Dame Edna Everage star Barry Humphries dies in hospital, aged 89: ‘The characters he created will live on’

The late Barry Humphries dressed as his drag alter-ego Dame Edna Everage, with purple hair, horn-rimmed glasses and a pink dress

Barry Humphries, best known as the creator of drag persona Dame Edna Everage, has died in hospital in Sydney.

Humphries died on Saturday (22 April) in Sydney’s St Vincent’s Hospital surrounded by his family, including his wife Lizzie Spender, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.

The Australian comedian, 89, had been admitted to hospital earlier in the week and was being treated for “health issues”.

Humphries underwent hip surgery earlier this year after a tripping on a rug and falling, and in March was receiving treatment at a rehabilitation centre.

A statement from Humphries’ family read: ​”He was completely himself until the very end, never losing his brilliant mind, his unique wit and generosity of spirit.

“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.

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“His audiences were precious to him, and he never took them for granted,” they continued. “Although he may be best remembered for his work in theatre, he was a painter, author, poet, and a collector and lover of ​a​​​​rt in all its forms.

“He was also a loving and devoted husband, father, grandfather, and a friend and confidant to many. His passing leaves a void in so many lives.

“The characters he created, which brought laughter to millions, will live on.”

Barry Humphries’ career in the entertainment world spanned seven decades, with his signature character Dame Edna Everage being conceived in 1956.

Humphries worked across television, film, theatre and music – both behind and in front of the camera. During his time in the industry, he received dozens of awards and was nominated for four BAFTAs.

Humphries’ controversial trans views tarnished his legacy

In recent years, Barry Humphries had been criticised for his comments about the trans community, which he claimed in 2019 had been “taken the wrong way”.

In 2016, Humphries defended the philosopher and writer Germaine Greer, who described transgender women as “men who believe that they are women and have themselves castrated”.

Humphries said he agreed with Greer, and mentioned Caitlyn Jenner as part of the discussion.

“I agree with Germaine! You’re a mutilated man, that’s all. Self-mutilation, what’s all this carry on?” he told The Telegraph.

Three years later, Humphries claimed his position had been “grotesquely interpreted” – but didn’t not offer further clarification.

“Edna carefully said she thought that men who had themselves castrated did not become women, and that got taken the wrong way,” he told The Sunday Times Magazine.

In a 2018 interview with The Spectator he also claimed that being trans is a fashion, adding: “How many different kinds of lavatory can you have? And it’s pretty evil when it’s preached to children by crazy teachers.”

Tributes pour in for Barry Humphries

Australia’s prime minister Anthony Albanese was among the public figures paying tribute to Humphries after news of his death broke, calling him “the brightest star in the galaxy”.

Albanese tweeted: “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.”

New South Wales premier Chris Minns celebrated Humphries as a “legend”, who defined “Aussie creativity and performance for generations”.

Beloved British TV host Carol Vorderman dubbed Humphries “a genius” in her tribute, tweeting: “I only met you a few times but that look in your eyes full of bright intelligence and mischief, knowing trouble was ahead and looking forward to every special second of it.

“I’ll never forget it. Thank you Sir. A genius.”

Barry Humphries is survived by his wife, Lizzie Spender, and four children from previous marriages.

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