(Comedy Central)

Update: On Presidents’ Day, 1.4 million people watched Stephen Colbert return to his Comedy Central show after taking two days off unexpectedly to be with his 91 year old mother, according to sources, and to deal with “unforeseen circumstances” according to the network.

That’s actually about 130,000 fewer viewers than watched him the previous Monday night.

Original post: Stephen Colbert returned to his faux news desk Monday, Presidents’ Day, after shutting down the show for two days last week, plunging his network into information lockdown and his fans into mourning.

“Before we start the broadcast tonight, I just want to address my recent absence from the national conversation as the hub around which republic turns,” Colbert said at the top of Monday’s show.

“I can understand why the machinery of this great nation ground to a halt last week when you were denied this,” he said, pointing to himself. “Now I’m sure you felt the same way I do when I’m in room with no mirrors.”

Then he amusedly rattled off some of the rumors that had circulated since he shut down taping of his half-hour program last Wednesday and Thursday (the show does not tape on Fridays):

* Show was canceled by the FCC at the request of the Federal Election Commission because he was about to announce his presidential candidacy. (Wild applause from his studio audience)

* Show canceled because he offended the Catholic church when he compared the pope’s “hat” to a giant prophylactic.

* Colbert in rehab. “Always an attractive option — if they have that for diet Coke,” he said.

“Oh — one more thing. Evidently, having 11 children makes you tough as nails,” Colbert concluded — a reference to his 91-year-old mother, the comic being one of 11 children. Last week, journalists reported that Colbert had abruptly canceled two nights of the show in order to be with his ailing mother, though Comedy Central would only describe the situation as “unforeseen circumstances.”

Minus actual information last week, frantic fans had begun to speculate about the state of Colbert’s health, his family’s health, the mental health of his staff, his SuperPAC, his relationship with the network, and whether the show had been canceled, or he could have been booked for a last-minute trip to Afghanistan.

“The longer it takes to put out news on what’s happening the more scared we all get,” one concerned viewer wrote in the comments section of one Web press report on the sudden cancelation of taping, adding, “Really Hope everything is ok. Thinking positive thoughts.”

People holding tickets for Wednesday’s taping received an e-mail saying, “Due to unforeseen circumstances, we have cancelled our taping for the date of your ticket reservation, February 15, 2012.”

Those who had not checked their e-mails showed up at the studio and were turned away. Viewers who tuned in Wednesday or Thursday nights, expecting to see an original episode, saw reruns instead.

Colbert finally emerged Friday, long enough to thank his followers on Twitter: “My family and I would like to thank everyone who has offered their thoughts and prayers. We are grateful and touched by your concern,” he tweeted late last week — his first Twitter communication since Valentine’s Day.

It was the first time Colbert had scrapped a taping of his late night show since its 2005 unveiling. His companion show, Jon Stewart-hosted “The Daily Show,” has suspended production at the last minute on two occasions during Stewart’s tenure: once when one of his children was born and once when a staff member took his own life.