Room 808 Revives Comedy + Jazz
November 1, 2021 @ 12:00pm
D.C. was forced to say goodbye to many memory-filled clubs and music venues that permanently closed their doors over the past 20 months due to the pandemic. There is a silver lining, though: The closures allowed surviving venues to innovate and new ones to emerge. As we continue to transition to a post-shutdown world – while living in Covid limbo – there are a plethora of new venues popping up around the D.C. area. The District’s evenings are slowly beginning to buzz once more with eager concertgoers and clubgoers alike. From small venues to new theaters, here is one of the best new spots keeping our music nightlife alive and thriving. For the full roundup, visit here.
The best feel-good music venue story to emerge from quarantine is the new comedy and jazz club Room 808. The Petworth venue was initially conceived by a performer wanting to do live stand-up again. Room 808 has since rapidly spiraled into a successful multi-disciplinary space for creatives.
Two years ago, owner and comedian Martin Amini was living and working in Los Angeles. After starting out in the District in 2012, Amini moved to L.A. in 2019 with a full-time stand-up residency at Sunset Boulevard’s Comedy Store. When March 2020 rolled around — as the story infamously goes — clubs closed and shows came to a screeching halt.
As Amini recalls, “When Covid hit in March 2020, I was in D.C. doing a show and I never got back on the plane to L.A. I thought it was only going to be a month.”
After 18 months, Amini gave up his apartment in L.A. and continued to wait out the pandemic in D.C. He witnessed all the places and venues he attributes to his start permanently closing. That’s when he took initiative.
“I took it upon myself to create an intimate space where the comedy scene can come to work out their jokes,” Amini says.
Amini decided to open Room 808 this past June so he and fellow comedians could coalesce. The BYOB venue is a cozy, colorful space with emerald-painted walls and rudimentary whimsical artwork adorning them. A vintage Persian rug and wingback orange velvet chair from the ‘70s mark the stage from the audience, which adds to the quirky space’s charm. The setup is so inviting it caught the attention of Amini’s musician friends.
“While doing comedy shows here, a lot of my musician friends told me how much they love the space and that it’s perfect for small intimate shows,” Amini says. “I then started integrating some of my music friends into the shows. One thing led to another, and we started combining the music and comedy into the same space.”
The organic addition of music provides a unique audience experience and innovative employment solution for entertainers. And with Amini’s connections on both coasts, the show lineup quickly became a must-see of up-and-coming stand-up performers, with many visiting comedians having starred on platforms like Netflix, HBO and Comedy Central.
As Amini explains, “Every Wednesday, we have a speakeasy comedy showcase, which started off as my comedy class during the pandemic. It’s grown into one of the top Wednesday shows in D.C. for comedy.”
Thursday is a hybrid of comedy and music that Amini pre-books; Friday and Saturdays feature an underground company with artists from L.A. and New York. Room 808 also provides complimentary video, lighting and photography equipment for booked performers to help record their sets.
“Everyone’s blown away at how fast this place has gotten up and running,” Amini says “I think that’s just a testament to the scene here in D.C. The audience is so supportive of arts, comedy and music.”
Read our full roundup of must-visit, new and reopening venues here.
Room 808 is open from 12-5 p.m. on Mondays, 12-10 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday and 1-11:30 p.m. Friday to Saturday. Tickets range from free to $20 depending on the show. Purchase tickets and view schedule here.
Room 808: 808 Upshur St. NW, DC; room808dc.com // @room808dc
Enjoy this piece? Consider becoming a member for access to our premium digital content. Support local journalism and start your membership today.