“Most of us would rather chug a gallon of spoiled eggnog than be subjected to a corny Perry Como-y Christmas special,” said Dan Snierson in Entertainment Weekly. But when it’s one “hosted by a cardigan-and-turtleneck-clad Stephen Colbert,” it’s a different story. A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All! (watch a preview here, via YouTube) premiered on Comedy Central Sunday night, and although “a musical number or two last a wee bit too long, the special nicely blends cheer with cheek.”
“Amusement is the byword here,” said Roger Catlin in the Hartford Courant. There are "no belly laughs or particularly trenchant political commentary,” which sets it “apart from The Colbert Report.” But even if you don't watch the entire special, the closing ensemble performance of “(What’s So Funny ‘bout) Peace, Love and Understanding” is “kind of sweet” and worth watching.
Well, because a portion of the DVD sales goes to charity, said Verne Gay in Newsday, “I hereby declare A Colbert Christmas a triumph!” But now that the “good deed” is out of the way, here’s the “truth”—it’s “pretty awful.” Colbert’s Christmas special “is one long, extended, and often distended joke, with punch lines that never quite arrive.”
Not true, said James Poniewozik in Time. “What this giddy, ingenious special really serves up is a kind of snarky but goodhearted alternative to Christmas cheer, capable of uniting Christian and Jew, man and bear, pothead and flag-waver alike—something that has the same relation to your standard sappy holiday sugarplum as truth does to truthiness.”