Since 2010: Dame Edna, Australian “Giga-Star”
Tony Award-winning comedian Barry Humphries, internationally renowned for his flamboyant stage persona Dame Edna Everage, an irreverent and imperfectly veiled snob whose evolving character delighted audiences for seven decades, has died. He was 89.
His death was confirmed on Saturday by a Sydney hospital where he had spent several days with complications following hip surgery.
Humphries lived in London for decades and returned to Australia in December for Christmas.
He told the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper last month that his physiotherapy after his fall and hip replacement had been “painful”.
“It was the funniest thing, like all domestic incidents. I was reaching for a book, my foot got caught on a rug or something, and I went down,” Humphries said of his fall.
Humphries remains 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 duplicitous Mrs. Norm Everage, who first took to the stage in Humphries’ hometown of Melbourne in the mid-1950s. He reflected the postwar suburban inertia and cultural blandness that suffocated Humphries.
Edna is one of Humphries’ several enduring characters. The next most famous is Sir Les Patterson, a perpetually drunk, disheveled and ugly Australian cultural attache.
Patterson reflected on the perception of Australia as a Western cultural wasteland that drew many of Australia’s leading intellectuals, including Humphreys, to London.
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 he found stubbornly elusive.
A high point in the US was a Tony Award in 2000 for her Broadway show “Dame Edna: The Royal Tour”.
Married four times, he is survived by his wife Lizzie Spender and four children.
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