Barry Humphries, the Australian comedian who for over 60 years played his character Dame Edna Everage on the stage and screen, has died at the age of 89.
Humphries’ family announced his death Saturday at a Sydney hospital, where he had been due complications from a hip surgery he underwent in March; the comedian suffered a fall the previous month in his native Australia.
“He was completely himself until the very end, never losing his brilliant mind, his unique wit and generosity of spirit,” a family statement said (via The Associated Press).
”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.”
From 1955 to 2019, Humphries routinely donned the purple-haired wig and oversized glasses to portray Edna Everage, a character he created while performing Shakespeare with a traveling Australian troupe. Over the decades, as the character’s popularity grew both at home and in the U.K., Humphries elevated Everage to damehood.
In addition to countless TV specials and appearances, Humphries would also pen books authored by Dame Edna (as well as an unauthorized biography) and bring the character to the stage on many occasions; in 2000, the Dame Edna: The Royal Show show in North America resulted in a special Tony Award for a Live Theatrical Event.
Humphries also concocted other long-running characters, like Sir Les Patterson and Sandy Stone, but none had the cultural impact of Dame Edna, who — with Humphries in character — appeared on Saturday Night Live, Hollywood Squares, Ally McBeal (where Humphries-as-Dame Edna played a different character) and many times on Jay Leno’s Tonight Show.
Outside of playing his beloved characters, Humphries also voiced Bruce the shark in the Pixar film Finding Nemo, appeared as the Great Goblin in Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit and had small parts in films like the Spice Girls’ Spice World, the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band musical and the Rocky Horror sequel Shock Treatment.
“For 89 years, Barry Humphries entertained us through a galaxy of personas, from Dame Edna to Sandy Stone,” Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese tweeted. “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.”