Stephen Colbert returned to The Colbert Report last night after a week away, listing some of the rumors he — “the hub around which the Republic turns” — heard about his absence. They included that he was canceled by the FCC at the request of the Federal Election Commission because he was about to announce his candidacy, and that his show was canceled because he offended the Catholic church when he compared the Pope’s “hat” to a giant prophylactic.But then he added, “Oh, one more thing. Evidently, having 11 children makes you tough as nails,” a reference to his 91-year-old mother, Lorna Colbert, who is reportedly ill. (Colbert is the youngest of 11.)

But Colbert then revved himself up to resume the show. “Are you ready to get these bastards?”

In a report about the sudden surge of Rick Santorum’s candidacy, he noted that he’d describe the Republican candidate as “coming from behind,” but “Rick is morally opposed to coming from behind.”

In a segment about his fondness for Donald Trump, Colbert made a quick aside, summarizing the new cast of Celebrity Apprentice: “Cheryl Tiegs, 63, still primo tail; Lou Ferrigno, original Hulk, greenest of all the Hulks, we miss you, Bill Bixby…Clay Aiken, voice of an angel.”

His guest was best-selling author Ann Patchett, who’s opened a bookstore in Nashville called Parnassus Books, after other book stores in her area had closed. “Haven’t we already had this battle?” asked Colbert. “In You’ve Got Mail? You’re Meg Ryan!”

It was very good to have him back. Sometimes I think he is at the very least the hub around which the Comedy Republic turns.

All best wishes to your mother, Mr. Colbert.

Twitter: @kentucker