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Comedy Central is an Americanmarker cable television and satellite television channel that carries predominantly comedy programming, both original and syndicated.

Since late 2006, local versions of Comedy Central have launched in the European market including in Polandmarker (Comedy Central Polska), Germanymarker (Comedy Central Deutschland), the Netherlandsmarker, Italymarker (Comedy Central Italia), Hungarymarker, Swedenmarker (Comedy Central Sweden) and in the UKmarker and Republic of Irelandmarker (Comedy Central UK & Ireland). On April 1, 2009, New Zealandmarker received the first localized Comedy Central channel outside of North America and Europe (Comedy Central New Zealand).

Comedy Central is one of 4 Viacom channels to not be part of a brand and is owned by MTV Networks.

Programming

History

Creation (1989-1990)

On November 15, 1989, Time Warner, owners of HBO, launched The Comedy Channel as the first cable channel devoted exclusively to comedy-based programming. On April 1, 1990, Viacom (who owned MTV, VH1, and Nickelodeon) launched a rival channel called Ha! that featured reruns of situation comedies and some original sketch comedy.

The Comedy Channel's programs were originated from the HBO Downtown Studios at 120 East 23rd Street in Manhattanmarker. The format prior to the merger with Ha! included several original and unconventional programs such as Onion World with Rich Hall and Mystery Science Theater 3000, as well as laid-back variety/talk shows hosted by stand-up comedians, including The Sweet Life with Rachel Sweet, Tommy Sledge, Private Eye, Night After Night with Allan Havey, Sports Monster and The Higgins Boys and Gruber, the latter of whom performed sketches in between showings of vintage television serials like Supercar, Clutch Cargo, and Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp.

The standard format for The Comedy Channel's shows usually involved the various hosts introducing clips culled from the acts of stand-up comedians as well as classic comedies of the 1970s and 1980s, such as Young Frankenstein and Kentucky Fried Movie, presented in a style similar to music videos. In the early days, certain hours of the day when clips were shown without "host segments" were dubbed Short Attention Span Theater. In 1990, hosts under this title, Jon Stewart and Patty Rosborough, were introduced. Comedian Marc Maron also hosted the series.

While The Comedy Channel broadcast mostly low-budget original programming, Ha!'s schedule featured sitcom and sketch comedy reruns (many of which had been previously licensed for sister network Nick at Nite) as well as complete 90-minute reruns of Saturday Night Live from the sixth through sixteenth seasons.

After two years of limited distribution, the two channels merged into one, relaunching on April Fools' Day 1991 as CTV: The Comedy Network, soon changing its name to Comedy Central. Viacom bought out Time Warner's half in April 2003 for $1.23 billion. Despite HBO's exit from the venture, the MTV Networks division in charge of Comedy Central is still called Comedy Partners.

1991–1997

The original Comedy Central logo used from 1991 to 2000.
An earlier variant of this logo has the "Comedy Central" text bigger, almost taking up the marquee sign.
That variant lasted until 1995.
From the late 1980s through the mid-1990s, much of the programming on Comedy Central, and its predecessors, consisted of comedy films, sitcom reruns, half-hour specials and clip shows featuring stand-up comedians. With the exception of the cult favorite Mystery Science Theater 3000, the channel had a relatively small viewership. A notable early success was Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher, which after showing promise on Comedy Central was quickly snapped up by the ABC network. Additionally, The Daily Show had got its start with premiere host Craig Kilborn, although it would take a few more years for the show to reach high popularity (and shift toward a focus on political humor) with the introduction of Jon Stewart (who was former co-host of Short Attention Span Theater from 1991). Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist was also a notable original program from this era, as well as the game show Win Ben Stein's Money. Successful non-original programming included Canadian comedy group The Kids In The Hall and British shows such as the U.K. edition of Whose Line Is It Anyway? (predecessor of the U.S. version, featuring much of the same American cast as would later be seen in the U.S.) and the sitcom Absolutely Fabulous. Some later seasons of "AbFab", as it was informally known, were partially financed by Comedy Central.

Comedy Central also aired nationwide reruns of Seattle's Almost Live! between 1992 and 1993.

South Park premieres

The channel made a breakthrough when South Park premiered in 1997. Being the first major cable show to carry the TV-MA rating for mature audiences, the show was too controversial to be picked up by a mainstream network. As word-of-mouth spread, the number of people who requested that Comedy Central be added to their cable systems increased, and the channel became available in over 50% of American homes by 1998.

