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Stephen Colbert’s First ‘Late Show’ Almost Never Made it to Air

The reviews for Stephen Colbert’s debut as the new Late Show host were mostly positive. Our own Matt Singer said the show got off to a “solid start” as Colbert took over for David Letterman, but the show almost didn’t get off to a start at all. On his second show, Colbert revealed that because of editing and technical glitches, his first episode almost didn’t make it on air.

Colbert discussed the issues in his opening monologue (“this is an absolutely true story”), saying that just 10 minutes before the show was scheduled to air on the east coast, he had no idea if the show was actually going to air.

At 11:20, no one in the building could give me any certainty that the show was going to go on the air last night […] When we tried to send it to the network so they could show it to you on air, the computers kept crashing. You could imagine how exciting that was for all of us, after CBS plastered my face on nearly every flat surface on the planet.

Colbert thanked his staff for their hard work to get the show up and running, and for all their struggles, at least they were able to mine a few good jokes out of it.

As the oxygen drained from my brain, and my organs started shutting down, I thought, if we ever make it on the air this will be a pretty good story. And if we don’t, it’ll still be a very interesting story at the theater camp I will be running in Idaho.

Colbert seemed even more comfortable on his second night — introducing the first of his recurring features, “Big Questions With Even Bigger Stars”, which you can watch below with Scarlett Johansson — and even let things get a little weird, wearing a big, fuzzy hat while making bold proclamations like, “Dogs shall be called cats, and cats shall be called dogs and neither animal will know the difference.”

After surviving his second show, Colbert will continue this week with guests Vice President Joe Biden, Amy Schumer and Stephen King.

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