• Aussie stand-up Sam Kissajukian
SOME of the most famous comics have suffered from brutal depression and mental illness.
Robin Williams, Peter Cook and Jim Carey to name a few.
During lockdown, Aussie stand-up Sam Kissajukian became obsessed with painting, creating 300 artworks in five months.
Visualising what he couldn’t express with words, he painted up to 18 hours a day – “I only stopped to sleep, some days I didn’t sleep and just kept painting,” he says.
The intense burst of creativity was perhaps a massive red flag – later after a particularly manic two months in lockdown he was diagnosed with bipolar.
“I’ve always tried to chalk up my mental health issues as the price of being a creative, but after being diagnosed with biploar
in May of this year and seeking treatment, I’ve found a way to be creative with stability, letting go of the mythos of the tortured artist,” he says.
“My family and partner Jasmine Rule, were incredibly supportive in helping me face my mental health struggles.”
A comic who always wears his heart on his sleeve, Kissajukian will do a special show at the Perth Comedy Lounge, 300 Paintings in Lockdown, combining an exhibition of his art with stand-up comedy that touches on mental illness.
The art/comedy show is the first of its kind to be held at the Comedy Lounge.
“A large portion of the paintings could fall under abstract expressionism with a focus on compositional balance and geometric deconstruction of form,” Kissajukian says
“I studied philosophy of logic, mathematics and engineering at university and rock climbed obsessively for 20 years.
“So, I think a lot of my art-making approach is a cross-section between stand-up comedy: the improvised humour, need to pull apart ideas and edit down jokes.”
Half of the profits from the exhibition will go to a travel fund to help Perth comedians fly to the US and UK to perform.
Kissajukian’s well-received art has already been acquired by international collector Ben Rattray, CEO of Change.org, and Kissajukian has been invited to show his works at the Sydney Fringe Festival in September.
He says the stand-up at his Perth show will touch on how covid has re-shaped our lives and impacted people’s mental health.
“Stand up comedy should just be funny, so that’s my first priority,” says the 36-year-old.
“But, recently I have been leaning towards discussing mental health in a playful way, both personal and as a wider issue.
“I think there’s a sharp increase in mental health struggles post-covid, so it’s good to discuss and help people laugh about it.”
An experienced stand-up who has performed at major festivals like the Edinburgh Fringe for the past decade, Kissajukian was worried that taking medication for bi-polar might dull his acute wit, but he says other bi-polar comics recommended lamotrigine and it’s working well for him.
With typical gallows humour, he offers advice for other people struggling with their mental health.
“Don’t lock yourself away and refuse to come out until you’ve made 300 large paintings,” he says.
“The manic episodes of bipolar are seductive because your mind works so fast and fearlessly that you can achieve so much in a short period of time, but it’s a house of cards and when you crash it can be catastrophic followed by a long period of brutal depression.
“I’d had a few mild manic episodes before but the one towards end of 2021 went for so long and was so destabilising that I knew I had to seek treatment.”
Kissajukian will be doing stand-up at the Comedy Lounge on Murray Street tonight
(Saturday July 16) and his unique art/stand-up show will be on Tuesday (July 19).
Tix at https://comedylounge. com.au/collections/book-tickets/products/sam-Kissajukians-art-exhibition-comedy-show-july-2022
by STEPHEN POLLOCK