It’s 3.30 pm on Thursday in Delhi and a dull lull looms inside Kamani Auditorium, punctuated with a few people running around with walky talkies. “She’s almost here,” says one, as we casually eavesdrop.
The basement green room is more lively, and we await Lilly Singh. She enters like “Jay-Zed” or “Jajjy Bee”, escorted by three people, sporting baggy jeans, a loose red t-shirt and her trademark cap. The 26-year-old Indo-Canadian kills the boredom with her natural sense of humour within seconds. She is a YouTube star who rose to fame through her comedy channel called IISuperwomanII, almost five years ago. Her caricatures of a typical Punjabi family have made her an international sensation, leading her to share stage with the likes of James Franco and Seth Rogen. She is finally on her first world tour called “A Trip to Unicorn Island”, starting with India. She has already performed in Mumbai and Delhi and is now set for Bangalore and Hyderabad. From here, she heads to Singapore, UK, Australia and Hong Kong.
She was nine when she first heard a song called Superwoman; since then she has been calling herself that. “I mentioned Unicorn Island in one of the videos I did a few years ago. It’s my happy space and I want to take the audience to my happy space with my acts,” says Singh. At 20, she was depressed until she found YouTube and comedy to overcome it. Hence, the origin of Unicorn Island. “YouTube is my boyfriend,” she says, with a laugh. It’s here that she has her 5.7 million strong fan base. “The first video I ever posted was in fact a poem on religion. It was very serious. I didn’t know I was funny. I randomly kept posting videos and no one cared about the first 15. And then suddenly, people noticed. I still don’t think I am funny. I think I am weird and people laugh at me,” says she.
Her videos are mostly about a three-member family — a pair of Punjabi parents living in Canada and their daughter, Lilly — as well as everyday life. So, there are videos such as “My Parents Reacting to Instagram”, “Girls on their Period” and “Types of kids at school”, among others. “It’s all about picking up on the peculiarities of Indians, especially Punjabis, for my act. As any other child growing up in a desi household, I used to do skits with my cousins but never thought it would play such a role in what I do,” says Singh, brought to India by Culture Machine.
A video on typical Punjabi mothers and parents reacting to Lilly’s Instagram account showcases how she has picked up the Punjabi-English accent and pronunciation — parents scolding her for posing with boys, wearing a bikini and selfies. Another on how girls dress for a party has Lilly trying 20 outfits, each time with funny comments and expressions.
Every day, as a child, Singh would pick up the slingshot in the morning and pretend to be Salman Khan from the classic ’90s song Didi tera devar deewana. Even now, music continues to be an important part of her acts and videos. In 2014, she also collaborated with British artiste Humble the Poet for a rap song called #Leh. “The best bit, however, was collaborating with Madhuri Dixit for a song in Gulaab Gang. When I met her, she said, “Superwoman, you have swag. Madhuri Dixit said this, write it down,” says Singh, animatedly, sounding like a child in a candy store.
Once she is done with the tour, Singh will look into television and films, but a day-long nap is on the cards first. Ask her about any Indian collaboration that she would like to work on, and pat comes the reply, “Shah Rukh Khan. It would be life changing.”