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Stephen Colbert’s First Late Show Packs a Star-Studded Punch: Get the Highlights From His Big Premiere!

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert
The premiere of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on Sept. 8 was a star-studded event, with guests including George Clooney and Mavis Staples

Not a bad way to start! Stephen Colbert kicked off his reign as host of CBS' The Late Show on Tuesday, Sept. 8, with a star-studded premiere that featured the likes of George Clooney and Jon Stewart. If this is a sign of what's to come, late night is in good hands. Check out the highlights below! 

A Star-Spangled Opening

The premiere kicked off with Colbert singing the National Anthem across America. From Central Park to a Lucky Strike bowling alley (where he got a seemingly unplanned perfect strike!), the show started in a wonderfully Colbert fashion — and even had a cameo from The Daily Show's Stewart right at the end of the segment! 

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Roll Out the Welcome Mat!

As the audience chanted “Stephen,” Colbert danced his way onto the brand-new and beautiful set in a bright blue suit. After the applause died down, he greeted his audience and raved about how excited he was to be hosting the show — and how much happier he'd be watching it at home with his family later.

“Folks, we’ve been working so hard to get this show ready for you. As long as I have nine months to make one hour of TV, I can do this forever," he quipped. He went on to joke about joining CBS, too, cracking, “CBS has been so welcoming that I feel like a third Broke Girl!” And in one of the final gags of his opening, network president Les Moonves appeared in the audience with a lever that had the capability to switch over to The Mentalist if Moonves felt the show was going off the rails. 

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A Tip of the Cap to Letterman

Colbert paid homage to his predecessor, former host David Letterman, by acknowledging the comedian's long and storied tenure behind the Late Show desk. “Just for the record, I’m not replacing David Letterman. His legacy is a high pencil mark on a door frame I can’t match,” the Colbert Report alum told viewers. 

He went on to recognize his late-night competition, which includes Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel Live! star Jimmy Kimmel. Showing off his gorgeous set, he joked that the video screens behind the desk could change to other channels if the guest was boring.

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By George!

As previously announced, Clooney was Colbert’s first guest. The actor didn't have anything to promote, so they filled the time with fake movie clips. Colbert also joked about not being invited to Clooney's wedding to Amal Alamuddin, and asked what it was like for the actor to be the “arm candy” in his relationship.

Jeb Bush Plays It (Mostly) Straight

Clooney was followed by Republican presidential hopeful Jeb Bush, who surprised viewers by almost saying something nice about President Barack Obama. "I don't think Barack Obama has bad motives. I just think he's wrong on a lot of issues," the politician said.

"Oh, you were so close to getting them to clap," Colbert joked of his studio audience. "You were this close! You gotta pause 'til they clap and then hit 'em with what they don't want to hear!" 

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Closing Time

The show opened with a song, so it was only fitting that it should end with one, too. Colbert joined Alabama Shakes frontwoman Brittany Howard, Mavis Staples, St. Paul and the Broken Bones, Susan Tedeschi, and more in a rousing rendition of Sly & The Family Stone’s “Everyday People.” 

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