Yuletide yuks

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All is almost nothing like Stephen Colbert's usual show, the late-night political-pundit-skewering farce The Colbert Report. But Colbert's stab at a seasonal special is just as absurd, so anyone who appreciates him for his style more than his substance should be just as tickled.

The comedian's yuletide tribute is a send-up of a different time in American entertainment, when celebrities of all stripes could come together for an uncomfortably earnest narrative full of sassy big-band jazz numbers and contemplative seasonal fare. You know, the sort of Andy Williams-style cornpone variety show where the host greets the viewers with a heartfelt, "Oh, hi there!"

This one finds Colbert in a remote cabin on Christmas Eve, preparing to head to New York to host a Christmas special with Elvis Costello. ("He's kind of like an older, male Avril Lavigne, but instead of skateboarding, he sings about people dying in shipyards.")

When a prowling bear traps Colbert inside his cabin, a series of stars show up to help him celebrate on the home front. Toby Keith, Willie Nelson, Jon Stewart, John Legend and Feist contribute to the ridiculousness.

Colbert has already proven himself a master satirist of current events. Turns out he can work wonders with nostalgia, too. A Colbert Christmas is a brilliantly stupid little hour of TV that warmly embraces the good old days, then keeps squeezing and squeezing until the good old days puke up their eggnog.

"A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All"

10 p.m. Sunday, Comedy Central

Grade: A-