STUDIO: Comedy Central
MSRP: $19.99
RATED: Not rated
RUNNING TIME: 43 minutes
• Book-burning video Yule log
• Video advent calendar
• Alternate endings
• Bonus song: “Cold, Cold Christmas”

The Pitch

Stephen Colbert is in a house, and guests come and go; they sing songs, tell jokes, and infuse our lives with the spirit of the season.

The Humans

Stephen Colbert. Jon Stewart. Toby Keith. Willie Nelson. Feist. John Legend. George Wendt. Elvis Costello.

We knew Reeves’ cast would skew older for the remake, but this is ridiculous.

The Nutshell

There’s some kind of story about a cabin in the woods and getting to some other place in time to do some Christmas thing, but the show knows that doesn’t matter. The objective is to be musical and to be funny, which Colbert lays out in his intro and opening song. These represent the rest of the show in microcosm, in the sense that they’re full of okay music and obvious jokes, but that they turn out entertaining anyway because of the Colbert style and personality we all know and love.

“Stephen, what should I do? And don’t say—”
“Come on, show a little forbearance, Elvis. I wouldn’t make the obvious puns.”

The Lowdown

Friend of the show Toby Keith is the first guest to step on set, and his song is not funny. Actually, it’s worse than that; there’s an uncomfortable feeling you get when you realize that he’s singing words he didn’t write, words that seemingly make fun of him more than he realizes. I know Keith is supposed to be a reasonable guy outside of his CMT persona, but here he seems lost as to just how in on the joke he is or should be.

Fortunately, every one of the others is good. Feist and John Legend bring their vocal talents to the show’s simple, jokey tunes, and Jon Stewart can’t sing at all, but that’s part of the charm. Possibly all of the charm.

Elvis Costello and Willie Nelson make up the two standouts, and that second one is a big surprise. You would think that “this guy likes weed” stopped being a base for humor decades ago, but no; Colbert’s writers put together a funny song, and Nelson delivered it well. As for Costello, he’s just as cool as you would imagine, and the show knows how to use him in the non-singing bits.

One problem, though, is that the songs all feel the same. They are, of course, all written by the same guys, but there still could have been some variety, more than one rhyme scheme, etc. And the jokes and dialogue take the simplest tack imaginable – Nelson smokes, Stewart is Jewish, Feist is a girl – so that they are just reciting Colbert-style jokes on large topics, instead of getting to really display their unique personalities.

But I’m being too hard on A Colbert Christmas. The show tries and succeeds at being a watchable, amusing 43 minutes of song and dance and ways of getting to the next song. Most of the guests are fun, most of the jokes are funny, and most importantly, nothing with Stephen Colbert onscreen the whole time can be bad. Actually, what I liked best was the non-comedic stuff: the two songs at the end of the special, and “Cold, Cold Winter” in the special features. Our host is talented at more than just being silly.

When Feist asked Jon to bring a family film, she wasn’t thinking of Doogal.

The Package

We all saw this special on TV, and I’m sure it’ll be rerun there, if not posted on Colbert’s website outright, so I can only think of two reasons to pay money for it: either the special features make it worth the cost, or the DVD functions as a good, easy gift.

The extras are more varied and plentiful than you’d think, and as funny as the special itself. If you like Colbert, you’ll chuckle at the jokes, and then forget about them as soon as the DVD is back in the package. These extras are watchable, for sure, but not worth the twenty bucks.

Mr. Keith was simply confused, although I guess someone has to guard our border to the north.

The first and best feature allows you to watch the special without its terrible “live audience” laugh track. In fact, that’s the default. Which is awesome. Then there’s a “book-burning video Yule log,” a standard video of a crackling fire, which here is slowly fueled by someone’s library. It’s funnier than you might think, but it’s a Yule log video. Each alternate ending and each entry in the advent calendar contains one little Colbert joke, just like any bit from the Report. Not one of them really makes a false step or dips in quality; however, each is just an iota of silliness, well done but devilishly forgettable.

I’m sure this disc would indeed work well as gift, and from the subtitle, the cover image, and the way they treat the disc within the… disc, you can tell this is what they have in mind. Well, fine, if you have to buy a gift for someone you don’t know well, this’ll be perfectly acceptable. Everybody likes Colbert, and everybody likes DVDs. It’s hard for me to score this, because if you like Colbert, then by now you know that fact and you’ll pretty much know exactly how much amusement you’ll get out of this disc.

7.5 out of 10