Australia has lost its finest cultural raconteur, its most brilliant satirist, and its greatest comedic genius with the death of the witty and wonderful Barry Humphries AO CBE.
Barry Humphries will be remembered as one of Australia’s most cherished comedians.
But he was so much more than a comedian. He was a writer, an actor, and a deep thinker: a man of immense erudition and outstanding observation.
He had a quintessential understanding of Australian culture and history, and what makes our country and its people tick. He transferred that understanding onto the page, the stage, and the screen.
Barry’s irreverent sense of humour reflected our national psyche. He captured, all too brilliantly, that self-deprecating nature we love about Australians.
Barry made us literally laugh out loud. He made us enjoy laughing at ourselves. This was no more evident than through his larger-than-life characters: Dame Edna Everage – the Moonee Ponds housewife who rose to international ‘gigastar’; Sir Les Patterson – the uncouth loudmouth diplomat with the glass of scotch in hand; or Sandy Stone – the softly spoken old digger with the hot water bottle over the shoulder.
Just as Barry was loved on our shores, he was adored abroad. He won the hearts and minds of many British and American audiences.
In his work and characters, Barry Humphries didn’t just reflect Australia at a certain time in our history. He appreciated our enduring traits – for better and for worse. His Flashbacks series – observing life in Australia in the 1950s, ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s – should be mandatory viewing.
Perhaps the greatest legacy of Barry Humphries is that he will remind us of who we are at a time when we need reminding.
On behalf of the Federal Coalition, I offer my heartfelt condolences to Barry’s family, friends, and many fans.
Ahead of Dame Edna’s Glorious Goodbye tour in 2015, she remarked, “I’ve missed you possums, don’t miss me.”
But we will indeed miss the great Barry Humphries – forever a treasured Australian icon.
May he rest in peace.