Introduction to Popular Culture Studies

Oral History of Comedy Central (Sept. 8)

Posted by cliffordpaulparsoniiiesq on November 27, 2016

This “Oral History of Comedy Central” collects in-depth accounts from the comic legends who were there. I learned a lot reading about stand-up comedy’s big boom in the ‘80s, and how the Comedy Channel helped legitimize the art form and give comedians a mainstream outlet.

When I think of Comedy Central today, I generally don’t think of stand-up. I associate the network with satirical TV shows, “roasts,” and the like, with the added bonus of some stand-up specials. I’ve only been a fan of a handful of stand-up comedians, and my exposure comes from word-of-mouth, and subsequent YouTube viewings.

However, I now understand that Comedy Central has been far more influential in shaping mainstream comedy than I thought. I had no idea how many cult-favorite characters and shows actually got their start on Comedy Central. I had always heard about Mystery Science Theater 3000 from my film guru peers in school, but I had no clue that it shared a network with South Park.

What’s funny is that I don’t associate South Park and MST3K as having similar fanbases. They almost seem mutually exclusive, for some reason. It illustrates how Comedy Central seems to have a little something for everyone, rather than just one formula or style of programming. I’ve heard of people being “fans” of Nickelodeon or MTV, but I don’t hear a lot of people say “Comedy Central’s my favorite channel!” I guess people judge the shows on their individual merit, and not in the context of the network they belong to.

Given this, it’s amazing to think how successful Comedy Central has managed to be over the years! It’s a sign of a good network when people remember the shows but not necessarily the channel they’re on.


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