Colbert will have a longtime crush on the show when he makes his debut on Sept. 8

By Lydia Price
Updated August 28, 2015 03:00 PM
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Stephen Colbert has a lot to look forward to.

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert debuts Sept. 8, and the new headliner of CBS’s late-night lineup has already booked an impressive guest list, including Amy Schumer, Scarlett Johansson, Jeb Bush and George Clooney.

But Colbert, who sat down with TIME for this week’s cover story, says he’s most excited to talk to a very special blast from his past for a segment called “Who Am Me.”

“My elementary school teacher, my favorite teacher from elementary school, is just so excited,” he tells TIME during his cover interview.

“I had such a crush on her. I’m going to talk to her. I haven’t seen her since 1974, but I can’t believe that they found her. She moved away when I was 10 and then she came back just recently, so they found her down in Charleston.”

“Who Am Me” will include interviews with old friends and romances from Colbert’s years growing up in South Carolina. It’s just one way that viewers will be introduced to a whole new side of the host, who was at the anchor seat of The Colbert Report for nearly a decade.

“On [the Report], there was a need not to let people in, not to see backstage,” he tells TIME. “My character couldn’t admit that it was a comedy show. We would edit any mistake I ever did, because part of the character was that he wasn’t a f—up. In this show, I don’t care what you see.”

Doubts that Colbert will be able to attract an audience without his beloved ultra-conservative alter ego are ironically reminiscent of his first time preparing to lead a show.

“They said, ‘You can’t do a nightly show in character – it won’t last until Christmas,’ ” Colbert recalls. “And now there’s a lot of ‘You can’t do the show not in character.’ Evidently nobody has any belief that I can do anything.”

But Colbert, who “talked shop” in the studio with David Letterman before the longtime host signed off in May, was ready to bring a new angle to his comedy after years on The Report.

“I still enjoyed it, but to model that behavior, you have to consume that behavior on a regular basis. It became very hard to watch punditry of any kind. And I wouldn’t want anyone to mistake my comedy for punditry itself,” he says about the “act of discipline” of performing on The Colbert Report.

During his time away from the cameras, Colbert had the chance to relax with his family.

“My daughter is in college, but I’ve got two boys at home. I helped my son go buy wood for his Eagle Scout project. Pick up the kids from school. Hang out with my wife. Go see some family. Went for an open ocean race, sailed,” he says about his break from TV.

The funnyman tells TIME he’s glad he had settled with his wife of 22 years, Evelyn McGee-Colbert, before he catapulted to fame on the Comedy Central series.

“I feel very lucky that I got this kind of gig as old as I was. I was 41 before anybody stopped me on the street, so I hope I had a sense of who I was,” he says.

“I was married; I had all my kids; I had my house, my little suburban lifestyle with my Volvo and my khakis going to the dry cleaners on a Saturday. That’s me. I’m boring – not boring – I’m common.”

“I happen to have this job that very few people have, but I’m very happy that I like khakis and an oxford cloth shirt. I like being boring to a certain extent. I don’t have to be flashy. I get to put all of that into a show, and when it’s over I don’t have to be that.”

RELATED VIDEO: Stephen Colbert, Julia Roberts Say Goodbye to David Letterman

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert

premieres Sept. 8 on CBS.