The Melbourne International Comedy Festival (MICF) is the third-largest international comedy festival in the world and the largest cultural event in Australia. It is generally regarded as the least commercial and most relaxed of the three major comedy festivals. Established in 1987, it takes place annually in Melbourne over three weeks in April typically opening on or around April Fool's Day (1 April). The Melbourne Town Hall has served as the festival hub since the early 1990s, but performances are held in venues throughout the city.
The MICF plays host to hundreds of local and international artists; in 2008 its program listed 1,765 performers in 298 separate shows. Although it is mainly a vehicle for stand-up and cabaret acts, the festival has also included sketch shows, plays, improvisational theatre, debates, musical shows and art exhibitions. The televised opening night Gala is the festival's flagship event, showcasing short performances from many headline and award-winning comics. Other popular events include The Great Debate, a televised comedy debate, and Upfront, a night of performances exclusively featuring female comedians.
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