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Stephen Colbert Poured His Heart Out for The Daily Show Finale

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Jon Stewart got a handful of familiar visitors on his last episode hosting The Daily Show Thursday night, but the former cast member who had the most screen time, and the most genuine farewell, was Stephen Colbert.

Just as Stewart was preparing to turn to a commercial break, after receiving visits from a slew of former correspondents, the audience began chanting, “Stephen, Stephen, Stephen!” As Colbert sat across from the man who, in his own estimation, launched his career, Stewart pleaded that Colbert not go off script. But the upcoming CBS Late Show host launched into a heartfelt, honest thank you to the man who’s forever changed the face of the news.

“We owe you because we learned from you, we learned from you, by example, how to have a show with intention, how to work with clarity, how to treat people with respect,” Colbert said without a hint of his trademark goofiness. “You are infuriatingly good at your job, and all of us who were lucky enough to work with you for 16 years are better at our jobs because we got to watch you do yours, and we are better people for having known you.”

Colbert will have his biggest stage yet, in less than two months’ time, to put those lessons into practice.

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Write to Eliza Berman at eliza.berman@time.com