Colbert abandoned his usual faux-fear-mongering schtick at the top of the show to talk about his absence.
"Before we start the broadcast tonight I just want to address my recent absence from the national conversation, as the hub around which the republic turns," Colbert said. "I can understand why the machinery of this great nation ground to a halt last week when you were denied this. I'm sure you felt the same as I do when I'm in a room with no mirrors."
Colbert also cataloged the "wild rumors" about why he was gone.
"Some people said my show was canceled by the Federal Communications Commission at the request of the Federal Election Commission because I was about to announce my presidential candidacy," he said. "Others said I was canceled because I offended the Catholic church when I compared the pope's hat to a giant yet stylish prophylactic. Still others said I was in rehab--always an attractive option, if they have that for Diet Coke." Joan Rivers, Colbert noted, even accused him of taking time off to have plastic surgery.
The host never mentioned his mother directly, but alluded to what he called a "confidential to a special lady."
"Evidently having 11 children makes you tough as nails," he said, referring to his mother and his many brothers and sisters.
Comedy Central abruptly canceled last Wednesday's taping, alerting audience members with tickets to the late afternoon production in an email. "Due to unforeseen circumstances, the show will air repeat episodes on Wednesday, February 15 and Thursday, February 16," a spokesman for the network said at the time.
It was later reported that Colbert had a family emergency.
Watch the full clip of Colbert's return below:
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