People Tell Me I Look Like Han Solo.
Friday, November 28, 2008
  DVD Review: A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All

I love The Colbert Report, and I’ve been a fan of Stephen Colbert since he was a Daily Show correspondent (his tête-à-têtes with fellow mock pundit Steve Carrell, “Even Steph/ven,” were pure genius). On rare occasions when I miss an episode of The Colbert Report (usually when my PVR acts up, which it does from time to time) I become irrationally angry. So when I heard about his hour-long holiday special, A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All, I was more than excited. But when I saw the list of performers – Toby Keith, Feist, Elvis Costello, John Legend and Willie Nelson – I realized they were all friends of the show, so I assumed the special was basically just a compilation of bits from their appearances on the Report. I’m happy to report that A Colbert Christmas is all fresh material, and it’s all goddamn brilliant.

Just like The Colbert Report is an ironic pundit show à la The O’Reilly Factor, A Colbert Christmas is an ironic Christmas special. It’s all set in a hilariously fake-looking cabin in which Colbert is trapped by a marauding bear outside (fans of the show are familiar with Colbert’s hatred of bears, which he calls “godless killing machines”), and each segment sees him visited by a different celebrity musician, who treats him to a song. They’re pretty much all amazing and hilarious, though John Legend really doesn’t seem have a knack for any performance that isn’t singing. The most game of the celebrities is easily Elvis Costello, who wears a different ridiculous costume in every other scene he appears in. Toby Keith (who turns up wielding an assault rifle) is also hilarious, and his hysterical song, about the “War on Christmas” O’Reilly and company love to go on about, is fantastically patriotic and over-the-top. There’s just something about combining Christmas cheer and threats of physical violence that I find endlessly amusing. Add to that Willie Nelson (as one of the wise men) crooning about having only good weed to offer at Jesus’ manger, and Feist as an angel who answers Stephen’s prayer to tell him that God will be right with him and his prayer will be answered in sequence, and you’ve got yourself a wonderfully off-kilter Christmas special.

Speaking as a huge Stephen Colbert fan, A Colbert Christmas very well may be, as its title suggests, the greatest gift of all.



The Colbert Christmas DVD has the main program available with or without an audience laugh track (I watched the show sans laugh track, which added to the hokey, old-fashioned Christmas-special vibe), but it’s cool that both versions are included. There’s also three increasingly ridiculous alternate endings, and a 25-day video advent calendar. I flouted his orders in the first bit and went ahead and watched all 25 in a row (I also ate all 25 chocolates in an actual advent calendar one year in my childhood; not one of my proudest moments), and they’re almost as funny as the material in the main program. Finally, in keeping with Colbert’s aggressively anti-intellectual stance, there’s a special video yule log of burning books. Can’t wait to set that one up on a loop this Christmas Day.

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