Television

Stephen Colbert says goodbye to ‘The Colbert Report’

Colbert Nation, you didn’t need to fear the Reaper after all.
Andrew Harrer/Getty Images
Colbert Nation, you didn’t need to fear the Reaper after all.

Colbert Nation, you didn’t need to fear the Reaper after all.

Told the Grim Reaper would be Stephen Colbert’s guest on the final “Colbert Report” Thursday night, many assumed the smug, narcissistic, fact-phobic pundit would die. With Colbert heading to the “Late Show” next year, many expected that he’d permanently off his big-mouth political alter ego, and go from being “Stephen Colbert” to being Stephen Colbert forevermore.

The quotes would fall away to ash.

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But Colbert wound up accidentally shooting his pal Grimmy with his favorite handgun, thereby making himself Stephen Everlasting: “I just killed death,” he exclaimed.

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“That means I am immortal.” Does that also mean we could see Colbert’s “Stephen Colbert” on CBS in the future? That now certainly seems possible, especially since the showpiece of the finale was a singalong to a World War II era song called “We’ll Meet Again.” “I was gonna say goodbye,” Colbert said to the audience after a commercial, “but now that I’ll live forever, who knows?”

That singalong showpiece may have featured more famous people in the same room than ever seen before. And they were a wildly varied group, reflecting Colbert’s varied interests as well as the broad scope of his popularity. There were singers, actors, authors, politicians, rock stars, filmmakers, news anchors, and even Colbert’s first guest nine years ago — Stone Phillips, the TV anchor whom Colbert has cited as one of the inspirations for his own character.

Among the many faces: James Franco, Katie Couric, Ken Burns, Bryan Cranston, Cory Booker, Eliot Spitzer, Mandy Patinkin, Charlie Rose, Andy Cohen, Patrick Stewart, David Gregory, George Lucas, Bob Costas, Terry Gross, Alan Alda, Willie Nelson, Barry Manilow, Jeff Daniels, Michael Stipe, Jeff Tweedy, Henry Kissinger, and, of course, Jon Stewart. It was surreal to see the likes Arianna Huffington, Big Bird, and Robert Pinsky on the same stage. I’m guessing some ambitious fan has already scrutinized the crowd and written a list of all those who appeared. Was Papa Bear Bill O’Reilly in the house? I didn’t see him.

At the end of the song, the camera took us to the roof, where Colbert, holding his Captain America shield, met with Santa, Abe Lincoln, and, because he’s the man with all the answers, “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek. They all flew through the sky on Santa’s sleigh, with Colbert thanking everyone involved in the show, including his fictional wife, Lorraine.

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Overall, the finale was slight, particularly the Santa stuff, but satisfying enough. The singalong was fun in a who’s-who kind of way, and there were one or two almost sentimental moments that met the need for closure. “If I had to do it all again, if I could do it with you, I would do it the same,” Colbert said during The Word segment, while “Same To You, Pal” flashed on the screen.

What did you think? Did you expect more from the finale, after the “thinkerati,” as Colbert put it, spent the last week discussing Colbert’s importance?

Watch the singalong below:

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at gilbert@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.