The format prior to the merger 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; Alan King: Inside the Comedy Mind; 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. Commercial breaks often included "Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey," which would later be featured on Saturday Night Live.
The standard format for these 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, and was one of the few shows that survived the network merger.
In the final months before the merger, the channel developed an eight-hour programming block that was shown three times during a 24-hour period, including such things as reruns of Monty Python's Flying Circus.
Ha! and Comedy Channel merge to create Comedy Central
In 1990, The Comedy Channel and Ha! agreed to merge their operations and create a new channel called CTV: The Comedy Network, which debuted on April 1, 1991; prior to the merger, each channel had fewer than 10 million subscribers. The Comedy Channel struggled both commercially and critically; critics derided the hodgepodge of clips from comedy films and stand-up comedy acts that filled the long gaps between original programs. In order to avoid confusion and trademark issues with Canadian over-the-air broadcast network CTV, now owned by Bell Media, which is a subsidiary of BCE Inc, the name of the network was subsequently changed to Comedy Central on June 1, 1991, with the name "Comedy Partners, Inc." appearing on the end credits of all shows produced by the new channel. The original Viacom (which operated Ha!, not the current one, which Comedy Central is currently part of) bought out Time Warner's (which operated The Comedy Channel and belonged to HBO) half of the network in 2003. Despite the purchase, the name "Comedy Partners, Inc." can still be seen in the end credits on most Comedy Central shows today.