“The thing I hear more than anything with my show is: ‘That was funny. I’m going to bring my mum.’
“I suppose that’s because I usually get buck naked.
“I think it’s very funny to laugh at willies on stage.”
Nudity is all part of the fun for Garry Starr – the deluded thesbian – who will stop at nothing in his quest to entertain.
His latest show – Greece Lightning – takes on ancient Greece – all of it – sea voyages, battles, monsters and gods.
Damien Warren-Smith, the creator of Garry Starr says: “The thing about ancient Greece is that most people know something about it – but it is also thought of as high art, so it’s ripe for taking down.
“We all know something about Medusa, or we’ve heard of Cerberus – so it is full of characters that everyone knows.
“I’ve also put Easter Eggs into it – so if do you know about Greek mythology you get the references.”
During lockdown Warren-Smith took a job as a van driver and spent a lot of time listening to Stephen Fry’s Mythos audio books. Gradually the idea of Garry Starr in ancient Greece began to take hold of him.
Garry Starr is nothing if not a trier. Energetic, chaotic, prone to accidents, he never lets a lack of resources get in the way of his soaring ambitions. In his previous show Garry Starr Performs Everything, he attempted to recreate every acting style in the world in the space of an hour.
Warren-Smith is looking forward to Edinburgh – where he finds audiences are especially ready to leap into the thick of things when Garry Starr’s ludicrous and grandiose schemes begin to fall apart.
“One of the greatest compliments I get is that people don’t believe I don’t use audience plants. In fact people often rush up and want to play – they really want to be part of the action.
“I try to set it up so they will also get the biggest laugh. Garry is always the butt of the joke.”
In a previous life Warren-Smith was a classical actor, who performed Shakespeare— but he discovered a knack for making people laugh during a stint at Philippe Gaulier’s famous clown school in Paris.
Gaulier has a reputation for transforming performers – pulling out extraordinary abilities to confront, shock and delight on stage. The idea is that everyone has a clown character inside them – you just have to find it.
“What often happens is your clown is often the thing people say about you after they leave the room.
“I was seeing a girl and I asked her and she said: ‘People think you can do anything.”
Warren-Smith, who was born in Inverness and moved to Australia as a child, believes audiences love the simplicity of the character.
“It’s completely non political – just pure escapism. Garry Starr is an idiot.
“If you look at the outdated medical definition of idiot it means an adult with the mind of a child. And there is something about trying to find that sense of play on stage.”
This Fringe he plans to try out some slots wearing civvies, rather than a loincloth. He fancies trying out some stand up – although he will stick with the name Garry Starr.
“I just think it works – I suppose it was a combination of Gary Glitter and Freddie Starr.”
He’s not sure how much longer he can keep on throwing himself around on stage without serious injury – but he’s not ready to retire the character just yet.
So does he have any idea where Garry might go next?
“I did a sketch called The Life and Death of Baby Jesus which went down quite well.
“I quite like the idea of Garry Starr performs the Bible.
Garry Starr: Greece Lightning, Underbelly Cowgate, August 4-16, August 18-28