The Colbert Report ending: 49 stars, including Neil Gaiman, Sarah Silverman, J.J. Abrams, and more bid the show farewell (VIDEO).

49 Celebrities Say Farewell to Stephen Colbert

49 Celebrities Say Farewell to Stephen Colbert

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Slate's Culture Blog
Dec. 16 2014 2:53 PM

49 Stars, Musicians, Authors, and Other Celebrities Say Farewell to Stephen Colbert

“I’ll miss him. I’ll miss the show. I’ll miss the character. That’s if it is a character.” — Baz Luhrmann

Photo by Andrew Harrer-Pool/Getty Images

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

Stephen Colbert’s reign as character-in-chief of The Colbert Report ends this week. To send him off, Vulture enlisted the help of celebrities, authors, journalists, actors, and other notables who have appeared on the show, or are just huge admirers, to recount their memories of one of the greatest TV characters of all time: Irish Wake–style! The voices below demonstrate that Colbert—man and character alike—had no lack of fans and friends. Colbert’s new gig, host of The Late Show, won’t begin until summer 2015. In the meantime, enjoy this look back at his remarkable run.


James Franco
I was on the show a few times. Each time we talked about Tolkien, and Colbert schooled me in Middle Earth lore. That guy must read The Silmarillion every night right after he reads Dick Cheney’s memoirs. The second time I went on, I tried to stump him with some arcane Tolkien trivia. I asked him to name at least two of the Valar, the undergods of Middle Earth. Without blinking, he said, “Would you like Manwë, lord of the wind, Mandos, king of the underworld, Varda, queen of the stars ...?” We got along very well because I always appreciated his playful irreverence. I had no need to outplay him; I was happy to go along on his crazy ride each time. It was art. Colbert could do or say absolutely anything because it was all through the mask of his character, even though everyone was in on the joke. The character gave him license to speak the truth through its opposite: satire.

Ben Affleck
He and Jon Stewart literally created a form of entertainment that didn’t exist before, and that’s a really rare thing in entertainment. Usually—like we did [with] Good Will Hunting, it was part Searching for Bobby Fischer and part Little Man Tate—you borrow from movies. These guys actually invented something, which was a comedy show that still took the news seriously and still was really provocative. That in itself is extraordinary. And what was even better is that they were great entertainers, had great writers. Colbert will be very, very successful.

Jennifer Garner
What made his show special was his hair. Mm-hmm, and how it seemed to float all in kind of one piece, as if carved out of a plastic.

Jon Stewart
I view us as kind of a block, as one entity. But the good news for me is I still get to be friends with him.


Neil deGrasse Tyson
I appeared about 13 times on The Colbert Report—I think more than any other guest. Living just three miles from the studio, at some level, I was surely just an easy date. It was far and away my hardest interview in any genre. There’s nothing like it on television or anywhere else. It took prodigious brilliance to pull it off. Stephen Colbert has it. And he did it.

Sarah Silverman
I have so many favorite moments, and I’m going to say one that probably won’t ultimately be my favorite, but when he spoke about his mother passing, it was a genuine moment. That’s not what’s brilliant about him, but, it was really special to me. I thought it was beautiful, and I just think he’s a really special person.

J.J. Abrams
I was abjectly terrified [to be on the show]. In my first appearance, we had pretaped a bit in which we both had to interact with a Romulan Stephen Colbert (whose name was St’eE’pha’n Kh’olber’T). As if I didn’t love him enough already. He is obviously such a different personality in actual life—but you can’t approach him that way on camera. The key for me was to remember that he is brilliantly funny—and that the last thing I needed to worry about was being funny. Stephen does all the heavy lifting. Its point of view [was what made it special]. The show had its rules, but they would bend and break them all the time. Knowing that Stephen usually felt the opposite of what he was saying—through some of the best writing ever on TV—was an added pleasure.

Jeff Goldblum
What can you remember from being on the show?

Watching every show as I have (TiVo season pass). And then being there in the flesh, it was like a dream, the best time I’d ever had in my life!


