In November 1989, Time Warner created the first cable channel dedicated solely towards comedy. Six months later, Viacom debuted HA!, a rival comedy station with a harder edge. After two years of both channels struggling to make it, they merged as one (on April Fools Day) and renamed themselves CTV: The Comedy Network. Canadian based CTV threatened a name copyright suit and soon the name was changed to Comedy Central.
The early version of the channel consisted of showing edited movies, stand up comedians and some reruns of comedy classic series. They added Mystery Science Theater 3000
and still struggled with low ratings. The addition of Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher
gave Comedy Central a short-lived boost until ABC grabbed the hit show away for themselves. But their first major success came with a cartoon show with a TVMA rating called South Park
. The adult series featured a group of foul mouthed eight year olds living in South Park, Co. As word of mouth grew about the show, so did the requests of people wanting to have Comedy Central on their cable systems.
The success of the mature-themed show brought with it the idea of broadcasting an unedited movie or stand up concert at the Saturday 1 a.m. time slot. Although the foul language was left intact, nudity was still edited out where applicable. Though recently a comedy special, "Rodney Carrington: Live at the Majestic" was shown with the nudity left in. The Daily Show
, which featured a twist on the news with it's host Craig Kilborn
, debuted in 1996. Craig would leave to take over a late night talk show spot on network TV and Jon Stewart
would take over as host in 1999. A spinoff of The Daily Show, The Colbert Report
, which is hosted by Stephen Colbert would make its start on October 17, 2005. In 2003, Comedy Central began broadcasting a tribute roast, just like the famed Friar's Club Roasts. 2004 saw their first controversy when Dave Chappelle
refused to create a season 3 of his hit series after Comedy Central had made a list of their top ten shows and his finished second to South Park. The two sides finally made amends and Chappelle's Show
continued on with it's outlandish series.
That would not be the last of Comedy Central's troubles when their hit show South Park aired Cartoon Wars Part I & II on April 15, 2005. This was creator's Trey Parker
and Matt Stone
answer to the Muslim protests of the Danish comic strips showing a picture of the prophet Muhammad. Comedy Central gave into the pressures and denied the show from depicting their picture of the prophet. This was a change in policy since they allowed South Park to show a picture of Muhammad in an earlier episode called "Super Best Friends." Comedy Central has now made their debut in a number of foreign countries.
Also Known As
The Comedy Channel (1989-1991)