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Comedy program pits Abe, Santa
Will Koch, the president of Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari, has makeup applied by Lewis Chaney of WEHT-News25 before Koch is interviewed for the Comedy Central program “The Colbert Report.” The program spoofs two bearded Southern Indiana icons.
Television personality/comedian Stephen Colbert tried to provoke some verbal fisticuffs among his interview guests Wednesday, but Will Koch and Jerry Sanders weren't really in the mood.
During a taping of Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report," Colbert played up a rivalry between Spencer County, Ind., icons Santa Claus and Abraham Lincoln.
He talked via satellite with Koch, president of Holiday World & Splashin' Safari, and Sanders, who represented the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial.
Koch and Sanders preferred to discuss mutual admiration between the two tourist attractions, which are separated by a five-mile stretch of Indiana 162 in northern Spencer County and target the same visitor traffic.
Colbert began the segment by asking Sanders, "What do you have against Christmas?"
Sanders chuckled that he had nothing against Christmas and "I celebrate it every year." Koch later told Colbert about memorials to Lincoln throughout the town of Santa Claus, where Holiday World is located.
The two men then gave mini-history lessons. Sanders discussed Lincoln's upbringing in Spencer County from 1816 - when the future president was 7 years old - until 1830, and how the national memorial in Lincoln City, Ind., was established in 1962 by President John F. Kennedy.
Koch talked about how his grandfather founded the theme park, then called Santa Claus Land, in 1946 "because he wanted to create a place for families to visit." Its name changed to Holiday World in 1984.
Apparently, none of that interested Colbert very much.
During a lengthy break in the taping to deal with technical difficulties, Koch and Sanders were asked in their earpieces to mix things up a little.
"We're trying to not go down that road. They don't seem real pleased," Koch said jokingly to people watching the taping.
When the taping resumed, Koch and Sanders tried to play along.
Referring to Lincoln, Koch turned to Sanders and asked, "How many presents has he brought to children?"
"I suppose he gave some to his own (children)," Sanders answered.
Noting that Lincoln emancipated slaves, Colbert likened Santa Claus' use of elves at the North Pole to slaves.
"If elves were slaves," Sanders said, "Lincoln would have freed them too."
Sanders noted a national movement to prepare a celebration of the 200th anniversary of Lincoln's birth on Feb. 12, 2009, and he said the occasion will present an opportunity for more people to learn about the president's Indiana history.
Colbert pointed out that there's no national celebration of Santa Claus' birthday.
Koch and Sanders will appear on an upcoming episode of "The Colbert Report." It airs Monday through Thursday at 10:30 p.m. with replays the following day at 7:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.