Barry Humphries, who spent decades in and out of drag as he played Dame Edna and other outlandish characters, has died. The Australian comedian was 89.
A Sydney hospital confirmed Humphries’ death, noting he passed away on Saturday, April 22, several days after undergoing hip surgery, according to The New York Times.
“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, per The Guardian. “With over 70 years on the stage, he was an entertainer to his core, touring up until the last year of his life and planning more shows that will sadly never be. His audiences were precious to him, and he never took them for granted. Although he may be best remembered for his work in theatre, he was a painter, author, poet, and a collector and lover of art n all its forms. He was also a loving and devoted husband, father, grandfather, and a friend and confidant to many.”
David Appleby/Fox Searchlight/Courtesy: Everett Collection
Anthony Albanese, Australia’s prime minister, also honored Humphries, tweeting, “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. May he rest in peace.”
In the United States, Humphries brought his drag persona Dame Edna to Saturday Night Live in 1977, recurred on Ally McBeal in 2001 and 2002, and made a half dozen appearances on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno between 2001 and 2011.
Fellow comedians are mourning on Twitter, including Ricky Gervais, who called Humphries a “comedy genius.”
I wonder if all geniuses are as lovely as Barry Humphries. Thank you for delighting and inspiring us. Quite simply, you were the greatest. pic.twitter.com/86scyP449b
— Matt Lucas HQ (@RealMattLucas) April 22, 2023
Rory Bremner tweeted that the satirist was “lightning quick, subversive, mischievous, widely read, deeply knowledgeable about art, music, and literature, and savagely funny.”
And Frankie Boyle declared that Humphries “superseded Groucho Marx as the greatest ever writer and deliverer of insults.”