The Greatest Gift of All

Stephen’s Christmas special premiered Sunday, November 23rd, and I’m sure Comedy Central will have it in regular rotation from now until Christmas. It’s also available on DVD with extras such as an Advent calendar of clips and a Yule log/book burning fireplace for your TV. In two days I’ve discovered that it’s one of those shows that gets funnier with each viewing. The first time I was a bit off-balance, not knowing quite what to expect. It’s like a Russian doll of nested parodies: the years of TV Christmas specials, bits familiar from the Report (bears, the War on Christmas), and all the guest musical stars parodying themselves. Stephen’s children have a small cameo.

Commercialism, multicultural sensitivity, the weird secular attempts to find meaning apart from religion–predictably nothing is sacred, including the sacred. At one point Stephen starts a seemingly heartfelt prayer and then throws in the line, “First time pray-er, longtime fan.” Canadian indie singer Feist’s number “Please Be Patient” combines angels and overworked customer service operators. But while it may cross a good-taste line from time to time, it never strays into the offensive.

Comments welcome! I think it lives up to its hype.

I’ll add some clips in the next few days, but at the moment I’m having trouble with the embedding code. It looks like they’re all up at the Colbert Nation site.

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Advertising faith

Silliness is a great way to point up the tendency to trivialize religion. Stephen tackled the Democrats’ predictably soft responses to questions about faith in an interview on The Situation Room, particularly Hilary’s discomfort with “advertising” her religious beliefs. His response? “Advertising your faith is easy: Jesus—now with 25% more peanuts. Was that so hard?” Ridiculous? Of course. But the perfect response to a forced and superficial discussion of faith and religion with the candidates just because someone (the media? candidates playing to the religious vote?) has decided that it should be a defining issue in the campaign. And in response to Hilary’s fluffy remark about praying to lose weight? “Senator Clinton, the Lord responds to all prayers, but sometimes his answer is donuts.” A bit of levity to remind us to keep our focus on the real issues. A leader’s faith can influence the decisions he or she makes. But the kind of faith that can do that isn’t going to be neatly packaged by the newsmongers. Other examples include Barack Obama’s consideration of just war and John Edward’s confession of being a daily sinner. Go watch the video clip.