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Barry Humphries

Actor, Screenwriter, Satirist, Comedian, Writer, Artist, Author, Film Producer
Wikimedia / CC BY-SA 3.0 ]
John Barry Humphries, AO, CBE (born 17 February 1934) is an Australian comedian, satirist, artist, and author. Humphries 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, an award-winning writer and an accomplished 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 has also appeared in numerous films, stage productions and television shows. Originally conceived as a dowdy Moonee Ponds housewife who caricatured Australian suburban complacency and insularity, Edna has evolved over four decades to become a satire of stardom, the gaudily dressed, acid-tongued, egomaniacal, internationally feted Housewife Gigastar, Dame Edna Everage. Humphries' other major satirical character creation was the archetypal Australian bloke Barry McKenzie, who originated as the hero of a comic strip about Australians in London (with drawings by Nicholas Garland) which was first published in Private Eye magazine. The stories about "Bazza" (Humphries' nickname, as well as an Australian term of endearment for the name Barry) gave wide circulation to Australian slang, particularly jokes about drinking and its consequences (much of which was invented by Humphries), and the character went on to feature in two Australian films, in which he was portrayed by Barry Crocker. Humphries' other satirical characters include the "priapic and inebriated cultural attaché" Sir Les Patterson, who has "continued to bring worldwide discredit upon Australian arts and culture, while contributing as much to the Australian vernacular as he has borrowed from it", gentle, grandfatherly "returned gentleman" Sandy Stone, iconoclastic 1960s underground film-maker Martin Agrippa, Paddington socialist academic Neil Singleton, sleazy trade union official Lance Boyle, high-pressure art salesman Morrie O'Connor and failed tycoon Owen Steele. --- Humphries was born in the suburb of Kew in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, the son of Louisa and Eric Humphries, a construction manager. His grandfather was an immigrant to Australia from Manchester, England. His father was well-to-do and Barry grew up in a "clean, tasteful and modern home" in 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 so he spent hours playing at dressing-up in the back garden. His parents nicknamed him "Sunny Sam", and his early childhood was happy and uneventful, but in his teens Humphries began to rebel against the strictures of conventional suburban life by becoming "artistic" – much to the dismay of his parents who, despite their affluence, distrusted "art". A key event took place when he was nine – his mother gave all his books to The Salvation Army, cheerfully explaining: "But you've read them, Barry". Humphries responded by becoming a voracious reader, a collector of rare books, a painter, a theatre fan and a surrealist. Dressing up in a black cloak, black homburg and mascaraed eyes, he invented his first sustained character, "Dr Aaron Azimuth", agent provocateur, dandy and Dadaist. Educated 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 spent two years studying at the University of Melbourne (Queen's College), where he studied a combined degree in Laws and Arts (with a double major in Philosophy and Fine Arts). During this time he became Australia's leading exponent of the deconstructive and absurdist art movement, Dada. The Dadaist pranks and performances he mounted in Melbourne were experiments in anarchy and visual satire which have become part of Australian folklore. An exhibit entitled "Pus In Boots" consisted of a pair of Wellington boots filled with custard; a mock pesticide product called "Platytox" claimed on its box to be effective against the platypus, a beloved and protected species in Australia. He was part of a group that made a series of Dada-influenced recordings in Melbourne from 1952–53. "Wubbo Music" (Humphries has said that "wubbo" is a pseudo-Aboriginal word meaning "nothing") is thought to be one of the earliest recordings of experimental music in Australia. Other exhibits include "Creche Bang", a pram covered in meat and "Egg and Spoon Race", a spoon with a sheep's eye. --- In 2000 Humphries took his Dame Edna: The Royal Tour show to North America winning the inaugural Special Tony Award for a Live Theatrical Event in 2000 and won two National Broadway Theatre Awards for "Best Play" and for "Best Actor" in 2001. Asked by an Australian journalist what it was like to win a Tony Award, he said "it was like winning a thousand Gold Logies at the same time". Dame Edna's new-found success in America led to many media opportunities, including a semi-regular role in the hit TV series Ally McBeal. Vanity Fair magazine invited Dame Edna to write a satirical advice column in 2003 although after an outcry following a remark about learning Spanish, the column was discontinued. --- 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 eldest son Oscar is editor of the art magazine Apollo and a contributing editor at The Spectator. His fourth wife, Lizzie Spender, is the daughter of British poet Sir Stephen Spender.

Wikipedia ]

February 17, 1934 (age 90)
Actor, Screenwriter, Satirist, Comedian, Writer, Artist, Author, Film Producer
Lizzie Spender
Louisa Humphries, Eric Humphries
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