Barry Humphries Wiki, Biography
Barry Humphries (born 17 February 1934) is an Australian comedian, actor, author and satirist. He is best known for writing and playing his on-stage and television alter egos Dame Edna Everage and Sir Les Patterson. He is also a film producer and script writer, a star of London’s West End musical theatre, a writer, and a landscape painter. For his delivery of dadaist and absurdist humour to millions, biographer Anne Pender described Humphries in 2010 as not only “the most significant theatrical figure of our time … [but] the most significant comedian to emerge since Charlie Chaplin”.
Humphries’ characters have brought him international renown, and he also appeared in numerous stage productions, films, and television shows. Originally conceived as a dowdy Moonee Ponds housewife who caricatured Australian suburban complacency and insularity, Dame Edna Everage has evolved over four decades to become a satire of stardom – a gaudily dressed, acid-tongued, egomaniacal, internationally fêted “Housewife Gigastar”.
Humphries was born on 17 February 1934 in the suburb of Kew in Melbourne, Victoria, the son of Eric Humphries (né John Albert Eric Humphries), a construction manager, and his wife Louisa Agnes (née Brown). His grandfather was an emigrant to Australia from Manchester, England. His father was well-to-do and Barry grew up in a “clean, tasteful, and modern home” on Christowel Street, Camberwell, then one of Melbourne’s new “garden suburbs”. His early home life set the pattern for his eventual stage career; his parents bought him everything he wanted, but his father in particular spent little time with him, and Humphries spent hours playing at dressing-up in the back garden.
Educated firstly at Camberwell Grammar School, Humphries has been awarded his place in the Gallery of Achievement there. As his father’s building business prospered, Humphries was sent to Melbourne Grammar School where he spurned sport, detested mathematics, shirked cadets “on the basis of conscientious objection” and matriculated with brilliant results in English and Art. Humphries himself described this schooling, in a Who’s Who entry, as “self-educated, attended Melbourne Grammar School”.
Humphries had written and performed songs and sketches in university revues, so after leaving university he joined the newly formed Melbourne Theatre Company (MTC). It was at this point that he created the first incarnation of what became his best-known character, Edna Everage. The first stage sketch to feature Mrs Norm Everage, called “Olympic Hostess”, premiered at Melbourne University’s Union Theatre on 12 December 1955.
Humphries’ numerous television appearances in Australia, the UK and the US include The Bunyip, a children’s comedy for the Seven Network in Melbourne. In the UK he made two highly successful series of his comedy talk show The Dame Edna Experience for London Weekend Television. The series boasted a phalanx of superstar guests including Liza Minnelli, Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Dusty Springfield, Charlton Heston and Jane Seymour.
Humphries has been married four times. His first marriage, to Brenda Wright, took place when he was 21 and lasted less than two years. He has two daughters, Tessa and Emily, and two sons, Oscar and Rupert, from his second and third marriages, to Rosalind Tong and Diane Millstead respectively. His elder son Oscar was editor of the art magazine Apollo and a contributing editor at The Spectator. He is now an art curator. His fourth wife (since 1990), Elizabeth “Lizzie” Spender, previously an actor, is the daughter of British poet Sir Stephen Spender and the concert pianist Natasha Spender. They live in a terraced town house in West Hampstead, his home for forty years.
In the 1960s, throughout his sojourn in London, Humphries became increasingly dependent on alcohol and by the last years of the decade his friends and family began to fear that his addiction might cost him his career or even his life. His status as ‘a dissolute, guilt-ridden, self-pitying boozer’ was undoubtedly one of the main reasons for the failure of his first marriage and was a contributing factor to the collapse of the second.
Cultural historian Tony Moore, author of The Barry McKenzie Movies, writes of Humphries’ personal politics thus: “A conservative contrarian while many in his generation were moving left, Humphries nevertheless retained a bohemian delight in transgression that makes him a radical”.
Humphries has Asperger syndrome
In 2018, Humphries faced backlash for making comments considered to be transphobic. The comments included referring to gender affirmation surgery as “self-mutilation” and transgender identity as a whole as a “fashion—how many different kinds of lavatory can you have?” The comments prompted the Barry Award, a comedy festival award in Melbourne named after the comedian, to be renamed the Melbourne International Comedy Festival Award the next year.
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