‘Thank you, possum’: The world honours comedy icon Barry Humphries following his passing

Apr 23, 2023
Humphries' extraordinary talent for bringing iconic characters to life has made an indelible mark on the entertainment industry. Source: Getty Images.

The world of entertainment is mourning the loss of a true icon after the passing of legendary comedian Barry Humphries, who died on Saturday, April 22 at the age of 89.

Following a fall at his home in Sydney in February, Humphries was readmitted to the hospital due to complications following hip surgery. Sadly, it was there that the comedic genius behind the beloved characters of Dame Edna Everage and Sir Les Patterson passed away.

“It is with great sadness that we announce that Barry Humphries passed away peacefully in Sydney, Australia today. He was surrounded by his family,”  his publicist confirmed in a statement.

“He was completely himself until the very end, never losing his brilliant mind, his unique wit and generosity of spirit.

“With over seventy 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.

“We ask that everyone please respect the family’s privacy during this very difficult time.”

Humphries was born on February 17, 1934. He was renowned for his comedic, satirical, and artistic talents, as well as his character acting. His most popular alter egos were Dame Edna Everage, a superstar Melbourne housewife and Sir Les Patterson, Australia’s vulgar cultural attaché to the Court of St. James’s.

Humphries was also a successful film producer, scriptwriter, and London West End musical theater star. Additionally, he was an award-winning author and accomplished landscape painter. In 2010, Anne Pender, his biographer, hailed Humphries as the most significant comedian since Charlie Chaplin.

Humphries’ characters, especially Dame Edna Everage, garnered international acclaim, and he appeared in numerous films, stage productions, and television shows. Edna began as a caricature of Australian suburban complacency but later evolved into a satire of stardom over four decades.

For his work in the entertainment industry, Humphries received numerous accolades for his work, including a Special Tony Award, a Drama Desk Award, a Theatre World Award, and an Outer Critics’ Circle Award in 2000. In 2002, the Australian National Portrait Gallery honoured him with its first large-scale biographical exhibition, and the following year he lent his voice to Bruce the shark in the animated film Finding Nemo.

He also received an honorary doctorate from the University of Melbourne. Among his many books are two autobiographies, More Please (1992) and My Life as Me (2002).

Humphries’ extraordinary talent for bringing iconic characters to life has made an indelible mark on the entertainment industry. The depth of his influence is reflected in the outpouring of tributes that have emerged from all corners of the world, attesting to the profound impact he had on people’s lives. His passing has left a deep void that will be felt for years to come, but his legacy will undoubtedly live on.

Humphries is survived by his wife Lizzie, his children Tessa, Emily, Oscar and Rupert, and 10 grandchildren.

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