Like Tyler, The Creator, Desus and Mero rose to stardom as countercultural figures on their old web series, Bodega Boys podcast, and short-lived Viceland show. But unlike Tyler, the Bronx comedians have adopted a mainstream audience with their new Showtime show, Desus & Mero.
Earlier this week, The Atlantic highlighted the audience difference between the podcast and the TV show:
If jokes about Beto O’Rourke and visits from Ben Stiller are the domain of Desus & Mero, the DJ Envy Ambush is pure Bodega Boys—hyper-local and hyper-viral. The podcast is where they can keep speaking to listeners in the neighborhood, even as their TV audience expands to include older and whiter people who mistake the X-shaped arm gesture they’re always making—a shout-out to the Bronx—for the one that means “Wakanda forever.”
That “Wakanda Forever” line got me haha. Media content segmentation is nothing new though. Joe Budden does similar with his high-production State of the Culture show on Revolt but maintains his ‘goons in the basement’ vibe on The Joe Budden Podcast. DJ Akademiks does the same. Complex’s ‘Everyday Struggle’ is his mainstream alternative to the raw, self-produced YouTube channel that he built his following on.
It’s essentially the mixtape-album strategy that’s been a cornerstone of hip-hop. Rappers got their start by releasing rawer, uncut mixtapes to the streets. These tapes were more frequent, less polished, and had samples we knew damn well weren’t cleared! But once the artist got popular, their studio albums were more polished, had radio-friendly singles, big-name producers, and a slow song or two to broaden appeal.
When artists focus on albums and stop making mixtapes (or mixtape-type music), they risk losing the audience that fueled their rise. But if artists stuck only with mixtapes, there’s a higher chance they might never breakout. Doing both allows them to grow while staying true to their roots. That’s why Lil’ Wayne’s run from 2005-2009 was so iconic. He released classic mixtapes and albums to maintain both audiences.
Desus and Mero are after the same, but there could still be challenges ahead. Vice CEO Nancy Dubuc shared her skepticism about their decision to leave Vice and move to Showtime. “They’re going to a platform that their audience doesn’t pay for. I told them, ‘You can always come back.’”
Now that could just be the shade talking. Desus and Mero left Viceland on bad terms, but Dubuc has a point. Most of Showtime’s audience watches through their cable package. Despite recent growth for its over-the-top subscriptions, Showtime is still not perceived as a must-have premium service like HBO and Netflix.
But whether Desus & Mero stay on Showtime or land a future show on HBO or Netflix, the Bodega Boys podcast won’t be going anywhere. The strategy will stay the same. The networks are just partners and distributors to make it happen.
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