Barry Humphries, the celebrated Australian comedian and satirist known for his creation of the popular character Dame Edna Everage, has died in Sydney at the age of 89. Humphries was highly skilled in disguise and parody, and his clever and insightful humor brought joy to countless people across the globe for over 60 years.
This piece honors his life and impact, and acknowledges his valuable contributions to the arts, culture, and society.
Early Years and Education
Barry Humphries was born in Kew, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia on February 17, 1934. His upbringing was in a middle-class family with his father being a wealthy businessman and his mother a skilled pianist. He attended Camberwell Grammar School where he displayed his skills as a writer and performer.
He went on to study law and philosophy at the University of Melbourne, but his love for comedy and satire eventually led him to pursue a career in the arts.
The Birth of Dame Edna
In the late 1950s, Humphries created the character of Edna Everage, a middle-aged housewife and self-proclaimed expert on etiquette and culture. Initially, Edna was a minor character in Humphries’ stand-up routines and sketches, but she soon became a sensation in her own right.
With his flamboyant appearance, outrageous behavior, and hilarious catchphrases, such as “Hello, possums!” and “We’re all in this together, and I’m the mother,” Edna captured the hearts and minds of audiences everywhere.
Humphries’ Career and Achievements
Barry Humphries’ career spanned several decades, and he was an integral part of the entertainment industry. He created numerous iconic characters, including Dame Edna Everage, Sir Les Patterson, and Sandy Stone, who have all become household names. He was a gifted writer, penning numerous plays, books, and articles that showcased his wit and intelligence.
Humphries’ contribution to the arts was recognized with numerous awards, including the Officer of the Order of Australia and the Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. He was also inducted into the Australian Television Hall of Fame, and his work continues to inspire a new generation of comedians and performers.
A Life of Controversy and Criticism
Humphries’ work was not without controversy, and he often courted criticism for his humor, which some found offensive. He was accused of racism, homophobia, and misogyny, but he remained unapologetic about his work, stating that his aim was to make people laugh and challenge their assumptions.
Despite the criticism, Humphries remained a beloved figure in the entertainment industry, and his work continued to resonate with audiences around the world. His ability to push boundaries and challenge conventions made him a unique and groundbreaking artist who will be remembered for generations to come.
International Success and Influence
Dame Edna’s fame escalated swiftly during the 1970s and 1980s. She featured in several TV programs including “The Barry Humphries Show,” “The Dame Edna Experience,” and “The Royal Variety Performance.”
He also embarked on a worldwide tour, showcasing live performances that set new records in box-office and received positive reviews from critics. Apart from her comedic acts, Dame Edna was recognized for her humanitarian work and advocacy, championing different causes like cancer research, animal protection, and LGBT rights.
Honors and Awards
Barry Humphries and Dame Edna received numerous honors and awards throughout their careers, including Officer of the Order of Australia, Commander of the Order of the British Empire, and Australian of the Year.
They were also inducted into the Logie Hall of Fame, the Australian Comedy Hall of Fame, and the Victorian Honour Roll of Women. Humphries was a versatile performer, who also wrote novels, plays, and memoirs, and acted in movies, such as “The Hobbit” and “Finding Nemo.”
Legacy and Inspiration
Barry Humphries and Dame Edna inspired generations of comedians and entertainers, and their influence can be seen in many aspects of popular culture, from drag queens and sitcoms to fashion and art. They also challenged stereotypes and prejudices, and promoted tolerance and diversity, through their satire and humor.
Humphries once said, “Comedy is the ultimate weapon against conformity and orthodoxy, because it exposes the ridiculous and the absurd in all their naked glory.” We salute him for his courage, creativity, and kindness.
Barry Humphries, the creator of Dame Edna, was a true icon of Australian and global culture, whose humor and humanity will be sorely missed. His legacy will