Growing up in the 1980s, I didn't watch a lot of traditional "holiday specials." No special guests coming over, no singing songs by the fire, nothing like that -- just Charlie Brown, the Grinch and little Ralphie for me. So all I know about the golden age of holiday specials is what I've seen parodied on Saturday Night Live ("I'm Gumby, dammit!"). But from what I've seen, Stephen Colbert really nailed it in A Colbert Christmas, his Comedy Central Christmas special, which aired last night, although I can only imagine that his was a million times funnier, and that this time the humor was intentional. I would even go out on a limb and call it a new holiday staple, like A Christmas Story, although I don't know if I'd want it to play 24 hours in a row. Here are the five funniest moments from last night's airing.
5. Willie Nelson, "Let Not Mankind Bogart Love."
Willie Nelson's appearance as one of the Wise Men in Stephen's nativity scene would have been funny enough on its own ("Stephen, I'm so high that you're hallucinating."), but it also produced one of several songs on this special that are destined to become new Christmas classics. On a par with Nelson's most famous yuletide song, "Pretty Paper" (which takes on new meaning now), "Bogart" features such weed-flavored lyrics as "And the wise men started tokin', and yea, the bud was kind; It was salvation they were smoking, and its forgiveness blew their minds." Colbert backup-singing "Are you high?" in a throaty falsetto is only icing on the cake, and miniature Willie getting loaded into the back of a toy police car at the end is pretty fantastic, indeed.
4. John Legend, "Nutmeg"
I am by no means a John Legend fan, but when he turned up as a park ranger, I was certainly not expecting what transpired. When Stephen offers him nutmeg-free eggnog, Legend flips out, and by "flips out," I mean "performs an erotic R&B jam about nutmeg," laced with enough double entendres to choke a reindeer. Everything that "nutmeg" could suggestively represent, it does in this song. It won't be a Christmas classic like "Bogart" or the show-stopping, ensemble-performed finale, "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding," but it should pop up on a few holiday mixtapes sent to recipients of late-night booty calls.
3. Elvis Costello Interludes
While trapped in his cabin by a mad bear, Colbert gets regular updates from the studio, where rehearsals for his actual Christmas special are in full swing. And the calls seem to come solely from co-host Elvis Costello, who has on a more ridiculous outfit with every call: Dickens character, wooden soldier, jack-in-the-box... The increasingly elaborate outfits, coupled with his adorable enthusiasm for the show's cast (children dressed like dwarves, dwarves dressed like children, goats dressed like reindeer, goats dressed like mice and the unseen Jonas Brothers) only increases my love for the folk-rocker.
2. Jon Stewart, "Can I Interest You in Hanukkah?"
Whenever Stewart shows up in a knit headband and puffy coat, you know you're in for a treat, and he delivers. Offering Stephen an alternative to Christmas, his sweetly-sung song runs down how awesome Hanukkah is: it's got potato pancakes, dreidels and candles, and oh, the fun never stops! Stephen ultimately decides to pass, and Stewart leaves, but not before explaining in graphic, bleeped-out detail what you're supposed to do under the mistletoe according to Jewish tradition.
1. The Mauling of Elvis Costello
After waiting on hold for the angel Feist, Stephen finally gets sprinkled with angel dust in order to get his wish granted -- to be present for his own Christmas special. Elvis Costello is magically transported to Stephen's cabin... where he is promptly attacked and devoured by the bear who's had Stephen trapped at home this entire time. Elvis' cries of pain, followed by Stephen and Feist's National Lampoon-esque screams of fear, had me laughing out loud, as did Feist's inability to do anything against bears, which are Godless killing machines.
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