Does a specific memory or moment jump out?
Playing “the circumciser,” meeting Neil deGrasse Tyson, and, during the interview, playing table football with Stephen with his cunning piece of origami that he fashioned spontaneously!

What was it like interacting with the character?
His character is so deeply, humanly, hilariously truthful, and uniquely, wild-heartedly musical. The experience was like a hot peach pie cooked in heaven’s kitchen!

What made The Colbert Report so special?
The consistently top-notch writing, directing, and brilliance of its star (underlying conviction, passion, and bravery; rare intelligence; comic genius)!

Ben Stiller
[His show] was energizing. It was just fun because you’re in a crazy, sort of high-intensity ping-pong match. It’s great.


Ken Burns
I certainly remember my very first time: I actually came in and was watching a rehearsal of something he does frequently on the show, where he holds opposing points of view and has essentially an argument with himself, and just switches from one camera to another, and the camera changes the Chroma so his shirt looks a different color, his tie looks like a different stripe. And you realize when you watch TV, a cut is a cut, but when you’re there live, you realize the extraordinary gifts of this comedian. He’s obviously one of the greatest intellectual geniuses because he’s playing everything opposite himself, and he’s so quick, but I think we don’t appreciate that he’s such a great physical comedian in the sense that Buster Keaton was a great physical comedian. I was just stunned watching this. Then I went on. In my segment—the very first time I was on—he started suddenly drifting away. He pays really close attention when you’re there, and he’s nodding and waiting to ambush you and waiting to put you in an uncomfortable situation; all [of a] sudden, he started drifting away. I sort of ground to a halt. And he said, “While we’ve been talking, I’ve made a documentary film.” And then he cued it, and apparently the booth had captured sepia images of the two of us talking, and he made a spoof of The Civil War, with narration and first-person voices. I’ll never forget for as long as I live, “While we were talking, I made a documentary film.” It just cracked me up.

And that’s the thing about him. He’s a genius. So extraordinary in every way. And I think we have to appreciate it even more: He’s doing it backward. It’s like writing your name in a mirror with the opposite hand. He plays this right-wing buffoon, so everything is in the context of that, and yet he has to—at the same time—sort of challenge you, but also undercut his own arguments at every single step. It’s brilliant theatre to watch, and he does it day in and day out. I have interacted with him offstage several times. He is, unlike most people with a show like that, someone who comes to the dressing room and says, “Hello.”

I’ve also interviewed him out of character for a couple hours on the stage of the 92nd Street Y, and I’m very happy to report that he was as funny then, if not funnier, being his “real self,” and that really bodes well in the wake of this Irish Wake that resurrection is entirely possible, and he is the perfect person to take over the immense shoes of David Letterman in The Late Show. I think he’s an amazing human being. He has to be himself on late night, and that self is so extraordinary that I think people will be very, very surprised and pleased by how he does it.

Seth Meyers
I’m always so impressed how he uses the character to find comedy in the questions. I think that’s just such a genius element of that show. I knew [former head writer] Allison Silverman for a long time, I was her roommate in Amsterdam, and I just know both of them to have the most incredible minds. I feel like when that show started, a lot of people wondered if they could keep that ball in the air for as long as they did, and I’m just so impressed that they did. Also, as a fellow Northwestern graduate, I guess I’m not that impressed because I knew he could pull it off. I feel like he goes into interviews because of his character, there’s comedy, and the guests don’t have to provide the comedy. They get to inform and educate, and the character Stephen Colbert gets to keep it interesting by finding jokes.


Ryan Reynolds
I love Stephen Colbert. I love everything that he’s done. He’s a huge trailblazer, so to see him go, to depart that character, is a little sad. I’m going to miss it. I do find myself mocking his jog everywhere. I do that sort of false-humility jog to the kitchen every once in awhile. He’s just been on point for so long, it’s really quite impressive.

