But his show 300 Paintings in Lockdown highlights how sometimes our times of greatest struggle can actually evolve into our greatest comedic triumphs.
He has brought some of that incredible burst of creativity with him on stage, showing some of those 300 paintings in the show which explores his journey from comedian to visual artist.
“I’d done comedy for 10 years but during Covid I couldn’t tour and I think I just got sick of stopping and starting and I didn’t really have anything else to do,” Kissajukian said.
“I’d never painted before and painted on cardboard and then the first one looked all right and so I just kept making them and it kind of snowballed from there.
“It’s a bit strange because I don’t have an art background. I think my approach to painting was very improvised and I was trying to paint my mental state. Because I think in comedy I’ve been trying to communicate verbally for 10 years and there were a lot of ideas I couldn’t express verbally, but I found I was able to do it visually.”
Kissajukian’s show exemplifies the great variety of work on offer at the Brisbane Comedy Festival, with many artists such as himself defying categorisation.
The festival has more than 350 gigs by more than 110 comedians, including international acts like Danny Bhoy and Micky Bartlett alongside local fan favourites such as Tripod, The Umbilical Brothers, Ross Noble, Rove McManus and Anne Edmonds.
Kissajukian had spent a decade working as a professional stand-up comedian, but within three months of going public with his art had numerous acquisitions by international collectors and exhibitions in galleries around Australia.
His stand-up show takes audiences on an epic comedic journey of art, mental health and creativity, followed by a solo exhibition of his paintings.
He said he finds the joy on stage in destigmatising mental health challenges, which he thinks everyone can relate to after the challenges wrought by Covid-19.
“I think there’s such a stigma around it – and shame,” he said.
“Everyone has gone through some kind of mental health crisis during the last few years and no one’s talking about it. Everyone’s like `Covid over – back to life’.
“I don’t think a lot of people in Australia are as good navigating that, especially guys. And so I wanted to make work that kind of addresses that – there is a mental health crisis and this is my story and then try and show the positive side that there can be so much humour in life and things can actually happen if you have an illness.
“The response to that has been so nice. I mean, I can’t believe it really.
“I was just in this flow state where I was delusional but I had complete access to my subconscious. And so it was a very interesting time and I feel like in the show I can best communicate who I am because I’m using words and visual references at the same time.
“And I think that gives a better understanding of who I am as a person and I feel very seen doing that. So I find it incredibly enjoyable.”
Brisbane Comedy Festival Director Phoebe Meredith said that despite pandemic disruptions the festival’s audience has grown by 25 per cent since 2019 and welcomed more than 20,000 first-time attendees.
“It’s true that laughter is the best medicine and live comedy has proven to be the preferred antidote to recent woes,” Meredith said.
“Brisbane Comedy Festival continues to grow from strength to strength, pulling record crowds and converting thousands of new comedy fans.”
The festival runs until May 18 at Brisbane Powerhouse, The Fortitude Music Hall and The Tivoli.Jump to next article