Lilly Singh hopes questions about women in late-night TV won’t ‘exist anymore’

"A Little Late" host Lilly Singh
Lilly Singh on the set of her new talk show, “A Little Late With Lilly Singh,” in Los Angeles.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Lilly Singh isn’t yet tired of being asked how it feels to be one of the only women hosting a late-night comedy show. But she’s a bit tired of feeling that she has to answer that question on behalf of all women in comedy.

“There’s some weight to it,” the star of “A Little Late With Lilly Singh” told NBC News Now this week, fresh off the debut of her new show. “I’m super humbled. I’m well aware of what an amazing opportunity it is. But that question carries the weight of ‘if [the show] doesn’t do well, or if it fails, or is this the only shot.’ It kind of has that essence to it.”

Singh, a Canadian woman of Indian descent who made a name for herself as an irreverent YouTube star, tries to approach the question a little differently, honoring her late-night predecessors such as Joan Rivers, former VH1 VJ Cynthia Garrett and comedian Chelsea Handler. But she’s also looking to the future. (“The Daily Show” alum Samantha Bee is the only other woman hosting a late-night series, and it runs on cable network TBS.)


“I’m one piece of this puzzle, but the women before me have done such amazing things, and the women after me will do such amazing things,” the 30-year-old said. “I wish it was viewed more collectively in that way, hopefully paving the path of having more women on-screen, and more women of color on-screen will make that question not exist anymore.”

Singh added that her priority on “A Little Late” is being her authentic self, which she discussed with The Times this month, because that’s what made her YouTube channel a success. She also made sure to have an inclusive writers room, not because she had to, but because she could, and she plans to stay away from politics on her show.

The YouTube star’s “A Little Late With Lilly Singh” is poised to shake up late night. But she’s not worried whether her brand of comedy will play in Peoria.

“The late-night space has so many great voices that comment on politics already,” she told NBC News Now. “I will make social commentary. For example, if there’s a policy that affects women’s bodies, sure, I will talk about the experience of being a woman. But I have no desire to talk about specific candidates or about specific politics. I think there’s so many people that do that already and they do it well. I think there’s space for something different.”

Her talk-show debuted early Tuesday on NBC and has already hosted writer-actress Mindy Kaling, whom she often jokes she’s mistaken for; “The Office” alum Rainn Wilson; and “Saturday Night Live” veteran Kenan Thompson. Handler and “black-ish” star Tracee Ellis Ross are also scheduled this week. And, not surprisingly, Singh’s ideal guest is interview-averse superstar Beyoncé.

Singh’s 96-episode first season will be taped, two shows per night four nights a week, over the next three months. The episodes air on weeknights, with repeats on Fridays, in the 1:35 a.m. time slot previously held by Carson Daly.

What does it take to become a YouTube superstar?