Colbert brings Hollywood glamor, politics to 'Late Show' debut

Wed Sep 9, 2015 3:58am EDT
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By Steve Gorman

(Reuters) - Stephen Colbert brought a mix of politics, patriotism and Hollywood glamor to his debut hosting the CBS "Late Show" on Tuesday, opening with the national anthem and bantering with George Clooney and Republican White House contender Jeb Bush.

Nine months after his final sign-off from "The Colbert Report" on cable television's Comedy Central channel, Colbert launched his first major network broadcast as the late-night heir to David Letterman, taking a moment to pay tribute to his predecessor.

With CBS Corp President and CEO Leslie Moonves seated in the front row of the studio audience, Colbert vowed to honor Letterman's comedy achievements "by doing the best show we can and occasionally making the network very mad at us."

As he promised for the occasion, Colbert shed the well-worn persona of the pompous, ultra-patriotic political commentator that he played for nearly a decade on "The Colbert Report" and as a regular before that on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart."

Instead, CBS viewers and his live audience inside the newly remodeled Ed Sullivan Theater in Manhattan, were treated to an extended glimpse of the "real" Colbert.

He jokingly explained the difference during an interview with Bush, when the former Florida governor made mention of the numerous images of Colbert gracing the stage.

"I used to play a narcissistic conservative pundit," the 51-year-old performer told Bush. "Now, I'm just a narcissist."

Pressed by Colbert to explain his "Jeb!" campaign logo, Bush, who has been ridiculed as a "low-energy" candidate by rival Donald Trump, replied: "It connotes excitement."   Continued...

Stephen Colbert performs during the Songwriters Hall of Fame ceremony in New York, June 18, 2015.  REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton