Hosting RTÉ's The Late Late Show is "truly the honour of a lifetime", Patrick Kielty has said in an emotional opening to his debut.
Welling up in RTÉ's studio 4, he said his family will be "watching the show from County Down" and further afield.
Earlier, he said the show would have an all-Ireland flavour as a by-product of his Northern Ireland upbringing.
The comedian and entertainer becomes the fourth permanent presenter of the world's longest-running live chat show.
The show is an Irish institution, having started only months after the 1962 launch of Irish TV.
Kielty started out at a Belfast comedy club and has presented Love Island, This Morning and BBC Radio 4's The News Quiz as well as other comedy and theatre shows. He is married to presenter Cat Deeley.
He has had to wait several months for his debut, with the announcement that he was to become the new presenter having been made in May.
Among the guests on opening night were former Irish President Mary McAleese, Republic of Ireland footballer James McClean and comedian Tommy Tiernan.
Speaking to BBC News NI's Declan Harvey this week, the County Down man said hosting the programme and being from Northern Ireland made him "the all-Ireland dynamic".
He is returning to a show on which he performed one of his first televised comedy sets as a young stand-up.
Kielty said he was now much a "lot more comfortable in my skin" about taking on more serious matters about life on the island and its people.
"I am much more at ease going from comedy to something more serious and talking about who I am and what I believe in," he said.
"The documentaries I've made were really an eye-opener to me in terms of who we are as a people.
"That idea of Northern Ireland, the north, the south... it's a really familiar, binary thing - I feel much more fluid about it.
"The brilliant thing about the Late Late Show is that it's always been a place where people can come on and discuss different things - that's really what interested me in doing the show.
"There are a lot of different identities on this island and it's about reflecting all of those."
"There is a responsibility that people are looking to you in terms of what you say about different things," he explained.
"Yet at the same time I think you have to be who you are and at the heart of that is somebody who likes a laugh and tells a joke."
Jokes at RTÉ's expense
He takes up his new role in the wake of a major crisis at Irish national broadcaster RTÉ, sparked by a scandal over the pay of The Late Late Show's previous presenter Ryan Tubridy.
In the show's debut, Kielty took many opportunities to crack a joke about recent events saying it was nice to have the show on "after the news".
He said he expected a lot of people to view the programme.
"Based on the latest figures for TV licence payments we're expecting an audience of up to 27 people tuning in tonight," he joked.
Speaking about the programme's relaunch, the Dundrum man explained they pulled out all the stops.
"We also have our shiny new set - no expense spared, or, if you're the host, no expenses spared."
In his BBC News NI interview, Kielty said he did not view the relaunch of the programme as part of the recovery plan for RTÉ.
"I see it as the biggest show on Irish TV on a Friday night that I'm lucky enough to host - I think anything else is a by-product," he said.
The 52-year-old already has experience as a TV chat show host, having presented Patrick Kielty Almost Live on BBC One Northern Ireland in the late-1990s and early-2000s.
Asked about what he had learned from that time, he said: "It taught me to not believe you're in control of everything - and anything can happen."
As for his pre-show preparation?
"Some stretches in the dressing room as if I'm going out to play and game of football, even though I'm going to sit on a chair!"