Tony Award-winning comedian Barry Humphries, known internationally for his garish stage persona Dame Edna Everage, a condescending and imperfectly veiled snob whose evolving character has wowed audiences for seven decades, has died. He was 89.
His death was confirmed on Saturday by Sydney hospital, where he spent several days with complications following hip surgery.
Humphries had lived in London for decades and returned to his native Australia for Christmas in December.
He told The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper last month that his physical therapy after his fall and hip replacement had been “excruciating”.
“It was the most ridiculous thing, like all domestic incidents. I grabbed a book, my foot caught on a rug or something, and I went downstairs,” Humphries said of his fall.
Humphries has remained an active entertainer, touring the UK last year with his one-man show The Man Behind the Mask.
The character of Dame Edna began as the frumpy Mrs. Norm Everage, who first took the stage in Humphries’ hometown of Melbourne in the mid-1950s. It reflected a post-war suburban inertia and cultural blandness that Humphries found oppressive.
Edna is one of Humphries’ several enduring characters. The second most famous is Sir Les Patterson, a perpetually drunk, disheveled and lecherous Australian cultural attache.
Patterson reflected a perception of Australia as a western cultural wasteland that propelled Humphries to London, along with many of Australia’s leading intellectuals.
Humphries, who dropped out of law school, found great success as an actor, writer and entertainer in Britain in the 1970s, but the United States was a destination he stubbornly failed to reach.
A highlight in the United States was a Tony Award in 2000 for his Broadway show Dame Edna: The Royal Tour.
He has been married four times and is survived by his wife Lizziespender and four children.