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Lilly Singh premieres in late-night with Late Night star Mindy Kaling

Mindy Kaling, Lilly Singh
Screenshot: A Little Late With Lilly Singh

Lilly Singh had a big night on Monday. She was on The Tonight Show. She was on Late Night With Seth Meyers. Oh, and then she was on her own NBC late-night talk show, A Little Late With Lilly Singh, which officially bumps Late Call With Carson Daly from the late-night firmament forever. (Dry your eyes.) For Singh, the first woman to hold down a nightly late-night network gig since Cynthia Garrett closed down the pre-Daly late-late talkfest Later back in 2001, the premiere of A Little Late also marks her transition from the internet to network TV. As she told Fallon on his show, that’s been a two-way learning experience, as her introduction to stringent union rules and the bleep button about as stressful as NBC’s dawning and belated realization that a woman late-night host has different needs than Jimmy and Seth. (Not going to pay for Singh’s manicures, NBC? Please.)

For her first-ever guest, Punjabi-Canadian Singh brought out someone especially meaningful to her as a media mogul, fellow Indian woman with plenty of experience busting down TV barriers, Mindy Kaling. (Kaling’s Office-mate Rainn Wilson first did a bit of welcoming prop comedy.) The two swapped praise and gratitude, Singh to Kaling for blazing a trail for women who look like her in comedy and television, and Kaling to Singh for doing the same on late-night. Telling Singh that, for a woman of color, a lifelong love of late-night TV was a lifetime of “loving something that didn’t love [her] back,” Kaling expressed appreciation for how her new daughter will have someone like Singh to watch “20 years from now, when you’re still doing it and wish you didn’t have to.” Singh and Kaling were also excited to pass the torch to 17-year-old, Tamil-Canadian Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, the first-time actress who’ll be playing, essentially, young Mindy on Kaling’s upcoming, autobiographical, and as-yet-unnamed Netflix series.

As far as the late-night chit-chat portion of the gig, Singh was her unflappable self, asking Kaling what pop cultural trends and fads Michael Scott would be running into the ground if The Office were still on the air. (Dabbing, certainly, plus leaving “thirsty comments” on celebrities’ Instagram, according to Kaling.) Kaling also expressed surprise at the show’s enduring popularity, at least as it translates to “15-year-old white boys” calling out her name in airports, which, she says, makes her feel “with it.” Singh tested the reality of that by playing a game of guess the post-millennial slang (Kaling is not, as it turns out, with it), although Kaling’s well-publicized love for HBO’s sexy teen drama Euphoria might buy back some cred. (Even if, as Kaling admitted, watching it so raptly as a middle-aged mom makes her “a creep.”) Playing another game (Fallon, watch your back), Singh and Kaling then speed-applied some stick-on Euphoria face-bedazzling, although Singh admitted defeat, crying out “Nothing sticks! I’m too sweaty!” She was a little bit, although, for a first episode, Singh looked plenty poised to anchor her own late-night show.


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Dennis Perkins

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Danny Peary's Cult Movies books are mostly to blame.