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Avanspettacolo (literally: "before the show") is an Italian theatrical genre that developed between the 1930s and 1950s. Closely related to revue and variety show, avanspettacolo features a diverse mixture of music, ballet, sketch comedy, and other forms of entertainment. The genre emerged during the Fascist era, as a consequence of the promulgation of "modernist" laws that granted tax relief advantages to the theatres that were adapted to play movies. As a consequence, theatre companies were forced to devise a light and short form of representation that could be performed on the stage to entertain the audience before the "main show" (i.e., the movie).
Since avanspettacolo began as a low-profile and minor adaptation of revue proper, and in the 1970s ended up including such things as strip tease shows, the term is sometimes used in a pejorative sense to refer to cheap, low quality comedy. Nevertheless, in the first half of the 20th century avanspettacolo served as a springboard for many prominent comedians, including Eduardo De Filippo, Totò, Aldo Fabrizi, and Lino Banfi.
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