- By Paul Glynn, Bill Mercer & Antoinette Radford
- BBC News, London and Sydney
Australian entertainer Barry Humphreys, best known for his comedic role as Dame Edna Everage, has died aged 89.
The star was in hospital in Sydney after suffering complications after hip surgery in March. He had a fall in February.
Humphries’ most famous work was a hit in the UK in the 1970s and her own television chat show, Dame Edna Average Experience, in the late 1980s.
His other figures include the treacherous alcoholic Sir Les Patterson.
In a statement, his family remembered him as “completely himself to the end, never losing his brilliant mind, his unique wit and generosity”.
They said Humphreys’ fans were “his most precious people” and “will live on as his characters who brought laughter to millions”.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese paid tribute shortly after news of Humphries’ death.
“A great wit, satirist, writer and a complete one-of-a-kind, he was a gift and a gift,” Mr Albanese said.
Born in Melbourne, Humphreys moved to London in 1959, appearing in West End shows such as Maggie May and Oliver!
Inspired by the absurdist, avant-garde art movement Dada, he became a leading figure on the British comedy scene alongside contemporaries such as Alan Bennett, Dudley Moore and Spike Milligan.
Broadcaster Dame Joan Bakewell, a friend of Humphreys, told the BBC he had a “very brilliant mind”.
“It’s a world without Barry Humphreys’s friendship that hurts me because he was so resilient, so dynamic, so loving and so direct… that’s one of the biggest things I’m missing in my life right now,” she said.
Comedian Rory Bremner described Humphries as “lightning fast, subversive, mischievous… & wildly funny”. In a tweet.
He said we are “losing one of the greatest of all time” with his passing.
Actor and comedian Rob Bryden called Humphries “a true giant who inspired me immeasurably” and was “happy to call him my friend”.
Australian actor Jason Donovan tweeted a photo of himself with Dame Edna, calling Humphries “quite an entertainment genius”.
Ricky Gervais described Humphries as a “comedic genius”, while former Mock The Week presenter Tara Ó Brine called him “one of the funniest people ever”.
Little Britain actor Matt Lucas Tweeted A picture of him with Humphreys: “Quite simply, you’re the greatest.”
Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who edited the Spectator magazine to which Humphreys contributed, called him “one of the greatest Australians ever – and a comic genius”.
Sir Elton John said: “Barry was always the funniest man. And, always the sweetest man. What a sad day.”
Andrew Lloyd Webber He shared the photo He wrote of himself with Humphreys: “No more shall we share obscure composers and unfashionable Victoriana. How I shall miss you.”
In 1955, Humphreys introduced Mrs Norman Everage, a housewife from the Melbourne suburb of Mooney Ponds, into a university production.
It was the first iteration of the irrepressible character that would define his career.
Humphries said his creation would only last a week.
Instead, it blossomed into Dame Edna, her flamboyant, sharp-tongued comedic alter ego, who would leave audiences in Australia and beyond for decades to come. He said the character was based on his own mother.
She became more ferocious as the years went by, and became famous for her pink-washed hair, shiny glasses and catchphrase: “Hello Possums!”
Humphreys wrote an autobiography, My Gorgeous Life, as the character.
His other famous roles on stage and screen include the very grandfatherly Sandy Stone.
He said of Stone in 2016 that “I could finally feel myself becoming him”.
Humphreys also presented six series for BBC Radio 2, the latest being a three-part series celebrating 100 years of the BBC.
Radio 2’s commissioning executive, Laura Busson, said her series “Barry Humphreys’ Forgotten Musical Masterpieces” had been hugely popular with audiences and will be launched today on BBC Sounds as a tribute to the comedian.
The comedian, writer, director and scriptwriter, also an avid landscape painter, announced a farewell tour for his satirical stage show One Man in 2012. But he returned last year with a series of shows looking back on his career.
His other credits include voicing Bruce the shark in the 2003 Pixar animated film Finding Nemo, as well as appearing in 1967’s Bedazzled, Spice World, The Hobbit and Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie.
Humphreys was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia in 1982, one of the country’s highest civilian honours.
During her career, she was criticized for referring to gender confirmation surgery as “self-mutilation” and describing transgender identity as a “fad”.
But his fans in Australia are mourning the loss of a comedy legend.
He was married four times and is survived by his wife Lizzie Spender and four children.
What are your memories of Barry? Have you ever met him? Share your memories via email [email protected].
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