Australian entertainer Barry Humphries, best known for his comic character Dame Edna Everage, has died aged 89.
The star had been in hospital in Sydney after suffering complications following hip surgery in March. He had a fall in February.
Humphries’ most famous creation became a hit in the UK in the 1970s and landed her own TV chat show, the Dame Edna Everage Experience, in the late 1980s.
His other personas included the lecherous drunk Sir Les Patterson.
In a statement, his family remembered him as “completely himself until the very end, never losing his brilliant mind, his unique wit and generosity of spirit”.
They said Humphries’ fans were “precious to him”, and said his characters, “which brought laughter to millions, will live on”.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese paid tribute shortly after the news of Humphries’ death broke.
“A great wit, satirist, writer and an absolute one-of-kind, he was both gifted and a gift.” Mr Albanese said.
Melbourne-born Humphries moved to London in 1959, appearing in West End shows such as Maggie May and Oliver!
Inspired by the absurdist, avant-garde art movement Dada, he became a leading figure of the British comedy scene alongside contemporaries like Alan Bennett, Dudley Moore and Spike Milligan.
Comedian Rory Bremner described Humphries as “lightning quick, subversive, mischievous… & savagely funny” in a tweet.
He said with his passing “we lose an all-time great”.
Welsh actor and comedian Rob Brydon also described Humphries as a “true great who inspired me immeasurably” and said it was a “delight to call him my friend”.
He said he was also with him only three days ago, where he was “as ever, making me laugh”.
In 1955, Barry Humphries introduced Mrs Norman Everage, the housewife from Moonee Ponds, a suburb in Melbourne, in a university production.
It was the first iteration of the irrepressible character that would define his career.
Humphries said his creation was supposed to last only a week.
Instead, it blossomed into Dame Edna, his gaudy, sharp-tongued comic alter ego who would leave audiences in stitches in Australia and beyond for decades. He said the character was based on his own mother.
“Edna was painfully shy at first,” Humphries told the Guardian in 2018. “Hard to believe!”
She became more outrageous as the years went on, and was famed for her lilac-rinsed hair, flamboyant glasses and catchphrase: “Hello possums!”
Dame Edna surprised the then Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, at the Royal Variety show in 2019 when she sat near the two and joked “they’ve found me a better seat” before moving.
Humphries even wrote an autobiography, My Gorgeous Life, as the character.
His other popular characters on stage and screen included the more grandfatherly Sandy Stone.
He said of Stone in 2016 that he could “finally feel myself turning into him”.
Humphries also presented six series for BBC Radio 2, the latest being a three part series celebrating 100 years of the BBC.
The commissioning executive for Radio 2, Laura Busson, said his series “Barry Humphries Forgotten Musical Masterpieces” was hugely popular with audiences, and would be published on BBC Sounds today as a tribute to the comedian.
The comic actor, author, director and scriptwriter, who was also a keen landscape painter, announced a farewell tour for his satirical one-man stage show in 2012. But he returned last year with a series of shows looking back at his career.
His other credits included voicing the shark Bruce in 2003 Pixar animated film Finding Nemo, as well as appearances in 1967 comedy Bedazzled, Spice World, The Hobbit and Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie.
Humphries was made an Officer of the Order of Australia, one of the country’s highest civic honours, in 1982.
Later in his career, he was criticised for referring to gender affirmation surgery as “self-mutilation” and described transgender identity as a “fashion”.
But his fans in Australia are mourning the loss of a comedy legend.
He was married four times, and leaves behind his wife of Lizzie Spender and four children.
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