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Goodbye Possum! Dame Edna Everage creator Barry Humphries dies at 89

The late Barry Humphries as Dame Edna on the 'Eat Pray Laugh!' show in 2012
The late Barry Humphries as Dame Edna on the 'Eat Pray Laugh!' show in 2012 Copyright Copyright 2023 The AP
Copyright Copyright 2023 The AP
By Saskia O'Donoghue
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Australian-born comic Barry Humphries, best known for his comic creation Dame Edna Everage, has died at the age of 89 in Australia, following complications after hip surgery.

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Barry Humphries, best known for his comic creation Dame Edna Everage, has died at the age of 89.

The Australian entertainer, who was particularly popular in the UK, passed away at a hospital in Sydney following complications after hip surgery in March.

Humphries moved to London in 1959, appearing in West End shows including Maggie May and Oliver! His star rose further when the character of Dame Edna became a hit in the 1970s, even landing her own TV chat show, the Dame Edna Everage Experience, in the late 1980s.

Humphries first debuted Dame Edna in the 1950s while he was living in Australia; she was a parody of suburban housewives and based on his own mother. Known for her flamboyant glasses, wittily condescending attitude, lilac-rinsed hair and catchphrase “Hello possums!”, Humphries even wrote an autobiography called My Gorgeous Life, as the character.

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Humphries as Dame Edna on stage in London in 2013Copyright The AP

He was also known for other personas including the lecherous drunk Sir Les Patterson and the more grandfatherly Sandy Stone. Humphries said of Stone in 2016 that he could "finally feel myself turning into him".

Tributes have been pouring in for the late comic since his death was announced by his family, with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese calling Humphries, "A great wit, satirist, writer and an absolute one-of-kind, he was both gifted and a gift."

Born in Melbourne in 1934, Humphries was greatly inspired by the absurdist, avant-garde art movement dada and, when in the UK, became a leading figure of the British comedy scene alongside contemporaries including Alan Bennett, Dudley Moore and Spike Milligan.

He - and Edna - remained hugely popular over the decades and, after going on an apparent farewell tour in 2012, he returned last year with a series of shows which acted as a celebration of his long career.

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Humphries poses after receiving his CBE from Britain's Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace, London in 2007Copyright AP

Humphries was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire - or CBE - for services to entertainment in the Queen's Birthday Honours list in 2007 and also appeared in hit films like Finding Nemo, Spice World, The Hobbit and Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie. He was known to be a keen landscape painter when not performing.

He was married four times and is survived by four children and his widow Lizzie. In a statement released by his family, they describe him as, “completely himself until the very end, never losing his brilliant mind, his unique wit and generosity of spirit", adding that his characters, “which brought laughter to millions, will live on".

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