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Barry Humphreys, Australian comedian best known as egomaniacal Dame Edna Iverage, dies

Barry Humphreys, Australian comedian best known as egomaniacal Dame Edna Iverage, dies

(CNN) Australian comedian Barry Humphries, best known for his drag character Dame Edna Everage, has died at the age of 89.

“He was absolutely himself until the end and never lost his brilliant mind, wit and unique spirit,” his family said in a statement.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese paid tribute in a tweet, calling him “a great wit, satirist, writer and one of a kind”.

He followed this up with a saluting statement, describing Humphreys as a great Australian and comic genius.

“He is one of the most beloved Australians and I pay tribute to him today – for his tremendous contribution to Australia,” Albanese told a news conference in Brisbane.

Albanese added: “Barry Humphreys has, in his 89 years, made an enormous contribution to Australia and also demonstrated his uniquely Australian sense of humour to the world.”

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that the artist was readmitted to hospital on Wednesday due to complications following hip surgery last month. Humphries underwent a hip replacement after a fall in February.

Born in Melbourne, Australia in 1934, Humphreys created the character of housewife Edna Everage in 1955 as a social satire. The character became a hit in the 1970s when Humphreys brought the act to London’s West End and appeared in a range of productions, TV shows and chat shows.

Before Edna was big, Humphreys appeared in several West End productions including ‘Oliver’ and ‘Maggie Way’ in the 1960s.

Edna was known for her violet-tinted hair, diamond-encrusted cat glasses and phrases like “Hello Possums!” Edna quickly became a national treasure.

Throughout the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, Humphreys landed on a series of TV talk shows, specials and movies, such as Dame Edna and other Les Patterson and Sandy Stone costars, among them The Dame Edna Experience in 1987.

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Humphreys, whose illustrious career spanned more than 60 years, has won many accolades. In 1982 Humphreys was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia (OA) for services to theatrical services, and in 2007 the Queen made him an Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his contribution to the arts.

In addition to performing on television, Humphreys has been a prolific author

In 2000, Humphreys won a Special Tony Award for his Broadway show Lady Edna, The Royal Tour, which officially broke into the US market. He also appeared as Edna in the American drama ‘Ally McBeal’ in 2001.

As an actor, director, and screenwriter, Humphreys also authored numerous books, novels, biographies, and plays, and was a keen landscape painter.

In 2011, Humphreys appeared on CNN as Lady Edna alongside Piers Morgan to provide commentary on the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, saying “I’m getting a little bored.”

Humphreys toured the UK in 2022, at the age of 88, and told his life stories and inspirations in a collection called The Man Behind the Mask.

His career has not been without controversy. In 2019, the Melbourne International Comedy Festival dropped its prestigious Barry Award, named after the comedian, after controversial comments Humphries made to the Spectator the previous year regarding transgender people, according to CNN affiliate 7 News. In an interview with the paper, Humphreys lashed out at describing being transgender as a “fashion”.

Humphreys later denied being transphobic and said the comments had been taken out of context.

Humphreys is survived by his wife, Lizzie Spender, and four children.

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