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Also Known As: Barry Humphries, Barry Mackenzie, Dame Edna Everage, Sir Les Patterson, Lance Boyle, Sandy Stone Died:
Born: February 17, 1934 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Australia Profession: comedian, actor, author, painter, novelist, songwriter

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

At one time hailed as the strongest proponent of Dada in Australia, the multi-talented Barry Humphries has excelled as a character actor in Europe and Australia and has become one of the best loved landscape painters Down Under, but his fame rests on the Melbourne housewife he first created in connection with the Olympic Games back in 1956. Since then, Dame Edith Everage has commandeered the actor's life, blooming into an international phenomenon, a wonderful parody of celebrity and self-obsession. He delivered his first Dadaist experiments in anarchy and visual satire against the conservative background of his hometown Melbourne and moved on to the more cosmopolitan Sydney, where he played Estragon in "Waiting for Godot" (1958), the first Australian production of a Samuel Beckett play. A frequent player in London's West End during the 60s, he starred as Fagin in the 1967 revival of Lionel Bart's musical "Oliver!", featuring a young Phil Collins as the Artful Dodger. Nevertheless, he did not introduce Dame Edna to British audiences until the 1969 one-person stage production "Just a Show", which led to the short-lived BBC series "The Barry Humphries Scandals". Humphries created Barry McKenzie, the...

At one time hailed as the strongest proponent of Dada in Australia, the multi-talented Barry Humphries has excelled as a character actor in Europe and Australia and has become one of the best loved landscape painters Down Under, but his fame rests on the Melbourne housewife he first created in connection with the Olympic Games back in 1956. Since then, Dame Edith Everage has commandeered the actor's life, blooming into an international phenomenon, a wonderful parody of celebrity and self-obsession. He delivered his first Dadaist experiments in anarchy and visual satire against the conservative background of his hometown Melbourne and moved on to the more cosmopolitan Sydney, where he played Estragon in "Waiting for Godot" (1958), the first Australian production of a Samuel Beckett play. A frequent player in London's West End during the 60s, he starred as Fagin in the 1967 revival of Lionel Bart's musical "Oliver!", featuring a young Phil Collins as the Artful Dodger. Nevertheless, he did not introduce Dame Edna to British audiences until the 1969 one-person stage production "Just a Show", which led to the short-lived BBC series "The Barry Humphries Scandals".

Humphries created Barry McKenzie, the beer-swilling Aussie abroad, for the British satirical magazine TPrivate Eye and collaborated with director Bruce Beresford on the screenplay for a live action version of the comic strip "The Adventures of Barry McKenzie" (1972), the first big commercial success generated by the film renaissance in Australia. In that picture and its sequel, "Barry McKenzie Holds His Own" (1974, which he also co-scripted), Humphries appeared as several characters, most notably as the titular character's very proper Aunt Edna. He later teamed with Beresford in different guises for "Side By Side" (1975) and "The Getting of Wisdom" (1977). He was well on his way to taking the English-speaking world by storm when he won the Society of West End Theatres (SWET) Award for "A Night with Dame Edna" (1979), but the abysmal reviews received by his alter ego on his first foray across the pond with "Housewife/Superstar" (1977) gave every indication that America was an unwilling convert to the Edna experience. Humphries summed up his negative reception in the Big Apple: "When THE NEW YORK TIMES tells you to close, you close."

Among the other characters Humphries has created are Les Patterson, a flatulent cultural attache, featured in George Miller's "Les Patterson Saves the Day" (1987, in which he also appeared as Dame Edna), and the overly optimistic Sandy Stone, a character who resurfaced as a ghost in the 1999 one-man Australian stage show "Remember You're Out". While his own creations may tend to upstage him, Humphries has proven to be an accomplished character player as demonstrated by his media tycoon Rupert Murdoch in "Selling Hitler" (1991), a five-part British black comedy sending-up the furor over the Hitler diaries hoax of 1983, his 19th Century Austrian statesman Clemens Metternich in Bernard Rose's "Immortal Beloved" (1994) and his put-upon theater director in John Duigan's "The Leading Man" (1996). Still, Dame Edna's demands on his time have been immense, as the purple-haired, Margaret Thatcher-Liberace hybrid became a fixture on TV at home and in England, as well as cropping up as a guest on the American talk-show circuit and as a host of her own NBC comedy specials in the early 90s. By decade's end, the rave reviews received in San Francisco for Edna's 1998 stage return gave every indication that the country had finally caught up to the Dame and that New York was ready for her assault on the Great White Way in "Dame Edna: The Royal Tour" (1999).