2002–2003

In 2002, Comedy Central Records was formed as a means of releasing albums by comedians that have appeared on the network. This unit would ultimately be sold to Fox.

Since 2003, Comedy Central has created a tradition of roasting comedians in tradition of the New York Friars' Clubmarker roasts. During these roasts friends of the roastee, along with comedians, take turns making fun of the roastee, the other roasters and occasionally audience members. So far, the roastees have included Denis Leary, Jeff Foxworthy, Pamela Anderson, William Shatner, Flavor Flav, Bob Saget, Larry the Cable Guy. and Joan Rivers.

The Secret Stash

The success of South Park, despite its mature content, encouraged the network to continue to push the limits on adult language. Every Saturday and Sunday morning at 1 A.M., a movie, comedy special or animated program is shown unedited for language. This is called the Secret Stash. It premiered on July 4, 2003 (with the unedited cable television debut of South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut). Though no language is censored on the Secret Stash, most nudity in the programs is still edited out, with the exception of limited nudity allowed in animated programs (such as Drawn Together) and the occasional topless scene.

2004–2006

In late 2004, it was reported that the top four rated shows on Comedy Central, in order, were South Park, Chappelle's Show, The Daily Show, and Reno 911!. Shortly thereafter, Dave Chappelle backed out of the much-anticipated third season of Chappelle's Show. Meanwhile, The Daily Show continued to climb in ratings. In October 2005, on the occasion of a new three-year contract for South Park and the launch of The Colbert Report, it was reported that South Park and The Daily Show were the two highest rated shows on Comedy Central. Comedy Central chief Doug Herzog was reported as saying that he hoped to continue to air new seasons of South Park forever, and that The Colbert Report fulfilled a long-held plan to extend the Daily Show brand.

On April 5, 2006, in a controversial two part episode arc titled "Cartoon Wars Part I" and "Cartoon Wars Part II", South Park touched the issue of the recent Muslim protest over the Danishmarker cartoon drawings depicting the Muslim prophet Muhammad. The image of Muhammad did not appear in the episode. On April 13, 2006, Comedy Central issued a statement which appears to confirm that the network prohibited the show's creators from airing an image of Muhammad. The statement reads, "In light of recent world events, we feel we made the right decision." An anonymous source close to the show indicated that South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone were informed of the policy several weeks earlier, and wrote this story arc in protest. This is a significant change of policy for Comedy Central, having allowed South Park to portray an image of Muhammad in an earlier episode, "Super Best Friends." Oddly enough, an image of Muhammad was still briefly visible in the Cartoon Wars episodes' opening credits (the image had been there as a call-back to the Super Best Friends episode). It should be noted that Muhammad was seen in a much more positive light in the "Super Best Friends" episode of South Park as the plot skewered magician David Blaine and cults.

2007–2009

On Monday January 15, 2007, MTV Networks International launched Comedy Central in Germany which is available for free throughout Europe. The channel airs 33 shows either dubbed in German or subtitled while also airing locally produced shows. As of April 30, Dutch channel The Box has been transformed into the Dutch version of Comedy Central during the primetime and overnight hours timesharing with Nickelodeon. And on May 1, 2007 the channel has launched in Italy replacing Paramount Comedy.

As of June 27, 2007, CTVglobemedia-owned networks CTV and The Comedy Network have exclusive Canadianmarker rights to the entire Comedy Central library of past and current programs on all electronic platforms, under a multi-year agreement with Viacom, expanding on past programming agreements between the two channels. Canadian users attempting to visit Comedy Central websites will also be redirected to The Comedy Network's website. The Canadian channel will keep its own brand name, but the agreement is otherwise very similar to the earlier CTV/Viacom deal for MTV in Canada.

In December 2007, Comedy Central picked up a show hosted by Lewis Black called Lewis Black's Root of All Evil. The show didn't start playing on Comedy Central until March 2008.

On January 9, 2008, it was announced the Comedy Central and MTV would put programs online for free starting in February. On January 24, Scott Landsman became the Vice President of Original Programming and Development at the network.

