How Lilly Singh is Breaking Down the Barriers of Late Night Television

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Six months ago, if you were to turn your TV to NBC at 10:30 p.m., you would’ve seen The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Late Night with Seth Meyers, and finally, if you were still awake, you would’ve finished the night off with Last Call with Carson Daly. Besides sharing a similar format and sense of humour, all three of these talk show hosts are white men. 

With a few notable exceptions such as Trevor Noah and Samantha Bee, the late night talk show genre featuring monologues, skits, and celebrity interviews is dominated by white men. But as of September 2019, another individual can be added to that small list of exceptions. Lilly Singh — known by her Youtube fans as SuperWoman — has taken over the Carson Daly slot with her own network late night program,  A Little Late With Lilly Singh.

Lilly Singh’s arrival onto the late night show playing field has put her in many books of firsts. She is the first woman of Indian descent and the first openly bisexual host her own late night show. These factors make her a welcome addition to the genre, as she is able to draw on her various experiences to make her show more genuine.  While most late night shows attempt to touch on social issues, it often comes off as insincere since these commentaries are coming from a place of immense privilege. It’s difficult to appreciate them tackling these issues when they are profiting off of the very things they’re critiquing. A prime example of this is Jimmy Fallon’s interview with Donald Trump from 2016, which sets up an amicable rapport between the two and ends with Fallon playfully running his hands through Trump’s hair. Since then, Fallon has done multiple bits making fun of the president. Many talk show hosts fluctuate positions frequently depending on which stance will benefit them—and their ratings— the most. 

Lilly Singh’s arrival onto the late night show playing field has put her in many books of firsts.

Of course, Lilly Singh’s identity as a queer woman of color is not the only thing that sets her aside from the rest of the people in her field. Singh is funny and relatable, in a way that doesn’t make it seem as though she’s trying to be. One of her strongest segments is her opening monologues, where she talks about everything from the difficulties of being vegetarian to her first time getting high. She discusses issues that are relatable to a wide variety of viewers, filled with quick quips and self-deprecating digs. It’s clear from her wide smile, shining enthusiasm, and the way she laughs at her own jokes that she’s genuinely having a good time, which makes the viewing experience all the more enjoyable. Even when she does venture into more serious topics, she maintains her impeccable sense of comedic timing.

Another thing that sets her apart from other late night show talk hosts is the fact that this is not a show where politicians will be discussed. However, she says that she may touch on some social issues. While she may talk about subjects such as race or women’s equality, she will not be talking about the politicians that oppose these issues. Though there is admittedly a cathartic nature to discussing politics using comedy, it can get tiring to see the same political foible being dissected over and over again in minutely different ways. Singh’s decision to steer away from directly talking about politicians will hopefully be a breath of fresh air in an oftentimes stagnant cycle.

Singh’s decision to steer away from directly talking about politicians will hopefully be a breath of fresh air in an oftentimes stagnant cycle.

In addition to her humour, candor, and relaxed demeanor, Singh’s journey as a self-made woman makes her a subject of admiration. She started off her Youtube channel SuperWoman in 2010 as a post-graduate with depression, living with her parents, as she struggled to find her place in the world. Nearly a decade later, Singh has accumulated over 15 million YouTube subscribers, written the New York Times bestselling book How To Be A Bawse: A Guide To Conquering Life, and has interviewed countless celebrities on her channel, including Michelle Obama and Dwayne Johnson. Now, she is leaving the comfort of the internet, and only time will tell if her success will translate into the world of network television.

A Little Late with Lilly Singh isn’t going to solve any problems regarding the predominantly straight-, white-, and male-dominated entertainment industry. These issues are reflective of the patriarchal society we live in, where the white straight male almost always comes up on top. However, her mere presence is a step in the right direction. She is paving the path for those that will follow her, so that hopefully one night when you turn on your TV, you won’t be met with a sea of white men, but a wide array of people with different experiences and backgrounds.

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