Describing Lilly Singh as a jack-of-all-trades feels a bit reductive. As an actress, social media sensation, producer, YouTuber and author, she has permeated the entertainment industry in a number of ways. Now, nearly 10 years after she started her hugely popular YouTube channel “iiSuperwomanii,” the 31-year-old can add “Queen of Late Night” to her list of accolades. On Sept.16, she stepped onstage to host the premiere episode of her new late night show, “A Little Late with Lilly Singh” on NBC.
This marks a major milestone for the television industry. Singh, an Indian-Canadian bisexual woman, stands out against the backdrop of straight white male comedians named Jimmy who currently dominate the stages of late night. Singh is the first woman to host a late night show on a major network in over 30 years. While Samantha Bee currently hosts “Full Frontal” on TBS, the last woman to grace the stage of a major network’s late night talk show was Joan Rivers, who hosted “The Late Show” on Fox in the 1980s. Moreover, Singh is the first openly queer woman to host her own late night series. She also happens to be the first woman of color to do so as well.
Audience members are most likely to recognize Singh from YouTube. As previously mentioned, her channel “iiSuperwomanii” was met with extreme praise when it began in 2010. In 2017, Forbes ranked Singh as the 10th highest paid YouTuber. This ranking puts her in the league of other internet sensations like Smosh, PewDiePie and Dude Perfect. Her channel, which features videos on Punjabi culture and the struggles of everyday life, boasts 14.9 million subscribers. Singh also graces the cover of her own bestselling book, “How to Be a Bawse: A Guide to Conquering Life,” which was released on March 28, 2017.
“A Little Late with Lilly Singh” replaces Carson Daly’s “Last Call With Carson Daly” on NBC. When the network first announced “A Little Late” in March of this year, late night Executive Vice President Doug Vaughan expressed his respect for Singh by stating that, “She is a multi-talented performer who will surely have a great rapport with not only all her guests but also with our devoted late night audience. We can’t wait to get started.”
“A Little Late with Lilly Singh” airs at 1:35 a.m., following “Late Night with Seth Meyers.” Jimmy Fallon got his late night start in the same time slot before taking over for Jay Leno on “The Tonight Show” in 2014. That being said, “A Little Late with Lilly Singh” deviates from standards set by its late night neighbors. Straying from a format popularized by big-name comedians like Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers, Lilly Singh’s show is pursuing something unique. The aim of “A Little Late” is not to brief its audience on current events by way of short and snappy behind-the-desk segments. It seeks instead to publicize an underrepresented perspective on the small screen. In a video entitled “Lilly Singh Knocks Down the Door of Late Night,” Singh acknowledges the ways in which “A Little Late” is a departure from other late night programs. “This show is for everyone,” she raps in the video. “No us, them, or other. I ain’t talking ‘bout Donald unless his last name is Glover.”
Two weeks have passed since “A Little Late” premiered on NBC, and critics have already reached a largely positive consensus. Many have praised her for her interviewing skills, and for good reason. Singh addresses her guests with a conversational tone. What is more, Singh’s wit is on full display throughout each conversation. By way of banter, she successfully breaks down the staid conventions of late night. Guests appear at ease opposite their host. When actress Anna Farris appeared on the show, she kicked off her heels as soon as she sat down for an interview. Singh also has proved herself a skillful moderator. When Jim Gaffigan, a well-known comedian, and Antoni Porowski from the hit show “Queer Eye,” joined her for a joint-interview, she rose to the occasion and seamlessly transitioned the conversation from person to person.
Although it is too soon to predict whether or not fans will embrace “A Little Late With Lilly Singh” in the long run, the show appears to be off to a good start. This bodes well for an industry which, despite a recent upswing in diversity, must make leaps and bounds before it accurately reflects the full breadth of human identity. Hopefully in the future, stories like this will not make for breaking news. Women like Lilly Singh should eventually embody an industry standard, not an exception.