WEST PALM BEACH – Like many of his fellow South Florida comedians, Jay Guy felt he needed one final night at the Palm Beach Improv.
There’s simply something different about the venue, which, after 22 years, welcomed comedy fans for the last time on Sunday night.
“There’s good energy here,” said Guy, standing in the lobby while Gary Owen performed the club’s final set. “I have a lot of history here. There is history here. Definitely bittersweet.”
Guy’s Palm Beach Improv experience is all encompassing. He started visiting the club as a comedy fan. Guy later became a performer, working his way to a regular gig as one of the clubs featured comics. He also ran the audio on some nights, and managed the New Faces shows.
“I was given the key to open the Improv door,” Guy said. “I came in here one day. I opened the door by myself and I had to walk in there, and I was like, this is insane, dude.”
During his association with the Improv Guy enjoyed watching headliners Kevin Hart, Lavell Crawford and Bill Burr. A night with Damon Wayans that concluded with the mega star offering young comedians advice is a particular favorite.
“So many amazing memories here,” Guy said. “Just coming here at a young age, sitting in the audience watching comedians going, How cool would it be if I could do that? And then being able to accomplish that.”
About a dozen local comics made sure to say goodbye to the Improv in person on Sunday.
Jackie Sanchez performed and produced shows at the venue, but will miss simply sitting in the back of the room with fellow comics.
“It was nice to hang out, especially with older comics who were around when I started,” she said.
Always welcoming to up-and-coming comics willing to work on their craft, the Improv’s hang-out factor proved invaluable for local comics. At most shows comedians would congregate around a couple tables in the back of the room laughing and punching up each other’s jokes..
“I’ve spent a lot of time, not even on stage, here,” Steve Lamm said, “I’m going to miss it. It’s an iconic spot.”
Jen Hellman’s first 5-, 15-, and 20-minute sets all occurred at the Palm Beach Improv.
“If you’ve ever been able to perform here when this is a full house, it’s pretty exhilarating,” Hellman said.
When Mark Christopher re-launched his comedy career during the COVID pandemic, he did so at the Palm Beach Improv.
He still has the video from that show.
“It was always a great room,” Christopher said. “I’m sad to see it go.”
Developers purchased the north end of CityPlace. Soon, construction of a new high rise will begin on the site that held the Improv, some restaurants and a movie theater.
With all the businesses surrounding the Improv already shuttered, what had been a bustling entrance to the Improv echoed with desolation on Sunday.
“It is weird to be outside and see the construction and nobody here at CityPlace,” said Zach Bugarin, who hosted shows and once finished third during the Improv’s annual Thanksgiving Turkey Contest. .
The building will soon be gone, but the club will live on. The new home for the Palm Beach Improv, near the intersection of Southern Blvd. And 441, isn’t scheduled to be ready until 2025. In the meantime, owners are looking for a temporary home for the club.
“It’s been humbling, being a part of the Palm Beach Improv, but, again, it’s really exciting because it’s not over,” Hellman said. “It’s a new chapter. I think it’s going to be great, whatever happens from here.”