During his hysterically funny appearance Saturday at the University at Buffalo, Jon Stewart discussed a variety of religious topics, including the pronounced differences between the importance of Christmas and Hanukkah.
Essentially, Stewart told his fellow Jews in the audience who may want to put a Menorah next to Christmas displays in public places that they should get over it because there is no comparison between the holidays. He noted one celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, the other celebrates the fact that oil lasted longer than expected. And the UB audience roared.
I bring this up because Stewart is one of the guests in his buddy Stephen Colbert's irreverent special, "A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All!" It airs at 10 p.m. Sunday on Comedy Central, and a DVD version will be in stories Tuesday, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting charity.
Colbert, who has taught Sunday school in real life, usually plays a character who doesn't take anything too seriously. Not even Christmas or Christmas specials. Viewers who are sensitive about the holiday should be advised to either get over it or ignore a special that spends as much time or more mocking Christmas specials and songs as it does celebrating them.
"Greatest Gift" is a sendup of an old-fashioned Andy Williams or Perry Como Christmas special. With the help of Stewart, Elvis Costello, Toby Keith, John Legend, Willie Nelson and the singer Feist, the childishly enthusiastic Colbert makes some entertaining, satirical points about how Christmas has been commercialized in the guise of a traditional Christmas special.
Colbert, who wears a cardigan sweater that makes him look as much like Mister Rogers as Williams, is stuck in his wooden upstate cabin because a bear is outside preventing him from going to New York City to tape his special.
So his guests come to him and perform several humorous original songs, written by David Javerbaum of "The Daily Show" and composer Adam Schlesinger. My personal favorite is the duet that Colbert and Stewart perform, "Can I Interest You in Hanukkah?" I use the word "perform" charitably. As a singer, Stewart illustrates that he shouldn't quit his daily job, which makes the song even more comically entertaining.
It is one of two songs that make the point that Stewart expressed at UB. In the other priceless song, a gun-toting Keith laments legal attacks on Christmas. "There is a war on Christmas," Keith sings, "it's under attack. This year, America is taking it back."
The hour also includes a recurring bit in which Colbert and his guests awkwardly land under mistletoe and sweetly ends with Colbert and Costello doing a duet about holiday cynicism.
Rating: 3 stars
*The University at Buffalo football team's decision to unanimously reject a 1958 Tangerine Bowl bid rather than play without its two African-American players will be the subject of ESPN's "Outside the Lines," on Sunday morning. The issues-oriented program airs at 9 a.m. Sunday on ESPN and noon on ESPNews.
The piece on UB will feature interviews with former UB players Willie Evans and Joe Oliverio on the 50th anniversary of UB's best season.
The moving story of unity and brotherhood was recently told by Channel 2 sports reporter Matt Pearl and was previously reported by the UB student newspaper and mentioned in 2005 and in 2008 in Buffalo News articles.
The 1958 team won the small school Lambert Cup with an 8-1 record and declined the only bowl bid in UB's history after being told they couldn't bring Evans and another black teammate, Mike Wilson, because it would violate an Orlando school district rule prohibiting blacks and whites from playing on the same field. This was 1958, when segregation was very much alive in the South.
*Say goodbye to "My Own Worst Enemy" and "Lipstick Jungle." NBC hasn't confirmed reports that they've both been canceled, but that may only be because the low-rated series are still running during the November sweeps. Few viewers in Western New York would seem to care since the series get really low ratings here.
*Sorry to hear that the offbeat series about a family of loan sharks, "Easy Money," carried on the CW, is history. The cast included local actress Katie Lowes. Brandon Hill, the show's co-executive producer, e-mailed me to say said the issue was, you guessed it, money (or more precisely the lack of ad revenue). The battle between LIN TV and Time Warner Cable didn't help here. The series was off the air for two Sundays during the dispute. The first of the final four episodes air at 9 p.m. Sunday on WNLO-TV.
*The USA Network has announced that the eighth and final season of "Monk" will air in the summer of 2009. There will be 16 final episodes for Tony Shalhoub and company.e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org