When former YouTube star Lilly Singh debuted her new late-night television show in September, the show garnered mostly positive responses with early critics calling it “promising,” despite a few stumbles.
Lilly herself gushed about all the girl power and support she felt from fans and celebrity friends alike in the lead-up to the premiere A Little Late With Lilly Singh. And although Lilly is being erroneously credited as the first woman of colour to host a late-night talk show (Wanda Sykes and Mo’Nique are two Black comedians who have both done so nearly a decade before), the first episode featured an impressive lineup of major celebrities from The Office’s Rainn Wilson to Mindy Kaling.
Lilly Singh hosting a late-night show and taking over the majorly straight, white-dominated space is a huge deal for everyone, and it should be. But the show seems to be tanking at an alarming rate nonetheless. With just a 2.3 on IMDb, the show has been in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons - critics are not impressed anymore, and the audience also seems to be drifting away from the show.
The first episode that aired was simply not well received by the audience for similar reasons. The first being that the format was the same overused one, but some people argued that that's just how network television works. So that issue was cast aside. The main issue for most was that the entire episode was just her reiterating the fact that she was in fact, not a white man.
A sketch, a stand-up bit and a song - all with the same jokes told differently, and the same point. In fact, the entire show so far has only spoken about Lilly being a bisexual woman of colour - almost all the jokes in the show focus on that. “The media has mentioned I’m a bisexual woman of colour so much I feel like I need to change my name,” Singh quipped during the opening monologue of her show. But many came to the scene stating that Lilly has based her entire career by labelling herself exactly that.
This remains the central issue of the whole debacle - the fact that Singh - who is a YouTuber, and not really a comedian - makes not - so - funny "jokes" about white people and race. Though the audience recognizes that identity politics is a real issue and needs addressing - the way in which Lilly tackles it is outright distasteful.
In a pre-release video of the show, Lilly is shown hiring a group of writers through an app that shows her only "white people." She then assembles a diverse group of people from various races and genders, saying "this is the kind of representation we should see in 2019." This video faced a huge backlash because people were outraged over the fact that diversity is important but selecting and hiring a bunch of people simply based on their race or gender instead of their credentials is counterproductive.
A lot of YouTubers have criticized the content on her show as "unfunny" or "with no punchline" and they do have a strong case for their criticism. Her format of jokes have been compared to Amy Schumer - repetitive and focused around only one issue, which can get bland and boring after the first few times.
A lot of her humour depends on stereotypes and the outcasting of white people, the one section of society she seems to want to educate about identity politics. Also, most of the guests on her show are high-end Hollywood celebrities that are also white, so outcasting them has only made her distant from a whole section of her audience.
Another common complaint is that the show is too scripted - not like the other late-night shows aren't bound to a script - but with this particular show, there seems to be no space for authenticity and genuine banter when celebrity guests make a visit. The main reason audiences watch the show is to see celebrities be their natural selves, and engage in banter and tell stories, which the show does not seem to have space for.
The Youtuber still seems to be adjusting to the new TV show format, which is obvious, but what is bothering the audience is the fact that her jokes are "very 2010." Which is to say that they are outdated and not funny anymore. A large part of her YouTube audience range from children to young adults, which is another huge reason why the show seems to be tanking since the humour seems appropriate only for that age gap.
In a world of Jimmy's on late-night television, Lilly has surely made a breakthrough and deserves all the applause for it. But, is her content going to be the reason that the show may not gain as many ratings and views? We'll have to see.