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Barry Humphries, Known for His Drag Persona Dame Edna Everage, Dead at 89

Barry Humphries, Known for His Drag Persona Dame Edna Everage, Dead at 89

Dame Edna Everage

The comedian had a career spanning 60 years.


Australian comedian and actor Barry Humphries, who is best known his drag alter-ego Dame Edna Everage, has died aged 89.

"He was completely himself until the very end, never losing his brilliant mind, his unique wit and generosity of spirit," his family said in a statement, according to CNN.

Australia's Prime Minister Anthony Albanese wrote on Twitter: "For 89 years, Barry Humphries entertained us through a galaxy of personas, from Dame Edna to Sandy Stone. But the brightest star in that galaxy was always Barry. A great wit, satirist, writer, and an absolute one-of-kind, he was both gifted and a gift."

Humphries died at a Sydney hospital after being readmitted Wednesday following surgery on his hip last month, according to the New York Times.

"A stiletto-heeled, stiletto-tongued persona who might well have been the spawn of a ménage à quatre involving Oscar Wilde, Salvador Dalí, Auntie Mame and Miss Piggy, Dame Edna was not so much a character as a cultural phenomenon, a force of nature trafficking in wicked, sequined commentary on the nature of fame," the paper writes.

The drag artist had her own mock celebrity broadcast talk show on NBC in the early 1990s called "Dame Edna's Hollywood." Humphries was also a mainstay on actual talk shows as well.

Humphries won a special Tony Award for his 199 one-person show "Dame Edna: The Royal Tour."

Humphries was born in Melbourne, Australia in 1934. He crafted housewife Edna Everage in 1955 for satire, according to CNN. The persona became huge after Humphries began appearing on British television as her. In the 1960s, before Edna's rise to stardom, Humphries appeared in several West End and Broadway productions.

Edna was best known for her catchphrase, "Hello, Possums!," her lavender-colored hair, and rhinestone glasses.

Humphries was made an Officer of the Order of Australia (OA) for services to theatre in 1982. Then in 2007, the Queen made him a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his contribution to the arts.

Humphries wrote several books, novels, autobiographies, and plays, and he painted.

In 2022, Humphries toured the U.K. for "The Man Behind the Mask," outside the character.

Humphries was also a controversial figure. In 2003 in an advice column for Vanity Fair, he replied to a reader's question about learning Spanish with, “Who speaks it that you are really desperate to talk to?”

Edna added, “The help? Your leaf blower? Study French or German, where there are at least a few books worth reading, or, if you’re American, try English.”

Selma Hayek led a backlash against the racist comments.

Humphries continued to speak against what he perceived as the problems with "political correctness."

He called it a "new puritanism" and in an interview with the Telegraph in 2016 said that trans women were "mutilated men." He later also described being transgender as a "fashion."

The comedian said his comments had been taken out of context, according to CNN.

Humphries is survived by his wife, Lizzie Spender; four children; and 10 grandchildren.

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