On March 27, 2008, the Swedish Radio and TV Authority approved an application from Comedy Central regarding being allowed to air television programs in Sweden. The grant allows Comedy Central to broadcast on the terrestrial television network between January 1, 2009, and March 31, 2014, after which a new request must be submitted in order to continue broadcasting. The main Comedy Central network in the United States picked up a remake of The Gong Show hosted by Dave Attell, star of his former self-titled Comedy Central series Insomniac for premiere in July 2008. Another new show called Reality Bites Back premiered after The Gong Show with Dave Attell.

In June 2008, Comedy Central picked up sketch comedy show Important Things with Demetri Martin which began airing in February 2009.

On April 1, 2009, Comedy Central began airing in New Zealand as Channel 010 on SKY Digital. On April 6, Paramount Comedy in the UK and Ireland rebranded as Comedy Central.

On April 7, 2009, it was announced Comedy Central will air new stand-up comedy specials starring Christopher Titus, Gabriel Iglesias, Pablo Francisco, Jim Breuer, Mitch Fatel and Pete Correale, and ventriloquist Jeff Dunham. An animated show entitled Ugly Americans has also been picked up by the network.

Comedy Central HD

Comedy Central HD is a 1080i high definition simulcast of Comedy Central that launched on January 13, 2009. Cablevision was the first carrier to add it. DirecTV added the HD version on January 21, 2009. Dish Network added the HD version on April 9. 2009. It was also reported that some Cox Cable systems would get it by the end of January 2009. Comedy Central is anticipating that several more providers will add it later in the year.

Currently, original shows that air in HD include The Sarah Silverman Program, and newer episodes of South Park, Comedy Central Presents, Reno 911!, as well as the new series Michael & Michael Have Issues and The Jeff Dunham Show. The new season of Live at Gotham and other stand up specials, as well as movies, air in HD as well.

The Emmy and Peabody Award-winning network mainstays, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report will initially be upconverted for Comedy Central HD but will be broadcast in native HDTV sometime in the future.

International

Local versions of Comedy Central include:

Criticism

Comedy Central has been a frequent target of criticism from the conservative group Parents Television Council, which accuses them of bigotry and blasphemy, especially within the programs South Park, The Sarah Silverman Program, Halfway Home, and the annual "Roast" special. PTC has used their criticisms against Comedy Central for their support of the Family and Consumer Choice Act of 2007, which would allow American cable TV subscribers to choose which channels they subscribe to, and to persuade advertisers to stop advertising on the channel. PTC founder and former president L. Brent Bozell III has called the channel unfunny, claiming the channel has managed "to reach the top of its field in spite of – or, better put, because of – the network's sheer lack of comedic talent" by its "extensive reliance on shocking or disgusting humor". The channel has also received criticism from certain parents for airing advertisements for "Girls Gone Wild". The channel also airs the least cut version of the popular film Not Another Teen Movie, as well as uncut versions of films such as Coming to America and Dogma.

On November 5, 2007, an open letter was written by VideoSift to protest publicly the blocking of Comedy Central's embedded video content for non U.S. based viewers.

References

  1. (Name change to Comedy Central within a month of launch due to a lawsuit with CTV in Canada)[1]
  2. Carter, Bill. MEDIA: BROADCASTING; Comedy Central makes the most of an irreverent, and profitable, new cartoon hit (Part 2 of 2). The New York Times: Nov. 10, 1997.
  3. Official site
  4. Comedy Central Roast of Jeff Foxworthy
  5. Comedy Central Roast of Pamela Anderson
  6. Roast of Shatner
  7. Comedy Central Roast of Flavor Flav official site
  8. Official site
  9. Official site
  10. Comedy Central to air Chappelle remainders - MSNBC - Dec. 12, 2005
  11. Newsvine - 'South Park' Creators Skewer Own Network
  12. Dutch launch for Comedy Central
  13. http://www.broadcastclub.co.uk/sateuropa_forum/upload/viewtopic.php?pid=318
  14. CTV Strikes Multi-Platform Content Deal With Comedy Central, CTV press release, June 27, 2007
  15. TV Week April 7, 2009 Comedy Central Commits to Stand-Up Specials
  16. TV Week April 10, 2009 Dish Network Adds BET, MTV Channels in HD
  17. Multichannel News January 13, 2009 Comedy Central Launches HDTV Network - New Service Available on Cablevision Systems with Cox, DirecTV to Come
  18. Parents Television Council - Letters to the Editor - Offensive Ads
  19. VideoSifts open letter to Comedy Central and Viacom


External links




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