USA: Stephen Colbert has made his debut as the new host of the Late Show on US TV network CBS, succeeding David Letterman who retired in May after 33 years.
Hollywood actor George Clooney and Republican White House contender Jeb Bush were among Colbert’s first guests.
The former host of Comedy Central’s satire programme, The Colbert Report, opened the show with a sketch, singing the national anthem around the country. He also paid tribute to his predecessor Letterman, calling himself “a fan”. “We will try to honour his achievement by doing the best show we can and occasionally making the network very mad at us,” said Colbert.
“As long as I have nine months to make one hour of TV, I could do this forever,” he added.
The comedian played a hardline conservative in his previous show, Comedy Central’s satirical news show The Colbert Report, but he appeared as himself for his mainstream debut.
He was first seen singing the Star Spangled Banner with people at a bowling alley, in a factory and at a youth baseball game – where an “umpire” took unmasked himself as Jon Stewart – Colbert’s former colleague on The Daily Show . As the segment ended, and Colbert walked on stage he was given a standing ovation by the studio audience, who chanted, “Stephen, Stephen, Stephen”.
“If I knew you were going to do that, I would have come out here months ago,” he joked.
“With this show, I begin the search for the real Stephen Colbert. I just hope I don’t find him on Ashley Madison.” With a self-referential zinger, the new host of The Late Show got straight to the question that many viewers doubtless tuned in asking: Who is Stephen Colbert, now that he has shed the hyper-conservative persona that catapulted him to fame on the cable channel Comedy Central? The answer, pretty much, is the Stephen Colbert of old. As he joked to one of his first guests, the Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush: “I used to play a narcissistic conservative pundit. Now I’m just a narcissist.”
From the supreme confidence with which he bounded onto stage at the famed Ed Sullivan Theatre to the news-style graphics he used to punctuate his comic riffs – one featured a photo-shopped wall along the Mexican border made up of Trump Towers toppled on their sides – much of his show reprised the style and content of The Colbert Report.
So his debut show on CBS felt more like a refurbishment of his on-screen personality rather than a reinvention.
Colbert presented his first guest Clooney with a belated wedding gift for his marriage last year to human rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin – a Tiffany paperweight inscribed with the phrase, “I don’t know you.”
He also binged on a bag of Oreo cookies as he made jokes about Donald Trump, who recently vowed never to eat Oreos again after makers Nabisco Inc said it was opening a new plant in Mexico