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Colbert Christmas special is jingle bell, jingle bell, jingle bell mock

In the grand tradition of Denis Leary's Merry F#%$in' Christmas -- yes, that actually was a 2005 heartwarmer -- comes A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All!

Except that Colbert isn't quite as sincere during this one-hour Comedy Central sendup of what Bing used to bring. You can either watch it Sunday night -- 9 p.m. central -- or start buying it Tuesday when the extras-laden DVD hits stores. A portion of the suggested retail price -- $19.99 -- will benefit Feeding America. And that's no joke.

The glassy-eyed host of The Colbert Report boldly promises that his Christmas extravaganza is "gonna have it all -- carolers, elves, a freshly hobbled Tiny Tim."

Instead he's trapped in his ridiculously decorated mountain cabin by a ravenous bear that won't let him make it to a presumably festive Manhattan studio where Elvis Costello restlessly awaits as a drummer boy and later a pop-up clown.

So what's poor cardigan-clad, pipe-smokin' Stephen Colbert to do? Well, he won't be crooning the usual medley of Christmas tunes because "when you sing those old standards, someone else gets the royalty check. That doesn't sound like Christmas to me."

The host throws himself into a full-throated, lip-synched rendition of "Another Christmas Song" before finding his path crossed by an angry bear. So it looks like it's gonna be just him and his two Christmas stockings, one emblazoned "Stephen" and the other "Colbert."

But in the true spirit of Pee-wee's Playhouse, a bunch of celebrity guests begin showing up in various guises, beginning with show-stealin' Toby Keith brandishing an assault weapon and wearing an Elmer Fudd-ish hunting outfit.

Keith, who presumably knows the joke's on him, is soon somberly singing in defense of Christmas traditions and against those who would tear them asunder. You'd better watch out because "if you say I can't deck my hauls, then I'll deck you myself." It's all punctuated by a nuclear explosion; and hot damn, it's pretty funny.

Then there's Willie Nelson as a miniature nativity scene wise man performing "The Little Dealer Boy." It pretty much fails as high comedy, although Willie really seems to mean it when he sings, "And let not mankind bogart love."

Things start bogging down a bit after that. Jon Stewart fails to interest Colbert in Hannukah, John Legend can't sell him on the joys of nutmeg and single-named Feist pretty much falls flat as a tree-topping angel who tries to answer the host's Jimmy Stewart-esque prayer to "show me the way." Ho ho hum. Couldn't A-Wreath-a Franklin have dropped in?

It all goes on longer than it should, but there are enough comedy nuggets to make Greatest Gift of All! a gift you might not return to the mall. Better to re-gift it -- as a gag.

GRADE: B-minus