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Stephen Colbert has made his debut as CBS’ Late Show host, succeeding David Letterman who retired in May after 33 years.

George Clooney and Republican White House contender Jeb Bush were among Stephen Colbert’s first guests.

The former Colbert Report host opened the show with a sketch, singing the national anthem around the country.

Stephen Colbert also paid tribute to his predecessor David Letterman, calling himself “a fan”.Stephen Colbert Late Show debut 2015

“We will try to honor his achievement by doing the best show we can and occasionally making the network very mad at us,” he said.

“As long as I have nine months to make one hour of TV, I could do this forever,” Stephen Colbert 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.

Stephen Colbert presented his first guest George 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.

Fellow late-night TV figures also wished him well – including NBC rival Jimmy Fallon who said: “Have a good show, buddy. See you in the locker room.”

The broadcast ended with Stephen Colbert singing with his new house band, led by Jon Batiste, in a cover of Sly and the Family Stone’s Everyday People.

They were joined by Mavis Staples, Aloe Blacc, Ben Folds and Buddy Guy, amongst others.


Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert will succeed Late Show host David Letterman upon his retirement in 2015, CBS has said.

Stephen Colbert, 49, is host of acclaimed late-night satire program The Colbert Report.

David Letterman, 66, said last week he was retiring after 21 years hosting the CBS show and 11 years on NBC’s Late Night.

On his show, Stephen Colbert plays a satirical version of himself to mock right-wing pundits. He has suggested he will retire the character for the new show.

Stephen Colbert will succeed Late Show host David Letterman upon his retirement in 2015

Stephen Colbert will succeed Late Show host David Letterman upon his retirement in 2015 (photo CBS)

“Stephen Colbert is one of the most inventive and respected forces on television,” CBS president Leslie Moonves wrote in a statement following the announcement.

“David Letterman’s legacy and accomplishments are an incredible source of pride for all of us here, and today’s announcement speaks to our commitment of upholding what he established for CBS in late night.”

Stephen Colbert’s biting brand of satire has drawn critical acclaim as well as provoking ire, often from the Republicans and conservatives he skewers.

Recently he was attacked on social media for a joke some viewed as disparaging toward Asian Americans but which he meant as a satirical jab at the owner of the Washington Redskins American football team.

Of his hiring to the Late Show top spot, Stephen Colbert said, “simply being a guest on David Letterman’s show has been a highlight of my career.”

“I never dreamed that I would follow in his footsteps, though everyone in late night follows Dave’s lead.”

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