He's Back! Stephen Colbert Reveals Reason for TV Hiatus... Sort Of

After mysteriously canceling tapings of The Colbert Report last week, the host returns -- and addresses rumors about his absence

Turns out Stephen Colbert didn't suspend his show for a stint in rehab. Or to get an eye lift. Or even to run for president.

After mysteriously canceling two tapings last week, he returned to The Colbert Report (Comedy Central, weeknights, 11:30 p.m. ET) Monday night and explained himself… sort of. (Watch the full episode below.)

"Before we start the broadcast tonight, I just want to address my recent absence from the national conversation," he said. "As the hub around which the republic turns, I can understand why the machinery of this great nation ground to a halt last week when you were denied this," he said, gesturing to his face.

Then he poked fun at the wild speculation about his absence, including the theory that his show got canceled by the FCC, at the request of the Federal Election Commission, because of his intention to run for president. Also, that maybe he'd offended Pope Benedict XVI with a joke comparing his hat to a giant condom.

Reports surfaced last week that Colbert had canceled Wednesday and Thursday tapings of his show in order to be with his ailing,91-year-old mother, Lorna. Then the comedian indirectly confirmed the speculation with this Feb. 17 tweet: "My family and I would like to thank everyone who has offered their thoughts and prayers. We are grateful and touched by your concern."

After having his fun with the silly rumors that his absence had inspired, Colbert added a remark that was clearly directed at Lorna. "Oh, one more thing. Evidently, having 11 children makes you tough as nails," he said. "Confidential to a lovely lady."

His discretion seems unusual in today's media climate, where people both famous and not seem to clamor for the chance to expose their personal lives on reality and talk shows. Let's face it: We know way too much about scores of celebrities. That makes Colbert's protection of his mother's privacy seem all the more touching.

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