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Melbourne International Comedy Festival

From Academic Kids

The Melbourne International Comedy Festival (MICF) is held each April in a number of venues across Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

MICF is an important event on the Australian cultural calendar. Since its inception in 1987 the Melbourne International Comedy Festival has grown to be the third largest in the world, along with the Edinburgh Fringe and Montreal Just for Laughs Festivals. The Melbourne Town Hall, on the corner of Swanston and Collins Streets is the central hub of activity for the duration of the festival, but other venues are scattered throughout the Central Business District and inner city suburbs.

At its heart, the festival consists of shows from a variety of national and international comedians. Over the years, regular performers have included Dave Gorman, Julian Clary, Ross Noble, Wil Anderson, Paul McDermott, Arj Barker and Henry Rollins.

In its early years, the MICF invited special guests of International repute. The very first was the British comedian, Peter Cook, whose participation is commemorated in the name given to the temporary bar that is set up in the Town Hall each year.

The festival also consists of several other annual events. Raw Comedy is a nationwide competition for amateur comedians. The finalists perform their material in front of a live audience, which is then recorded and broadcast on Australia's public broadcaster, the ABC. The winner and often other finalists usually get a festival-sponsored and promoted gig the next year. In a similar vein is Class Clowns, an festival-sponsored competition to find the funniest secondary school student.

Since 1994, the festival has produced Upfront, a night featuring the best of Australia's female comedians. This is also usually broadcast by the ABC. Most years there is also a Great Debate, a televised comedy debate held in the Town Hall, which was most famous in its heyday of the mid-1990s when it was hosted by Campbell McComas and regularly featured Andrew Denton.

The main event is the Comedy Festival Gala, a showcase of short performances by many (mostly international) headline and award-winning comedians. Also held at the Town Hall, the Gala is usually performed and recorded at the start of the Festival and broadcast a week or two later, currently on Channel Ten. Performers give their time for free and a large proportion of the money raised goes to Oxfam, with regular requests for donations made by the comedians during the broadcast.

A newer addition is The Roadshow, which sees a number of comedians tour around regional centres where people may not have had the opportunity to visit the festival itself.

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