- Written by Paul Glenn
- Entertainment reporter
Australian entertainer Barry Humphreys, best known for his comic character Dame Edna Everage, has died at the age of 89.
The star was in hospital in Sydney after suffering complications following hip surgery in March. He had a fall in February.
Humphreys’ most famous creation became a huge hit in the UK in the 1970s, and he got her own TV chat show, Dame Edna Everage Experience, in the late 1980s.
Among his other characters is lecherous drunkard Sir Les Patterson.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese paid tribute to Humphreys as news of his death spread.
“He was witty and sarcastic and a writer and unique, and he was gifted and talented at the same time.” Mr. Albanese said.
In a statement, his family remembered him as being “exactly himself to the end, never losing his brilliant mind, unique intelligence and generosity of spirit.”
They said Humphreys’ fans were “precious to him”, and said his characters, “which have brought laughter to millions, will live on”.
Melbourne-born Humphreys moved to London in 1959, appearing in West End shows such as Maggie May and Oliver!
Inspired by the avant-garde Dada art movement, he became a prominent figure on the British comedy scene along with contemporaries such as Alan Bennett, Dudley Moore and Spike Milligan.
Journalist and broadcaster Andrew Neil said he had visited Humphreys in hospital two weeks earlier: “His spirits and his wit were as sharp as ever,” he said.
“I consider myself fortunate and privileged to have been able to see him again.”
Lady Edna first appeared in the 1950s when he was living in Australia, as a parody of Suburban Housewives – based on his mother.
She became more outrageous as the years went by, and was known for her violet-stained hair, sparkly glasses and catchphrase: “Hi opossum!”
Humphreys even wrote his autobiography, My Wonderful Life, as the character.
Among his other famous characters on stage and screen, the most is Sandy Stone’s grandfather.
He said of Stone in 2016 that he might “finally feel like I’m turning into him”.
The comedian, author, director and screenwriter, who is also an avid landscape painter, announced a farewell tour of his satirical one-man show in 2012. But he returned last year with a series of shows that look back at his career.
His other credits included voicing Bruce the Shark in the 2003 Pixar animated film Finding Nemo, as well as appearances in the 1967 comedies Bedazzled, Spice World, The Hobbit, and Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie.
He was married four times and left behind his wife, Lizzie Spender, and four children.
“Lifelong beer expert. General travel enthusiast. Social media buff. Zombie maven. Communicator.”