And so the red-white-and-blue eagle has flown the coop.
Stephen Colbert ended his nine-year run of wry demagoguery on Comedy Central Thursday with a finale that started modestly and ended like A Night of a Thousand Stars.
Dressed in an ashy formal three-piece suit, Colbert primed the pump with gags ("If this is your first time tuning in to The Colbert Report, I have some terrible news . . . ") before going into his signature bit, "The Word," devoted to his show's legacy: "If all we achieved over the last nine years," he pontificated, "was to come into your home each night and help you make a difficult day a little bit better, man, what a waste."
Then, in the only sketch all night that really didn't work, he shot dead his old friend Grimmy (the Grim Reaper) and boasted that he was now immortal.
The finale was presented with what seemed like unlimited commercial interruptions. The mid-show ad array, in particular, went on longer than any of the entertainment segments.
In a way, that was fitting, since Colbert always presented himself as the Scrooge McDuck of TV talking heads. Colbert's character always liked dead presidents more than live ones. In fact, his defining trait may have been the way his deeply held right-wing ideology always aligned perfectly with his self-interest.
The capper was a full-scale sing-along of the old-timey anthem "We'll Meet Again," the 1939 song that also played over the end footage in 1964's Dr. Strangelove. Initially, Colbert dueted with Daily Show host Jon Stewart (who also was The Colbert Report's executive producer) as Randy Newman tickled the ivories.
But then a wildly eclectic parade of people took the stage in increasingly surreal small groups of carolers. Celebrities of all stripes (including R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe) mixed with some of the Report's favorite guests including Neil deGrasse Tyson, Arianna Huffington, Ken Burns, and Doris Kearns Goodwin.
There were TV stars (Katie Couric, Keith Olbermann, Charlie Rose, Andy Cohen, Bill O'Reilly), actors (Tobey Maguire, Patrick Stewart, James Franco), musicians (Ric Ocasek, Toby Keith, Cyndi Lauper, Willie Nelson), and a large assortment of the various and sundry (Alexi Lalas, Mark Cuban, Henry Kissinger, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar).
Wouldn't you like to have been in that green room?
After the song was over, Colbert was whisked away into the sky by Santa and his flying reindeer. Also in the sled were a unicorn Abe Lincoln (don't look at us) and Alex Trebek.
Yes, in his final gesture, this great mock American was joined by just about every recognizable American.
Good night, Nation. Sleep tight. But be vigilant.