Pickled: Everything to Know About the Stephen Colbert-Hosted Special

Any guesses as to the fastest-growing sport in the United States? If you said anything but pickleball, you’d be wrong. A 2022 report from the Sports & Fitness Industry Association estimates there are around 4.8 million pickleball players in the United States as of 2022. The simplicity of the game, accessibility for all ages, and inexpensiveness of supplies are the primary factors driving its rising popularity. Techniques of other court-based games, such as tennis and badminton, can easily be transferred to pickleball as well.

With the growing popularity, it makes sense that networks would do what they love to do. That is, select a group of celebrities to participate in “the next big thing” in order to earn money for their favorite charities. That’s where Stephen Colbert’s Pickled comes in. Produced for CBS and Paramount+, the special will reportedly see The Late Show host Colbert emcee a charity pickleball tournament featuring 16 celebrities, most of whom have no experience whatsoever with athletics.


If there’s one thing American television audiences love, it’s putting celebrities in unfamiliar situations with hilarious results. Look at the numerous “celebrity” versions of game shows that have popped up in recent years. One could even go as far back as the ’70s with the iconic Battle of the Network Stars.

So, how is this tournament going to work? Who are the celebrities that we can expect to see competing? When will the star-studded special air on CBS and Paramount+? And what else should audiences know about CBS’ Pickled?

Pickled: The Format


Let’s start with the format. How exactly is this game going to be played? The tournament will be played in a two-hour primetime format, where 16 celebrities compete for the coveted Colbert Cup. While the exact specifics of gameplay are still unknown, we can assume that the winner or winners of each match will advance until there is one celebrity left standing. Pickleball can be played as singles or doubles, so perhaps we could see some celebrity partnerships.

Added Colbert of the event’s benefits:

If you love pickleball and you love celebrities and you love helping people, you’re going to love watching these celebrities help people by playing pickleball.”

Producing alongside Colbert and CBS is Funny or Die. Of their involvement in the special, it added:

“Funny Or Die is so proud to produce PICKLED. Along with Stephen Colbert, CBS and our celebrity players, we all came together for two great causes: to support Comic Relief US and to add more articles about Pickleball to everyone’s newsfeed.”

Proceeds from the tournament will benefit the nonprofit Comic Relief US, which seeks to end poverty in the United States. Comic Relief US said of their partnership:

“Comic Relief US is thrilled to be a part of this special entertainment event to support the millions of children and families living in poverty. Thank you to the amazing Stephen Colbert, Spartina, CBS, Funny Or Die and all of our celebrity friends who will now get to play Pickleball for a good cause!”

Claussen Pickles, a brand of Kraft Heinz Company, will handle the official halftime show. The Claussen Crunch Time-Halftime Show will see officials offer commentary and review highlights from the first half. Of course, pickles will be provided to the audience in attendance. Oofos Active Recovery Footwear will provide a lounge courtside where the players can rest and recharge after their matches.

Exact details of how the matches will be played will likely follow in the weeks leading up to the premiere.

Pickled: The Celebrities

Sony Pictures Entertainment

Now that we have an idea behind the basis for the tournament, which stars can we expect to see playing the game for Comic Relief US? First, Colbert will serve as host and emcee. As an added bonus for fans, he will also perform the National Anthem as a duet with Kenny Loggins. Basketball analyst Bill Raftery, SportsCenter’s Cari Champion, and comedian John Michael Higgins are on hand as announcers and color commentators.

Taking the court are rising country star Jimmie Allen, The Last of Us’ Murray Bartlett, country singer Dierks Bentley, actor Jaime Camil, comedian Will Ferrell, The Neighborhood’s Max Greenfield, actor Luis Guzman, The Amazing Race host Phil Keoghan, actor Daniel Dae Kim, boxer Sugar Ray Leonard, comic and writer Tig Notaro, Grace and Frankie’s June Diane Raphael, singer Kelly Rowland, comedian Paul Scheer, Whose Line Is It Anyway? host Aisha Tyler, and actress Emma Watson.

These 16 stars will compete for Comic Relief US and the prestigious Colbert Cup. We can expect to learn more, such as potential partnerships or matchups, as we approach the release date.

How and When to Watch

Pickled is set to air on CBS on Thursday, November 17, from 9 to 11 pm. CBS likely chose that slot as it directly follows their two highly-rated comedies Young Sheldon and Ghosts, giving the tournament the biggest possible sampling. At the same time, it will be available to stream live on Paramount+.