(CNN) Australian comedian Barry Humphries, best known for his drag character Dame Edna Everage, has died aged 89.
“He was completely himself until the very end, never losing his brilliant mind, unique spirit and generosity of spirit,” his family said in a statement.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese paid tribute in a tweet, calling him “a great mind, satirist, writer and absolutely one of a kind”.
He followed up with a tribute statement, calling Humphries a great Australian and a genius in comics.
“He is one of Australia’s most beloved people and I pay tribute to him today for his enormous contribution to Australia,” Albanese told a news conference in Brisbane.
“Barry Humphries, in his 89 years, made a huge contribution to Australia and also showed the world that quintessentially Australian sense of humour,” Albanese added.
The entertainer had been readmitted to hospital on Wednesday with complications following hip surgery last month, the Sydney Morning Herald reported. Humphries underwent hip replacement surgery after a fall in February.
Born in Melbourne, Australia in 1934, Humphries created the character of housewife Edna Everage in 1955 as a social satire. The character became a huge hit in the 1970s when Humphries introduced the act to London’s West End and appeared in a host of productions, TV shows and talk shows.
Before Edna came of age, Humphries appeared in numerous West End productions, including ‘Oliver’ and ‘Maggie Way’ in the 1960s.
Known for her lilac-colored hair, diamond-encrusted cat glasses, and catchphrases such as “Hello Possums!”, Edna quickly became a national treasure.
Throughout the 1970s, 80s and 90s, Humphries landed a string of TV talk shows, specials and movies, as Dame Edna and her fellow alter-egos Les Patterson and Sandy Stone, including The Dame Edna Experience in 1987.
Humphries, whose illustrious career spanned more than 60 years, received several accolades. In 1982 Humphries was made an Officer of the Order of Australia (OA) for his service to the theater and in 2007 the Queen made him a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his contribution to the arts.
In 2000, Humphries won a special Tony Award for her Broadway show “Dame Edna, The Royal Tour”, which officially entered the American market. He also appeared as Edna in the American drama “Ally McBeal” in 2001.
An actor, director and screenwriter, Humphries also authored several books, novels, autobiographies and plays, and was an avid landscape painter.
In 2011, Humphries appeared on CNN as Dame Edna alongside Piers Morgan to comment on the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, saying “I’m a little bored”.
Humphries toured the UK in 2022, then aged 88, telling his life stories and inspirations in a set called ‘The Man Behind the Mask’.
His career was not without controversy. In 2019, the Melbourne International Comedy Festival dropped its prestigious Barry Award, named after the comedian, following controversial comments Humphries made to The Spectator the previous year regarding transgender people, according to CNN affiliate 7 News. In an interview with the newspaper, Humphries came under fire for describing being transgender as a “fad”.
Humphries later denied being transphobic and said the comments were taken out of context.
Humphries is survived by his wife, Lizzie Spender and four children.