His rating - nearly seven million viewers - was double the number of viewers of his alleged biggest competitor, Jimmy Fallon, Jay Leno's successor. Together with Fallon, Colbert officially became the greatest talk show host in America on Tuesday night. His guests included famous names from the premier league, George Clooney and Jeb Bush, and the reviews were mostly positive.
The show, which was longer than usual, also included a series of skits in which he joked about his move from cable channel Comedy Central to the heart of the mainstream. In one of the segments, he showed his viewers an "ancient cursed amulet" which he said was forcing him to make "certain regrettable compromises" and plug brands' products.
"The amulet commands me to inform you of the delicious taste of tonight’s sponsor, Sabra roasted red pepper hummus," he said. "It’s made from simple, fresh ingredients that bring people together one bite at a time.” He later also "scooped" the chickpea paste in front of the camera.
Sabra is a US-based company co-owned by Israeli food manufacturer Strauss and he multinational PepsiCo corporation. Together, they have been working to introduce hummus to every household in America. Sabra was one of the sponsors of last year's Super Bowl and its commercials were aired during the most watched sports event in America.
Television critics didn't like the fact that Colbert "sold himself" too fast, although he did it with a great amount of humor. His comedic hummus ad particularly angered the BDS movement, which has been working to remove Sabra hummus from American universities' cafeterias. BDS supporters responded with furious tweets, accusing Colbert of cooperating with a product from the "Israeli occupation."
Sabra officials were naturally pleased with the publicity. "It's a great honor for us that Stephen Colbert invited us to participate in his debut show," said Sabra CEO Shali Shalit-Shoval. "Although they didn’t do it for free, he and his people could have turned to any other American company and they still chose us."
"This is the third time that Colbert, a famous hummus fan, cooperates with us," she added. "When he had a cable show on Comedy Central, he spoke twice about the hummus conquering America and showed our product. This isn't the first show in which products are presented in exchange for a sponsorship paid by the manufacturer.
"Sabra is today the leading hummus product in America with a 60 percent market share. We have been active in the United States since 2007, and hummus has become a fashionable product which matches the American dipping culture. We should remember, however, that Sabra is considered an American company in the US because PepsiCo owns 50% of it. Strauss owns the other half."