Stephen Colbert ‘Late Show’ Debut Opens With National Anthem, Jon Stewart & CBS CEO Leslie Moonves

Updated with video: Stephen Colbert opened his very first Late Show by singing the National Anthem on a baseball diamond, in a bowling alley, on the Mall in Washington and elsewhere. At the end of the song, the umpire pulls off his face mask. “Play ball!” shouts Jon Stewart.

“Stephen! Stephen! Stephen!” The audience chant has followed him from Comedy Central to CBS.

Stephen ColbertHe pronounced the first episode of “Late Show With/Starring Stephen Colbert” to be “TV history,” which, like so much TV history, is not on the History channel — signaling he is going to do a fairly traditional monologue after all.

“As long as I have nine months to make an hour of TV, I can do this forever,” he said. “I begin the search for the real Stephen Colbert. I just hope I don’t find him on Ashley Madison.”

CBS CEO Les Moonves was in the audience, seated at a desk with a Mentalist button and a Stephen Colbert button. CBS has been filling the time slot with The Mentalist repeats during the summer. Moonves was given a speaking part on tonight’s show (hello, SAG card!). “It’s just a precaution. The show’s going great. I’m sure I will have no need to use this thing. Move on,” he directs Colbert.

The opening ended months of navel lint picking about Colbert by pundits, some of whom are having trouble letting go of his cable show faux-conservative bloviator character. Today’s sound bite came from Robert Thompson, Syracuse University’s Center for Media Studies director/well-known all-things-TV-related-quote-factory. Thompson today pronounced Colbert’s show “pretty old school” before seeing it, based on Colbert having announced he would have a band. Thompson’s pre-viewing assessment of Colbert’s chances on Late Show didn’t get much better from there, with him telling CNN  “I would not want to be what little I have left of my retirement fun on this becoming a big hit.” Thompson, with his finger firmly on the pulse of pop culture and TV, likened Colbert to Charlie Chaplin: much loved as the Little Tramp but who “nobody wanted to see … as anybody else.”

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