A few months ago, Desus Nice and The Kid Mero stopped by The Tonight Show where they played a friendly game of “Catchphrase” with their fellow late-night host Jimmy Fallon and his other guest for the evening, Charlize Theron. They had no idea that game would lead to death threats from Taylor Swift fans.
“We had a little run-in with Taylor Swift’s groupies, the Swifties,” Desus says on this week’s episode of The Last Laugh podcast when I ask if they ever worry about “cancel culture” coming for them.
“A lot of people got canceled and then just laid low for a couple of months and then came back,” Desus says. “Even with the Taylor Swift thing, we were on Jimmy Fallon, we made a quick joke.”
During the game, Mero picked up “Taylor Swift” as a clue. It was his job to get Desus to guess her name as quickly as possible. Instead of naming some of her song titles or something else along those lines, he blurted out, “She has a very long back.” Desus immediately guessed Taylor Swift, causing Fallon to nearly die laughing and leaving Theron utterly baffled. The “Swifties” were similarly unnerved.
Desus explains that Mero “always refers to Taylor Swift having a long back,” so it was a shorthand he knew well. Neither man thought much of it at the time, but then their social media started blowing up with accusations that they had “body-shamed” the singer.
“All of her 15-year-old fans are like, you’re ‘body-shaming’ Taylor Swift,” Desus says. “So their answer to us ‘body-shaming’ Taylor Swift is death threats and calling us racial slurs.” Thankfully, he says, they had their own “Bodega Hive” that “went to war” on their behalf.
“Because we know it’s the internet and we’re dealing with 15-year-olds, I know it’s going to be three days,” Desus adds. “They have the attention span for three days.” When he started replying to the people threatening him, he says they would “freak out” in response.
“Because I had people who were like, ‘I’m going to kill you, you better get more security at Showtime.’ And I was like, ‘I will beat you up,’” Desus says. “And they’re just like, ‘I’m sorry! You don’t understand, Taylor Swift, she came on Jimmy Fallon’s show when his mother died, how could he let you do that? Just please apologize to her.’ I was like, oh these aren’t real threats, you guys are kids.”
Swift famously made an unplanned appearance on Fallon’s first show back after the death of his mother in 2017, bringing tears to the host’s eyes during her debut performance of the song “New Year’s Day.”
Mero adds that the situation escalated to the point where the FBI called his local police precinct because someone sent him a message saying, “I know you have four kids and I know where they go to school.”
“I screen-grabbed it and was like, ‘I wish you would, motherfucker!’” Mero says. “‘Come to my house, I got a rusty machete waiting for you.’”
“They put a bounty on our head,” Desus adds, before revealing that the “bounty” consisted of a free pop socket to stick on the back of a cellphone. “I was like, that is eight dollars, I will buy you all pop sockets. What kind of bounty is that? Put some respect on my name!”
“They didn’t even go hard,” Mero says, sounding a little disappointed. “They were like, whoever leaves the meanest comment gets a free pop socket. Go harder!”
Curiously, the video of their Tonight Show segment appears to have been removed from the show’s YouTube page and the link where it used to live on NBC.com displays an error message that reads, “Sorry, video is no longer available.”
Jimmy Fallon was apparently feeling the heat as well—even if, as he claims, he wasn’t personally aware of it.
“They were lighting up our social media, but they were also lighting up Jimmy Fallon’s social media,” Desus says. “Last time I spoke to him, I was like, ‘That Taylor Swift stuff was wild.’ He was like, ‘What? What are you talking about? I don’t check that, I don’t give a shit about that.’”
The pair is still learning how to deal with situations like this one as their profiles grow bigger. If fame had come to them in their early twenties, Desus says they wouldn’t have known how to handle it. “One of us would probably be dead from a cocaine overdose already,” he says. “But because we’ve had real jobs, we’ve lived real lives, we’ve had real struggle, this is such a dream position that even the worst part of it is still better than the worst parts of our old lives.”
“So you just take it in stride,” he continues. “It’s like, wow, I’ve got Taylor Swift’s fans trying to kill me? That’s kind of cool.”
“Who cares?” Mero adds. “I had Julio trying to kill me in 2004—for real. And he wasn’t kidding. And he had a lot more than a pop socket riding on it.”