Patrick Stewart
He’s interviewed me, but I’ve also appeared on his show doing a sketch, and both of them were delightful. I’m such a great admirer of him, his work, and what he stands for, what he represents. It wasn’t like work, it wasn’t even really like being on a talk show. It was having a conversation with a very smart and entertaining person.

Michael J. Fox

I don’t know if people really appreciate how brilliant he was. To be able to ask a question, think of an answer, and then convert that into his character and put it back out in an instant. I don’t know anyone else who can do that. So I hope he can maintain a certain aspect of that on the new show. I just did his show once. It was so fun because he was helping me plug my book, and it clearly didn’t fit with the show that night, but he is just such a mensch; he was determined to find a way to get me and my book on the show.

Jon Hamm
He’s great and will keep being great.

Neil Gaiman
I remember two things about his show. One was his briefing to me before I went on, where he said, "Look, my character is an idiot. Do whatever you have to do. Just assume you have like an idiot cab driver in the front who is going to keep talking, and it’s your job to set him straight." And then I remember the moment where the conversation wandered over into Lord of the Rings, and suddenly Colbert the character left and Colbert the person broke cover. That was on air. It was just a wonderful, it was a really wonderful conversation about children’s literature and about books. His whole thing was, why was I, an English person, winning a major American award. But it also just went into lovely, strange places. It’s a wonderful thing, watching Colbert breaking character. I thought it was a delight. His willingness to have pretty much anybody. The idea that it was welcoming, it was embracing. And also his willingness to talk to anybody on their own terms and let us hang ourselves with our own words. Whether he’s playing an idiot or not, he’s incredibly smart, incredibly fast. It’s a wild ride, you’re on it and you hold on. You try not to fall off.

Baz Luhrmann

I love Stephen Colbert. I think he’s the fastest mind on television. Not only is he extraordinarily funny, but he is able to make searing political points. And the speed at which he calculates things on his feet. My memory of being on it, two things [were] brilliant. He came backstage to prep me, and he came back and he said, "Now, I’m in this character," because I guess he thought I’d never seen the show. I watch it myself, and my children were giant fans of the funny man, and they were only like 10 and 8. He came back, “Now, I play this character, and he’s kind of”—what he’s trying to say is he’s kind of right-wing and blah blah blah. And I went, “So are you out of character now, Stephen? Or are you in character?’” Because he was fast and he was funny and he said, “No, no, I’m out of character.” And I said, “Okay, so what are you doing, warning me [of] the concept of the show”—which I just thought was so brilliant, because he seemed as bright-eyed and as smart and as quick backstage as he is in character, you know.

What I learned was, the No. 1 rule is: Don’t try to outwit him or outsmart him. Just try and be as straight as you can. Tell you what, I wasn’t very good, but I saw that wonderful nun. She’s the best I’ve ever seen because she was equally robust in her mind and she just kept powering through as if it were anyone on the street. She just held her credibility and didn’t try and cross swords with him, didn’t try and engage with his double entendres. He’d drop a double entendre and she’d go, “Yes, but that’s the grace of God! Can’t you see, Stephen?” There are witty people, but it’s the speed of the wit.

What I can say is that character will be dearly missed. I think it’s the right thing to do, because to be stuck in one character all your life, you know—we all love it, we’ll all be nostalgic, we’ll all miss him, but it may not be the healthiest thing for him. It’s mixed feelings. I mean, stars, we want to infantilize them: We want them to remain the same forever. They go out and do something risky and daring and different and we go, yeah, yeah, I know you’ve gotta do that, but can you go back and do the, you know, the early funny stuff? So I’ll miss him. I’ll miss the show. I’ll miss the character. That’s if it is a character. 

David Cross
I think they were wise to ditch that thing that I did on the show. I mean, it was always fun, but it just made the show too fake. And I think they were smart to just have real people on there and just to—because I only did it like three times. I love Stephen personally. He’s a really brilliant, passionate, smart guy, and he’s a good, decent person. I do remember one time I was having dinner with him at Frank’s on Second Avenue, and it had one of those big mirrors that was hanging kind of at an angle on the wall; it was part of their decorative thing. And I’m sitting there talking to him and he’s just looking past me, kind of in a frozen smile, looking about 30 degrees above me. And it took me a minute to notice it, and I’m sitting there talking about stuff and he’s not even looking at me, he’s just smiling, and I turned around and I saw him looking at himself in the mirror on purpose. And that’s my fondest memory of Stephen Colbert. He committed to the bit.

