John Barry Humphries is a well-known Australian actor and comedian who is best recognized for his portrayals of Dame Edna Everage and Sir Les Patterson. He is an actor, comedian, humorist, novelist, script writer, landscape painter, and film producer, among other things. He has worked in theater performances, including one-man shows, television shows, and films, for nearly five decades. For nearly fifty years, he has played Edna, a dowdy Australian housewife, bringing him international renown and stardom. Humphries began his acting career as a theatrical performer before becoming a star of London’s West End musical theatre. He made his cinematic debut in a cameo part in the hit 1967 picture ‘Bedazzled,’ and went on to play a number of other supporting and cameo roles. Humphries is a prolific writer who has written novels, autobiographies, treatises, scripts, and plays. For his debut autobiographical work, ‘More Please,’ he won the ‘J. R. Ackerley Prize for Autobiography in 1993. He won various honors, including the ‘British Comedy Awards’ in 1999 and the ‘Tony Award in 2000. (2000). In 1982, he was named a ‘Officer of the Order of Australia’ (‘AO’), and in 2007, he was named a ‘Commander of the Order of the British Empire’ (‘CBE’).
Childhood and Adolescence
Eric Humphries and Louisa Humphries were his parents, and he was born on February 17, 1934, in Kew, a Melbourne suburb, to a wealthy family. His father worked in the construction industry as a project manager.
He had a joyful upbringing with his parents, who affectionately referred to him as “Sunny Sam” and lavished him with everything he desired.
He’d spend hours in the back garden dressing up as different characters, such as a sailor or a Red Indian, with his box of character outfits. He’d always enjoyed entertaining people since he was a child, and these tiny components of his upbringing paved the way for him to pursue a successful career in the entertainment industry.
He went to the ‘Camberwell Grammar School’ in Canterbury, Melbourne, and then to the ‘Melbourne Grammar School’ in South Yarra and Caulfield. He loathed mathematics, was not a sports fan, and avoided cadets. He passed his matriculation with flying colors in English and Art.
He studied Philosophy, Fine Arts, and Law at ‘Queen’s College,’ which is associated with the ‘University of Melbourne,’ but dropped out after two years.
He was a leading figure in the ‘Dada’ movement, a nonsensical and deconstructive art movement that arose in Zurich during World War I. From 1952 to 1953, he was a member of a Melbourne-based trio that made many records influenced by ‘Dada.’
He was fantastic with his eye-catching and provocative public pranks that displayed his interest in strange and unusual things, which possibly helped him portray a variety of quirky and comedic characters with great élan.
The devious sick bag’ gag is one example of such a prank. In-flight, he’d bring a tin of ‘Heinz Russian Salad,’ which he’d covertly pour into an air-sickness bag. Later, he would pretend to vomit in the bag, then eat the contents, much to the dismay of the passengers and crew members.
Barry Humphries’s Career
He became a member of the newly formed ‘Melbourne Theatre Company’ (MTC). It was founded in 1953 by John Sumner.
For a skit in 1955, he created and developed the character of Edna Everage. On December 12, 1955, it was initially depicted in the stage production ‘Olympic Hostess’ at the ‘Union Theatre’ of ‘Melbourne University.’
In 1957, he moved to Sydney and joined the ‘Philip Street Revue Theatre,’ which became a well-known venue for sarcastic and parody comedy. His first appearance there was in a satirical revue called “Two to One,” in which he was joined by veteran musician Max Oldaker.
In ‘Philip Street Revue Theatre,’ he revived the ‘Olympic Hostess,’ and the character of Edna looked to be a hit, with the production running eight shows a week for fourteen months.
He has performed on stage in Australia, Germany, the Netherlands, Scandinavia, the Middle East, and the Far East over the years.
Humphries created the cartoon strip ‘The Wonderful World of Barry McKenzie’ in 1964, after being inspired by Peter Cook, founder of the satirical magazine ‘Private Eye.’ The illustrations were done by New Zealand artist Nicholas Garland. The book of comic strips was released in London, but it was banned in Australia. The Adventures of Barry McKenzie (1972) and its sequel, ‘Barry McKenzie Holds His Own’ (1974), were both based on the book, which starred Australian musician Barry Crocker.
In 1967, he made his film debut in the film ‘Bedazzled,’ in which he played a cameo role. In addition to ‘Percy’s Progress (1974), ‘The Great Macarthy’ (1975), ‘Side by Side’ (1975), ‘The Getting of Wisdom’ (1977), ‘Dr. Fischer of Geneva’ (1985), and ‘Napoleon,’ appeared in a number of other films in supporting and cameo parts (1995).
In films like ‘Finding Nemo’ (2003) ‘Bruce,’ ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012) as ‘Great Goblin,’ and ‘Justin and the Knights of Valour’ (2013) as ‘Braulio,’ he lent his voice.
His specialty, however, was one-man satirical stage revues, in which he typically played Edna Everage, Les Patterson, and Sandy Stone. ‘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’ (2008) are among his 212-hour monologue shows (2009).
Two series of the comedy discussion program ‘The Dame Edna Experience’ (September-December 1987 and November-December 1989); social history series ‘Barry Humphries’ Flashbacks’ (1999); and comedy chat show ‘The Dame Edna Treatment (2007).
His Major Projects
Edna Everage, a fictional comedy persona he created and performed in a variety of mediums, earned him international acclaim and celebrity as a superb comic and satire artist for decades.
‘Sir Les Patterson’ and ‘Sandy Stone,’ two additional well-known personas he developed, frequently appeared in his stage acts.
Personal History and Legacy
In 1955, he married Brenda Wright, but the couple separated in 1957.
He married Rosalind Tong in 1959. In 1970, this marriage, too, ended in divorce.
In 1979, he married Diane Millstead for the third time, which ended in divorce in 1989.
Since 1990, he has been married to Lizzie Spender, the daughter of English poet and novelist Sir Stephen Spender.
From his second and third marriages, he has two sons, Rupert and Oscar, and two daughters, Emily and Tessa. Oscar is the editor of the English monthly magazine ‘Apollo,’ while Tessa is an Australian actress.
During the 1960s, he developed a strong addiction to alcohol, which began to impact both his work and personal life. It was the cause of his first marriage to Brenda Wright’s demise, as well as his second marriage’s failure. He later decided to abstain from alcohol for the rest of his life.
He has been an enthusiastic reader since he was a boy, and his London home in West Hampstead houses a collection of about 25,000 books. He is a famous art collector whose collections include paintings by Charles Conder and Jan Frans De Boever, among others.
He is also a supporter of the arts and music.
Estimated Net worth
Barry Humphries net worth: Barry Humphries is a $12 million Australian comedian, satirist, Dadaist, artist, novelist, and character actor. The on-stage and screen alter personas Dame Edna Everage has contributed to Barry Humphries’ net worth. Dame Edna is a fictitious housewife and “gigastar” from Melbourne.