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

Since late 2006, Comedy Central has expanded globally with localized channels in Germany, Hungary, India, Israel, Italy, Latin America, New Zealand, The Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, United Kingdom / Ireland and Spain.

A channel which serves Asia will launch in 2012.

HistoryEdit

Creation (1989–1991)Edit

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 Manhattan. 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 comedians, including The Sweet Life with Rachel Sweet, 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, changing its name to Comedy Central on June 1, 1991 to prevent issues with CTV, a Canadian broadcast television network. 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, currently being a partnership of Viacom International, the subsidiary MTV Networks does business as, and Viacom Hearty Ha! Ha!, the subsidiary that owned Ha! and Viacom's original half of the network.

1991–1997Edit

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 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 ParkEdit

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.

2000–2003Edit

At 8 a.m. ET on October 30, 2000, Comedy Central modernized its globe logo, by straightening the buildings, modernizing the globe, and removing the transmitter from the logo. The management of the network said that the transmitter of the 1991 logo was said to "communicate the 1950s broadcast era". 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' Club 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, Joan Rivers, David Hasselhoff, Donald Trump and Charlie Sheen.

The Secret StashEdit

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 am, 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) Rear Nudity and the occasional topless scene.

2004–2006Edit

In late 2004, it was reported that the top four rated shows on Comedy Central were, in ascending order, 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 Daily Show spin-off 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 protest over the Danish 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 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 opening credits of the "Cartoon Wars" episodes (the image had been there as a call-back to "Super Best Friends").

2007–2010Edit

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 Canadian 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. As of 2011 this Geocaching no longer applies and both the Comedy Central and The Comedy Network website can be access worldwide with the exception of videos which remain only accessible within eaches native country.

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 would 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. In 2009, The Goode Family premiered. Also in 2009, Thomas Lennon announced via Twitter that Reno 911! had been cancelled after six successful seasons, much to outraged fan disapproval. The network has also played a role in the revival of the animated series Futurama, which Fox had cancelled in 2003. New episodes began airing on Comedy Central in 2010.

South Park episodes "200" and "201" aired in April 2010, revisiting the issue of the Islamic religious figure Muhammad's perceived immunity to parody, for fear of violent retaliation. The Super Best Friends return, but Muhammad is entirely covered by a black bar reading "CENSORED" through all of his screen time. By the second episode of the two-parter, Comedy Central decided to censor every instance of his name, as well as three entire monologues, from the end of the show. The monologues dealt with the subjects of censorship and intimidation, but did not actually use Muhammad's name. Parker and Stone have since issued a statement to the press, confirming that the "bleeps" were added weeks after the show was finished, and that Comedy Central has refused to let them post the original version to South Park Studios, in addition to retroactively removing the original "Super Best Friends" episode.

2011–presentEdit

On December 10, 2010, Comedy Central introduced a new logo for the network that launched on January 1, 2011, which left behind the previous theme of a world-sized "tower" broadcasting the network/skyscrapers, in favor of an image of two "C"'s, with one of them and the word "Central" turned upside-down within the new logomark. The new logo was designed to represent the network's unique brand of comedy (with some drawing comparisons to the copyright symbol as inspiration for its design and use), and to provide the network with a logo that could be easily used across different platforms, such as social media. This new logo has won several awards. Poland was the first who started the international rebrand in Europe on February 20, 2011. The next two countries were the Netherlands and Germany on October 1, 2011. Comedy Central New Zealand rebranded in April 2012.

In 2010, the network announced that Norm Macdonald was developing a new series that he described as a sports version of The Daily Show. As of April 2011, the show was titled Sports Show with Norm Macdonald and premiered on April 12. It was cancelled on June 7, 2011.

Viacom 18 launched the channel in India in the early 2012.

Comedy Central HDEdit

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 anticipated that several more providers would add it later in that 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 Daily Show and The Colbert Report began airing in HD on January 4, 2010. Many episodes of South Park that were originally made in 4:3 standard definition are cropped to be made 16:9 on Comedy Central HD. Comedy Central HD currently only airs in Eastern Standard Time.

ProgrammingEdit

Main article: List of programs broadcast by Comedy Central==International== Local versions of Comedy Central include:

  • Germany
  • India
  • Israel
  • Italy
  • Latin America
  • New Zealand
  • The Netherlands
  • Poland
  • Sweden
  • United Kingdom / Ireland
  • Africa

Comedy Central Family:

  • The Netherlands
  • Poland

Comedy Central Extra:

  • The Netherlands
  • United Kingdom / Ireland

CriticismEdit

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, Dogma and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.

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.

On April 21, 2010, Comedy Central censored the South Park episode, "201", in response to a death threat issued by users of a radical Muslim website over the episode's planned depiction of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, which led several newspaper columnists to condemn the network's actions as tantamount to abetting terrorism. Since then, as a result, neither "201" nor the episode that preceded it have been aired.

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