On his very first Christmas special, A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All, comedian Stephen Colbert manages something very difficult: he makes a parody of cheesy Christmas specials that still manages to be entertaining and funny.
That may sound easier than it actually is. Think about it; most times, when parodying something outdated or "bad," comedians stick too closely to the source. They're so intent on recreating the badness that the parody becomes unwatchable itself. Either that, or they throw faithfulness out the window and just do their own thing. But A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All (which is a cumbersome title) manages to do both things simultaneously. That Stephen Colbert sure can multitask.
Colbert and Bear Bear
The premise of the special is simple: Colbert is hanging out in his mountain lodge, talking about how much he loves Christmas and can't wait to get back to New York to tape his Christmas special. When he tries to leave, he finds himself face to face with an enormous grizzly bear right outside his front door. He spends the rest of the special trapped inside, wondering how to salvage his holiday -- and gets some help from several very special visitors.
A Christmas Musical
Each of the guests dropping by does a song with Colbert, and it's the songs that make up the majority of A Colbert Christmas' running time. Here's a rundown of the guests and songs performed:
- First, Stephen sings "Another Christmas Song" alone in his cabin. It gets the show off to an energetic start, but isn't the best in the bunch.
- Country star Toby Keith drops by mid-hunt to perform "Have I Got a Present For You," a song about the "war on Christmas." I have to think that Keith is in on the joke and is being every bit as ironic as Colbert, but somewhere inside I still have lingering doubts.
- Willie Nelson and Colbert sing "The Little Dealer Boy," a number about Nelson's favorite subject (besides tax evasion).
- Daily Show host Jon Stewart shows up to duet with Colbert on "Can I Interest You in Hannukah?" This is one of the special's best songs, mostly because watching Stewart and Colbert interact is always funny (they always seem on the verge of laughing).
- R&B singer John Legend performs "Nutmeg," one of the prettiest dirty songs I've ever heard. Another highlight.
- Feist appears as an angel to sing the equally pretty "Please Be Patient."
- Everyone -- including Elvis Costello -- performs "(What's So Funny 'bout) Peace, Love and Understanding."
- Costello and Colbert close out the special with a duet on "There Are Much Worse Things to Believe."
Nearly all of the songs are funny -- though more in a "hey, that's really clever" than a laugh-out-loud way. It helps that they're all pretty catchy, too (they were written by Fountains of Wayne's Adam Schlesinger, so you knew they would be). And maybe I'm crazy, but I found myself genuinely moved by the group sing-along to "Peace, Love and Understanding." Suddenly, A Colbert Christmas had a soul. It became more than just a goof to me.
All in all, though, it's pretty goofy. I think Colbert is one of the funniest guys on TV right now, so this special is right up my alley. There's little chance of A Colbert Christmas becoming a "watch every year" classic, but as far as comedic attempts at Christmas specials go, it's entertaining and funny enough to warrant a recommendation.
A Colbert Christmas had its premiere on Comedy Central, but arrived on DVD just two days later. The DVD boasts a handful of funny bonus features, including a video yule log complete with burning books (the loop lasts about 15 minutes) and a video advent calendar with a different message from Colbert for each day in December.
Also included are a few alternate endings, only one of which (a funny Twilight Zone spoof starring Jon Stewart) is really good, and a deleted song, the country ditty "Cold Cold Christmas," performed by Colbert solo.
Original Air Date: November 23, 2008
- Release Date: November 25, 2008
- Running Time: 43 minutes
- 1.33:1 Full Frame Presentation
- Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
DVD Bonus Features
- "Burning Book" Video Yule Log
- 25-day Video Advent Calendar
- Three Alternate Endings
- Deleted Song: "Cold, Cold Christmas