Alec Baldwin

Of course everyone is speculating what’s gonna happen to him once he stops playing that character and he has to play himself. But I think he’ll be fine. I think he’s a tremendously talented guy, so it’s all going to work out in the end.

Darren Aronofsky
He was unbelievably sharp. He was like, so fast, so quick, so on, so connected. Just locks right in. I was just so impressed. And, you know, it’s like one of those things where whatever it was, two minutes turns into three seconds, and you’re like, Oh, it’s over, and that’s it. But it was great.

Cyndi Lauper
Oh my God, the first time I was on his show, they said to me, “Well, you know he’s going to say this and that.” I think I was there for Kinky Boots, but I was just talking to him and I realized that I was forgetting things to say. And even in his character, he was trying to remind me, trying to tie together my sentences for me. And I thought, Oh my God. He’s an incredibly sweet fellow. We did some Christmas song last year: That was so funny.

Anna Wintour
It’s not the end of an era. It’s the beginning of something new and wonderful, hopefully.

Dan Savage
I don’t remember when I was on the show for the first time—pot is legal here in Washington State—but it was after Stephen Colbert’s historic appearance/performance/exorcism at the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner. It was a breathtaking, ballsy performance, the room was hostile, the president was clueless, and Stephen didn’t break a sweat. If I may use a cliché: He spoke truth to power, and he was hilarious and impolite and scalding and charming, and those of us watching at home—those of us deep in despair after six years of George W. Bush—were cheering.

So what I remember most about being on Colbert, that first time, was getting to thank Stephen in person for that performance. He acted like it was no big deal, but … it was. It really was. Pure catharsis. I made him break character once—don’t remember what I said, exactly, but he broke character and covered his face with his cards. I’ve been on the show six or so times, and that’s the moment people always talk to me about: “You made Stephen break character!” That felt like playing a tennis pro and actually winning a set. It was like talking to your bigoted drunk uncle at Thanksgiving—but without the venom. There’s no malice in Stephen, and somehow there’s none in his character. He gives new guests a little speech letting them know that, in character, he’ll probably say offensive things. I think he was always particularly careful with gay guests, since “Stephen Colbert” says insanely homophobic things. I think we clicked—me and “Stephen Colbert”—because that stuff doesn’t offend or faze me, and I like my bigots like Homer Simpson likes his homosexuals: flaming. Stephen—the real Stephen—is a genius, first and foremost, but his character, this right-wing blowhard, was the best way to send up O’Reilly and Hannity and the rest of the right-wing blowhards. Stephen took their toxic politics and their self-regard as a starting-off point and added just a touch of cluelessness and something both of those men lack—charisma. Colbert demonstrated that agreeing with them—or pretending to agree with them—was the deadliest way to satirize them.

Jeremy Piven
I don’t think people realize how hard it is to do what he does. He kind of reinvented the form. He stays in character and hosts and improvises flawlessly on a daily basis. There are so many great moments, like when he interviewed Steve McQueen about 12 Years a Slave and was somehow coming from this strangely, awkwardly racist point of view. He plays the heel in order to set up people, and he gave McQueen, who basically made a flawless, brilliant movie, a chance to play the straight man and speak eloquently about the movie. I’m just really going to miss him. Recently, when he had Obama on, that was a slam-dunk.

James Corden
I love the man. He’s been very kind to me because we’re both going to be in this weird two hours of TV. We’ll try our best, you know. We’ve had a lot of chats about how I’ll be a counterpoint to his show and et cetera. He’s amazing. He’s just the best. He’s smart, funny, bright. He’s incredibly handsome. That’s it.

