Barry Hughes as Dame Edna, 2012, {photo credit Eva Rinaldi}

Australian TV presenter/actor/comedian Barry Humphries, best known for his character Dame Edna Everage has died at the age of 89. Although Hughes spent a great deal of time in drag, pretending to be Dame Edna, Huges was not part of the LGBTQ community, rather, Dame Edna was just a character he played, like Lily Tomlin playing Edith Ann.

John Barry Humphries was born February 17, 1934 in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. He passed away April 22, 2023, in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. He was 89.

Barry Humphries as Bert Schnick in 1981's 'Shock Treatment'
Barry Humphries as Bert Schnick in Shock Treatment (1981) {image via 20th Century-Fox}

Who Was Barry Humphries? said “Barry Humphries was keen on dressing up from a young age and making people laugh with his various characters.

He recalled: “I also found that entertaining people gave me a great feeling of release, making people laugh was a very good way of befriending them. People couldn’t hit you if they were laughing.”

His first outing as Dame Edna Everage came in 1955, where he’d perform as the character for a skit during the Olympic Hostess stage show at Melbourne University’s Union Theatre on 12th December 1955. It proved to be his most popular and most recognizable character throughout his career, likely because of the outlandish costume complete with a purple wig and trademark glitzy glasses.

Dame Edna, was not his only character. He also portrayed Sir Les Patterson, not only on stage but in the film Les Patterson Saves the World (1987). He performed as Dame Edna in Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie (2016), The Great Comic Relief Bakeoff, Kath and Kimderella (2012).

Barry Humphries also created the role of Mr Sowerberry, the undertaker, in the original West End production of Lionel Bart’s musical Oliver!. He provided the voice of the Great Goblin in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012), and was the voice of Bruce the Shark in Disney’s Finding Nemo (2003).

In his native Australia, Barry Humphries was regarded almost as a lay saint: the patron saint of comedy. Comedy fans all over the world appreciated his satire, but none with the reverence of his fellow Australians.

Awards and Honors

Barry Humphries, AO, CBE, Officer of the Order of Australia, Companion  of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. He attended the University of Melbourne but did not graduate; years later the school granted him an honorary doctorate.

  • 1982 Barry Humphries was awarded the AO.
  • In 1994 he was granted his first honorary doctorate from Griffith University.
  • 1997 Humphries was awarded the Sir Peter Ustinov Award for Comedy, presented at the Banff World Television Festival.
  • 1997 He was awarded the Honoured Artists Award, Melbourne City Council.
  • 1999. Humphries was granted the Lifetime Achievement Award by the British Comedy Awards.
  • 2003 The University of Melbourne awarded him an honorary doctorate (his second).
  • 2006, he appeared on a series of Australian postage stamps as Dame Edna and as himself.
  • Also in 2006, Humphries’ image appeared on a fifty-cent coin issued by the Australian government to commemorate fifty years of playing Dame Edna.
  • 2016 Humphries was awarded his third honorary doctorate, this time by the University of South Australia

Humphries was married to Brenda Wright from 1955 to 1957. Then he was married to Rosalind Tong from 1959 to 1970. They had twodaughters, actress Tessa Humphries and TV producer Emily Humphries. His third wife was painter Diane Millstead; they were married from 1979 to 1989, and had two sons, journalist Oscar Humphries and BAFTA-winning scriptwriter Rupert Humphries. He married his fourth wife, actress Elizabeth Spender, in 1990; the pair were together until his death in 2023.

He is survived by his fourth wife, actress Elizabeth Spender, and his four children, Tessa, Oscar, Emily, and Rupert, and eight or more grandchildren.

Our condolences to his family and friends, especially his grandchildren. Thanks for all the laughs over the years.


Susan Macdonald
Susan Macdonald

Susan Macdonald is the author of the children’s book “R is for Renaissance Faire”, as well as 26 short stories, mostly fantasy in “Alternative Truths”, “Swords and Sorceress ”, Swords &Sorceries Vols. 1, 2, & 5, “Cat Tails” “Under Western Stars”, and “Knee-High Drummond and the Durango Kid”. Her articles have appeared on’s web site, in The Inquisitr, and in The Millington Star. She enjoys Renaissance Faires (see book above), science fiction conventions,  Highland Games, and Native American pow-wows.