It is with a heavy heart and profound sadness that we share the news of the passing of Australia’s legendary stage icon, Barry Humphries, the man behind the beloved character Dame Edna Everage. At the age of 89, he took his final bow in Sydney, encircled by the love and warmth of his family. We invite you to join us in honoring his memory by sharing your heartfelt tributes.
The Australian community is united in grief as they bid farewell to the legendary stage performer Barry Humphries, who captivated audiences around the globe for seven decades with his memorable comedic creations, most notably the iconic Dame Edna Everage. Humphries passed away in Sydney on Saturday at the age of 89, succumbing to complications from a broken hip, with his loving family by his side.
Born on February 17, 1934, in Melbourne, Australia, he enjoyed a long and illustrious career in theater, television, and film.
Dame Edna Everage, a flamboyant, self-proclaimed housewife “superstar” with a penchant for outrageous outfits and sharp wit, became Humphries’ most famous creation. The character gained international recognition and became a symbol of Australian humor. Alongside Dame Edna, Humphries also created other memorable characters such as Sir Les Patterson, a boorish Australian cultural attaché, and Sandy Stone, a melancholic suburbanite.
Throughout his career, Barry Humphries received numerous accolades for his contributions to the world of entertainment, and he will be remembered as a significant figure in the history of Australian comedy and performing arts.
Humphries was cherished for his exceptional intellect and his incisive yet generally tender observations of Australian culture. A truly international sensation, he conquered the West End, Broadway, and talk show circuits worldwide.
Though his repertoire of comedic characters was extensive, Sir Les Patterson held a special place in his heart. Humphries once admitted that embodying the perpetually intoxicated and lecherous ‘Cultural Attache’ allowed him to “release [his] inner vulgarity.” However, it was Dame Edna who undeniably stole the spotlight as his most prominent creation.
In his engaging 1994 memoir, Humphries reminisced about his youth spent in the Melbourne suburb of Kew, where his parents affectionately called him “Sunny Sam” due to his lively spirit and eagerness to entertain.
Born as the first of four children, Humphries’ father, a construction manager, nurtured his every inclination, while his mother had a keen eye for discerning the ordinary from the extraordinary. Immersed in a world of make-believe, he spent hours in the backyard, assuming different personas and discovering the joy of entertaining from an early age.
During his time at Camberwell Grammar School and Melbourne Grammar School, Humphries chose to focus on English and art, bypassing sports and mathematics. He later attended Melbourne University to study philosophy, fine arts, and law but decided to leave after two years.
Humphries’ diverse career in film and television, marked by a mix of both extraordinary successes and occasional missteps. His eclectic screen credits encompass works such as The Naked Bunyip (1970), Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1978), Shock Treatment (1981), The Secret Policeman’s Other Ball (1982), Finding Nemo (2003), and The Hobbit (2011). Among his TV appearances was the 1999 ABC series Flashback, which celebrated lesser-known facets of Australian culture.
Humphries’ passing follows a hip injury sustained around Christmas time, which he described as a “ridiculous” domestic accident. He is survived by his fourth wife, Lizzie Spender (daughter of poet laureate and novelist Sir Stephen Spender), and his four children: sons Rupert and Oscar, and daughters Emily and Tessa. Among the numerous honors he received in his lifetime were being made an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in 1982 and a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 2007.