Stephen Colbert finale: 'Folks, if this is your first time tuning into the Colbert Report, I have some terrible news'

Bill Clinton, Sir Patrick Stewart and James Franco came together to say goodbye to The Colbert Report

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The Independent Culture

The end of "truthiness" on American television. For now.

Stephen Colbert capped off nine-year's of The Colbert Report, one of Comedy Central's great satirical news shows, with a final episode that saw a range of famous friends join the host in a chorus of "We'll Meet Again".

However, fans of comedian Colbert, who has perfected a conservative on-screen character that has delighted liberals and infamously embarrassed George W Bush, will be able to meet Colbert again soon. Next year he will take over from CBS' long-running host of the Late Show David Letterman, who exits the programme in May after over 20 years in the job.

Colbert, who rarely breaks character even when he produces some of his wittiest lines, couldn't help but crack a smile when he began the show with, "Folks, if this is your first time tuning into the Colbert Report, I have some terrible news".

Later on he was joined by friend Jon Stewart. It was Stewart's The Daily Show that first brought Colbert's character to national attention and led to his own Comedy Central series in October 2005.

Colbert created his alter ego in 1997 as a "senior correspondent" on Stewart's show and The Colbert Report is something of a spoof of Bill O'Reilly's Fox News programme. On the eve of The Report's debut in 2005, Colbert explained, "My character is self-important, poorly informed, well-intentioned but an idiot...So we said, 'Let's give him a promotion."'

Joining Stewart at a piano played by Randy Newman, a range of luminaries sung along to the Vera Lynn classic, including Big Bird, George Lucas, Sir Patrick Stewart, Katie Couric and Arianna Huffington, who was a huge fan of Colbert and Stewart's Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear, a gathering of over 200,000 people that took place in 2010 in Washington, DC.

Yet Colbert's finale brought together not just liberals - Henry Kissinger, Mike Huckabee and Andrew Sullivan were in attendance. REM's Michael Stipe sung along, as well as New York City's Mayor Bill de Blasio and New Jersey Senator Cory Brooker.

Even James Franco, whose film The Interview has been at the centre of the Sony hacking scandal, made a rare recent appearance to bid Colbert farewell.

President Bill Clinton even got in on the goodbyes:

Perhaps one of Colbert's greatest and most infamous moments was when he was the entertainer at the 2006 White House Correspondents' Association Dinner, where he laid into President George W Bush and others in the audience in a mocking and sarcastic conservative tone that baffled many. While the audience did not appreciate his performance, his take-down of the Bush administration and journalists who had given him far too much of an easy ride was a watershed moment for American media and political-culture.

He also appeared, in character of course, at a House of Representatives subcommittee in 2010 to give a speech about immigration reform, having worked on a farm for a day for his show.

Just last week, he interviewed President Barack Obama, to whom he posed this question: "Stephen Colbert — great pundit, or the greatest pundit?" 

"The greatest pundit," Obama replied.

May that be the epitaph of the Colbert character.