NBC’s new late-night talk show A Little Late with Lilly Singh arrived on screens this past Monday and introduced a wonderful new addition to the scene. Lilly Singh, most well-known for her YouTube channel titled IISuperwomanII, seamlessly ushered in her characteristic buoyancy and animation to national television.
Singh hails from Canada and is the daughter of Indian immigrants. For almost ten years, she has been making YouTube videos that feature an amalgamation of references to her heritage, pop culture parodies, jokes about common struggles, and humorous advice. She preaches kindness, positivity, and inclusivity throughout all of her postings. Before even entering the television game, Singh’s success boasted 14.9 million YouTube subscribers, 9 million Instagram followers, and 5.8 million Twitter followers.
A Little Late began in a way that only a YouTube star would be able to produce: a two-minute rap introducing the show’s host. The intro evokes youth and playfulness, which is exactly what Singh brings to the stage. Because of the platform on which she began, Singh creates a connection to an audience who may not be quite as familiar with late-night television. The rap featured sassy yet fun lines such as “My writer’s room look like a mini United Nations” and “I’mma throw some melanin up in your late-night.” The song was fast and punchy, leading straight into the main content of the show.
The guest was Mindy Kaling, whose recent projects include Late Night (2019) and the series Four Weddings and a Funeral, a reinterpretation of the classic film. Kaling’s appearance was particularly significant because earlier in the show Singh had commended her for being a woman who paved the way for others of Indian background. Singh asked Kaling what changes The Office would undergo in 2019. The biographically-based project that Kaling is producing for Netflix came up briefly in conversation as well. However, the interview section moved by pretty quickly. Singh also mentioned Kaling’s love for Euphoria, HBO’s new series featuring Zendaya. Despite Kaling’s affinity for the show, she did not have the chance to elaborate upon it much, and her guest did not have the chance to talk for an extended period of time. While online viewers commented upon their lack of satisfaction with the interview portion as well, Singh received mostly understanding, especially since the episode and interview were only the first of their respected many to come. She has some experience, though, since her channel often features interviews and interactions with celebrities and other creators.
Next, Singh asked Kaling to participate in a slang-deciphering challenge that was confusing in concept and only a bit better in reality. The slang was weirdly chosen—even the audience could not think of answers. She also introduced a quick game of recreating Euphoria-style makeup. But as they did their makeup, her comments seemed rehearsed and flat. The thirty-second challenge seemed shoved into the segment, but the energy and creativity was evident.
Rainn Wilson made an appearance as a “surprise” guest, which held promise, but the segment felt too rehearsed and forced. He brought a white noise machine as a housewarming sort of gift. The underlying joke was that the machine emits noises stereotypical white people produce, such as dishes clinking during “brunch at a farm-to-table restaurant in a quaint neighborhood in Brooklyn” and the buzzing of “someone getting a tattoo of a Japanese character on their wrist that they think means ‘Peace,’ but actually means ‘Broken dishwasher.’” Wilson repeating the phrase “It’s a white noise machine” in an overly pleased voice quickly cheapened the section. Everyone understood the gimmick after the first noise that played, and the two clung onto a peppiness that forced the same joke forward for three more uncomfortable minutes. However, one had to admire their tenacity in adhering to the joke.
Although Singh’s show has garnered generally favorable reviews, some online commenters felt that the emphasis on Singh’s differences in identity and background was too overbearing. Their sentiments had a bit of truth to them. While it was a step in the right direction for an LGBTQ woman of color, there possibly is a fine line between praise and capitalizing on it too much. In addition to the promotions and buzz surrounding Singh’s arrival, the first three segments of the first show certainly hammered home the distinction of Singh’s identity. Diversity should definitely be celebrated and present in media, but figures should tread carefully: too much emphasis and it seems corny and pandering. While it is exciting that late-night programming gains a new, vastly different perspective, one can’t help but feel a little conflicted that it is as shockingly revolutionary as some people make it seem. It’s certainly great, but one thing to think about is that it perhaps shouldn’t have taken this long in the first place.
Singh brought vivacity and variation to her talk show, and she garnered laughs throughout it. She made it a space simply for having fun and sharing her perspective. Her opening rap “This is our show,” she proclaimed, receiving subsequent hoots and applause. While, of course, Singh’s nightly talk show is not up to the levels of promotion and popularity as those of Kimmel and Fallon, it shows promise and, better yet, represents a new generation’s perspectives on current issues. The introductory song was a memorable beginning that will definitely cement Singh as a power to behold in late-night. She may be on a bigger screen, but she still carries the same heart as her original channel on YouTube.