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Desus Nice On Reintroducing Himself To The World Via ‘The Daily Show’

On one hand, the Daily Show guest host carousel is a fun way to see a mix of different comedic personas. On the other, it’s also a job interview of sorts, with each candidate bringing their own hopes and dreams to the process. For correspondents, maybe that means a chance to show with they can do at the desk. For some other hosts, it’s maybe about a return to their comedy roots.

This week’s host, Desus Nice, is a little different. For one, he told me that he doesn’t know that he’s a fit for the full-time job. That doesn’t mean he wouldn’t happily take it if offered (and he’s extremely excited about the opportunity to host the show), but it also creates this idea that he’s not approaching it like a candidate so much as he’s approaching it as a comic, fan of the show, and someone who just wants to absolutely crush this for crushing’s sake.

In the following conversation, we get into what Nice’s Daily Show week is gonna be, the question of expanding perceptions, people’s association of him with his former comedy partner and Desus & Mero co-host Kid Mero, not worrying about the people who aren’t into him, and how he’s New York even when living in LA part-time.

You mentioned being bi-coastal for a time for work and then you were out there during the strike. When you’re away from New York, do you still feel like you’re like a road team? Are you feeling comfortable in LA?

You know what? It really feels like I’m going away for college. I feel like Emily in Paris. It doesn’t feel real because one of the weirdest things is I’m in LA, but I still have my cable from New York City. So I don’t see any LA news. I’m just watching New York 1. So I’m sitting there in my living room watching Eric Adams just destroy the city and I have no idea what’s going on in LA. I know nothing about the weather, traffic, any events, nothing.

Everything that happens, I know about it. I’m calling my friends in New York like, “Oh, my God. It’s going to rain on Friday. Make sure you guys put the sandbag by your door because it might be another flood.” And they’re like, “How do you know about this before I do?” And I was like, “I miss home like that.” But then also being out in LA, I’ve been out there long enough that now I’m starting to pick up the vibes of LA, learning neighborhoods, learning restaurants, got a little crew of friends out there. It’s cool. It’s totally different than my New York experience. Actually, it’s a good experience. It gives you a lot to make jokes about and references. And then you can reference stuff like you can reference Glendale and Erewhon, Eagle Rock, all these very neat LA references that people were like, “Oh, wow. He’s really doing LA.”

So you’re at home watching, New York 1 in your Emily in Paris beret?

Yes, eating a baguette.

I’ve talked to a few people who’ve done the guest host thing. Roy Wood Jr. had a great take on the responsibility that comes with hosting. I’m curious how you view the responsibility of what you’re about to step into with that chair.

Well, first of all, shout out to Roy. Roy is a great guy. He hit me up as soon as the announcement came out, and he was texting me, he gave me advice, gave me his blessings. I’ve known him for a while, and he’s an amazing guy. He’s a comedian’s comedian. As far as hosting, this is just huge. This is a show I grew up watching. This is a show that is so diverse and so many different people watch it. There’s one point in time when this was how people got their news, people only watching The Daily Show. You can’t go on there and not do your homework. You can’t go in there and not know information or know what’s going on in the geopolitical world. At the same time you’re going up there, this is not something that they offer to just subpar people. You look at the list of people who are hosting, it’s Leslie Jones, Sarah Silverman. These are established people. So I’m just like, “Yo, I have to do this. I have to do my thing here.” But at the same time, it’s like the people who picked me for this was like, “No, you’re built for this and we can’t wait to see you on this.”

It’s super exciting and it’s just also, I haven’t been on TV in so long that I miss it. I’m just so hungry to get back in the studio and get back in front of the camera, and just even filming the man on the street stuff, just being back in the studio, and doing hair and makeup, and talking to the writers and doing the scripts. I miss that so much and that used to make me so happy during on my old shows. I’m just so happy to be back doing it, especially on The Daily Show. That’s wild. I was walking through the airport and this guy, I didn’t even know him, and he was like, “Yo, Desus. You better kill it on The Daily Show.” I was like, “Yo, people I don’t even know are rooting for me.” It’s an amazing feeling, man.

Obviously, the weight of the show is what the weight of the show is, but like you said, they picked you for this for a reason. Is this, The Daily Show with Desus Nice, or is this Desus Nice’s version of The Daily Show?

I think this is more The Daily Show with Desus Nice because it’s more scripted. I’m more off the cuff, just kind of freestyling off the top of my head. But sometimes you need actual numbers, you need a little more direction because you’ve seen some of the last shows I’ve done, they just be going everywhere. With The Daily Show, it’s like, “No, you have points to make, you have topics to discuss.” But I think shout out to the writers. Working with them, they get me and I get them. We’re kind of weaving a narrative that works on both levels. So hopefully, I can add my little je ne sais quoi to The Daily Show.

What are some of the drawbacks and benefits to being forever associated with a comedy partner, like with you and Mero?

I think one of the drawbacks is people tend to think of the group instead of the two individuals, because we’re both established comedians and we both bring different things to the table. Another thing is sometimes people don’t realize people grow and you have to accept the growth. So many people are forever going to compare you to the group versus the individual, so they won’t actually give you a chance to be an individual. They’re going to be like, “I want the old thing. I want the old thing.” It’s like, “The old thing isn’t there anymore. So this new thing, either accept it or not.” It kind of sucks, but that’s growth, and that’s life. Listen, a caterpillar has to go into a cocoon to become a butterfly. I don’t know what that means, but I read that in a book.

You’re a butterfly, absolutely. I agree.

Thank you.

Is this an opportunity for you to broaden the perception of you as an entertainer, as a comedic voice, as a powerful voice on culture? Was that part of the appeal of this also?

Yeah, absolutely, because if you look at my Tweets, I’m pretty smart. I’ve always talked on a high level. I’ve always talked on many diverse issues. I think recently, people, for some reason, have thought I’m stupid. People think all I know is, “You’re Yankee-fitted, chop cheese and Timberland Boots,” and it’s like, “No, I can talk about other things. I used to sell domain names internationally.” But this is kind of like Jay-Z said, “Allow me to reintroduce myself,” and it’s a chance for people who have never seen me to become introduced to the world of Desus, a very smart person who curses a lot.

For sure. I think anybody who’s paid attention knows that, but it’s going to be great to see you get a chance to blow up and talk about stuff on the international stage. Obviously, the subject matter on The Daily Show is a little bit different than stuff from the old show.

Has a little more meat on the bone. And then also, we got that good Viacom budget so we can actually show videos.

‘The Daily Show with Desus Nice’ airs this week, Monday through Thursday, on Comedy Central at 11PM ET