Friday, December 19, 2014

Holidaze Review: A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All! (2008)

Last night, Stephen Colbert ended his nine-year run on The Colbert Report, on which he played a caricature of a typical blowhard conservative political commentator—think the arrogance of Bill O’Reilly combined with the thickheaded jingoism of Sean Hannity.

But just imagine if you took that parody and stuck it into a parody of that time-honored tradition, the Christmas variety special. Why, that would be the satirical equivalent of a turducken!

Well, you don’t have to just imagine such a thing—you can just watch A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All!.

Colbert is at his mountain cabin, relaxing before going back to the city to record his Christmas special with Elvis Costello and the Jonas Brothers. He takes the time to pull on his winter gear and sing a Christmas song about Christmas songs (and how he’d like you to sing his Christmas song so he can collect royalties and feed his children) and is about to head out the door when a bear—actually, stock footage of a bear—appears and blocks his way.

Oh no! What will Stephen do?

Not much, really—he hangs out at the cabin while various guest stars (none of whom seem to have any problems getting past that bear) drop by to sing holiday tunes.

Toby Keith stops in to sing about the “War on Christmas” (a favorite yuletide theme for O’Reilly). Willie Nelson appears in Colbert’s Nativity scene as the fourth wise man; when Stephen asks what Willie’s doing in there, Nelson replies, “I’m so high, you’re hallucinating!” He then warbles about his herbal gift to the Baby Jesus (hint: it ain’t frankincense or myrrh). R&B singer (and apparent part-time forest ranger) John Legend plays piano while crooning a double entendre-laden tune about his favorite seasonal spice, nutmeg. Jon Stewart tries to sell Stephen on Hanukah with a none-too-convincing ditty. When Stephen tries praying for salvation (of his Christmas special), God put him on hold, with hold music provided by an angel who looks and sounds an awful lot like Feist.

And just when it looks like things may turn around and Stephen may be able to make his taping after all? The bear—actually, someone in a bear costume—shows up and eats one of his celebrity guests. The only person who can possibly sort this all out and show Colbert the true meaning of Christmas? Who else? Santa Claus (George Wendt)!

A Colbert Christmas pokes loads of fun with holiday variety shows, which were always kind of weird anyway. (So…Bing Crosby vacations at an English country estate, and David Bowie just happens to show up to sing with Bing? Really? And let’s not even get into The Star Wars Holiday Special, shall we?) There are also swipes at video Yule logs (at one point, Colbert attempts to throw chestnuts on his “open fire,” only to have them bounce off the flatscreen and clatter across the floor), commercialism (the DVD of A Colbert Christmas is available before the special is even over) and that moment in holiday rom-coms when couple just happen to be standing under mistletoe (in Colbert’s cabin, that mistletoe moves around to hang over any place where any two people happen to be standing).

Even if you aren’t familiar with the inherent clich├ęs of the holiday variety show format, though, A Colbert Christmas has plenty to offer, including several funny original songs sung by a group of popular recording artists (and, um, Jon Stewart) willing and able to make fun of themselves while still celebrating the holiday season.

The Colbert Report may be gone (though Colbert himself will be back next year when he replaces the retiring David Letterman), but we’ll always have A Colbert Christmas to warm our hearts…and to put royalties into Stephen Colbert’s pocket. (Seriously, those kids need to eat, y’know.)

No comments: