A sell-out show in Las Vegas, training with the world's best clowning teacher in France and touring the world as a performer - Damien Warren-Smith has had the career a performing artist's dreams are made of.
After saying goodbye to the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas when COVID hit, Damien decided he would return to his roots in Australia, where he would create his own show Garry Starr Performs Everything which will perform at the Mandurah Performing Arts Centre in January.
"I've always been a performer - I did a lot of sports as a kid and convinced myself that was my interest because my brother did it - but it was clear to everyone in the family that I was supposed to perform," Damien said.
Damien decided to follow his calling and was accepted to train at Sydney Actors Centre - as soon as his studies were complete, he began performing full-time.
"I jetsetted off to London and worked as a theatre performer for 10 years or so.
"I worked with various theatre companies and did a bit of TV here and there too."
Life as an actor saw Damien work under many directors from all over the world but it was discovering clowning and meeting with Philippe Gaulier that he said shaped him the most as a performer.
"I was aware that clowns existed - but I had no idea what clowning was," he said.
"I went to train in France with Philippe Gaulier who is a renowned clowning coach who trained people like Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter."
His training with Mr Gaulier made him fall in love with the art of clowning and inspired him to delve further into the art.
"We formed a clown troupe which toured around the festival scene - we were called 'Plague of Idiots' and we just kind of did really silly clown shows for a while.
"Then I moved to Berlin to work on solo clown shows, toured around the burlesque scene and that's where Garry Starr was born."
Damien's big break came when a director was commissioned to create a large-scale show in Las Vegas.
"I moved my life to Las Vegas in September of 2019.
"My director was commissioned to create this huge show for the Venetian Hotel, I was the clown. We opened the show and were selling out to massive audiences with celebrities - then the virus hit.
"Just as I was about to renew my contract the show closed and I decided I wanted to go back to Australia. When the show reopened I decided it wasn't right for me and I wanted to go back to creating my own work."
It was after returning from Vegas that Damien decided to relaunch his show and character, Garry Starr.
The world according to Garry Starr
The character of Garry Starr, according to Damien, is like his alter ego.
"I have this inflated self belief that I can do everything," he laughed.
"I grew up in a single parent household and whenever I came home and said 'mum, I want to do this', she would be like 'yeah - of course you can'.
"Garry Starr is a disgraced Shakespearean actor, he's rejected by the Royal Shakespeare Company - there's a bit of truth to that - I worked with a bit of Shakespearean performance but I always had the Royal Shakespeare Company dangled in front of me like a carrot.
"Garry thinks the performing arts are going to die without him so he performs every single genre - I have a rule with Garry that he only knows one thing about every genre and that's enough for him."
Damien said when his mum came to watch his show for the first time, she immediately knew who the character was based on.
"When my mum came to see the show she said 'that was just you as a child' - the joy I get from the most mundane things - that's a lot of what clowning is, tapping into that place where you feel the most joy by just playing."
Garry goes global
Damien created his show alongside director Cal McCrystal, a director whose career highlights include working with Cirque du Soleil and on the Mighty Boosh.
"When I was back in London I worked with Cal McCrystal and he helped me put together this show - we brought it to Australia and did the festival circuit here before a UK tour and it kind of took off from there.
"I didn't think it would become my life - we did that first week in Adelaide and everyone around me was saying 'you've got to run with this', and I started winning these awards.
"I guess it's really drawing on what my career was - a lot of discovering with Philippe Gaulier - finding what it is about you that is ridiculous."
He said audiences watching his show could expect escapism, fun and complete immersion.
"It's a really great opportunity to completely forget about anything else that's going on in your life," he said.
"Come along and completely forget about everything in your life and just laugh without judgement or anything."
Garry Starr Performs Everything will perform at MANPAC on January 27, and tickets can be purchased via the MANPAC website.
Garry Starr Performs Everything dates:
- December 11 @ Comedy Republic
- January 27 @ MANPAC