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Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Barrie Humphries: Dame Edna Everage comedian has died aged 89

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Barrie Humphreys, the Australian entertainer best known for his cartoon character Dame Edna Everage, has died at the age of 89.

The star was hospitalized in Sydney in March after complications from hip surgery. He fell in February.

Humphreys’ best-known compositions were hits in the UK in the 1970s, and in the late 1980s she began her own TV chat show, Dame Edna Everage’s Experience.

His other personas included an alcoholic Sir Les Patterson.

His family, in a statement, remembered him “completely intact, without losing his talent, distinctive intelligence and generosity to the very end”.

He added that Humphreys’ fans were “priceless to him” and that “his character, who made millions laugh, will live on”.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese paid tribute shortly after news of Humphreys’ death broke.

“A brilliant wit, satirist, writer and absolutely unique, he had both genius and talent.” Mr. Albanese said.

Born in Melbourne, Humphreys moved to London in 1959 and appeared in West End shows such as Maggie May and Oliver!

Inspired by Dadaism, an absurdist and avant-garde art movement, he became a major figure in British comedy alongside contemporaries such as Alan Bennett, Dudley Moore and Spike Milligan.

Comedian Rory Bremner described Humphreys in a tweet as “lightning-fast, destructive, mischievous … and brutally funny”.

“We lost the best we ever had,” he said.

Welsh actor and comedian Rob Brydon also described Humphreys as “a truly great man who has inspired me tremendously” and said “I am delighted to call him my friend”.

He told that he had come to her only three days ago.

Australian actor Jason Donovan tweeted a picture of himself with Dame Edna and said Humphreys was “just a fun genius”.

‘Hello foursome!’

In 1955 Humphreys cast Mrs Norman Everage, a housewife from Mooney Ponds in the suburbs of Melbourne, for a university production.

This was the first iteration of the irrepressible character that would define his career.

Humphreys said that his piece should only last a week.

Instead, it blossomed into Dame Edna, her charming, fast-paced comic alter ego who would be needed by audiences in Australia and beyond for decades to come. He said the character was based on his own mother.

Humphreys told The Guardian in 2018, “Edna was painfully shy at first. It’s hard to believe!”

She became more outrageous over time and became known for her lilac-washed hair, flashy glasses, and catchphrase “Hello Possums!” became famous for.

Dame Edna surprised the then Prince Charles and his wife Camilla at the Royal Variety Show in 2019. “They’ve found a better place,” she joked, sitting down next to the two of them before walking out.

Humphreys wrote an autobiography, My Gorgeous Life, in character.

His other popular characters on stage and screen include Sandy Stone as Grandpa.

He said of Stone in 2016, “I could finally feel myself turning into him.”

Humphreys has also presented six series for BBC Radio 2, the most recent of which is a three-part series celebrating the BBC’s 100th anniversary.

Radio 2’s Commissioning Executive, Laura Busson, said her series “Barry Humphreys’ Forgotten Musical Masterpieces” has been a huge hit with audiences and will be performed on BBC Sounds today as a tribute to the comedian.

The comedian, author, director and screenwriter, who is also an avid landscape painter, announced a farewell tour in 2012 with a satirical one-man stage show.

His other credits include voicing Bruce the shark in the 2003 Pixar animated film Finding Nemo, as well as appearing in the 1967 comedies Bedazzled, Spice World, The Hobbit and Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie.

Humphreys was awarded the Order of Australia in 1982, one of Australia’s highest honours.

Later in her career, she was criticized for referring to gender confirmation surgery as “self-mutilation” and describing transgender identity as a “fashion”.

However, his fans in Australia are mourning the death of the comedy legend.

He was married four times and left four children with his wife, Lizzie Spender.

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