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Dame Edna Everage star Barry Humphries has died, aged 89

Beloved Australian entertainer Barry Humphries, most renowned for his comic character Dame Edna Everage, has passed away at the age of 89. Humphries had been in a Sydney hospital after experiencing complications from hip surgery, which he underwent in March following a fall in February.

Dame Edna Everage, Humphries’ most famous character, rose to prominence in the UK during the 1970s and eventually secured her own TV chat show, The Dame Edna Everage Experience, in the late 1980s. Sir Les Patterson, a lecherous drunk, was another of his well-known personas.

As the news of his passing spread, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese paid his respects, describing Humphries as “a great wit, satirist, writer and an absolute one-of-a-kind, he was both gifted and a gift.”

Humphries’ family released a statement honoring him as “completely himself until the very end, never losing his brilliant mind, his unique wit and generosity of spirit.” They acknowledged that his fans were “precious to him” and assured that his characters, “which brought laughter to millions, will live on.”

Born in Melbourne, Humphries moved to London in 1959 and starred in West End productions like Maggie May and Oliver! Drawing inspiration from the dada art movement, he emerged as a key figure in the British comedy scene, working alongside contemporaries such as Alan Bennett, Dudley Moore, and Spike Milligan.

Journalist and broadcaster Andrew Neil, who visited Humphries in the hospital two weeks prior, remarked, “His spirits and wit were as acute as ever. I count myself lucky and privileged I got to see him one more time.”

Humphries first introduced Dame Edna in the 1950s while living in Australia as a parody of suburban housewives, inspired by his own mother. According to Humphries in a 2018 Guardian interview, “Edna was painfully shy at first. Hard to believe!” As time went on, Dame Edna became increasingly bold, known for her lilac-rinsed hair, extravagant glasses, and signature catchphrase, “Hello possums!”

In 2019, Dame Edna humorously surprised Prince Charles and Camilla at the Royal Variety show. Humphries even penned an autobiography as Dame Edna, titled My Gorgeous Life.

Other popular characters created by Humphries included the more grandfatherly Sandy Stone, whom he admitted in 2016 he could “finally feel myself turning into.”

In addition to his work as a comic actor, author, director, and scriptwriter, Humphries was an avid landscape painter. He announced a farewell tour for his satirical one-man stage show in 2012, but returned last year with a series of shows reflecting on his career.

Humphries’ other notable credits include voicing the shark Bruce in Pixar’s 2003 animated film Finding Nemo and appearances in 1967’s Bedazzled, Spice World, The Hobbit, and Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie.

Humphries was married four times and is survived by his wife Lizzie Spender and four children.

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