On Friday, Sept. 10, about a dozen people gathered in Mihko’s Lounge in Lansing to watch Elvis Mujić perform stand-up comedy. He was joined by Lansing-based comedians Justin Mcleoud and Floyd Jones.
This was a different audience than Mujić typically performs for. Mujić’s show is called the Socks and Undies comedy show, meant to collect undergarments for people experiencing homelessness, who happen to be his main audience.
In the last two years, Mujić has traveled all across the country in a minivan covered in stickers with messages from people he’s met at over 100 shelters for people experiencing homelessness. The stickers include Snapchat addresses, cheeky sayings and heartfelt, encouraging messages. These stickers cover the entire exterior and interior of the vehicle.
“It’s a lovely thing, they write the nicest things,” Mujić said. “It’s very motivating, it gives me a lot of hope.”
Mujić lives in his van every day of the year, and he said this trip to Michigan was the first time he’s seen a lot of friends and family in two years.
Even though he lives by himself, traveling through the country alone, Mujić said he doesn’t get lonely.
“It gives me a reason,” Mujić said.
Mujić said he loves being able to work with business owners, people who work at shelters and people experiencing homeless.
“I get to work with people who are trying to help constantly, and also get to see people who are trying to change,” Mujić said.
It was a natural disaster that led Mujić to perform at homeless shelters, about three years ago. While visiting Tupelo, Mississippi, home of Elvis Presley, Mujić went to the library. While he was there, a tornado warning was announced. The library was evacuated to a neighboring Salvation Army, where several people experiencing homelessness were gathered as well.
For Mujić, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to perform stand-up comedy.
“It was one of the best experiences ever,” he said.
It took him a little while to perform for people experiencing homelessness again, but now, he decided to devote his life to it.
Now, Mujić only performs in a city if he can find a shelter to perform in, as well.
Mujić described performing for people experiencing homelessness as “a very cleansing experience.”
“It’s what comedy is for,” Mujić said. “Levity, which is alleviating pain, and giving them joy, and who better to do that with than people who are near death, every day.”
Coming up with material for shows is a slow process. Hanging out with other comedians is one way that Mujić gets inspiration, but most of his material has been years in the making. If something works at a guerilla comedy show or at a shelter, Mujić knows that it’s funny.
Dave Chapelle is one of the comedians that Mujić looks up to, but he also praised the comedy community as a whole.
“Some known comedians have helped me in some ways, and I really appreciate them,” Mujić said.
Mujić moved to the United States when he was seven, seeking refuge from conflict in Yugoslavia, now Bosnia. He and his family relocated to Detroit and settled there. Elvis attended Amherst College, where he studied philosophy and never quite graduated after falling in love with comedy.
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“Very clearly, it was like the start of something new,” Mujić said.
After leaving college, Mujić hiked the Appalachian Trail for five months. Finishing the trail instilled a sense of confidence in him.
“I did it probably because I dropped out of college and I needed to know I could finish something difficult,” Mujić said.
Additionally, he learned that while working with others, the impossible becomes possible. This lesson is something he tries to share with the people experiencing homelessness that he performs for.
“Groups of people, statistically, they finish together,” he said.
Mujić would love to have a great piece of art one day, he has realized that performing at shelters is what he’s more passionate about doing.
Mujić said that Austin, Texas, is one of the comedy hotspots in America right now. However, Mujić won’t perform there to potentially advance his career, as the shelters there won’t let him perform.
“I’m not going to go to a city if I can’t get a shelter to perform at. I’m just not,” he said.
As someone who works with unhoused people on a daily basis, Mujić recommends acknowledging them and saying hello. In Mujić’s experience, many people experiencing homelessness feel ignored by society, and a hello can go a long way.
“Ask them about their life, you’ll learn that it's a regular person,” Mujić said.
Through his work with people experiencing homelessness, Mujić said he has been able to stay on track.
“It’s given me a compass, a true north,” Mujić said. “I live my life, and if it's starting to point away from good deeds, then I try to steer back to it.”
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