Barry Humphries, the comedian who gave us iconic characters like Dame Edna Everage, has died at Sydney’s St Vincent’s Hospital at the age of 89.
He died after suffering complications from a recent hip surgery.
Born in Melbourne in 1934, Humphries first appeared at Melbourne University student revues in the mid-1950s. One of his earliest creations, Mrs Norm Everage, first appeared on stage in 1955 and went on to become his most famous caricature — with the Moonee Ponds housewife later granted a damehood and international fame as Dame Edna Everage.
He appeared on HSV7‘s opening night variety special in November 1956 and starred in early TV variety shows including an ABC special, Wild Life And Christmas Belles.
Humphries went on to the United Kingdom where he performed on the West End, made his movie debut in Bedazzled and starred in BBC‘s The Late Show. He also co-wrote a comic strip character, Barry McKenzie, which led to the movie The Adventures Of Barry McKenzie, starring Barry Crocker in the title role and Humphries as his aunt Edna Everage.
Humphries continued to alternate between the UK and Australia. Among his many credits, he appeared with his daughters Emily and Tessa in the Australian movie The Getting Of Wisdom in 1977 and, as Dame Edna, featured in commercials for a brand of whitegoods.
There were guest appearances in various variety and chat shows, usually as Dame Edna or her polar opposite, Sir Les Patterson. He appeared numerous times as Dame Edna at the TV Week Logie Awards and, in 1986, hosted An Aussie Audience With Dame Edna.
His career also took him to the US, where he appeared on Saturday Night Live, The Tonight Show and Ally McBeal.
In 1999, he hosted the ABC documentary series Barry Humphries’ Flashbacks, including commentary both as himself and as various alter egos including Dame Edna, Sir Les Patterson and Sandy Stone.
In 2005, he starred in the telemovie Da Kath And Kim Code and later in the movie Kath And Kimderella.
He continued working and touring right up until recently and had plans to go on tour again later in the year.
His family has issued a statement on his passing:
|“He was completely himself until the very end, never losing his brilliant mind, his unique wit and generosity of spirit.
“With over 70 years on the stage, he was an entertainer to his core, touring up until the last year of his life and planning more shows that will sadly never be.
“His audiences were precious to him, and he never took them for granted. Although he may be best remembered for his work in theatre, he was a painter, author, poet, and a collector and lover of art in all its forms.
“He was also a loving and devoted husband, father, grandfather, and a friend and confidant to many. His passing leaves a void in so many lives.
“The characters he created, which brought laughter to millions, will live on.”
Among his numerous honours and accolades, he was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in 1982 and awarded a Centenary Medal in 2001.
Barry Humphries is survived by wife Lizzie Spender, sons Rupert and Oscar, daughters Emily and Tessa, and 10 grandchildren.