ‘Hey, we want to scoop you up. ‘ For her, even being an immigrant, that brand is so strong, she was like, ‘Yeah, right. Get the f— out here like.’
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Desus Nice and The Kid Mero on DESUS & MERO (Episode 107). – Photo: Greg Endries/SHOWTIME
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