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23 April 2023

World of comedy in tribute to wit and mischief of ‘genius’ Barry Humphries

23 April 2023

Rob Brydon, Ricky Gervais, Matt Lucas and Dara O Briain were among the famous comedians remembering “true great” Barry Humphries following his death aged 89.

The stage and screen veteran, best known for his comic character Dame Edna Everage, died at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney Australia on Saturday night (11am GMT).

Humphries became a staple of the British comedy circuit after moving from Australia to London in 1959 and appearing in West End shows such as Maggie May and Oliver!

During his seven-decade career he also appeared as the lecherous Sir Les Patterson and Sandy Stone, an elderly, childless man living in the suburbs.

His death came following a readmission to hospital after suffering complications following hip surgery last month.

Comedian Brydon, a friend of Humphries, said he was with the Australian entertainer just three days ago when “he was, as ever, making me laugh”.

“RIP Barry Humphries. A true great who inspired me immeasurably,” Brydon tweeted.

“It was a delight to call him my friend. I’ve been in Australia and was with him only three days ago. He was, as ever, making me laugh. His talent shone until the very end.”

My memory of Dame Edna Everage goes back to when she was a mere Mrs, she was even then a superstar. She was dressed by BBC’s rather frumpy stock wardrobe but, of course, she turned into a butterfly and obviously achieved damehood

Dame Esther Rantzen told the PA news agency she is “very sad” following the death of her friend.

“I think we’ve lost a source of so much fun and someone I have worked with since the mid-1960s and liked and admired so much.

“My memory of Dame Edna Everage goes back to when she was a mere Mrs, she was even then a superstar.

“She was dressed by BBC’s rather frumpy stock wardrobe but, of course, she turned into a butterfly and obviously achieved damehood.

“She influenced me greatly. When I was lucky enough to be honoured with damehood, I was very frequently introduced as Dame Edna because it became a phrase which came naturally, and I was thrilled.”

Actor Gervais and impressionist Rory Bremner said Humphries was a “comedy genius” and an “all-time great”.

“Farewell, Barry Humphries, you Comedy genius,” Gervais tweeted.

Bremner wrote: “Heavens. With the passing of #barryhumphries we lose an all-time great.

“Lightning quick, subversive, mischievous, widely read, deeply knowledgeable about art, music & literature- & savagely funny.

“Dame Edna arguably the greatest comic persona ever. Les Patterson too. True genius.”

Little Britain star Lucas, who shared a picture of the pair together, described Humphries as “quite simply the greatest”.

He wrote: “I wonder if all geniuses are as lovely as Barry Humphries. Thank you for delighting and inspiring us.”

Meanwhile, former Mock The Week host O Briain described Humphries as “one of the absolute funniest people ever”.

Other tributes came from Australia, including Prime Minister Anthony Albanese who described Humphries as “the brightest star” in “a galaxy of personas”.

“For 89 years, Barry Humphries entertained us through a galaxy of personas, from Dame Edna to Sandy Stone,” Mr 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. May he rest in peace.”

Last Leg host Adam Hills said it was “appropriate” Barry Humphries “took his final bow on a Saturday night”.

“RIP Barry Humphries. One of the greatest comedians of our time,” the Australian tweeted.

“He was nothing but an utter gentleman to me, and occasionally a Dame. Appropriately, he took his final bow on a Saturday night.”

Comedian Jimmy Carr, who is on tour in Australia, tweeted: “A bit bittersweet doing gigs in Australia this evening, Barry Humphries has past and no one will ever be as good at crowd work again.”

Australian actor Jason Donovan also posted a picture of himself as a young man posing with Humphries dressed as Dame Edna, tweeting: “Australia has lost one of its greatest.

“Funny, literate and fiercely intelligent. Barry Humphries was quite simply an entertaining genius. The characters he created brought laughter to millions.”

Former prime minister Boris Johnson, who edited the Spectator magazine to which Humphries contributed, said the 89-year-old was “one of the greatest ever Australians”.

“RIP Barry Humphries – one of the greatest ever Australians – and a comic genius who used his exuberant alter egos, Dame Edna Everage and Sir Les Patterson, to say the otherwise unsayable,” he tweeted.

“Also an infallibly brilliant Spectator contributor. What a loss.”

Meanwhile musicians including Oscar-winning composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, Sir Elton John and Will Young also paid tribute.

Sharing a photograph of Lord Lloyd-Webber and Humphries smiling while sitting on a bench together, he wrote: “No more will we share obscure composers and unfashionable Victoriana. How I’ll miss you.”

Sir Elton sent his love to Humphries’ family, adding: “Barry was the funniest man ever. AND, the sweetest man ever.

“What a sad day.”

And Young shared a clip from a TV chat show hosted by Brydon which saw the pair sing Frank Sinatra’s Somethin’ Stupid.

He captioned the post: “One of the most consummate professionals I have ever met with a razor like wit and a kind heart.

“I was lucky to be in their presence whatever character they were inhabiting.”

Episodes from Barry Humphries’ “hugely popular” BBC Radio 2 series Forgotten Music Masterpieces will be played in tribute to the late entertainer, the broadcaster confirmed.

Laura Busson, commissioning executive for Radio 2, said: “Everyone at Radio 2 is saddened to hear of the passing of Barry Humphries.

“His six Radio 2 series of Barry Humphries’ Forgotten Music Masterpieces were hugely popular with our audience, and we will publish some of these programmes on BBC Sounds today for listeners to enjoy, in tribute to Barry.”

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