Cedric the Entertainer
I love Colbert. He’s very funny, very witty. I did a little guest spot one time, and I just showed up as me, and it was very funny. He’s just so quick-witted and one of the best. He has great energy and I remember him welcoming me. I look forward to him taking over The Late Show

Joanna Coles
I loved that he spoofed the right wing. I love that his character was brilliantly drawn. I think now we’re ready to move on, because he came from the Bush era. And it’s like retiring a ventriloquist dummy, and he’s moving on from the character. I’m excited that he’s doing that. His interviews were really good.

Jason Jones
I don’t think we are losing Stephen Colbert because Stephen Colbert is not too far off of who you think Stephen Colbert is. He’s not an idiot conservative, but he is a showman, he is a great entertainer, he is a great interviewer. I don’t think it gets better than standing beside President Bush and saying, “People compare him to going down on the Titanic; he is more the Hindenburg.” The balls, the cojones, to be able to say that to the president of the free world is pretty gigantic.

Doris Kearns Goodwin
I remember waiting in the green room the first time I was on, wondering what in the world I was doing there and yet somehow within moments of sitting down, I found myself talking and laughing with this crazy character as if I had known him for years. The best part of interacting was to imagine he was a guy who had just sat next to me in a bar and was railing on about political topics in an impossible way, but was so funny that I couldn’t wait to join in at every turn. One memory that stands out is when he posed the following question: George Bush, great president or greatest president. I took the fifth. He then said “I’ll see you in Guantanamo!!!” Lincoln once said that laughter was the “joyous, universal evergreen of life.” Colbert’s humor provided precisely that!

Once, when the show came to Philadelphia and it was the Roots and Michelle Obama. And we decided we were going to do “The Star-Spangled Banner,” Jimi Hendrix-style. And when my guitar player decided to bash the guitar, a piece of the wood came flying right for my forehead. And I had to be all cool, but I was bleeding.

Toby Keith
The very first time I was on there, I really didn’t know what the show was about. My publicist had put me on there, and I knew going in that it was a comedy thing, but I didn’t know for sure how serious it was, but I was locked, loaded, and ready to go. It was really neat how innovative and creative it was. I like to see people do their own thing, and he was very personable to me. And he’s always treated me really nice, so I came back several times. And I don’t do very many shows. We’ve had some great moments on there one-on-one, but probably the biggest moment was getting to do the Christmas special because it was so bizarre, so fun, and I love that kind of spontaneous stuff. There’s not a whole lot of rehearsing to it. It’s just, here’s A and here’s B and this is where we’re going and this is where we’re starting and let’s get there the best we can. Gotta let him be him, and the rest of it will fall into place for you. He’s a wacky, original, innovative kind of guy. And he’s brilliant. There was nothing else out there like it.

Rachel Dratch
I was in the touring company when he was on Main Stage at Second City, so I watched and admired him. He was always very smart. Like he wrote this song about the Balkans’ conflict. That was the finale of the show.

The Decemberists guitarist Chris Funk
I was told in advance not to look at Mr. Colbert’s hands. However, from the first handshake, I couldn’t help it, and I thought, Wow, those really are indeed big hands. Mind you I was about to enter what was described to me as a guitar battle, and everyone knows the bigger the hand, the bigger the guitar chord. As I engaged in a guitar battle with Colbert, I’d like to debunk the theory that Stephen’s injury wasn’t real during our melee, the blood, et cetera. In reality, Peter Frampton (his eventual proxy in light of said injury) was a high-end, “spare no expense” automaton on loan from Madame Tussaud’s in Time Square. Therefore, one may conclude, I won. However, I know this piece’s design is to wish the man well despite my seemingly bitter reveal, which, sadly, I am unable to do years later. Having done many of these shows, I really got the impression firsthand that Colbert was engaged in concepts and scripts from the ground up and beyond. He seemed to thrive on last-minute rewrites to get the biggest laugh possible.

