Audiences need not bring money for a cover charge to see this show. No, those wanting to attend should simply offer new undergarments as payment at the door to see comedian Elvis Ali, who’s scheduled to perform at 9:30 p.m. on Thursday at the Brass Monkey Pubhouse in Canyon Country.
Sometime after his “Socks and Undies Comedy Show,” as he’s named it, Ali said he will distribute those socks and underwear to homeless folks on the streets in an effort to help where help is needed.
In addition to performances like the upcoming one at Brass Monkey, Ali also does his stand-up at homeless shelters across the country in what he calls “Comic Relief.” What began in 2015 as an experiment to perform at a Salvation Army in Tupelo, Mississippi, during a tornado warning eventually became something that he said was just good — something he could do that was positive.
“I feel like, if you’re going through anything difficult or if you’re lost or feel terrible,” Ali said, “if you just help somebody in some way, it’ll give you more clarity.”
Ali, 32, has certainly had his share of low times in life. Born in Bosnia — then known as Yugoslavia — he came here when he was 7 years old a couple years after the Bosnian War between 1992 and 1995. His father had kept the family there so he could fight, after which they were displaced.
“I don’t know the technicality of it,” Ali admitted, “but we were classified as rescue refugees. And there was a program that was bringing families into America. I think we were the first family in this particular program.”
Ali has also had his times of being in limbo. Of course, there was a lot of movement at first. Once in America — New York City, to be precise — he was only there about a year and a half before the family relocated to Detroit, where his parents got work in the auto industry. Then he briefly studied philosophy at Amherst College in Massachusetts. But during that time — a sort of limbo time — he essentially, as these things happen, fell into comedy.
“I tried it once,” he said, “and I just thought, this is kind of interesting.”
And that’s the story. That’s it. Upon being pressed, he did acknowledge that he remembered as a kid watching a Dave Chappelle comedy special on DVD with friends and enjoying it, but he never thought of it as something he could actually do.
He also fell into that Salvation Army situation in Tupelo:
“So, I was in a library,” Ali began, “and I was getting audiobooks because I used to drive a lot and I would listen to audiobooks. And, well, they were closing the library and it looked like a serious thing. So, I just went across the street to the Salvation Army when other people were going and I thought it would be interesting and funny to do that.”
That being stand-up comedy for people taking shelter from a possible tornado disaster. But Ali found a clarity in life doing that stunt, the clarity he was previously talking about when going through difficult times. He continued to do this “guerilla comedy,” he said, at homeless shelters, jails and prisons. He’s even performed for patrons at Denny’s restaurants, bars and Laundromats. It just became something very special to him, he said, something very nice.
The comedian continues to do this work on the road. He said he once lived in Los Angeles about four years ago but he really doesn’t have a home base.
“I schedule shows and shelters along the way and keep moving,” he added. “Basically, a gypsy with a cause.”
Performing with Ali on Thursday at Brass Monkey are comedians Clay Newman, Jeremy Talamantes, Joe Beltran and Nicki Fuchs.
At 7 the same evening, Ali is also scheduled to do stand-up at Bridge to Home in Newhall. And while the Bridge to Home show is for shelter guests only, the Brass Monkey Pubhouse performance is open to the undergarment-paying public. Both events have the same goal — to help those struggling with homelessness.
For more information about Ali and Thursday’s show, go to ElvisComedy.com. The Brass Monkey Pubhouse is located at 18511 Soledad Canyon Road, in Canyon Country.