Just a few years after discovering his own passion for comedy, Silver Spring native Martin Amini returns to the Washington, D.C., area this weekend to host a show featuring a new crop of up-and-coming talent.
Amini is the co-producer and master of ceremonies for the D.C. stop on the Comedy’s Best Kept Secret Tour, playing at Club Heaven and Hell in Adams Morgan on Friday night. The tour has enjoyed a 19-city run and showcases aspiring comedians in states across the country. This weekend, D.C.’s best kept secrets are Martin Montana, Gordon Baker-Bone and New York comedian and producer Dan Frigolette.
“These are the funniest guys you haven’t heard of yet,” Frigolette said. “The idea is to get some exposure for these guys who haven’t popped yet.”
Just last year, Amini was one of those guys.
Born and raised in Silver Spring, Amini attended John F. Kennedy High School and graduated from Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda. After graduation, he earned a degree in entrepreneurship from the business school at the University of Maryland. Amini moved out to San Francisco after college with the intention of going to law school. But it wasn’t long after taking his LSATs that Amini said he realized it wasn’t the career he wanted and decided to move to Los Angeles.
“I moved out to L.A. to pursue something,” Amini said. “I wasn’t sure what ...”
During his first year in L.A., Amini lived with his cousin, comedian Max Amini. It was Max who initially suggested Amini check out the entertainment industry.
“He asked me, ‘What do you plan on doing?’” remembered Amini.
When Amini told his cousin he was thinking of using his background in business to open a hookah lounge, Max told him: “But then you’ll just be a hookah lounge owner.”
“[He said], ‘L.A. is the entertainment capital of the world. You could do anything,’” Amini said. “And that’s when he planted the seed.”
Amini soon started promoting his cousin’s shows and eventually landed an internship with Ben Stiller’s Red Hour Productions. After earning some experience through jobs with other local production companies, Amini bought a camera and headed out on the road with his cousin, filming his comedy acts. It was his first real exposure to the world of stand-up comedy.
“[Max] caters to a Middle Eastern audience and I remember watching him sell out shows ... and saying, ‘I wish I could come back to my community and do that,’” Amini said.
Last summer, Amini moved back to Montgomery County to do just that.
He started doing stand-up with District Comedy, a booking production company started by local comics Ralph Cooper and Brad Ryan.
“I started off just talking about myself,” Amini said. “What works for most comics is they talk about their own experiences. I started immediately just making fun of myself ... and it worked.”
It worked so well, in fact, that Amini admits the early success went to his head.
“I thought, ‘Aww, man, I’m a natural,’” he said. “I was a little cocky ... the second time wasn’t nearly as funny as the first and the third and fourth sucked, too.”
But after a few humbling experiences in the beginning, Amini seems to have found his footing. He now runs the Martin Amini & Friends Comedy Show at Heaven and Hell every Friday night. His open mics and showcases at Brass Monkey, also in Adams Morgan, earned Amini mention in DCist’s Best Comedy Clubs in D.C.
Amini has also started his own production company, Silver City Productions, named for his hometown. He earns a living shooting commercials and promotional material for D.C. clubs.
With Amini’s experience in L.A., and Frigolette’s in New York, the producers’ expectations for the Best Kept Secret Tour are understandably high. But both say they haven’t been disappointed in the D.C. comedy scene.
“There are a lot of guys doing a lot of great comedy in D.C.,” Frigolette said.
“Being in L.A. ... I was spoiled a bit,” Amini said. “But coming back to D.C., the talent level of D.C. comics is through the roof.”