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

3.
 Mary and Max (2009)
5.
 Finding Nemo (2003) Bruce
6.
 Nicholas Nickleby (2002) Mrs Crummles
7.
 Napoleon (1997) Voice Of Kangaroo
8.
 Spice World (1997) Kevin Mcmaxford
9.
 Welcome to Woop Woop (1997) Blind Wally
10.
 Leading Man, The (1996) Humphrey Beal
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Had his first Dada exhibition while a university student
1956:
Created the character of Mrs. Everage, a Melbourne housewife who would evolve into the celebrated Dame Edna, for a sketch in connection with Melbourne's Olympic Games
:
Joined Sydney's Philip Street Theatre, where he appeared as Estragon in "Waiting for Godot", the first Australian production of a Samuel Beckett play
1958:
Created the character of Sandy Stone, a kind of eustralian Beckett figure, as a scathing satire of suburban boredom
1959:
Sailed for Venice, Italy
:
Appeared in numerous West End (London) theatrical productions during the 1960s
1967:
Acted in Stanley Donen's "Bedazzled", starring the team of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore
1967:
Starred as Fagin in the Piccadilly Theatre's revival of Lional Bart's musical "Oliver!" with Phil Collins as the Artful Dodger
1969:
Introduced Mrs. Everage to the British stage in his one-person "Just a Show", which led to a short-lived BBC series, "The Barry Humphries Scandals"
:
Created the comic strip character of Barry McKenzie in British satirical magazine <i>Private Eye</i>
1972:
Teamed with director Bruce Beresford to write screenplay for "The Adventures of Barry McKenzie", introducing the beer-swilling, Australian lout to screen audiences; played three charactes including the very proper Aunt Edna to Barry Crocker's McKenzie
1974:
Reprised Dame Edna in Beresford's "Barry McKenzie Holds His Own", again co-scripting with the director; also appeared as three additional characters
1975:
Acted in third film with Beresford, "Side By Side"
1977:
Last film (to date) with Beresford, "The Getting of Wisdom", playing Reverend Strachey
1977:
Brought Dame Edna to New York for the unmitigated disaster of "Housewife/Superstar"
1979:
Won the Society of West End Theatres Award for his "A Night With Dame Edna"
1982:
Awarded the Order of Australia
1984:
Part of the excellent cast of "Doctor Fischer of Geneva" (BBC-2), including James Mason, Alan Bates and Cyril Cusack, among others; aired on PBS the following year
1987:
Co-scripted George Miller's "Les Patterson Saves the World", playing both Les Patterson and Dame Edna Everage
1987:
Appeared as Dame Edna in Phillipe Mora's "The Marsupials: The Howling III"
1991:
Portrayed Rupert Murdoch in "Selling Hitler", a five-part British black comedy detailing the great Hitler diaries hoax of 1983
1991:
Wrote and appeared in NBC comedy special, "Dame Edna's Hollywood" (followed by 1992 and 1993 NBC specials of the same name); also wrote lyrics for "Dame Edna's Nicenesss Theme"
1994:
Played Clemens Metternich in Bernard Rose's "Immortal Beloved", starring Gary Oldman as Beethoven
1996:
Portrayed theater director Humphrey Beal in John Duigan's "The Leading Man"
1996:
Reteamed with Mora for "Pterodactyl Women from Beverly Hills"
1997:
Contributed the voice of Kangaroo to animated "Napoleon"
1997:
Made cameo appearance in Stefan Elliott's "Welcome to Woop Woop"
1998:
Performed "Edna, the Spectacle" at London's Theatre Royal Haymarket
1998:
Appeared in "Spice World"
1998:
Brought Dame Edna to the US stage for the first time since 1977, receiving rave notices from the San Francisco press like "a marvel of comic endurance" and "savagely entertaining"; city proclaimed November 26 as "Dame Edna Day"
1999:
Appeared for Australian audiences sans Edna regalia in "Remember You're Out", playing different characters
1999:
Tackled the Great White Way in "Dame Edna: The Royal Tour"
2001:
Contributed humor column to <i>Vanity Fair</i>
2001:
Had recurring role of Claire Otoms on the Fox comedy "Ally McBeal"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

