By Dan Snierson
November 23, 2008 at 10:17 PM EST

Most of us would rather chug a gallon of spoiled eggnog than be subjected to a corny Perry Como-y Christmas special. But what if it were hosted by a cardigan-and-turtleneck-clad Stephen Colbert? And what if he wound up singing the best new holiday tune of the century? (I’m not saying “Another Christmas Song” fits that bill; I just thought we were tossing around hypotheticals here.)

From the cozy confines of a mountain-cabin set, the faux political pundit says at the start of Comedy Central’s A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All! (Sunday, 10 p.m.): ”I’m so excited right now, I’m sporting a yule log.” Why? Because he’s decked his halls with a swell bunch of celebs; musical guests include Elvis Costello, Feist, Willie Nelson (”The Little Dealer Boy”), John Legend (crooning a sexy song about nutmeg), and Toby Keith (who declares war on the war on Christmas). Even Jon Stewart drops by for a duet about the potato-pancaked joy of Hanukkah. (He also drops a bleeped-out explanation of a tradition that involves a lamb shank. Don’t say you weren’t warned.) Also prepare thyself for a miniaturized Nelson; when asked by Colbert what he’s doing inside a nativity scene on top of the piano, he responds, “Stephen, right now, I’m so high, you’re hallucinating.” Let us award special props to Costello: Not only does he prove to be a highly versatile thespian in this special (read: he wears multiple costumes), but at one point he marvels to Santa: “You got me just what I wanted most — the gift of not being digested by a bear.” (In or out of context, that line just works.) While a musical number or two last a wee bit too long, the special nicely blends cheer with cheek. And when a disturbing mistletoe moment occurs between Colbert and said grizzly, you’ll definitely grin and bear it. (One clip from the show is below and you can see three more after the jump.)

Stephen Colbert

Jon Stewart

Toby Keith

John Legend

More Holiday TV:
25 Classic Holiday TV Episodes