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Destination Delray

New Yorker Zach McGovern discovers comedy jewel in Delray Beach, Florida.

by Chuck king
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DELRAY BEACH, Fla. – Prior to catching COVID-19, comic Zach McGovern had never head of Delray Beach, Florida.

Now, he raves about its underrated, almost underground, comedy scene.

“I knew there were some shows in Fort Lauderdale and then they have Miami,” McGovern said. “No offense to Delray Beach but I didn’t even know Delray Beach was a place before I came down the first time. Not knowing it was even a place I didn’t know there would be a comedy scene here. But they are telling me they are starting to get a bunch of stuff going.”

A Chicago-area native now living in New York, McGovern caught COVID-19 early during the pandemic.

Upon recovery, McGovern needed a change of scenery so he and a friend headed to Fort Lauderdale. During that trip, he made the roughly 40-minute drive north to Delray Beach, inadvertently stumbling into a burgeoning comedy carnival.

McGovern walked Delray Beach’s trendy Atlantic Ave. and saw bars boasting live music next to bars billing themselves as dance clubs. There were upscale restaurants yards away from sports bars. The scene is vibrant.

The age gets younger as the night grows longer.

The Ave can be hip, artsy or raucous.

If nothing else, it’s a good source for material.

“I saw a flier for comedy and I was like, Oh, sh*t they do comedy in Delray?” McGovern recalls.

A veteran of the New York comedy club scene, McGovern has performed at a handful of outdoor backyard events since the onset of the pandemic, but work has been sparse in a city virtually shut down by COVID fears. And the prospect for the coming months isn’t exactly bright.

“It sucks because it’s not warm in New York in the winter,” McGovern said.

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In late September McGovern was back in what could soon become his newly adopted hometown – of course, a new girlfriend in Delray Beach is part of the allure – looking to get back on stage.

He contacted promoter David “Sadman” Sadaka.

“I just saw his name on a flier,” McGovern said. “I looked him up and then I talked to some of my comedian friends in New York and a couple of them were like, ‘Oh yeah, he’s a good guy. Hit him up.’”

Sadman added McGovern to a Sept. 28 bill ultimately headlined by Bret Ernst at the Tin Roof.

When McGovern’s set delivered, Sadman added him to two more shows that week.

“Three shows in a week, that’s more than I’ve done since March,” McGovern said. “That’s crazy to say but the pandemic’s f*cked everything up.”

Approximately 24 hours after performing at the Turtle Tavern, more of dive bar a few miles from the main strip in Delray Beach, McGovern took the stage – a real stage this time, similar to that of Tin Roof – at the Biergarten.

“I know that my act rocks, but when I’m developing new material I like doing it in different rooms because you don’t want to just cater your material toward people in their early 20s, you don’t want to cater your material toward people in their 80s,” McGovern said. “If you want to be able to make everybody laugh you’ve got to do a lot of different rooms.”

At the Biergarten McGovern entertained an audience whose age ranged from the young 20s to the early 60s.

For material he drew on his life in New York. Jokes about the peculiarities that come with riding the subway and navigating through homeless people resonated with a Boca Raton crowd largely transplanted from the country’s northeast corridor.

McGovern headed to New York the following morning, but he’ll be back at the end of October to once again perform in Delray Beach.

“I’m just getting the reps back in, just getting my brain back and my comedy vibes,” McGovern said.

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