Our long national nightmare is over.

Stephen Colbert returns to TV tonight as host of CBS' Late Show With—the man himself—Stephen Colbert.

It's been 264 days (but who's counting) since The Colbert Report finale and since we always knew where and when we'd meet again...

We've been rather excited to get this show on the road!

Colbert went AWOL for awhile, to reflect and grow a beard, and then he got to work, planning what the post-Letterman Late Show would be. He has talked in recent interviews about introducing "the real Stephen Colbert" to the world after years of playing versions of himself that always lent themselves to quotation marks.

But despite the onslaught of tasteful publicity (the cover of Time, his own app with carefully crafted bits, etc.), we really don't know what or who exactly we're going to see tonight—besides George Clooney, Jeb Bush and the new Late Show house band Stay Human and bandleader Jon Batiste.



We have utmost confidence, however, that whatever we see is going to be wonderful because...well, the real Stephen Colbert just happens to be one of the greatest people ever. No caveats. Just a stellar example of what Earth has to offer.

So to get you similarly pumped for his return to late-night TV tonight, we present 12 times that Stephen Colbert—the real guy, no quotation marks—was a perfect human being:

Stephen Colbert, Evelyn Colbert, Emmy Awards, 2013

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

When He Talks About His Wife: He's just such a good man. On The Howard Stern Show last month, he talked about getting married at 29 to wife Evelyn and, asked if he's still in love, he said, "Oh yeah" in such a way that confirmed our suspicion that Evy McGee is the luckiest gal alive.

When He Makes You Feel Better About His Family Tragedy: We may as well just flag the entire Stern Show interview as an example of his inarguable perfection. Howard dug deep, as usual, and discovered diamond after diamond. Asked about his tough life, Colbert—who was 10 when his father and two of his brothers were killed in a plane crash—did not take pity on himself. "I have not had a tough life," he replied. "It was a tough event. My life is beautiful."

Jimmy Fallon, Stephen Colbert, Emmy Awards 2014 Show

Kevin Winter/Getty Images

When He Got Drinks With Jimmy Fallon Before Becoming His Competitor: One more Stern anecdote for the road: When Howard (who fully admits to assuming everyone's as neurotic as he is) insisted that things were about to get nasty among Colbert and his network competitors, Jimmys Fallon and Kimmel, Stephen chided him, "You're pouring poison, Polonius!" He explained that he had gone for cocktails with Fallon, they supported one another, everything was great and all will be copacetic.

What. A. Guy.

When He Skewered an Unsuspecting Bush Administration in 2006: While "Stephen Colbert" was along for the ride at the infamous 2006 White House Correspondents' Dinner, this was one blazing display of ballsy comedic badassery on the real Colbert's part. He inflamed the most powerful Republicans in Washington and kept right on ticking.

Stephen Colbert, Oprah Winfrey

When He Had Oprah Over: "Yay, I won!" he laughed when Oprah Winfrey informed him in 2012 on Oprah's Next Chapter that the world seemed "confused" by his dueling personae. "Poorly informed, high status, idiot," he described his Comedy Central alter ego and then proceeded to offer new insight into his process and what life was like for Stephen-not-in-quotes.

Stephen Colbert,  Mindy Kaling, Twitter


When He Talks Religion Raised a devout Catholic, Colbert has let that lapse into what works for him, becoming a refreshing example of someone who's brilliant, rational and religious in his own way. Never in denial of facts—or what's funny—but also never disrespectful, he doesn't patronize in either direction. He exists with his faith in a way that's both reassuring and completely noninvasive. Something about his approach just feels like...

Grey Kittens

Getty Images

When He Eulogized His Mother on The Colbert Report: His tribute to Lorna Colbert, who passed away in 2013 at the age of 92: Just watch.

When He Was Wise Beyond Our Years: In July 2014, the father of three volunteered some advice in a Q&A for Rookie Mag's "Ask a Grown Man" segment. Wearing plaid and thick-framed glasses instead of a Brooks Brothers suit and his wire-rimmed Report specs, he was just the cool doting family man you see at the farmer's market on weekends. (When he explains one of his definitions of the word love... Swoon.)

The Daily Show, TBT, Steve Carell, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert

When This Happened: What #TBTs were made for.

Stephen Colbert, TIME

Platon for TIME

When He Took Potshots at His Own Time Cover: "I think the full name of the magazine is 'The Ravages of Time,'" he tweeted, poking fun at the super-serious, black-and-white, lines-and-all portrait the magazine used. Oh, you.

George Clooney

ChinaFotoPress/ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images

When the First Couple of Weeks of Late Show Guests Were Announced: Clooney, Bush (no big deal, Jeb's been on The Tonight Show), Scarlett Johansson, Amy Schumer... oh, and Elon Musk, the CEO of Uber, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer and Ban Ki-moon! This motley grab bag of names proves that Colbert is taking his creative license and driving with it. No Mileys or Kanyes (paging the ill-fated Jay Leno Show...) to inflate the ratings, but rather an assortment of people whom the host might actually want to talk to. What?!

Stephen Colbert, WAZE


When He Turns a Literally Deaf Ear: You've noticed his funny little Yoda ear, right? A physical imperfection that only adds to his overall flawlessness.

So, Colbert Nation (we can still call you that, right?), enjoy tonight! Or set your DVRs and have a great morning!

Either way, welcome back to late-night, Stephen Colbert. You've been missed.

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