LATE-NIGHT LEAP. Lilly Singh poses at the NBC 2019/2020
Upfront at the Four Seasons New York in this May 13, 2019 file
photo. NBC’s "A Little Late With Lilly Singh" debuts September
16. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP/File)
From The Asian Reporter, V29, #18 (September 16,
2019), page 8.
YouTube star Lilly Singh makes bold leap to
By Lynn Elber
The Associated Press
LOS ANGELES — The stubborn curfew barring female hosts from
late-night network TV is about to be challenged. Viewer warning:
expect more rule-breaking when NBC’s "A Little Late With Lilly
Singh" debuts September 16.
Singh, who is attempting the leap from YouTube sensation to
broadcast headliner in a single bound, doesn’t plan to dwell on
the late-night staple of politics, and is only the second woman
of color to host a nightly show on a major network since former
VH1 VJ Cynthia Garrett was in charge of NBC’s "Later" for a year
— two decades ago.
It’s been more than three decades since Joan Rivers’ equally
brief tenure as the first woman to host a daily late-night show
Is Singh ready to face the weight of expectations? Yes, says
the Canada-born daughter of Indian immigrants, who established
herself online with "Superwoman" as her nickname and was the
only woman on the Forbes 2017 list of highest-paid
YouTube stars with estimated earnings of $10 million.
"Inevitably, it’s a lot of pressure. It’s also a huge honor,
and I’m focusing on the latter part," said Singh, who will turn
31 on September 26. "I’m focusing on how exciting this business
is and how much it could mean, rather than focusing on, ‘Oh my
god. What will people think, and what if this messes up?’ So I’m
just having fun while I do it and I think that’s going to get
the best result, ultimately."
Singh is a "flat-out star" and NBC has full confidence in
her, said network executive George Cheeks, who shares the title
of NBC Entertainment co-chairman with Paul Telegdy.
"Lilly is bold, inherently positive, and hilarious," Cheeks
said. "She has such a different perspective than anyone else on
television right now, and she embraces her whole self
authentically and without apology. Paul and I have often said
that if she had never been on YouTube and came in to audition
with zero social-media presence, we would have given her this
show. Her talent transcends platforms and she has this
undeniable charisma that immediately pulls you into her orbit."
Mindy Kaling, Kenan Thompson, Tracee Ellis Ross, and Chelsea
Handler are the debut week guests, with Rainn Wilson making an
appearance, NBC said.
"A Little Late," taking over at 1:30am for "Last Call With
Carson Daly" after its 17-year run, will have the familiar
talk-show elements of a monologue, guests — Beyoncé, she wants
you — and comedy bits, Singh said. Less familiar is the approach
Singh describes, one that echoes the blend of pointed humor and
personal candor that earned her 14 million-plus YouTube
followers and contrasts with other (male) hosts. In a recent
tweet, she casually noted she’s bisexual.
TV won’t change what she does, Singh said, citing the show’s
opener as an example.
"My monologue is quite personal to me. It’s not just a script
anyone can read," Singh said. "It’s definitely my perspective,
my experience. ... you’re getting to know Lilly: what Lilly
believes, what Lilly’s been through, what Lilly’s good at. You
really will get to know me, just like my YouTube audience has
gotten the chance to do."
She also promises as much sketch comedy as she can fit in,
conversations with her audience as well as guests, and musical
performances that she envisions as "more stripped down and
intimate." Singh readily acknowledges that the restrictions of
federally regulated broadcast TV — certain pesky expletives, for
starters — make it far different from the online realm.
"I think it’s about picking my battles, to be honest," Singh
said during a recent production lunch break. "We’re still early
in the process, but there’s been some things where I understand
why I wouldn’t be able to say it. But if I feel like a statement
or a sentence really is representative of my experience, I will
fight for it. I can say that everything I’ve been very
passionate about has been cleared."
She said she isn’t inclined to make "super controversial"
statements, but readily offered an example of where she would
hold the line against network edits.
"If I’m ever told that something about me being a woman of
color, my experience, is not relatable or it’s not going to be
accepted, I’ll fight for that. Anything that brings my
perspective is definitely what I’m going to fight for," Singh
The show’s compressed production schedule calls for taping
two episodes a day for three months and then taking a break,
freeing Singh up for YouTube and other projects. She’s unafraid
of putting in the hard work that a successful show demands — a
work ethic she attributes to her parents — and is adamant that
she and others who may follow her should be allowed to stand, or
fall, on their own.
"When you’re a minority, whether it’s a woman or a person of
color, it’s like, ‘This is your shot, and if you mess it up and
you’re cut, you’ve ruined it for everybody.’ We need to change
that mentality because there are many things on TV from majority
groups that are not great," she said. "This is not the shot on
behalf of all women of color. No, this is me chipping away a
path, and we need to get to a place where (my performance) is
not tied to another woman of color. We’re all individuals at the
end of the day."