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Stephen Colbert Makes His Big Debut As 'Late Show' Host

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Tonight's the night!

It's the dawn of a new era in late-night television as Stephen Colbert made his big debut as host of "The Late Show."

As CBS2's Jessica Schneider reported, fans who saw the taping agreed that he was off to a running, high-kicking, high-energy start, and he did not disappoint in the slightest.

"It was fantastic," said spectator Andrea Simmons. "It was everything I'd hoped for and more."

"This was great. I'm so impressed," added Michelle Buckholtz of Cleveland. "I had no idea what this would turn into. He turned into a really great interviewer - he's a singer; he was just a showman, I was just so impressed!"

"What we just left is everything that embodies my generation - the baby boomers and Gen X," said Billy Buckholtz of Cleveland. "It was a rock and roll show, comedy; it was some seriousness."

The taping went on for 2 1/2 hours, although it was ultimately whittled down to an hour and nine minutes. Spectators said Colbert did several retakes of some of the segments, but each time, Colbert was funny.

One spectator told 1010 WINS' Carol D'Auria the show was a little less political than "The Colbert Report," and they indeed did get to see the real Stephen Colbert.

"This time, it was Stephen talking about the events of our time, so you know, before, it was a fake guy. This was just Stephen. He was so magnificent – fun, energetic," she said.

Before the taping, as CBS2's Alice Gainer reported, Colbert was spotted making his way to the Ed Sullivan Theater, 1697 Broadway, earlier Tuesday with his headphones in and his backpack on. He was smiling and waving as he prepared to start the new chapter in late night TV.

The newly-renovated theater, which had been home to David Letterman for more than two decades.

Colbert took the stage of the newly-renovated Ed Sullivan Theater, which had been home to David Letterman for more than two decades.

Letterman signed off as host in May after a run with CBS that dated back to 1993.

To celebrate the premiere, CBS teamed up with Portland, Oregon-based Stumptown Coffee Roasters to create "Col'Brew" Cold Brew Coffee. Street teams in New York City handed out free bottles of the limited edition coffee throughout the day Tuesday.

Col' Brew
Limited edition bottle of Col'Brew coffee. (credit: John Paul Filo/CBS)

The Col'Brews were much-welcome relief for fans waiting outside the Ed Sullivan Theater in scorching temperatures Tuesday afternoon. It was a party-like atmosphere outside the theater, complete with a DJ, WCBS 880's Marla Diamond reported.

"This is a dream come true to come to his first show," one fan said.

"He's hilarious. He's intelligent. He's going to bring a lot to late night," another said.

Stephen Colbert Making His Big Debut As 'Late Show' Host Tonight

For nearly a decade, Colbert played a conservative pundit on Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report" and there had been speculation on who he really was.

"I hope they'll find out quickly that the guy they saw for 10 years was my sense of humor the whole time," Colbert said on CBS Sunday Morning, sharing some of his visions for the new show with Mo Rocca. "The goal is to have fun with my friends and that means sometimes talking about some things we care about, we are going to be talking about what's going on in the world."

Colbert said it would be nice not to pretend anymore.

Colbert's first guests include 2016 Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush and actor George Clooney, with a musical performance by Colbert's bandleader Jon Batiste and his group Stay Human.

CBS2's Jessica Schneider caught up with Bush exclusively as he made his way to the theater by car. Bush said he would talk about, "probably the 2016 presidential race – I'm running for president," and added that he was "honored" to be among the first guests."

Stephen Colbert Making His Big Debut As 'Late Show' Host Tonight

Upon leaving the theater, Bush offered the press a box of doughnuts – in one of many mysteries involving the show.

"He's not only a gifted actor and director, but he works hard about things he cares about to make the world a better place," Colbert said of Clooney. "And that's a very interesting thing to be able to talk about in an honest way with somebody."

Bush also started a campaign fundraising raffle, offering a VIP ticket to Colbert's "Late Show."

"No one from Jeb's campaign asked me if it was OK with me to raise money off my first show; I am launching my own 'Jeb Bush on the Stephen Colbert 'Late Show' raffle," Colbert said.

His contest -- similar to Bush's original raffle -- comes with a $3 donation to the Yellow Ribbon Fund, which helps injured service members and their families.

So how did Bush respond to Colbert's raffle?

"Since it's you... we're lowering our contest fee to $1 and I'll enter yours with a donation to the Yellow Ribbon Fund," Bush said in a Twitter video.

Meanwhile, CBS President and Chief Executive Officer Les Moonves saw Stay Human preparing.

"I just saw them in there warming up, and it's a very exciting night for everybody at CBS," he told Gainer.

And inside the Hello Deli adjacent to the theater at 213 W. 53rd St., which Letterman made famous, proprietor Rupert Jee helped make the transition to Colbert seamless.

The time-honored Letterman T-shirts were still on display outside, but inside, Colbert's signature sandwich was at the top of the board.

Schneider asked Jee whether he is expecting antics from Colbert, as he saw for 22 years with Letterman.

"You know, honestly, I don't know. I haven't thought about that," Jee said. "But I mean, you never know, I guess."

Other guests this week include Vice President Joe Biden, actress Scarlett Johansson, Kendrick Lamar, Toby Keith, comedian Amy Schumer and author Stephen King.

Variety Columnist Brian Lowry says Clooney and the show's other guests will keep viewers tuning in.

"He is very smartly putting together a very eclectic lineup of people, which will -- if he does it right -- sort of demonstrate the breadth of knowledge and range he has," Lowry said.

"The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" can be seen on CBS2 weeknights at 11:35 p.m.

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