A remarkable gathering unfolded at the Sydney Opera House as hundreds of people came together to commemorate the life of Barry Humphries, the renowned entertainer best known as the creative force behind Dame Edna Everage. The state memorial paid tribute to Humphries, who passed away in April at the age of 89 due to complications from hip surgery.
Over a span of seven decades, Humphries, an Australian entertainer, carved out a global reputation as one of the most outstanding raconteurs and comedians of his era. Notable figures, including King Charles, Sir Elton John, and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, sent heartfelt tributes acknowledging Humphries’ immense impact on the world of entertainment.
King Charles, in a message conveyed during the extravagant service, remarked that “no-one was safe” from Humphries’ wit, describing him as a figure who brought both “fear and fun” to his subjects. The King reflected on Humphries’ ability to expose pretensions, puncture pomposity, and make people laugh at themselves, stating, “Life really won’t be the same without him.”
Prime Minister Albanese hailed Humphries as a “comedy giant,” while Sir Elton John, in a video message, remembered him as a great friend, highlighting Humphries’ humor, kindness, and generosity.
Fans turned out in large numbers to celebrate Humphries with a mix of laughter, tears, and champagne. Attendees expressed how they saw reflections of themselves in Humphries and his creations. One fan, drawing parallels to the late Queen, declared, “He’s an icon… I’m so sad he’s gone.”
Born in Melbourne in 1934, Humphries began creating fictional characters at an early age. After moving to London in 1959, he gained international acclaim. A versatile artist, Humphries explored writing, painting, and scholarship, but it was his comic caricatures, playing on Australian stereotypes, that earned him admiration.
Humphries’ iconic characters included the lecherous Sir Les Patterson and the charmingly boring Sandy Stone, but none were as beloved as the flamboyant Dame Edna Everage. Debuting in 1955, Dame Edna evolved over the years, known for her lilac-rinsed hair, vibrant outfits, and the famous catchphrase, “Hello possums!”
Humphries, often pushing the boundaries of political correctness, reveled in being “outrageous.” His humor served as both inspiration and envy to his peers, with comedians David Walliams and Jimmy Carr acknowledging him as a genius.
Beyond his comedic roles, Humphries voiced the character Bruce in the animated film Finding Nemo and appeared in movies like Bedazzled, Spice World, The Hobbit, and Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie.
Honored as an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) and Commander of the British Empire (CBE), Humphries considered his sobriety as one of his proudest achievements. Despite controversies in his personal life and controversial remarks, he leaves behind a legacy celebrated by fans worldwide.
Survived by his fourth wife Lizzie Spender, four children, and 10 grandchildren, Humphries’ family expressed gratitude for the outpouring of love. His eldest son, Oscar, acknowledged the brilliant and kaleidoscopic nature of Humphries’ life, finding solace in the overwhelming affection shown by people.
The memorial service, held months after Humphries’ passing as per the family’s request, concluded with the illumination of the Sydney Opera House sails in his honor on Friday night.