- By Paul Glynn
- entertainment reporter
Australian artist Barry Humphries, best known for his comic book character Dame Edna Everage, has died aged 89.
The star had been hospitalized in Sydney after suffering complications following hip surgery in March. He fell in February.
Humphries’ most famous creation became a hit in the UK in the 1970s and landed its own TV chat show, Dame Edna Everage Experience, in the late 1980s.
His other characters included the lustful drunk Sir Les Patterson.
Tributes to Humphries poured in on news of his death, including from Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.
“A great mind, a satirist, a writer and an absolute one of a kind, he was both gifted and a gift.” said Mr. Albanese.
In a statement, his family remembers him as “completely himself to the very end, never losing his brilliant mind, unique spirit and generosity of spirit”.
They said Humphries’ fans were “precious to him”, and said his characters, “who have made millions laugh, will live on”.
Melbourne-born Humphries moved to London in 1959, appearing on West End shows such as Maggie May and Oliver!
Inspired by the absurd and avant-garde art movement dada, he became a leading figure in the British comedy scene alongside contemporaries like Alan Bennett, Dudley Moore and Spike Milligan.
Journalist and broadcaster Andrew Neil said he visited Humphries in hospital two weeks ago: “His mind and spirit were as sharp as ever,” he said.
“I consider myself lucky and privileged to have been able to see him once again.”
Dame Edna first appeared in the 1950s while living in Australia, as a parody of suburban housewives – based on her own mother.
She became more outrageous over the years and was famous for her lilac-flushed hair, flamboyant glasses, and catchphrase: “Hello opossums!”
Humphries even wrote an autobiography, My Gorgeous Life, as the character.
His other popular stage and screen characters included Sandy Stone plus grandfather.
He said of Stone in 2016 that he could “finally feel me becoming him.”
The comedian, author, director and screenwriter, who was also an avid landscape artist, announced a farewell tour for his satirical one-man show in 2012. But he returned last year with a series of shows retracing his career.
His other credits include the voice of Bruce Shark in the 2003 Pixar animated film Finding Nemo, as well as appearances in the 1967 comedy Bedazzled, Spice World, The Hobbit and Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie.
He married four times and leaves behind his wife Lizzie Spender and four children.