Battle of the Generations: Canadian Comedian Lilly Singh Discusses Hosting the New Intergenerational Game Show
Canadian comedian Lilly Singh hosts the new CTV game show 'Battle of the Generations,' which pits four contestants from four different generations — a boomer, gen-X, millennial and gen-Z — against each other in a trivia challenge. Photo: Courtesy of Bell Media
Canadian comedian Lilly Singh has worn many hats: YouTube superstar, late-night talk show host (her NBC show A Little Late with Lilly Singh was the first for any person of Indian descent in the crowded late night landscape), bestselling author, presidential fundraiser (for Joe Biden), Academy Awards pre-show host, TED Talk-er, documentary producer, sought after voice actress, anti-bullying champion and shampoo spokesperson (she’s indeed got gorgeous hair). And, as of this week, on the new CTV series Battle of the Generations, she’s a full-fledged game-show host.
And why not? Battle of the Generations, where four contestants from four different generations test their pop-culture savvy from then and now, is right up Singh’s alley: some of her most popular YouTube videos lovingly rant and poke fun at her strict Punjabi immigrant parents.
In the most meta self-deprecating humour you’ll ever see, Singh literally dresses up as her mother (in a traditional headscarf) and father (with a full, drawn-on beard) and then critiques her own Instagram posts. On one pic with too much leg, ‘dad’ says, “Am I at a KFC, huh, no? Okay, then why I am being served this leg?” On a smoky-eyed selfie, ‘mom’ says, “What bloody YouTube tutorial are you watching, huh? How to do smoky eye and disappoint your parents at same time?”
She’s, of course, just joking around … now.
“I remember telling them, ‘Hey I’m not going to go to grad school, because instead I’m going to make YouTube videos,’” Singh, who’s got a psych degree from York University in her pocket, tells me over Zoom. They gave her a year to try and make something of herself.
Singh used her year wisely, teaching herself to write, perform and edit her videos. In 2015, she relocated to L.A. and in 2016, Forbes included her in their list of the world’s highest-paid YouTubers (she was No. 3, earning a reported US$7.5 million bucks a year). Needless to say, her parents are very happy now. “They super-love the videos and call me to give me content all the time,” she says.
Though now boasting 14.5 million subscribers on YouTube, she’s still choosing to squat in a rental in Toronto while wrapping up filming on the game show. At 34, she’s not quite so keen to stay at her parents house, no matter how lovely and supportive they are.
Primed to Be a Game Show Host
Born in Scarborough, Ont., in 1988, Singh is the perfect age to have enjoyed her share of boring, internet-less summers watching game shows. Among her favourites are Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy!, Family Feud, Supermarket Sweep (“I totally forgot about that one! Classic.”) and The Price Is Right — the Bob Barker version, of course. “Get your pets spayed and neutered, 100 per cent!” she recalls of the vintage show, which Singh “watched religiously.” (Fun fact: Once she got famous, Singh actually appeared on the show, playing to raise funds for non-profit organization Room to Read.)
“Some people say game shows are having a resurgence, but I don’t think they ever left.” The formats are always changing and the production is perhaps flashier than before, but the game show remains a universal staple of dinnertime TV. “You play along, you yell at the TV. Game shows are like sports for nerds! I’m kidding — don’t write that down,” she quips.
Just a few minutes on the call with Singh and it’s easy to see why CTV scooped her up for Battle of the Generations. “It’s fun, loud, bright, colourful, not too serious,” she says of the show, though she could just as easily be talking about herself.
Each episode features four contestants — a boomer, gen-X, millennial and gen-Z — peppered with pop culture trivia in battle zones to ultimately unlock money in “The Vault” and win $25,000. The endless opportunity for humour lies in the info-gap chasm between them: for every kid who’s never heard the name “Dennis Rodman” there’s a hip Granny who knows everything that’s happening on TikTok.
“You never know who’s super-knowledgeable and every episode is different,” says Singh, who’s smack in the middle of the millennial cohort but has long learned her biases are often wrong.
“The hardest part is hiding my shock and disappointment when fellow millennials don’t know basic stuff,” she adds. Singh deliberately isn’t given the answers either, so you can see her genuine viral-video-worthy reactions in real time.
“I mean, Dennis Rodman? Come on. I could have walked right off the stage.”
Battle of the Generations premières Monday, June 19 at 9 p.m. EDT on CTV.