Lilly Singh

Will ‘A Little Late with Lilly Singh’ Fall Short After Just One Season?

The YouTuber and television personality could be paving the way for queer women of color, but her repetitive and stereotypical jokes might be too problematic.
March 14, 2020
9 mins read

A Little Late with Lilly Singh” marked history as the first late-night show on network television to be hosted by a woman in the last three decades. Although Singh is not the first woman of color to host a late-night show, she is the first bisexual woman of color to do so. However, Singh’s achievement is overshadowed by the negative reviews from audiences. Critics said at the beginning of the release that “A Little Late with Lilly Singh” has a promising future, but viewers gave it an unfortunate 19% on Rotten Tomatoes.

The first episode of “A Little Late with Lilly Singh,” which aired on NBC, was highlighted by Singh’s original rap. The opening song heavily emphasized how she, not being a white man, is breaking the standard of a late-night show host. Lilly Singh also expressed that her show will provide a different point of view specifically based on her personal experiences as a woman.

The introductory rap, perhaps, was a statement of what the program will offer for the late-night viewers. It is certainly a new kind of delivery; it wasn’t an exhaustive monologue. Sadly, some people weren’t too happy about it.

McKensie Mack accused Singh of appropriating black culture or basically committing “modern day blackface.” She listed Singh’s rap video as one of the items of appropriation. In addition to that, Singh’s use of “blaccent” and cornrows were also problematic. Mack pointed out that when white people like Katy Perry wear cornrows, the public did not hesitate to call it out. Whereas, when it’s another person of color appropriating black culture, people don’t seem to make it out as a big deal.

Aside from the alleged cultural appropriation, Singh often make jokes that single out white people, despite the fact that they make up a large portion of her audience. Obviously, it’s not wrong of her to highlight her accomplishment in beating out white men for the job. What reviewers found unfortunate was the way she delivered her message. Impactful punchlines about racial discrimination sometimes became unpleasant and alienating statements.

Viewers also had an issue with Singh overusing the same topics for her jokes, one of which was pointing out the irony of being a bisexual Desi woman. Viewers grew bored of the repetitive jokes and sometimes found them grating. Rotten Tomatoes reviewer Siddhanta S. said, “Absolutely cringeworthy for people of ALL colors; ESPECIALLY, for brown people like me.” This is most likely because of Singh’s tendency to use stereotypical images in her satirical commentary about people of color.

The overall audience reviews on Rotten Tomatoes stated that they were unimpressed by Singh’s jokes because they had no punchline or effect on them. Her monologues carry great messages, such as female empowerment and queerness in South Asian culture. Yet, the modes she used to tell these narratives missed more viewers than they hit. The anecdotes can be heartwarming at times, but Singh sure needs more practice in conveying comedy packed with social concerns.

Other than monologues and stale sketches, Lilly Singh also does interviews and games on her show. Swell Entertainment on her YouTube video commented that these games were not that interesting to watch. The games were overly scripted, which created awkward interactions between Singh, her guests and the audience. Swell Entertainment also described how the audience members were told to laugh and clap regardless of the situation.

But “A Little Late with Lilly Singh” is not all that terrible. One of the skills that reviewers have praised is that Lilly Singh is actually a decent interviewer. Despite lacking the ability to carry a funny line in a monologue, Singh’s wittiness is shown a lot in her clap backs during celebrity interviews. For instance, in the episode with Tracee Ellis Ross and Anna Faris, she was insightful and funny.

In the interviews, Singh seemed more relaxed while maintaining great comebacks as she kept guests on their toes. Too bad the interview sections were always kept short.

Singh is not a standup comedian, so it may be difficult for her to have a three-minute monologue where she’s required to be entertaining the whole time. Note this is also her first time doing it. However, the one problem that ceased any form of development is Singh’s inability to take constructive criticism from viewers.

YouTuber Drew Gooden explained that Singh suffers from the “YouTuber Ego Syndrome” in which she cannot and will not admit that her show is not doing well. Top critics, influencers and regular watchers have given “A Little Late with Lilly Singh” their thoughts on how the show can improve and grab a wider viewership.

Yet, Lilly Singh stuck with her ego and grouped the constructive criticism into a pile of “hate comments,” claiming that these people hate seeing a brown girl succeed.

In truth, we all hate seeing a groundbreaking queer woman of color have her first TV show get sucked down the drainage after one season.

Will “A Little Late with Lilly Singh” get canceled after the first season? Or will NBC be kind enough to give it a second breathing chance?

If we look at the show as an experiment done by NBC, considering the ratings and public responses, it may not be worth it to renew for a second season. If canceled, would it lead to a lot of backlash toward the network for terminating a revolutionary WOC-led program?

The reality is, if Singh were a white man, the network would still be giving her a second chance and renew the program. Seth Meyers wasn’t great the first time around; he was dull too. Now, he has improved and is on the seventh season of “Late Night with Seth Meyers.” Will Singh be given the same fighting chance, though?

For “A Little Late with Lilly Singh” to be renewed, we will need a lot of transformation on the show. Singh, herself, needs to practice more to be funny, or she needs to hire new writers to write better scripts. Either way, she needs to start accepting criticism that will make or break her television career. Lilly Singh needs to remember that she’s no longer on YouTube where fewer views won’t delete her whole channel.

“A Little Late with Lilly Singh” needs to start catering to a wider range of audiences and get a fresh perspective before it’s too late.

Nanda Illahi, Okayama University

Writer Profile

Nanda Illahi

Okayama University
Political Science, Cultural Anthropology, and Management

Nanda Illahi is a political science student at Okayama University. Nanda has always had an interest in writing and has channeled that passion through various forms of storytelling on her website, school’s student journal and more.

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