Old School Americana & Nostalgia

People

Stephen Colbert Pays Emotional Tribute to Unlikely Friend Toby Keith on ‘The Late Show’

Stephen Colbert Pays Emotional Tribute to Unlikely Friend Toby Keith on ‘The Late Show’

On Tuesday night, Stephen Colbert of The Late Show delivered a heartfelt tribute to his friend, the late country singer Toby Keith. Keith passed away on Monday evening after a courageous and lengthy fight against stomach cancer. He was 62 years old. In the segment titled “Forever Grateful for Toby Keith,” the comedian and host shared a heartfelt story about his unexpected bond with the sometimes divisive country music icon.

“I was shocked and saddened when I saw the news,” Colbert said in the segment. “I knew Toby was ill, and he’d been fighting stomach cancer for some time. But I still had hope that we’d see each other again and that we would hear him on this stage because I was lucky enough to become friends with Toby over the years — as improbable as that seems,” the host added.

Stephen first met Toby Keith on his satirical Comedy Central series The Colbert Report, which ran from 2005-2014. Colbert admitted he had a preconceived notion of the country crooner based on his hit song “Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue (The Angry American).”

“Back then, there was a not-so-helpful legend that I had knives out for some of my guests, and it didn’t help that at the beginning I sometimes did. And I remember having some kind of plan for Toby, I think related to his boot-in-your-ass song,” the host revealed.

“But right before I went onstage, I remember vividly looking down at my shoes and saying, ‘What are you doing? You’re a host; he’s your guest. Make him feel welcome. See who he is.’ And what do you know: We hit it off like a house afire. I couldn’t believe how much I enjoyed talking to Toby Keith,” Stephen Colbert recalled.

Toby Keith Gifted His Buddy Stephen Colbert with a Custom Guitar

“Evidently, Toby had a good time, too,” Colbert recalled. “After the show, I was headed to a post-mortem meeting, and he was coming out of his green room. And those rooms are in the same hallway. And as he was heading for the door that goes out on the 54th street, he turned and caught my eye and said, ‘Hey, man. You do a great job: Whatever the f–k it is you do.’ I took that as the greatest compliment.”

Colbert expressed his admiration for Keith’s comment by having his head writer on The Colbert Report, Allison Silverman, stitch it onto a small throw pillow. The studio audience erupted in laughter and applause as Colbert unveiled the pillow, with the expletive blurred out.

“It has been in my office ever since,” Colbert revealed.

During a 2015 appearance on the newly launched The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Toby Keith bestowed a custom guitar upon the host as a gesture of well-wishing and congratulations for his new venture.

On Tuesday’s memorial segment, Colbert showcased the guitar. He mentioned that his son is now the one playing it.

“And I hope he’ll think of Toby when he does,” Colbert said.