WEST PALM BEACH – For the better part of a month Nadeem Awad worried about whether his first ever headlining performance at the Palm Beach Improv would draw a large enough crowd.
Those worries proved unfounded.
On a night where the Improv doesn’t normally draw large audiences, more than 350 fans packed into Palm Beach County’s premier comedy club to enjoy one of South Florida’s favorite local comics.
“He packed it out. For a Wednesday? That’s insane,” said Dan Long, the night’s feature comic. “Nadeem’s a monster. Amazing show.”
No one was more impressed that Improv co-owner and general manager Rene Harte, who’s watched Awad’s career develop over the past half decade.
“I am so proud of him,” Harte said. “The energy of this crowd, the turnout was fantastic – and they were drinkers.”
Awad had performed numerous times at the Improv as a host or feature – most recently in October as Bret Ernst’s feature comic – but Wednesday marked the first time that he needed to carry the weight of the show.
He did so with ease.
Mixing several new bits with some tried and true material, Awad performed for about 45 minutes, receiving multiple applause breaks throughout the set.
The night packed the emotion and great-to-see-you-again energy of a high school reunion into a stand-up comedy performance. At several points Awad gave shout outs to former co-workers, schoolmates and fellow comics in the attendance.
“I felt like everybody had a good time,” Awad said. “I thought it was a success. My best friends came out, along with guys I haven’t seen in a long time -since high school and middle school.”
A dozen or so local comics joined the fun, occupying the Improv’s back rows, howling and applauding along with everyone else in attendance.
“Maybe the most fun night I’ve ever had at the Improv,” Long said. “I felt like everyone did well.”
Awad, in conjunction with Sadman Productions, delivered a few surprises to the unsuspecting crowd.
Renowned DJ Johnny Quest set the tone for the show’s party atmosphere by rocking the room for an hour prior to showtime while audience members found their seats and ordered their drinks.
The first comic to take the stage, Gary “G-Man” Gelman, wasn’t even listed on the bill. He took the stage dressed in boxing attire to the LL Cool J song “Mamma Said Knock You Out,” building suspense within the curious audience.
With the help of a couple “ring girls” Gelman removed the robe, revealing boxing attire, and shadow boxed for a bit before announcing deadpan over the microphone that the show would begin shortly.
Once the joke registered, the crowd applauded the bit, ready to see what would come next.
Gelman promptly exited the stage, allowing host Anthony Terzo, himself an Italian Tasmanian devil of energy, to take over shortly afterward. Sadman and Long elicited more than their share of laughs before yielding the stage to the headliner.
Awad’s next scheduled public performance is November 17 at the Sadman Comedy Speakeasy Lounge, located above Arturo’s Ristorante in Boca Raton. He’ll be the feature comic, with Greg Hahn headlining that evening.
One night later Awad will return to the headliner spot as part of the twice-monthly Sadman Comedy Productions show at Biergarten in Boca Raton.
He’s also eyeing another potential show at either the Palm Beach or Dania Improv in the not-to-distant future.
“After tonight, he earned another show,” Harte said.