Barry Humphries Biography

(Actor, Author and Comedian Best Known for His Character ‘Dame Edna Everage’ on TV Show)

Birthday: February 17, 1934 (Aquarius)

Born In: Kew, Australia

John Barry Humphries is a distinguished Australian theatre personality and comedian best known for his characterisations like ‘Dame Edna Everage’ and ‘Sir Les Patterson’. A multi-talented personality, he is an actor, comedian, satirist, author, script writer, landscape painter and film producer. For close to five decades, he has been successfully working in stage productions including one-man shows, television shows and films. His portrayal of Edna, a dowdy Australian housewife, for around fifty years has brought him international fame and stardom. Humphries began his acting career as a stage artist and with time emerged as a star of the West End musical theatre, London. He made his film debut with a cameo in ‘Bedazzled’ a hit film of 1967 and went on to play several other supporting and cameo roles. A prolific writer, Humphries has penned down novels, autobiographies, treatise, scripts and plays. In 1993 he earned the ‘J. R. Ackerley Prize for Autobiography’ for ‘More Please’, his first autobiographical work. He received several awards including ‘British Comedy Awards’ (1999) and ‘Tony Award’ (2000). He was honoured as ‘Officer of the Order of Australia’ (‘AO’) in 1982 and ‘Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE)’ in 2007.
Quick Facts

Australian Celebrities Born In February

Also Known As: John Barry Humphries

Age: 89 Years, 89 Year Old Males


Spouse/Ex-: Brenda Wright, Diane Millstead, Lizzie Spender, Rosalind Tong

father: Eric Humphries

mother: Louisa Humphries

children: Emily Humphries, Oscar Humphries, Rupert Humphries, Tessa Humphries

Actors Comedians

Height: 5'10" (178 cm), 5'10" Males

Ancestry: English Australian

More Facts

education: University Of Melbourne

Childhood & Early Life
He was born on February 17, 1934 in Kew, a suburb in Melbourne, Australia in the affluent family to Eric Humphries and Louisa Humphries. His father worked as a construction manager.
He spent a happy early childhood with his parents, who fondly called him ‘Sunny Sam’ bringing him all that he wished for. He would spend hours at the back garden dressing himself in different characters with his box full of character dresses, such as a sailor or a Red Indian. He liked entertaining people since his childhood and these small aspects of his early age set his stage for pursuing a successful career in the entertainment world.
He attended the ‘Camberwell Grammar School’ in Canterbury, Melbourne and thereafter studied in ‘Melbourne Grammar School’ in South Yarra and Caulfield, Melbourne. He was not a sports enthusiast, avoided cadets and disliked mathematics. In his matriculation, he came out with flying colours in English and Art.
He attended ‘Queen's College’ affiliated to ‘University of Melbourne’ and studied Philosophy, Fine Arts and Law, but dropped out after two years.
He became a prominent exponent of ‘Dada’, a nonsensical and deconstructive art movement that evolved in Zurich during ‘World War I’. From 1952 to 1953, he was involved with a group that created several recordings in Melbourne that were inspired by ‘Dada’.
He was fabulous with his eye-catching and provocative public pranks that would exhibit his enthusiasm in weird and bizarre stuffs, which probably helped him in portraying various quirky and comic characters with great élan.
One such prank would be the mischievous ‘sick bag’ gag. He would carry a tin of ‘Heinz Russian Salad’ with him in flight and would secretly pour it in an air-sickness bag. Later he would pretend to vomit in the bag and then to the dismay of the passengers and crew members, he would go ahead to eat the stuff.
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He joined the newly established ‘Melbourne Theatre Company’ (MTC’). It was set up by John Sumner in 1953.
In 1955 he first conceived and shaped up the character of Edna Everage for a skit. It was first characterised in the stage show ‘Olympic Hostess’ at the ‘Union Theatre’ of ‘Melbourne University’ on December 12, 1955.
He relocated to Sydney in 1957 and joined ‘Philip Street Revue Theatre’ that eventually emerged as a prominent theatre showcasing lampoon and satirical comedy. His first performance there was in a satirical revue called ‘Two to One’ that also starred seasoned music star Max Oldaker.
He revived the ‘Olympic Hostess’ in ‘Philip Street Revue Theatre’ and the character of Edna seemed to be a hit that saw it run eight shows a week for fourteen months.
Over the years he did several stage performances touring around Australia, Germany, Netherlands and Scandinavia and in the Middle and Far East.
In 1964, suggested by Peter Cook, publisher of satirical magazine ‘Private Eye’, Humphries created a cartoon strip ‘The Wonderful World of Barry McKenzie’, drawings of which were made by artist Nicholas Garland of New Zealand. The comic strips compiled into a book were published in London but saw a ban in Australia. The film ‘The Adventures of Barry McKenzie’ (1972) and its sequel ‘Barry McKenzie Holds His Own’ (1974) were based on the book starring Australian singer Barry Crocker in the lead.
In 1967 he made his film debut with a cameo in the film ‘Bedazzled’. He featured in many other films in supporting and cameo roles such as ‘Percy's Progress’ (1974), ‘The Great Macarthy’ (1975), ‘Side by Side’ (1975), ‘The Getting of Wisdom’ (1977), ‘Dr. Fischer of Geneva’ (1985) and ‘Napoleon’ (1995).
He lent his voice in films such as ‘Finding Nemo’ (2003) as ‘Bruce’; ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ (2012) as ‘Great Goblin’ and in ‘Justin and the Knights of Valour’ (2013) as ‘Braulio’.
His forte however remained the one-man satirical stage revues where he mostly portrayed the characters of Edna Everage, Les Patterson and Sandy Stone. Some of his 2½ hours monologue shows include ‘A Night with Dame Edna’ (1979); ‘An Evening's Intercourse with Dame Edna’ (1982); ‘Edna, The Spectacle’ (1998); ‘Back with a Vengeance’ (2007) and ‘Dame Edna Live: The First Last Tour’ (2009).
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His television appearances include two series comedy talk show ‘The Dame Edna Experience’ (1st series September-December 1987 and second series November-December 1989); social history series ‘Barry Humphries' Flashbacks’ (1999) and comedy chat show ‘The Dame Edna Treatment’ (2007).
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Major Works
Edna Everage, the fictional comic character that he gradually developed and performed in various mediums, for decades garnered him international reputation and fame as a remarkable comic and satire artist.
The other two prominent characters created by him are ‘Sir Les Patterson’ and ‘Sandy Stone’ who frequently appeared in his stage shows.
Personal Life & Legacy
He married Brenda Wright in 1955 but they divorced in 1957.
In 1959 he married Rosalind Tong. This marriage too culminated into divorce in 1970.
His third marriage was with Diane Millstead in 1979, which again resulted in divorce in 1989.
He is presently married to Lizzie Spender, daughter of English poet and novelist Sir Stephen Spender, since 1990.
He has four children, two sons, Rupert and Oscar and two daughters, Emily and Tessa from his second and third marriages. While Tessa is an Australian actress, Oscar is the editor of the English monthly magazine, ‘Apollo’.
During 1960s he became highly addicted to alcohol which slowly started affecting his professional as well as personal life. It was the reason for breakdown of his marriage with Brenda Wright and also attributed to the failure of his second marriage. Later he shunned alcohol for life.
He is an avid reader since his childhood and has a collection of around twenty-five thousand books in his London house in West Hampstead. An accomplished landscape painter himself, he is a leading art collector whose collections include works of the likes of Charles Conder and Jan Frans De Boever.
He is also a patron of music and arts.

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