Here’s a look at some of the funniest moments that built the excitement for Colbert’s reign as the newest late night host.
Colbert kicked off the show with a bit that wouldn’t have felt out of place on his Comedy Central show, singing the "Star-Spangled Banner" at various American landmarks -- capped by an enthusiastic "Play Ball!" cameo from umpire Jon Stewart.
2. Welcome to Network
"If I knew you were going to do that, I’d have come out months ago," Colbert joked as his first Late Show audience greeted him with a standing ovation, noting his lengthy hiatus between wrapping The Colbert Report in December 2014 and starting his Late Show gig. "As long as I have nine months to make one hour of TV, I could do this forever."
One of the first famous faces Colbert welcomed to the show was CBS head honcho Les Moonves, seated in the front row of the audience. The host thanked the network for welcoming him like a "third Broke Girl" and watched warily as Moonves manned a lever that could switch him back to re-runs of The Mentalist at any moment.
After the opening monologue (and reading his own intro over the impressive new opening credits), Colbert took a seat at his desk for more jokes, showing off the newly renovated Ed Sullivan Theater, which was decorated with relics from Colbert’s old Comedy Central show including the host’s beloved Captain America shield and an "ancient cursed amulet" that forced him to plug Sabra hummus.
The host also pointed out the domed ceiling of the theater, which used to host David Letterman's Late Show, where a digital stained-glass projection included multiple renderings of the Colbert’s face.
"I wanted to have Michelangelo paint it, but it turns out Ninja Turtles aren’t real," Colbert joked.
4. Cookies and Commentary
Colbert kept things political for his opening jokes at the desk, mocking a recent statement by presidential candidate Donald Trump that he "would never eat Oreos again" after parent company Nabisco announced that they were moving production to Mexico.
The host swore himself to "just one" Trump story, but, like with the delicious sandwich cookie, kept going back for "just one more."
One of Colbert’s trademark moves on The Colbert Report was to spin the talk show introduction on its head and have his guests already seated, letting the camera follow the host as he ran across the set to greet them.
On The Late Show, however, Colbert plays it straight (at least so far) letting his first guests, George Clooney and Jeb Bush walk out from behind the typical talk show curtain and greeting them before everyone took a seat.
6. Decision Strike
"Thank you for being here, and thank you for coming dressed as your evil twin," Colbert teased his first guest, the goateed (and tie-less) Clooney.
The host also thanked Clooney for coming on the first Late Show, despite not having a project to plug, but then their conversation stalled.
"We could just pretend you have a movie right now," Colbert suggested, prompting cutaways to scenes from "Decision Strike," a fictitious film in which UN Secretary General Clooney diffuses nuclear bombs and "does his own sex" stunts….all while on an airplane? We’re totally in.
On his Comedy Central show, Colbert would have grilled a conservative guest like Jeb Bush from the fanboy perspective of his right-wing character. However, for The Late Show, Colbert came at the presidential candidate straight, asking him about his plans for the country and how he differs politically from his brother George W. Bush. That’s not to say there weren’t some jokes peppered in.
"I used to play a narcissistic conservative pundit," Colbert told Bush when the presidential candidate commented on the number of portraits of the host that decorate the new stage. "Now I’m just a narcissist."
The host also teased Bush about comments his mother Barbara made about how there had been "enough Bushes" in the White House.
"She was just joking," the former Florida governor answered quickly, provoking a genuine laugh from Colbert.
8. Hit the Showers
Early in the show, Colbert shared a joke with Jimmy Fallon about the "late-night locker room," which paid off at the show’s end in a pre-taped bit where Fallon and Colbert were shown at a bank of lockers with the names of all the current late night hosts, including Jimmy Kimmel, Conan O’Brien, Seth Meyers and Larry Wilmore, who took over Colbert’s Comedy Central slot.
Fangirls everywhere will note that Colbert had a picture of young Jon Stewart taped up in his locker.