June 10, 2008: His interview of big-cat conservationist Alan Rabinowitz in 2008 starts off heart-warming, and edges towards Tear Jerker territory:
Alan: I'm a stutterer. And, as you know, there are only two things a stutterer can do without stuttering: sing, and talk to animals. And I was never much of a singer. So every day I'd come home from school, where everyone called me stupid, and I would pour my heart out to these animals. So as a kid, I made a promise to animals. I swore to them that if I ever found my voice and could control my stuttering, that I would use my voice to help them.
Stephen: Are you TRYING to make me cry?
The end of the 2010 Christmas special, A Colbert Christmas. "There are much worse things to believe in."
October 17, 2011: Stephen's entire interview with Harry Belafonte, rich with some good hearty humor. Especially when Stephen shyly asks if Belafonte still sings, to which he responds in a voice that has noticeably worn a little bit: "Occasionally..." Beat. Everyone smiles as Stephen starts singing one of Belafonte's signatures "Jamaican Farewell", to which Belafonte begins to sing along. Hearts immediately melted.
January 23, 2012: His interview with Maurice Sendak. A few months later Sendak died and The Colbert Report showed another part of the interview, in which he talked about one of his books, Higglety Pigglety Pop. Sendak and Colbert cracked very few jokes during this part, and Sendak stated his philosophy on trying not to turn children away from the fact that the world is very harsh.
Similarly to the above, his April 24, 2012 interview with Julie Andrews ends with the two of them singing "Accentuate the Positive". After she'd turned him down several times throughout the interview when he asked her if she wanted to sing together.
June 4, 2012: Congressman John Lewis, one of the leaders of the American Civil Rights Movement, spoke eloquently through most of the interview, and though Colbert cracked a couple of jokes his heart was obviously somewhere else. Martin Luther King, Bloody Sundaynote not to be confused with the Ireland 1972 massacre and hope for tomorrow. You don't know whether to cheer or cry.
Because we all live in the same house, and we must all learn to live together or we will perish as fools.
August 31, 2012: His interview with Clint Eastwood's Chair after the infamous scene at the 2012 RNC. Though played for laughs, Stephen unwittingly acknowledging Obama's accomplishments and the need for hope ending with Stephen leading the audience in a chant of "YES WE CAN" feels so very heartwarming.
November 27, 2012: Singing "Love is like a butterfly" with Dolly Parton, Colbert was so flustered he made two false starts before finally nailing it.
"You're scared. He's just scared." "I am, I'm scared." "You calm down, now. We'll get through this thing."
The week of December 10, 2012: The whole Hobbit week and Stephen's nerdy joy over playing with his Lord of the Rings merchandise, pwning Ian McKellen in Tolkien trivia, over-gleefully thanking the stars for coming to his show etc. was very heartwarming to watch.
April 3, 2013: Stephen's rousing endorsement of his sister, Elizabeth Colbert-Busch, in her run for a senate seat. He uses it to springboard into a hilariously scathing criticism of her opponent, but you can tell how proud Stephen is of his big sis.
April 4, 2013: During his interview with Dr. Francis Collins from NIH after Obama's announcement of funding for brain research, Stephen tells him that the memory he would want constant access to is one of his mother bringing him tomato soup on a snow day.
April 16, 2013: The day after a bombing at the Boston Marathon in which 3 people (including an 8-year old boy) were killed and at least 28 others were injured, Stephen subverted his typical "Tonight!" opening speech by explaining how the people of Boston still remain strong through the tragedy.
Stephen is clearly a Mama's Boy; his various Shout Outs to her when her health was failing (and, ultimately, when she passed away in June 2013) were incredibly heartwarming.
August 15, 2013: A small Kentucky town made discriminating against gays illegal, which Colbert naturally railed against. But in the last part of the segment, a local gave a short speech about how he struggles to reconcile his religious beliefs with his moral ones. It's very sweet.
ďIf [God] is against it, why did he make 'em born that way? I canít understand that. Iíve tried and tried and tried to understand that. I just canít."
Another clip shows a local police officer saying that the town's (gay) mayor had been his best friend throughout four of his marriages and knew more about him then anyone else.
October 3, 2013: After Stephen found out that 24 weddings were canceled because of October 2013 Government Shutdown, he volunteered his show and his services as an Ordained Minister to a young couple in place of the spot (the Jefferson Memorial) they were going to use for their wedding. They were married right there on his show, with Mandy Patinkin singing the Shehecheyanu and Tony award-winner Audra McDonald performing "White Wedding" for the first dance.
November 6, 2013: Stephen welcomes the newest member of the Colbert Nation - the newborn son of his talent coordinator.
Stephen: He may not have anything to promote yet, but he already looks like a star.
Stephen: You may not know that through the movies he wrote or directed, he made your life better. Youíve been quoting his films and the things he wrote for years...Now, Iím not a comedian, but if I was, as a young bookish man with glasses looking for a role model, I might have picked Harold Ramis. Thank you, Harold.
April 10, 2014: Stephen salutes David Letterman as he discusses getting named his successor on The Late Show in 2015.
September 29, 2014: Stephen and Jamie Oliver bond with comfort foods from their childhoods, blueberry cobbler and sticky toffee pudding, respectively. The fact they give each other absurdly large portions also makes it a Funny Moment.
October 30, 2014: George Takei gives a stirring speech urging Americans to go out and vote during the midterm elections.
George: Stephen, democracy is a sacred trust. Yes, it's a messy business but the will of the people must not be abdicated to a machine. Only by engaging more deeply in the issues and voting your conscience can we hope to move beyond the eternal gridlock that threatens to destroy our society. No matter how bleak things may seem, you have the power to change them. Do your duty as an American, and as a citizen of the galaxy, vote.
November 17, 2014: Stephen buries his hatchet of hate towards bears, admits that he's wrong about them and proceeds to hug and kiss and have sex with a bear. Obviously it's not a literal living bear (just a guy in a bear suit), but it's so sweet to see a man surpass his fears and embraced the thing he used to hate.
November 20, 2014: Stephen's guest for the night? Jon Stewart. It's as funny and sweet as you'd guess, especially the end. Stephen expresses how happy he is to have Jon on his show and they hug and kiss.note On the cheek, on the cheek.
December 11, 2014: Not only is Smaug's interview awesome, funny and a technical triumph, but consider how much hard work went into it. It's Peter Jackson and WETA's tribute to Colbert for being such a huge Tolkein fan.
December 18, 2014: The final show. Pretty much all of it, but particularly when Stephen starts to sing "We'll Meet Again"... and is joined first by Jon Stewart, then an enormous crowd of famous guests, living legends, American soldiers abroad, the audience, and the crew.
And at the very, very end... he tosses back to Jon on the Daily Show set, who simply says, "Thanks for that report, Stephen."