A Colbert Christmas

564px Stephen Colbert by David Shankbone 01You might think that the debut of his Christmas special was as good a time as any for journalists to explore the beliefs of Stephen Colbert, one of television's most vocal comedians, and 2008 Presidential candidate who disappointed millions (thousands? his immediate family?) by being forced to drop out of the race in South Carolina last year (go on and laugh --but who could have envisioned Minnesota's Al Franken?). Born into a large Irish-Catholic family, himself a practicing Catholic and Sunday school teacher, the Comedy Central entertainer has a moving and compelling faith story.

So why don't journalists spend more time writing about it?

It's not like Colbert's faith is a great secret. Whole 'blogs are devoted to analyzing it.

Star of The Colbert Report, Colbert has produced tonight's A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All (airing on Comedy Central at 10 p.m.)

The Associated Press article on the Christmas special feels choppy and incomplete, with the topic of faith dragged in almost as an after-thought, or a blurry piece of background.

The permanently suit-clad Stephen Colbert has traded in his pinstripes for a cardigan sweater, red turtleneck and furry boots.

Following the tradition of Andy Williams and Bing Crosby, Colbert hosts his own holiday special in "A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All." The hour-long special airs Sunday at 10 p.m. on Comedy Central, and will on Tuesday be released as a DVD, complete with a Yule log of burning books.

Clearly in the Christmas spirit, at the first mention of old holiday specials, Colbert launches into renditions of Williams' "Little Altar Boy" and Crosby and David Bowie's "Little Drummer Boy."

The latter was the inspiration for a duet between Colbert and Willie Nelson, who appears -- in one of the more bizarre numbers -- as a tiny wise man in a miniature nativity scene.

A "Little Altar Boy," a "Little Drummer Boy" and a minature wise man -- do these remind you of any particular story?

Maybe. Maybe not.

In the middle of the article, the writer faintly hits those faith keys again -- and a few dissonant chords.

The 44-year-old comedian, who lives in New Jersey with his wife and three children, is a practicing Catholic who has taught Sunday school at his church. The special concludes on a positive note, with Colbert and Costello singing that "there are much worse things" than believing in Christmas.

I can't believe these sentences actually have anything to do with one another-but apparently a reporter or copy editor can.

But wait -- it gets even more confusing.

Conservative pundits, of course, were the basis of Colbert's character -- and there is some allusion to the "war on Christmas" that various commentators have waged in recent years.

But while Colbert still remains in character, the special is ultimately mostly free of politics. During the nonstop campaign, Colbert looked forward to the special like a "gift box," completely removed from the election.

Whose Grinch is being gored here? Secularists "taking the Christ out of Christmas?" Or conservative commentators decrying its consumerist cast?

Who knows? There are so many strange transitions and subsidiary characters here the story feels like an amateur high school musical (come to think of it, that's already been done).

What does Colbert consider "The Greatest Gift of All?" I guess we'll have to watch the show tonight -- and hope to find out.

SPOILER ALERT: The special has gotten mixed reviews, with Alessandra Stanley of the New York Times writing that although Colbert is "delightful" he "falls short of the mark." Variety praises the show but throws down this ad hominem gauntlet: "Based on the highly irreverent tone, "The Colbert Report" audience should eat it up -- and the satire-challenged folk at the Catholic League might be advised to seek their merriment elsewhere."

The picture of Stephen Colbert at a book-signing is taken from Wikimedia.

Please respect our Commenting Policy