Barry Humphries aka Dame Edna, dead at 89

Barry Humphries in 2001. By WTCA – Own work, CC BY 2.5, https


John Barry Humphries AO CBE (17 February 1934 – 22 April 2023) was an Australian comedian, actor, author, satirist and drag artist. He was best known for writing and playing his stage and television characters Dame Edna Everage and Sir Les Patterson. For his delivery of Dadaist and absurdist humour to millions, his biographer Anne Pender described Humphries in 2010 as not only “the most significant theatrical figure of our time … [but] the most significant comedian to emerge since Charlie Chaplin“.

Humphries’ characters brought him international renown. He appeared in numerous stage productions, films, and television shows. Originally conceived as a dowdy Moonee Ponds housewife who caricatured Australian suburban complacency and insularity, Dame Edna Everage evolved over four decades to become a satire of stardom – a gaudily dressed, acid-tongued, egomaniacal, internationally fêted “Housewife Gigastar”.

Humphries’ other satirical characters included the “priapic and inebriated cultural attaché” Sir Les Patterson, who “continued to bring worldwide discredit upon Australian arts and culture, while contributing as much to the Australian vernacular as he has borrowed from it”; gentle, grandfatherly “returned gentleman” Sandy Stone; iconoclastic 1960s underground film-maker Martin Agrippa; Paddington socialist academic Neil Singleton; sleazy trade union official Lance Boyle; high-pressure art salesman Morrie O’Connor; failed tycoon Owen Steele; and archetypal Australian bloke Barry McKenzie.

Barry Humphries as Dame Edna, 2012. By Eva Rinaldi, CC BY-SA 2.0, https