'The Colbert Report' finale: Some joking, some singing, some Alex Trebek

"The Colbert Report" ends with satire and sincerity. Also Santa.

To celebrate the end, he first turned his show over to the president, then went head to head with a dragon. He sold nine years of tchotchkes at a yard sale, then raffled off his desk and fireplace for charity. And for his final show, he murdered death, declared himself immortal, sang a song with wildly diverse assortment of famous people before flying off into the heavens with fellow immortals:  Santa Claus, Abraham Lincoln and Alex Trebek.

No one will ever accuse Mr. Stephen Colbert of going gentle into that late night.

In the end, though, he didn't so much ring down the curtain on "The Colbert Report" -- Comedy Central's scathingly hilarious sendup of political posturing and the culture of uninformed narcissism --  as he finally, and most genially, pulled it aside.

After the sleigh ride and the mock-serious but still serious thank-yous, “The Colbert Report” ended as it began, with a clip of “The Daily Show.” Colbert, having used a tiny dinosaur head to proclaim his love for Jon Stewart, laughs and says to  “Please tell me that’s the toss and we’ve finished it.” As the cameras continue to roll, Stewart obligingly asks his producer, who says no. “All right,” Stewart says, “let’s go back into our funny characters.”

After years of feigning ignorance whenever an overzealous guest referenced his “character,” Stephen Colbert ended his remarkable, satirical and unprecendented one-man performance by formally acknowledging it was a performance.

Now we know “The Colbert Report” is over.

In truth, Colbert the character has been leaving us for weeks. Though he continued to deliver his signature rants and “reportage,” to tip the hat and wag the finger, Colbert the performer, and upcoming replacement for David Letterman on “The Late Show,” began to emerge.

When President Obama appeared as a guest last week, Colbert didn’t grill him; instead, he turned his desk (and, apparently, writing staff) over to the president, allowing him to give his own performance as “Stephen Colbert.”

Later that week,  Colbert not only uncharacteristically touted his equally uncharacteristic appearance on the cover of Entertainment Weekly, in an assortment of costumes from the “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies,” he conducted an interview with a CG-created, Benedict Cumberbatch-voiced vision of Smaug.

More recently, Colbert joked gently with Seth Rogen (who did not know yet that his film, “The Interview” would not be making it to theaters) and introduced rap star Kendrick Lamar with minimal scathing obliviousness.

See, he can do stuff that isn’t political. Because Stephen Colbert is not a politician, he’s a performer.

And one who, as we have been reminded occasionally over the years, can sing and dance. Indeed, the big finish of “The Colbert Report” finale, the one before the Santa scene and the Jon Stewart scene (OK, there were a lot of “final scenes,” kind of like the final films in those Tolkien trilogies), was a lovely rendition of “We’ll Meet Again” sung by many of “The Report’s” famous guests.

Like one of those crazy year-end poems in “The New Yorker,”  Barry Manilow shared the stage with Gloria Steinem, Ken Burns and Doris Kearns Goodwin, James Franco hummed along with Henry Kissinger, Cyndi Lauper, Big Bird, Tom Brokaw and the Cookie Monster. Mandy Patinkin was there and Bryan Cranston, singing along with Michael Stipe, Yo-Yo Ma, Mike Huckabee, George Lucas, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Katie Couric to name just a few.  Pussy Riot showed up on tape as did former President Bill Clinton.

The Cookie Monster, Pussy Riot and Bill Clinton, all reassuring Colbert, us and each other that “we’ll meet again.”

“The Colbert Report” is dead and truly, madly, deeply do we mourn. But this new fella, Stephen Colbert, he may be a little crazy but he seems nice enough and he can carry a tune; he should do just fine on “The Late Show.”

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