WEST PALM BEACH – Originally not among the selected competitors, John Loveless proved on Thursday he belongs among Florida’s best comics by advancing to the Florida’s Funniest Comedians semifinals.
“Everything I worked for, for a long time, feels like it’s finally paying off,” Loveless said.
A snafu with the video required as part of the contest’s application process kept organizers from originally selecting Loveless as a contestant at the Palm Beach Improv’s first-round show.
When organizers realized that an error within their temperamental website, not a mistake by the contestant himself, led to Loveless’ omission from the announced lineup, they offered him the chance to compete on Thursday’s show.
“I did say I don’t mind being on it as long as I don’t bump anybody,” Loveless said. “The second they told me I wouldn’t I said ‘Put me down.’”
A 26-year-old who’s been performing for five years, Loveless began his four-minute set with a strong bit questioning Wal-Mart’s hiring practices. Not generally regarded as a high-energy comic, Loveless bent his own mold by landing joke after joke in a set crammed with observational comedy.
“I practiced this set many times before, planning for this one thing,” Loveless said. “I made sure I had it air tight, no fat. I was definitely very nervous before I went on, but once it started going, once I said my first joke and it landed, it was very easy after that.”
That opening joke made an immediate impression that didn’t wane.
“He captured them from the beginning,” judge and contest organizer Rene Harte said. “His first sentence, he was getting laughs. Right away we all looked at each other and were like, We like this guy.”
Assuming host Ken Miller, the 2013 Florida’s Funniest winner, would announce the winners in the order they had taken the stage, Loveless heard Nadeem Awad and Kyle Dahl announced as the first two winners of the night and thought he’d fallen short. Awad and Dahl had performed more than 40 minutes after Loveless exited the stage.
When Miller announced the third winner, Loveless threw his fists into the air and hustled from the back of the room to join Awad and Dahl on stage for a celebratory picture.
“While they were taking my photo I was already thinking about what I would do next show,” Loveless said.
Dahl’s advancement may have been even more unlikely. A 34-year-old who a year ago was taking a stand-up comedy class, Dahl’s yard sale bit provoked the biggest laugh of the night.
“Kyle was the surprise of the night,” Harte said. “I didn’t see Kyle coming, but his jokes were so funny.”
Dahl proceeded to deadpan his delivery throughout the remainder of the set, landing nearly every punchline.
“I was a little nervous,” Dahl said. “Some of the things I said I didn’t say how I wanted to say, but I felt good.”
Awad’s success wasn’t unexpected. A finalist in the 2019 Florida’s Funniest contest – the contest’s most recent year – Awad road a killer Brightline bit that gained momentum, impediments be damned, to the next round.
“Once he started that joke, to do four minutes on one topic – and he was just Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom! getting laughs? Oh yeah. He was good,” Harte said.
A total of 19 comics participated in Thursday’s West Palm Beach round. Seetha one of three winners in the Naples first-round show, also performed while the judges made their decision.
“Everyone was funny in their own ways,” said celebrity judge Josh Cohen of ESPN West Palm. “Some folks were more polished than others. Some folks had better timing than others. Some folks just found a way to put it all together. The margin between being Top 3 and being outside the Top 3 was really really, really thin. ‘
Awad, Dahl and Loveless are the first three comics to advance to the East semifinals, scheduled for Nov. 10. Winners from Fort Pierce (Oct. 22), Dania (Oct. 26) and Miami (Oct. 27) will join the trio in the semis at the Dania Improv. The Orlando, Tampa, Naples and Sarasota shows feed into the Nov. 16 semifinals at the Tampa Improv.
The 2022 Florida’s Funniest Comedian will be crowned on Dec. 1 at the Palm Beach Improv.