Chris Matthews
I wanted to create a “visual”—something distinctive—the first time I was on the show, so I put Steve in a full-Nelson grip—arms under his, then up around his neck. He responded by going ethnic, offering a reward for anyone who could send him a picture of me eating potatoes. It’s a surreal experience watching the first part of the show knowing he’s going to be running across the stage to you. The trick to the show is making your case no matter how idiotic Steve’s response. You have to look into his eyes when he’s in character and not let it throw you. I think he’s one of the really good people in the business. I stop just short of loving the guy. His values come through even as he plays a benighted passenger in the right-wing clown car.

Rosie O’Donnell
I watched the Report every night. I loved the Toni Morrison one, when she was on recently. Yeah, she lifted his cards and said, “Can I read the questions?” And he said, “Yes.” And it was absolutely beautiful. It was about race and love and life, and she was talking about how she had just finished reading her own book, Beloved, and she’s like, “It was actually pretty good.” I just thought it was such a touching interview and so important with what was going on—and so beautifully delivered.

Morgan Spurlock
I remember being so nervous the first time I was on his show, in fact, I think I was more nervous than when I went on O’Reilly! When I went on his show to promote the Greatest Movie Ever Sold, he came to meet me in the dressing room in his Doritos jacket.  He said he didn’t want to be out sponsored, it was fantastic.  It was one of the most fun and memorable experiences I’ve ever had on a show.  It was hilarious and intimidating. The hard part was keeping a straight face while he took the piss out of you.

Ronan Farrow
I actually think he goes in and out of character. The interesting thing about what Stephen Colbert did was creating that character, but I still feel like there are a lot of moments where he lets himself shine through. I think that’s what resonated with people. He comes off as sincere and he’s just so earnest. That’s what the audience loves about him. I mean, that’s what was so great about him when I was on the show. We had a sincere exchange about both growing up in big families. We talked about Catholicism. And afterwards, I remember saying to him, I get a sense of who you are and the character you’ve created. I told him that I was impressed, and he said, “Yes, I’m terrific.” So his character resurfaced, and that was so genius. People love an anti-Establishment poke in the eye. He calls out b.s. in a relatable and really clever way. I’m still struck by the editing. He did long interviews, and everything was cut down so beautifully. The show was fine-tuned in just such a smart way.

Matthew Weiner
It was fantastic in many ways. It’s such a great character. It’s such a great construct. My whole experience there as a fan of the show was just exciting. I also love being made fun of, so maybe I’m the wrong person to ask. But I’m a huge fan, and I’m going to miss him terribly, and I’m excited to see what he does next. He’s fully in it. He’s so sharp and so quick. The interesting thing is that you think it’s all prepared, which it is, obviously, and he’s been doing it, but he can react on the moment in a way that is so sharp. The attitude is so consistent. And he is so smart.

Gloria Steinem
At first it was unsettling to talk to someone I didn’t know was also playing a role very different from himself. It took awhile to sense the kind person and very smart person under the bombast. The first time, I was on with Jane Fonda—we were there to talk about the Women’s Media Center that we had just co-founded with Robin Morgan—we discovered that we were doing a cooking show and making an apple pie on camera. I have to say we managed to convert each step of pie-making into a political point, but we only won out when Jane unexpectedly kissed Colbert on the cheek—and he totally lost his character for a few seconds. When I was on with him alone, I had the feeling that his artificial self was setting me up so I could say what his real self would have said. We were sitting close to the audience, so I could also feel how in tune they were with him and his ability to make serious points with parody. Ever since an extremist right-wing took over the machinery of the Republican Party, the country has seemed to be divided into two warring parts, even though opinion polls show a majority for progressive issues. The Colbert Report took the fear out of this dangerous division and added laughter instead. 

Cheap Trick’s Robin Zander

He asked Cheap Trick to play the show’s theme song. And when he invited us to be on the show: his talent … oh my God … the talent! I consider his character to be a personal friend, and our interaction is personal. 

Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen
I love the fact that Stephen Colbert personally called about writing the theme song before the very first Colbert Report ever aired. I sure hope he calls me again! The man is a genius on many, many levels—and that’s on the level.

