Stephen Colbert’s ‘Late Show’ Premiere: Fans Buzz Outside Ed Sullivan Theater

As if the fans weren’t amped up enough, “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” kept the caffeine flowing on Tuesday afternoon as street teams handed out bottles of iced coffee to fans lined up outside the Ed Sullivan Theater where Colbert will make his debut tonight as host of CBS’ top late-night franchise.

The street outside the theater at Broadway and 53rd Street was packed with TV news trucks — CNN’s Brian Stelter did an extended live shot around 1:30 p.m. ET — photographers, curiosity seekers and die-hard fans who bragged about scoring tickets to Colbert’s first show. For many, the anticipation began to build the day in April 2014 when Colbert was announced as the successor to David Letterman.

Maddie Norwood, an NYU student from North Carolina, was happy for a cold drink on the hot and humid afternoon. But she intends to keep the bottle of “Col Brew” intact as a memento. She’s been a fan of Colbert’s for years, and credits the humor he brought to skewering politicians on “The Colbert Report” for sparking her interest in majoring in politics.  On this afternoon, she waited around the corner on 52nd Street by the talent entrance in the hopes of snapping a picture of GOP presidential hopeful Jeb Bush, one of Colbert’s first guests.

“He’s the one who get me interested in politics because I watched (‘The Colbert Report’) every night,” she said. Norwood attended one of Colbert’s “Late Show” test shows last month and was not disappointed in his performance now that he’s dropped the guise of his bombastic conservative commentator. “It was really, really good,” Norwood said of the test show.

stephen colbert late show fan

(Pictured above: Maddie Norwood)

Chaya Reiss, of northern New Jersey, said she happened to be “on Twitter at the right time” to score tickets to tonight’s show via the CBS website. She’s listened to all of Colbert’s podcasts leading up to Tuesday’s launch. She was in line around 1 p.m. with two other friends for the taping scheduled for 5 p.m.

“I’ve always liked his comedy — he does such smart, sophisticated jokes,” Reiss said. “I loved him as the (Colbert) character so I think I’m really going to like him (being) himself.”

With the debut just hours away, activity around the theater was humming around the backstage area, where crews moved equipment and materials in and out — and weren’t shy about telling onlookers to make way. The entire team of pages and ushers are all new since the Letterman tenure. As the crowds ballooned, the pages tried to keep order, or at least orderly lines of ticket holders. The iced coffee was handed out from a truck parked in front of the theater, which had the added benefit of providing some shade as the temperature topped 90 degrees.

One veteran of the Letterman era on hand to watch the scene was Rupert Jee, proprietor of the Hello Deli around the corner from the theater. Jee said he had no idea if he would remain a semi-regular guest on “The Late Show,” as he was during Letterman’s 22-year reign. But he has met Colbert, whom he described as a “very, very nice man.”

And Jee has paid Colbert the ultimate tribute that a deli owner can offer: naming a sandwich after his new neighbor. The Colbert is a chicken cutlet with sweet peppers. He’d hoped to have Colbert “Late Show” T-shirts to sell alongside his ample supply on Letterman “Late Show” souvenirs, but they didn’t arrive in time.

“Hopefully by the end of the week,” Jee said as customers peppered him with questions about tonight’s premiere.

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