Earlier this week, CBS announced that Steven Colbert, of "The Colbert Report," will take over the "Late Show" when David Letterman retires in 2015.

Colbert has hosted his own political news program since 2005, adopting the unforgettable character of an idiotic, conservative political pundit. In his new gig, he will leave his fictional persona behind.

Although many fans don't know what to expect, Colbert has proved himself as a smart and hilarious guy ever since growing up the youngest of 11 children in a Southern Catholic family.

The youngest of 11 children, Stephen Colbert was born in Washington, D.C., on May 13, 1964.

Growing up in Charleston, S.C., his interest in acting was sparked by parts in several school plays.

Source: Biography

It helped that he grew up in a home full of singing and dancing. His actress mother, Lorna, taught him how to do stage falls by pretending to faint on the kitchen floor.

Source: The Colbert Report

In 1974, when Stephen was 10, his father and two brothers (pictured) perished in a plane crash.

Source: Oprah

"For years ... that loss was my name," he told Oprah. "That was my secret name, the loss of my father (pictured) and brothers." He didn't fully process their deaths until he went to college.

Source: Oprah

Colbert started his secondary education as a philosophy major at Hampden-Sydney College of Virginia, but the allure of acting caused him to transfer.

Source: IGN

He decided on Northwestern University, where he studied theater and trained day and night for a career as an actor.

Source: IGN

Moving to Chicago allowed Colbert to reinvent himself. No one knew him. He started by pronouncing his last name with a silent 'T.' His father had actually always wanted to say it that way but "lacked the pretentious gene I have," Colbert told Charlie Rose in an interview.

Source: Charlie Rose interview

After graduating in 1986, Colbert took a job in the offices of the Second City improv group in Chicago. After two years, he was performing for the famed troupe.

Source: Biography

While traveling with Second City, Colbert met Amy Sedaris, and the two created a Comedy Central sketch show called "Strangers With Candy," which poked fun at after-school specials.

Source: Biography

Colbert then worked as a cast member and writer for "The Dana Carvey Show" and freelanced as a writer on "Saturday Night Live."

Source: IGN

Colbert served as half of the "Ambiguously Gay Duo," which started on "The Dana Carvey Show," and then transferred to SNL. The other half was Steve Carell, still one of Colbert's close friends.

Source: IGN

Seeking more exposure and money, Colbert took a job as a correspondent for ABC's "Good Morning America." Only one of his segments actually aired.

Source: ABC

While a correspondent with GMA in 1997, Colbert's agent, Mike August, introduced him to Madeline Smithberg from "The Daily Show." "It was a complete happy accident for me," Colbert told his co-stars below.

Source: The Paley Center for Media

Colbert actually started when Craig Kilborn was the host. Until Jon Stewart took over in 1999, other cast members called Colbert the "new guy."

Source: IGN

Colbert's faux person really took off with Stewart. In skits, he acted like a clueless news reporter, and the fans loved him.

Source: Oprah

"The Daily Show" actually ran fake promos for "The Colbert Report" before it even existed. "People kept calling up and saying, 'When's that show gonna start? I wanna watch that show,'" Colbert told Oprah. After that, he and Stewart thought, 'Why not?'

Source: Oprah

The first episode of "The Colbert Report" aired on Oct. 17, 2005. By then, the beloved host had perfected his act as a conservative political pundit. And that's exactly how he covered the news.

Colbert has credited Bill O'Reilly for inspiring the character, calling him "Papa Bear." O'Reilly goes along with the joke, and has even brought Colbert onto the "O'Reilly Factor" for an interview.

Colbert coined the term "truthiness" on the show. Truthiness happens when someone makes an argument, not based on facts, but from their gut because it "feels right." In 2006, Merriam-Webster named it the word of the year.

Source: Merriam-Webster

Even outside the show, Colbert became involved in politics. He performed as a guest at the 2006 White House Correspondents' Dinner, where he delivered a blistering tribute to his character's hero, George Bush. "We're not so different," Colbert said. "We get both 'get it.' Guys like us, we're not brainiacs on the nerd patrol. We're not members of the Factonista."

Source: C-SPAN

In 2007, Colbert published his first book, a satirical piece called "I Am America (And So Can You!)." It quickly became a New York Times best-seller for non-fiction.

In 2008, Colbert announced his plans to run for president on both the Republican and Democratic platforms. He later campaigned in real life for the Democratic ticket in his native state of South Carolina, but the party refused him admission on grounds of seriousness.

Source: Associated Press, The State, Marvel

In 2013, Colbert won his second Emmy for his writing on "The Colbert Report." In total, he has won 7 Primetime Emmys.

All of these accomplishments contributed to Colbert's succession as the next host of the "Late Show," when David Letterman retires in 2015.

Then, we'll see a new side of Colbert. "I won't be doing the new show in character, so we'll all get to find out how much of him was me. I'm looking forward to it," he said in a statement.

Now that you know how Stephen Colbert rose to the highest ranks in late-night ...

Here's how John Oliver went from "Daily Show" correspondent to hosting his own HBO show »

See Also:

Why Stephen Colbert’s Move To CBS Shouldn’t Be A SurpriseHere's Why Stephen Colbert Pronounces His Last Name With A Silent 'T'Jon Stewart Supports Colbert As 'Late Show' Host: 'He's Got A Lot More He Can Show'