University of Melbourne: -

Notes

Awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Australia'a Griffith University in 1994

"It would be wicked to say that Australia, my homeland, takes me for granted, but my face is not even on the stamps or the money, though I'm told this is 'in the pipeline'. There is even talk of a Dame Edna Museum in Melbourne to attract precious tourist dollars. But this was temporarily shelved to make way for a casino.

"If you analyse her [Dame Edna], there are hardly any redeeming features at all. Her parts are pretty unappetising. But the sum of her parts is someone lovable and this is a paradox I've never bothered to analyse; it's a bit like the appeal of Australia itself. We love Australia but if we look at it in detail there are many aspects which we deplore . . . not that many. I always get excited when I return and I love what I do." --Barry Humphries to Bryce Hallett in "Nothing Like a Dame", SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, February 20, 1999

On why she continues to work, considering her success in England and Australia: "It's because I care. If you could see the mail I get, the letters that come pouring in, the gratitude. To me, it's the g-word. It is my favorite letter in the alphabet. It stands for my my favorite things--gladioli, greed (a very underated appetite), gynecology, Col. (Moammer) Gadhafi, who I know personally. He's a delightful person--out of his uniform. Just in a bathrobe, he's lots of fun." --Dame Edna Everage, quoted in The CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, October 17, 1999

"Put simply, Dame Edna is hypocrisy personified--the caring friend who couldn't care less, the self-centered celebrity who makes a career of humility and selflessness, the nice middle-class hausfrau with the instincts of a shark.

"Humphries' creation makes us laugh because she is a larger-than-life reflection of universal human foibles. Her smug superiority is only an exaggeration of our own uneasy sense of class-consciousness (one factor behind her instant popularity in England). She boasts the same self-satisfactions and self-delusions we do, only hers are writ in rhinestones." --From Charles Isherwood's VARIETY (October 18, 1999) review of "Dame Edna: The Royal Tour"

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Diane Milstead. Divorced.
wife:
Lizzie Spender. Fourth wife.

Family close complete family listing

father-in-law:
Stephen Spender. Poet.
mother:
Gladys Humphries. Humphries has described his relationship with his mother as "uncomfortable"; others have characterized her as "aloof".
daughter:
Emily Humphries. Artist. Lives in Australia.
daughter:
Tessa Humphries. Actor.
son:
Oscar Humphries. Journalist.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

Bibliography close complete biography

"The Wonderful World of Barry McKenzie"
"Shades of Sandy Stone: The Reveries of a Returned Man"
"Women in the Background"
"A Nice Night's Entertainment: Sketches and Monologues, 1956-1981"
"Neglected Poems and Other Creatures"
"My Gorgeous Life: An Adventure"
"My Gorgeous Life: The Life, the Loves, the Legend"
"More Please"
"Bazza Pulls It Off: More Adventures of Barry McKenzie"
"The Real Barry Humphries"
"Dame Edna Everage and the Rise of Western Civilization: Backstage with Barry Humphries"
"Once an Australian: Journeys with Barry Humphries, Clive James, Germaine Greer and Robert Hughes"
VIEW COMPLETE BIBLIOGRAPHY

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