Barry Humphries, controversial Australian icon, has died aged 89

Humphries was an iconic, loved and celebrated Australian entertainer who was also known for his anti-transgender views.
FUSE  |  Australian News
Barry Humphries as the outrageous Dame Edna.

Barry Humphries, controversial Australian icon and creator of the outrageous Dame Edna, has died aged 89 at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney.  He was being treated for complications stemming from hip surgery earlier this year.

Humphries was a comedian, author, actor, poet, singer, commentator, interviewer and painter. With over seventy years on the stage, the characters he created brought laughter, delight and shock to audiences worldwide.

His most famous creation, Dame Edna Everage, first debuted in 1955 as an “average Australian housewife” from Moonee Ponds. Edna became a hit (and a dame) in the 1970s with her iconic lilac hair, outlandish horn-rimmed glasses, over-the-top outfits, endless bunches of gladioli, and catchphrases like “Hello, possums”.

Humphries’ other personas included the lecherous drunk Sir Les Patterson, a foul-mouthed and boorish Australian cultural attaché.

Although loved by so many, Barry Humphries was also known for his controversial and, sadly, sometimes offensive comments. During his career he made a number of derogatory statements about various minority groups, including the transgender community.

In a 2012 interview with The Telegraph, Humphries expressed views that were transphobic, saying that he found it “absurd” that some people identified as transgender. In an interview with The Guardian in 2016, Humphries again shared his controversial opinions, stating that he believed gender is binary and that trans people were “self-mutilating” and “unhappy.” 

He faced heavy criticism from LGBTIQ+ activists and allies for these comments, but was also defended by some who argued these remarks should be seen in the context of his age, time and place in history. Considering Humphries’ broad career and intellect, the naivety of his disparaging opinions regarding gender is quite astonishing. We’re not all perfect, right?

Video ▶︎ Barry Humphries and Dame Edna Everage memorable moments

Despite this, Humphries was known to be a caring man who was also resilient, energetic and direct. A loving and devoted husband, father, grandfather, and a friend and confidant to many. His passing will leave a void in the lives of those who loved him.

Surrounded by his children, grandchildren and wife of 30 years, Lizzie Spender, during his final days, the octogenarian was said to be upbeat and “cracking jokes” as he received visits from friends and family. 

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has paid tribute, calling Humphries “A great wit, satirist, writer and an absolute one-of-kind, he was both gifted and a gift.”

Courtney Act also commented on social media saying, “Things get complex when it comes to separating the art from the artist and the disappointing views he has expressed about trans people, and other topics, in his later years, but I don't have to agree with everything he said to acknowledge his impact and influence on me and on society.”

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