Melinda Gates
I remember our conversation about family planning. It’s not always easy talking about sex. Stephen made it harder, but in so doing, he actually made it easier. I was trying to explain why giving women the ability to decide if and when to get pregnant changes the future for a family. And Stephen just kept making sex jokes. Instantly, any political controversy about contraceptives sort of got put to the side, and I was able to make my point clearly. Even before I’d gone on the show, Stephen had a running gag about the Stephen and Melinda Gates Foundation. He likes to come up with schemes that involve him and our money. So the first time I was on the show, he scolded me for missing so many board meetings of our pseudo-foundation. In the end, we used the Stephen and Melinda Gates thing to raise money for, a charity that both he and I support. So it worked out great. Even though I still haven’t attended any meetings. I asked everybody I could think of for advice about how to be funny on the show, and they all said the same thing: “Don’t try. Let Stephen be funny.” So the entire time I was up there, I had a little mantra: Don’t be funny. Be deadly serious. Don’t be funny. Be deadly serious. Stephen has a way of stripping away all the preconceptions people bring to tough issues and letting you talk about them with unusual clarity. The second time I was on the show, he said, “Sell me on helping other people. Why?” It’s totally in character for him and totally ridiculous, but actually, it let us have a real conversation about generosity, which can be a difficult topic to bring up if you don’t want to sound preachy.

Al Roker
It was great theater. He’d take a position, and by creating this incredible character, could lampoon it. What was great on both sides of the aisle, everybody got skewered by him. It really was brilliant. It’s going to be interesting to see who Stephen Colbert really is coming up because we know this character.

Mario Batali
You know what, it’s like climate change, the changing of the guard: It’s gonna happen slowly, and then all of a sudden, you’re going to realize everyone is different. I like Colbert, I like Larry [Wilmore], I like everything that’s happening. I think it’s a new, vibrant world and they’re shaking things up. As much as I love Letterman and Leno, the new world is going to be even more interesting. I’m looking forward to it.

Ben Folds
What struck me about Stephen Colbert was how intelligently considerate he was in briefing us on how his character might abuse us. He struck me as a pretty brave and resourceful human in having created a space and vehicle for himself to be so expressive and provocative. He was really kind and earnest, and I love that he’s explored this Colbert character so thoroughly and is moving on. I think the upcoming, more literal version of himself will be successful in ways nobody is quite prepared for. The other thing I walked away with was regret that he didn’t feel good about his performance of my song “Best Imitation” that we did together. He was great and just didn’t feel it should be released. I understood, but it was better than he realized.

Wendi Deng
His show is really funny, and I’m going to miss him.

Simon Doonan
Well, I’m not that sad that the character is ending because I will always remember him from the early days, performing in David Sedaris’s plays.

Emily Bazelon
At the end of a segment about my book, which is about bullying, Stephen offered me a plate of tater tots and asked if I wanted to throw them at him. I said no. They cut this bit when the show aired, but my kids were backstage watching the taping, and my younger son still can’t understand why I missed my chance to whip tater tots around the room on TV. I also remember the small dog who sometimes runs around backstage and the warm toilet seat in the bathroom. It’s like home, only better.

Donald Trump
I think he’s going to do well. He’s a smart guy, very talented, very funny. He’s going to be playing a very different character. David Letterman is a friend of mine, I’ve been on David Letterman so many times. He’s great—David Letterman—and I think Stephen is going to do really well. We’re going to have to see the character, nobody knows the character yet, but he’s very smart and I think he’s going to pull it off very well.

Reporting by Sean Fitz-Gerald, Ericka Goodman, Allegra Hobbs, Noah Hurowitz, Marcus Jones, Bennett Marcus, Jenna Marotta, Meg Miller, Trupti Rami, Heather Schwedel, Renata Sellitti, Jamie Sharpe, Alyssa Shelasky, Joshua David Stein, Katie Van Syckle, and Kara Warner.