I’m as big of a fan of The Daily Show as the next guy, but even I didn’t think The Colbert Report would have become the juggernaut that it has. Colbert was always my favorite of vThe Daily Show correspondents and I was elated when he got his own show, but I somehow didn’t picture the show being able to retain its funniness after Colbert ran through his shtick five or six times. So I kept watching the show, continuing to laugh at it and fully expecting to, one day, say to myself “All right, that’s it. He peaked.” It’s been three years now since The Colbert Report debuted and I’m still waiting for that day to arrive. I’m beginning to think it never will. Further proof of Colbert’s resistance to stopping is his new Christmas special. Yes, that’s right. A fake news show has a Christmas special. And it’s mostly a musical.
Hark! The Herald Pundit Sings! America’s favorite Christmas tradition is now on DVD! Families have gathered around the TV to enjoy Stephen Colbert’s Christmas specials every year since 2008. Now, you can experience the joy over and over! Join Stephen and his friends Toby Keith, Elvis Costello, John Legend, Feist, Willie Nelson and Jon Stewart for a Yuletide evening of song, dance and nog-induced dementia.
When I first heard about this release I figured it would be another “Best-of” release like the last The Colbert Report release (which was fine with me, I enjoyed that one immensely), but was surprised to discover that, in fact, this one was different. No, there is no footage from the show we’ve come to know and love, A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All is in fact an original production. Although it’s set up to be a big musical production, we’re instead treated to individual and duet performances by some of The Colbert Report’s most musical guests over the years, including Toby Keith, Elvis Costello, John Legend, Feist, and Willie Nelson. It may sound like an odd combination, but just think of this forty-minute special as an extended skit from the show and it will all make a lot more sense.
Each one of the guests performs their own song, either with or without Colbert, and they all are infused with their own bit of humor. Keith’s performance especially ranks as the funniest of the set, although he looks incredibly uncomfortable in front of the camera, barely moving about at all. I’m guessing he didn’t have much time to rehearse his song for this release, which is assumed from the productions rushed appearance (which I still can’t tell if it was intentional or just the best they could do), as appears to also be reading from a card. The rest of the performers are much more relaxed, with John Legend and Feist also delivering hilarious bits. Nelson’s song includes obligatory drug references and Elvis Costello’s piece closes out the whole production, although all of them join together in a big collaborative song.
It’s certainly an interesting piece, what with Jon Stewart’s inclusion as well with a song about Hanukah. I’m not sure I could have been more entertained than I was when those two were on screen with one another (and some of the alternate endings included on the DVD are quite hilarious as well). It’s an entertaining forty-minute piece to be sure, but I think if the green screen work would have perhaps been done a bit better, it would have come off as a more memorable piece. I’m sure the budget was extremely low for this production, however, so I can certainly sympathize on that front, but when Toby Keith has some external blue shadowing on the back of his hat while he’s in a snow covered forest, you know there’s something up with how the special effects were done.
Honestly though if you’re a fan of Colbert, the visuals aren’t going to matter. Sure they look goofy but no worse than what you get from one of his manufactured pieces for the show. I’m such an avid watcher of both Stewart and Colbert’s productions that this could have been filmed entirely in the dark and I still would’ve given it a high rating. It certainly wasn’t what I expected, but between the original songs and entertaining visual aids (the mistletoe bit gag is one of the best of the show), this one comes Recommended. If you’re not a fan of Colbert, however, I’d stay far, far away from this one. You have to appreciate the man’s brand of humor in order to feel at home with this special.
The A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All DVD comes inside of a standard white amaray DVD case that is free of any inserts or ads inside. There are the usual Comedy Central trailers that precede the disc, but once it loads we have a pretty basic 4×3 menu set up that won’t blow anyone away with its intricacy—it’s pretty much as basic as you can get. Video is an interlaced 4×3 transfer (really? We couldn’t have at least had widescreen just this once?) that doesn’t blow the viewer away with its pristine quality, but it looks decent enough. Strangely enough all of the footage shot in Stephen’s makeshift log cabin is boxed in on the top, but when we cut to his studio briefly it completely fills the screen. I’m not sure what kind of strange aspect ratio was used to film the log cabin bits, but this is officially the first time I’ve seen a boxed in 4×3 image. Audio is a stereo mix that brings forth all of the new Christmas songs in crystal clear quality. There’s nothing about this that doesn’t sound great, so be prepared to hear some hilarious new Christmas songs.
Our first extra is the option to watch the special with an audience laugh track. I opted to watch it without one and a second pass through with it on didn’t really help in my enjoyment of it. Just as I suspected, I know when to laugh at a joke that I find funny (you hear that CBS comedies? Cut out the laugh track!). Next we have a ”Book-burning Video Yule Log” (18:27) that is meant to be a screensaver for your TV set so that you can have a raging fire going…complete with books randomly tossed into it. This would be a good idea except it’s in 4×3, so anyone with a 16×9 will have one distorted looking book burner going.
Next up is the Video Advent Calendar which gives us fifteen to a minute long clips of Colbert counting down the days until Christmas. Three Alternate Endings (2:16) are included as well, each one crazier than the last. As an added bonus, we have another song entitled “Cold, Cold, Christmas” (3:46) for your listening pleasure.
Overall the extras are nice and so is the feature. Considering the title is currently going for $12.99 on Amazon, I wouldn’t pay much more than that (and would perhaps wait until it drops to $9.99—there really isn’t a whole lot here that you’ll be re-watching again, although it’s worth bringing out once a year I think), but it’s definitely worth a Rental at least. Or hell, you could just watch it for free on Comedy Central, I’m sure they’ll be airing it quite frequently this holiday season.
A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All arrives on DVD on November 25th and premieres on Comedy Central on November 23rd.