Tributes pour in for the “funny, literate and fiercely intelligent” veteran entertainer whose career spanned seven decades and was responsible for arguably Australia’s single most famous comedy export.
The celebrated Australian comedian had been readmitted to hospital in Sydney after suffering complications following hip surgery last month.
The entertainer played the garish, lilac-haired drag persona on stage and TV for more than 60 years.
Dame Edna was Humphries’ most famous creation
Arguably Australia’s single most famous comedy export, the self-described giga-star was known for her extravagant spectacles, rapier wit, double entendres, fondness for gladioli flowers and the famous greeting “Hello possums!”.
Humphries also played Sir Les Patterson, an unkempt, lecherous, uncouth, drunken character who held multiple fictional diplomatic positions, including cultural attaché to the Court of St James and minister for the yartz (arts).
Other more subtle, melancholy creations included Sandy Stone, an elderly gentleman who inhabited the world of his youth.
A statement from Humphries’ family said: “He was completely himself until the very end, never losing his brilliant mind, his unique wit and generosity of spirit.
“With over 70 years on the stage, he was an entertainer to his core, touring up until the last year of his life and planning more shows that will sadly never be.
“His audiences were precious to him, and he never took them for granted.
“Although he may be best remembered for his work in theatre, he was a painter, author, poet, and a collector and lover of art in all its forms.
“He was also a loving and devoted husband, father, grandfather, and a friend and confidant to many.
“His passing leaves a void in so many lives.
“The characters he created, which brought laughter to millions, will live on.”
Paying tribute, Australian prime minister Anthony Albanese said: “For 89 years, Barry Humphries entertained us through a galaxy of personas, from Dame Edna to Sandy Stone.
“But the brightest star in that galaxy was always Barry.
“A great wit, satirist, writer and an absolute one-of-kind, he was both gifted and a gift. May he rest in peace.”
He was among the leading members of the British comedy scene, alongside Dudley Moore, Alan Bennett and Spike Milligan.
Awarded the CBE in 2007 for services to entertainment, he remained active on stage, touring Britain last year with his one-man show The Man Behind The Mask.
“When I visited him in his Sydney Hospital two weeks ago he was ailing from several health problems. But his spirits and wit were as acute as ever.
“We laughed away as the stories poured out.”
He added: “I count myself lucky and privileged I got to see him one more time. A comic genius the likes of which we will never see again.”
Actor and comedian Rob Brydon said: “RIP Barry Humphries. A true great who inspired me immeasurably.
“It was a delight to call him my friend.
“I’ve been in Australia and was with him only 3 days ago. He was, as ever, making me laugh. His talent shone until the very end.”
Impressionist Rory Bremner wrote on social media: “Heavens. With the passing of #barryhumphries we lose an all-time great.
“Lightning quick, subversive, mischievous, widely read, deeply knowledgeable about art, music & literature- & savagely funny.
“Dame Edna arguably the greatest comic persona ever. Les Patterson too. True genius.”
Australian actor Jason Donovan tweeted: “Australia has lost one of its greatest.
“Funny, literate and fiercely intelligent, Barry Humphries was quite simply an entertaining genius.
“The characters he created brought laughter to millions… My thoughts are with family on this sad day.”
Married four times, Humphries is survived by his wife Lizzie Spender and four children.
Source: Sky UK