Barry Humphries, Dame Edna Everage’s Host Body, Dies @ 89

Via ExtraTV: Australian comic Barry Humphries, better known as his saucy drag persona Dame Edna Everage, died Saturday at 89 in Sydney, the BBC reports.

Hello, possums! (Image via supplied)

His death was attributed to complications from hip surgery in March, following a fall in February.

Humphries was born February 17, 1934, in Melbourne. Artistic and expressive even as a child, he created his first character, Dr. Aaron Azimuth, by his teenage years. At college, he was a nationally recognized expert on the Dada art movement, and known for creating absurdist pranks and art exhibits.

Immediately after graduation, he joined a theater revue in 1955 and created the character that would become Dame Edna Everage, a passive-aggressive, tart-tongued boor used by Humphries to expertly tease belly laughs, often using risqué double-entendres that went over easier coming from a pink-haired lady with cat-eye glasses.

In the '60s, Humphries became a regular at Sydney's Phillip Street Theatre, a comedy troupe, for more than 10 years, was active in theater (including West End productions of Oliver! and Maggie May), contributed to the satirical publication Private Eye, and cut a comedy record.

But Humphries was largely a one-man, or one-large-woman, show. His first one-man offering, A Nice Night's Entertainment (1962) set the tone, establishing him as a master of working the crowd, of improv, and of subversive comedy. Another of his characters, the idiotic, leering Sir Les Patterson, was second only to Edna in popularity.

Humphries performed his one-man shows for over 60 years, becoming an increasingly famous figure. Before retiring from live theater in 2012, he had won a special Tony (2000). He wound up returning for one final round of live shows in 2019.

He also hosted a slate of TV specials in a talk-show format, attracting A-list stars like Cher, Joan Collins, Joan Rivers and more to receive the Dame Edna treatment.

Dame Edna made her film debut in The Naked Bunyip (1970) and Humprhies enjoyed tremendous success with The Adventures of Barry McKenzie (1972), the first Australian film to earn more than $1 million at the box office, and its 1974 sequel Barry McKenzie Holds His Own.

Edna had a cameo in Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1977) and Humphries played Bert Schnick in the Rocky Horror sequel Shock Treatment (1981).

Other films included The Secret Policeman's Other Ball (1982), Dr. Fischer of Geneva (1985), Howling III (1987), Les Patterson Saves the World (1987), Immortal Beloved (1994), Pterodactyl Woman from Beverly Hills (1995), Spice World" (1997), Welcome to Woop Woop (1997), Nicholas Nickleby (2002) and Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie (2016).

His most significant later work in film included voicing Bruce the shark in Pixar's Finding Nemo (2003) and playing the Great Goblin in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012).

Humphries disappointed some of his fans when, in a 2016 interview, he bashed transgender people, revealing that the man in a dress — while a drag queen and a radical — was not the liberal he'd been presumed by many to be. He later said his remarks had been "grotesquely interpreted," but did not offer clarification. He also said he was not right-wing or left-wing in his thinking.

Humphries, who was straight-identified, was married and divorced three times, and is survived by his wife Lizzie, to whom he'd been wed since 1990. He is also survived by his four children, including soap actress Tessa Humphries and art dealer Oscar Humphries.

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