Dame Edna Everage creator Barry Humphries dies at 89
Tony Award-winning comedian Barry Humphries, internationally renowned for his garish stage persona Dame Edna Everage, a condescending and imperfectly-veiled snob whose evolving character has delighted audiences over seven decades, has died. He was 89.
His death in the Sydney hospital, where he spent several days with complications following hip surgery, was confirmed by his family.
"He was completely himself until the very end, never losing his brilliant mind, his unique wit and generosity of spirit," a family statement said.
"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," they added.
Humphries had lived in London for decades and returned to native Australia in December for Christmas.
He told The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper last month that his physiotherapy had been "agony" following his fall and hip replacement.
Dame Edna Everage and Liza Minnelli (Photo by Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic)
"It was the most ridiculous thing, like all domestic incidents are. I was reaching for a book, my foot got caught on a rug or something, and down I went," Humphries said of his fall.
Humphries has remained an active entertainer, touring Britain last year with his one-man show "The Man Behind the Mask."
The character of Dame Edna began as a dowdy Mrs. Norm Everage, who first took to the stage in Humphries’ hometown of Melbourne in the mid-1950s. She reflected a postwar suburban inertia and cultural blandness that Humphries found stifling.
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Edna is one of Humphries’ several enduring characters. The next most famous is Sir Les Patterson, an ever-drunk, disheveled and lecherous Australian cultural attache.
Patterson reflected a perception of Australia as a Western cultural wasteland that drove Humphries along with many leading Australian intellectuals to London.
Media personality Barry Humphries before a media conference for the Dame Edna Everage unauthorised biography 'Handling Edna' at the Athenaeum Theatre on October 19, 2009 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Hannah Mason/WireImage)
Humphries, a law school dropout, found major success as an actor, writer and entertainer in Britain in the 1970s, but the United States was an ambition that he found stubbornly elusive.
A high point in the United States was a Tony Award in 2000 for his Broadway show "Dame Edna: The Royal Tour."
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese paid tribute to the celebrated comedian.
"For 89 years, Barry Humphries entertained us through a galaxy of personas, from Dame Edna to Sandy Stone," Albanese tweeted, referring to the melancholic and rambling Stone, one of Humphries most enduring characters. "But the brightest star in that galaxy was always Barry. A great wit, satirist, writer and an absolute one-of-kind, he was both gifted and a gift."
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British comedian Ricky Gervais tweeted: "Farewell, Barry Humphries, you comedy genius."
Piers Morgan, British television personality, also paid tribute. "One of the funniest people I’ve ever met," Morgan tweeted.
"A wondrously intelligent, entertaining, daring, provocative, mischievous comedy Genius," Morgan added.
Married four times, he is survived by his wife Lizzie Spender, four children and 10 grandchildren.