The Kennedy Center announced Wednesday that Stephen Colbert will host the 37th annual Kennedy Center Honors Dec. 7. (Joel Hawksley for The Washington Post)

Stephen Colbert has been named host of the 37th annual Kennedy Center Honors, a gala celebration Dec. 7 that will spotlight singers Al Green and Sting, actor Tom Hanks, ballerina Patricia McBride and comedian Lily Tomlin, the arts center announced Wednesday.

Best known as the host and writer of Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report,” the comedian will succeed David Letterman as host of CBS’s “Late Show” next year. The Kennedy Center Honors will be recorded for a two-hour primetime broadcast by CBS Dec 30 at 9 p.m.

Colbert previously appeared in the Kennedy Center Honors in 2011, when he was part of the tribute to cellist Yo-Yo Ma. He is the author of several books, including “I Am America (And So Can You!) and “America Again: Re-Becoming the Greatness We Never Weren’t.”

Kennedy Center Honors co-producer George Stevens Jr. welcomed Colbert’s appearance.

“He is best in class and will no doubt undo any solemnity that might otherwise attend the occasion,” Stevens said in a statement.

Colbert will be the show’s seventh host. Leonard Bernstein hosted the first Honors celebration in 1978, followed by Eric Sevareid and Bevery Sills the following years. Walter Cronkite took over from 1981 to 2002, and Caroline Kennedy hosted 2003 until 2012. Glenn Close appeared last year.