Lilly Singh made her transition from online to linear in the best way possible — by premiering the very first episode of her new NBC late-night show A Little Late with Lilly Singh on YouTube before it aired on television.
Taking over the 1:35am timeslot, previously held by Last Call With Carson Daly, Lilly Singh not only brings her massive “Superwoman” audience from her YouTube following but also a fresh perspective that has been absent from the late-night space — and she immediately makes that known in her opening sketch.
The show started with Singh entering a meeting of executives as they talk about what they are going to do for her new show. The room is filled with white men and Singh tries to share her ideas but they try to sculpt her into something she is not. They want her to wear bland suits and do political commentary. She says that is not her and that she wants to “share my perspective…especially being a woman and all.”
The men immediately laugh and say “is your perspective not my perspective?” and continue to say “I’m not sure they people will relate to that!”
Singh responds, “I’m not sure I related to 10 seasons of Friends!” And again, the men laugh as Singh says, “I just want to be myself!”
Just then, someone’s phone goes off with music to which inspires Singh to tell the men about her and what she wants. The sketch immediately turns into a twerk-worthy, trap-tastic music video with Singh rapping herself and what she wants to bring to the table.
She starts off by spitting the rhymes: “Hello my name is Lilly and I ain’t a white man/My skin has some color and it ain’t a spray tan/I know you’re only used to Jimmys up in the spotlight/but I’m gonna throw some melanin up in your late-night”.
From there, the lyrics start to catch fire: “My writers’ room look like a mini-United Nations/More than 50 percent women and people of all races/And that’s not because I had to, it’s because I could/This the new standard so take note Hollywood”.
Then at one point, she talks about her love life: “I’m about spice up your life/so if you want to be my lover/I put B in LGBT/I’ll take Sansa and her brother”.
The introductory sketch/music video is the best way to debut what we could expect from Singh with her new talk show. She kicks the door down and immediately addresses all of the elephants in the room: being a woman, being a woman of color, her Indian heritage, her sexuality, diversity in Hollywood and how white named Jimmy rule late-night. It’s nearly pitch-perfect and spills into her opening monologue.
“I get it…I’m not your traditional talk show host,” she said in regards to people seeing a woman of color host a late-night show. “The media has mentioned that I am a bisexual woman of color so much that I feel like should just change my name.”
Singh doesn’t beat the fact that she’s the first woman of color to host a late-night show into the ground. She doesn’t constantly regurgitate jokes about the lack of inclusivity in Hollywood. In fact, she uses that as fuel for her show so that she can possibly pave the way for other hosts of color. Yes, she calls out Hollywood’s treatment of the underrepresented throughout the first episode, but she’s not hinging her show on that. It’s funny, light, yet thoughtful…but at the same time, more people should be calling out Hollywood because if Singh doesn’t do it, who will?
With DJ Daniel providing the tunes and a set that reflects Singh’s personality, the first episode of A Little Late is the perfect half-hour morsel of late-night goodness that’s an ideal balance of sketch, bits, monologue and guest interview. During her premiere, Rainn Wilson made a surprise appearance to give her a “white noise machine” (it’s not really what you think) and she welcomed fellow South Asian Mindy Kaling as her first interview (at one point they say this is the first time two Indians have been on TV together on late night).
Singh comes in hot for her very first episode in the best way possible with jokes, light-hearted fun and authenticity. Being a trailblazing YouTube icon works in Singh’s favor as she knows how to produce great bursts of content and connect with the audience in a short amount of time. A Little Late is thoughtful and crackles with millennial-driven energy without dousing you in emojis. And even though Singh doesn’t aim to be political, her presence alone is hopefully changing the way we think of representation on TV.
Listen to Lilly Singh’s extended interview tomorrow on Deadline’s New Hollywood Podcast.