10 guests who went toe-to-toe with Stephen on ‘Colbert Report’

Stephen Colbert hasn't been just formidable as an interviewer on Comedy Central's “The Colbert Report,” he has been altogether intimidating as a host.

His conservative pundit persona allowed for his line of questioning to guests in a skit or an interview to be more extreme and pressing, and for his follow-ups to either make fun of the subject or make fun of himself.

It's a style and experience that will obviously serve Colbert well at his next gig — behind the desk at “The Late Show…” — but the length of “Colbert” plus the host's ability to transition between parody comedy to a sincere interrogation always kept the show's guests on their toes, even when their bits were scripted. The “Report” frequently featured its host singing and dancing, and on a metaphorical level, all the guest could (or had to) do was keep up.

With “The Colbert Report” coming to a close tonight (Dec. 18), we decided to highlight some of these moments when Stephen Colbert's guests stepped to their host and came out alive. Experts like Joan Rivers and Amy Sedaris floated through improvisation and script; artists like Maurice Sendak and Feist just had to be themselves; Jeff Goldblum and Bryan Cranston had to saddle (and lace) up and play it straight; and guests like Jane Fonda, Mandy Patinkin and — yup — even Smaug the Dragon sometimes took Colbert by his literal ears out of his ring and into theirs.

Think of it as a survival guide, for those who may sit opposite of Stephen Colbert at “Late Show” starting next September. Sometimes you gotta roll with him, bat it back with intellect or come over-prepared for the potential future Colbert bump. It's rare to out-funny him.