WEST PALM BEACH – Matt Bellak experiences a strange feeling every time he takes the stage at the Palm Beach Improv.
Doing so always reminds him of how much he’s achieved as a stand-up comic.
“It’s the first place I ever saw a live stand-up show,” said Bellak, who was a 17-year-old high schooler as he sat in the audience. “Anytime I do this room it’s a weird little full circle moment for me.”
Tim Hanlon, Bellak’s partner on the Dope City Comedy Tour, shares Bellak’s affinity for that particular stage.
“It’s also nice to go to a club where you know everybody there and you just know the layout of it,” said Hanlon. “It feels like that now. It feels like we are in our living room now.”
Bellak and Hanlon enjoyed those feelings again on Wednesday, effectively launching their latest tour in front of friends and family at the PB Improv.
Rene Harte -who operates the venue, is revered by both local and national comics, and is considered a mentor by both Bellak and Hanlon- greeted Bellak and Hanlon prior to the show, then grabbed a chair in the back to watch the performance.
“Even tonight when I saw her I was like, Oh boy is she going to watch?” Hanlon said. “There was a little bit of nervousness, but actually I kind of wanted her to stay and watch.”
At different points in recent years Bellak and Hanlon both worked for Harte, picking her brain about the business while teaching comedy classes (Hanlon) or scouting for the Florida’s Funniest contest (Bellak).
Harte, in turn, watched as Bellak and Hanlon grew from inexperienced newbies to comics who tour nationally.
“I’m very proud of them,” Harte said. “It makes me happy.”
Now veteran comics beginning to make a name for themselves nationwide, Bellak and Hanlon still find performances at the PB Improv to be different from most shows.
There’s a little added pre-show stress – friends and family text throughout the day asking about showtime, parking and such – but it’s a small price to pay.
“I love it though,” Bellak said. “I love doing this room. It’s a huge full-circle thing for me. It’s the first place I ever saw a comedy show and now every time I get on that stage I think about it, like f*ck, this is so cool.”
On Wednesday, the audience found it to be pretty cool, too.
Along with a couple hundred friends, family and fans, the number of local comics who turned out for the show reached double digits.
“Fun Florida crowd,” Bellak said. “I love performing for Florida crowds because you can f*ck with them and say whatever you want and they let you beat them up a little bit.”
Hanlon used the show to try a couple new bits, including one plucked from that morning’s newspaper about a Florida man using the Stand Your Ground law to justify his killing of an iguana.
“I tried not to script out exactly where I was going to do them,” Hanlon said of the new bits. “I tried to do them where they naturally fell.”
Several of those bits will certainly remain part of Hanlon’s set as he, Bellak and feature comic C. J. Landry continue this version of the Dope City Comedy Tour.
They’ll be in Naples at Off The Hook on Sunday, the Miami Improv on Wednesday, the Orlando Improv on June 16, and the Tampa Improv the following night before heading to Ohio for the remainder of the month.