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Joe Rogan transforms Austin’s historic Ritz into an anti-woke comedy club downtown

Joe Rogan — the 55-year-old controversial podcast host, comedian, UFC announcer and recent California to Austin transplant — opened his anticipated anti-woke comedy club downtown this week.
He bought the historic Ritz Theater off Sixth Street last year in February, as first reported by Austin Towers, and began restoring the building to transform it into the Comedy Mothership. He announced on Twitter that opening night would be Tuesday.
Opening night, titled “Joe Rogan and Friends,” featured comedians David Lucas, Ron White, Tim Dillion, Roseanne Barr and Tony Hinchcliffe. Tickets went for $40 a piece and sold out quickly after opening night was announced. Resale on some went up to $500 a ticket.
The venue is decorated with a mix of aliens and historical memorabilia related to the venue’s history. There are two rooms, Fat Man and Little Boy, named after the two atomic bombs the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki that killed hundreds of thousands of Japanese people.
Rogan has consistently aligned himself against “cancel culture,” and his comedy club lives up to that notion, with The Hollywood Reporter reporting that within minutes of the opening act, a homophobic slur was said, followed by anti-transgender jokes.
“I’m drunk and on mushrooms in my new club!” Rogan was quoted in The Hollywood Reporter saying on stage. “You can’t fire me from my own club, bitch!”
The club’s opening received a mix of responses, including a thank you from Travis County GOP Chair Matt Mackowiak.
Rogan moved to the city in 2020 from California, taking up residence in a multi-million dollar West Austin mansion off Lake Austin.
Most of his following comes from fans of his podcast, the Joe Rogan Experience, where he’s been known to spread COVID-19 misinformation, transphobia and “anti-woke” commentary. He also brought on former Austin Mayor Steve Adler, where they spent much of the interview discussing the city’s homelessness response.
Built in 1929, the Ritz has gone from Westerns to porn to punk and back to a movie theater. It opened as a segregated movie theater with a separate entrance leading to the balcony for people of color. The theater was built to house “talkies” and primarily showed Westerns, along with some country music acts who performed before the movies until it closed in 1964.
By the 1970s, it frequently opened and changed directions. In 1970, it opened as an adult theater for three years until closing again and became a music venue in 1974, which only lasted a year. A theater group then started performing in the theater in 1977 but didn’t last long.
More:The Ritz at 85, or ‘The Little Movie Theater That Could’
It opened as a punk club in 1982, with Black Flag as the inaugural band to bring hardcore music to Austin. The inherent violence in the shows caused the owners to lose their liquor license and the place eventually shut down again not even a year later. For a time, the Esther Follies local comedy troupe were the only performers at the Ritz, but the owners eventually started bringing back some Texas music, heavy metal and a little bit of punk throughout the 80s.
Until Alamo Drafthouse purchased it in 2007 to become a movie theater once more, the Ritz remained a bar, pool club and music venue. Alamo Drafthouse announced in March 2021 it was closing the location due to the pandemic.

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