As Desus Nice and The Kid Mero waited for Barack Obama to join them for an interview in The Founders Library at Howard University, they started to wonder if the former president was actually going to show.
“Remember when Clint Eastwood did the whole interview with the empty chair?” Desus asked Mero. “Is that what we’re doing?”
But moments later, Obama did stroll into the room, bowing to the two hosts of Showtime’s Desus and Mero in lieu of handshakes, before engaging in what seems to have been the most enjoyable interview of the book tour for his best-selling memoir A Promised Land.
The former president began by joking that he was going to wear his “kicks” or his Timberlands, but decided to opt for an all-black suit and shirt look instead. When Mero added that he thought they were “gonna hoop,” Obama said, “Let me just say that I saw some of the footage of y’all with [Cory] Booker.” Desus interrupted him to call that video “deep fake” and “fake news,” cracking Obama up, who then added, “Here’s the good news, looks like y’all could play for the Knicks.”
That more or less set the tone for the rest of the 30-minute episode, in which Obama displayed more than a little knowledge about the pair’s rise to fame on their podcast Bodega Boys before making the jump to TV on Vice and now Showtime. Obama shared stories about his own experience shopping in bodegas during various “funky living situations” in early-’80s New York.
It was the hosts who had to steer him into talking about his new book, which focuses not on those early days but on his campaign for the presidency and first term in office. “You know, the big scandal for me was the time I wore the tan suit, which I thought was pretty sharp,” Obama remarked at one point. “I had worn it to church just like that spring.”
Mero took the opportunity to roast Obama, saying he looked like the “illest Remax realty salesman in Carbondale, Michigan, right now.” Desus, by contrast, seemed more interested in finding out what that moment felt like for Obama, asking, “For them to turn this little molehill into a mountain, what is it like to be on the other side of that and just live that?”
“I’ll be honest with you, by that time there was so much foolishness that had taken place that you weren’t going to be obsessing over that, compared to what?” Obama replied. “Compared to a guy that ended up being president saying I wasn’t born in America?”
That was about as much airtime as any of them were willing to give the current president, instead choosing to quickly move on to basketball for the final third or so of the interview. That included dissecting tape of Obama’s game over the years, peaking with the three he drained during a Biden campaign event in the final days before the 2020 election.
After watching footage of himself lowering his mask to shout, “That’s what I do!” at the press, Obama admonished himself. “I had to repeat it, because I wasn’t sure the people heard,” he said.
For more, listen to Desus and Mero on The Last Laugh podcast.