The 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, his unique wit and generosity of spirit,” his family said in a statement.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese paid tribute in a tweet, calling him “a great wit, satirist, writer and an absolute one-of-kind.”
He followed up with a tribute statement, calling Humphries a great Australian and a comic genius.
“He is one of the most loved of Australians and I pay tribute to him today – to his enormous contribution to Australia,” Albanese said at a press conference in Brisbane.
“Barry Humphries, through his 89 years, made an enormous contribution to Australia and also showcased that uniquely Australian sense of humor to the world,” Albanese added.
The entertainer had been readmitted to hospital on Wednesday for complications following hip surgery last month, the Sydney Morning Herald reported. Humphries had a hip replacement following 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 brought the act to London’s West End and appeared in a host of productions, TV shows, and chat shows.
Before Edna made it big, Humphries appeared in numerous West End productions including “Oliver” and “Maggie Way” in the 1960s.
Known for her lilac-colored hair, diamante-encrusted cat glasses and catch phrases such as “Hello Possums!”, Edna quickly became a national treasure.
Throughout the 1970s, 80s and 90s, Humphries landed a series of TV talk shows, specials and films, as Dame Edna and his other alter-egos Les Patterson and Sandy Stone, among them The Dame Edna Experience in 1987.
Humphries, whose illustrious career spanned more than 60 years, has been awarded several honors. In 1982, Humphries was made an Officer of the Order of Australia (OA) for services to theatre 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 his Broadway show “Dame Edna, The Royal Tour”, officially breaking into the US market. He also appeared as Edna in US drama “Ally McBeal” in 2001.
An actor, director, and scriptwriter, Humphries also authored several books, novels, autobiographies and plays, and was a keen landscape painter.
In 2011, Humphries appeared on CNN as Dame Edna alongside Piers Morgan to offer commentary on the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, saying “I’m a teeny bit bored.”
Humphries toured the UK in 2022, then aged 88, recounting his life stories and inspirations in a set called “The Man Behind the Mask.”
His career hasn’t been without controversy. In 2019, the Melbourne International Comedy Festival dropped their prestigious Barry Award, named after the comedian, following controversial comments Humphries made to the Spectator the year before regarding transgender people, according to CNN affiliate 7 News. In an interview with the paper, Humphries drew fire for describing being transgender as a “fashion”.
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.