Last night, Stephen Colbert ended his incredible nine-year run as host of The Colbert Report, airing his final episode. In the show’s last-ever segment, Colbert brought a vast and head-spinning array of celebrity guests to the stage, and they all teamed up to sing the 1939 standard “We’ll Meet Again.” (It’s the same song that ended another work of great American satire, Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove.) There were plenty of musical figures up there with Jon Stewart and Big Bird and Tom Brokaw and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Eliot Spitzer: Michael Stipe, Jeff Tweedy, Randy Newman, Willie Nelson, Cyndi Lauper, Ric Ocasek, Peter Frampton, Barry Manilow, Pussy Riot, Toby Keith. But “We’ll Meet Again” wasn’t the show’s final moment.
Instead, as Colbert signed off and the closing credits ran, we heard something other than the usual Colbert Report theme music. The song that played was Neutral Milk’s In The Aeroplane Over The Sea song “Holland 1945.” As Slate points out, it’s a song that has great meaning to Colbert (the person, rather than the character we’ve been watching). When Colbert was 10, his father and two of his brothers died in a plane crash. And “Holland 1945,” with its lyrics about trying to make sense in the wake of family tragedy, have always lingered with Colbert. That’s the way he chose to end his show.
Below, watch the all-star “We’ll Meet Again” singalong.
You can also see the full show, with “Holland 1945,” at the Colbert Report site.