Barry Humphries: King Charles called Australian comedy legend days before death – PerthNow

Barry Humphries: King Charles called Australian comedy legend days before death - PerthNow

His Majesty King Charles reportedly called Barry Humphries in the days before he died and also wrote to the Aussie icon while he was in hospital.

The revelation comes as tributes continue to pour in for the comedy legend who died over the weekend following complications from hip replacement surgery.

Among those to express their sadness over Humphries’ death was the British monarch who got to know the comedian over the years.

Humphries performed at several concerts and royal events including a famed appearance at the 2013 Royal Variety Performance where he left Charles and Camilla in hysterics after Dame Edna snuck into the royal box.

2013 Royal Variety Performance. Dame Edna Everidge, played by Barry Humphries, in the royal box with Prince Charles and Camilla
Camera IconHumphries performed at several concerts and royal events including a famed appearance at the 2013 Royal Variety Performance where he left the monarch in hysterics after Dame Edna snuck into the royal box. Credit: Supplied /Supplied

It has been reported His Majesty had been left “saddened” by Humphries death with a palace spokesperson adding the King would be writing to the legend’s family to convey his sympathies.

The Australian reports that Humphries told film director Bruce Beresford that Charles had been in contact while he was in hospital.

Beresford said he had been to see Humphries before he died and learned of the royal conversation.

“Barry said, ‘Well, I always admired him. We always got on well and I really liked his company and enjoyed being with him’,” Beresford told The Australian.

He added: “Barry was one of those people, he had great capacity for friendship. He was so interested in people.”

The Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson, also expressed her grief taking to social media to thank “dearest Barry” for the kindness he had shown her family over the years.

“Thank you dearest Barry for giving my father so much kindness and to all my family – we will miss your amazing brilliance.,” she wrote on Twitter.

Humphries, whose larger-than-life characters Dame Edna Everage and Sir Les Patterson made him a household name, was surrounded by family, including his wife Lizzie Spender and his four children, when he died on Saturday evening at Sydney’s St Vincent’s Hospital. He was 89.

As news of his passing spread, celebrities, politicians, comedians and dignitaries from around the world began posting tributes to the comedic genius over the weekend including talk show host Sir Michael Parkinson, lifelong friend Australian author Kathy Lette, media mogul Rupert Murdoch, and UK comedian Ricky Gervais.

“Barry was a cultured, highly intelligent, fascinating man who just happened to create, in Dame Edna Everage, one of the everlasting comedy characters of all time as well as one of my favourite guests on my talk show,” Parkinson said.

“In a time when the word is bandied around far too easily, we have truly lost a genius. I shall miss him and the Dame in equal measure. So will we all.”

Lette described her friend of more than four decades as someone who would always found the funny side “no matter how grim and bleak things were.”

“Even when I visited him in hospital in Sydney, his one aim was to make the nurses laugh and to make his hospital visitors feel at home,” she told Seven’s Sunrise. ”He was cracking jokes all the time.

“Which must have taken a huge emotional toll because he was in a lot of pain at times.”

She also revealed the comedian was “self-deprecating” except when he was playing Dame Edna, who she described as “the most venomous creature in the world”.

“Her wit was poisonous and you never want to sit in the first few rows in a concert because he would get here if you went up on stage, you would be absolutely annihilated by that incredibly sharp tongue,” she said.

“He had the black belt in tongue. When he would come around for dinner parties and lunches and things, he would be like the Wimbledon of wit, he would banter back and forth.

“He could play with language and he gave us a lot of our vocabulary. Shakespeare gave us a lot of our phrases and times but so did Barry, all our colourful Australian lingo about the technicolour yawn and pointing Percy at the porcelain. All of those jokes and one-liners to use all the time originated from his creative genius.”

Rupert Murdoch, the executive chairman of News Corporation, said on the passing of his cherished friend: “In whatever guise, Barry was a genuine genius. His works, creations, and spirit will echo across the generations and his friendship is eternal.”

“Farewell, Barry Humphries, you comedy genius,” said Ricky Gervais.

Supplied Editorial
Camera IconBarry Humphries. Credit: Supplied

Eric Idle, star of The Life of Brian and creator of Spamalot, a musical comedy based on the 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, said he felt grateful to have known Humphries who he said had made him “laugh out loud since 1968”.

“I’m so very sorry to hear we have lost Barry Humphries,” he wrote. “I have been lucky enough to have known him and he has made me laugh out loud since 1968. One of the greatest civilized comedians to have ever lived. A kind, brilliant, warm, witty, intelligent human being. I shall miss him.”

UK comedian Jimmy Carr, who has been touring Australia for the past few months, posted how “bittersweet” it was for him to be performing after learning of Humphries’s death.

Barry Humphries as Dame Edna on stage
Camera IconBarry Humphries, best known as elter ego Dame Edna Everage has died in Sydney. Credit: AAP

“A bit bittersweet doing gigs in Australia this evening, Barry Humphries has passed and no one will ever be as good at crowd work again,” he wrote.

Welsh comedian Rob Brydon, who is also on tour in Australia, revealed in a tweet he had visited Humphries just three days earlier.

“RIP Barry Humphries. A true great who inspired me immeasurably. It was a delight to call him my friend,” he posted. “I’ve been in Australia and was with him only 3 days ago. He was, as ever, making me laugh.

“His talent shone until the very end. My love goes out to Lizzie and all the family.”

Leading the tributes on Sunday, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese once again praised Humphries describing him as a “great Australian, a comic genius, someone who entertained us through a galaxy of personas.”

“Dame Edna, Sandy Stone, Sir Les Patterson, who can forget. Barry Humphries, through his 89 years, made an enormous contribution to Australia,” he said at his press conference with New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins. “And he also showcased that uniquely Australian sense of humour to the world. He will be missed by so many of his family, loved ones, and indeed he is one of the most loved of Australians. And I pay tribute to him today, to his enormous contribution to Australia.”

The New Zealand Prime Minister also paid tribute to the Aussie comedian saying Kiwis would also be feeling the loss.

“Can I also acknowledge the passing of Barry Humphries and say that Dame Edna is an institution in New Zealand as well as Australia,” Mr Hipkins said. “And I’m sure New Zealanders will also be feeling that loss.”

New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins, right, and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese hold a joint press conference in Brisbane, Australia, Sunday, April 23, 2023. (AP Photo/Sarah Marshall)
Camera IconNew Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins, right, and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese hold a joint press conference in Brisbane, Australia, Sunday, April 23, 2023.. Credit: Sarah Marshall/AP

A little closer to home, WA Premier Mark McGowan recalled the time he met Humphries on a flight to London adding his death marked “the passing of an icon”.

“He’s an amazing guy,” Mr McGowan said. “I remember him from when I was a boy. I remember as a kid, I never understood who this woman was, but it turned out it was Barry Humphries.

“He’s an amazing entertainer. Quite a comedic genius.

“One of Australia’s greatest exports.

“I met him once on the first direct flight to London, there was a big function at Australia house in London.

“I met him at that event. He was a nice man. He came across very British actually in the way he spoke.

“But he was a nice man and very friendly.”

Actor Guy Pearce posted how fortunate he felt to have shared a moment with the comedy legend.

“What an honour to share a moment with the genius Barry Humphries. One of the funniest experiences of my life. RIP kind sir,” he wrote on Twitter.

His former Neighbours co-star, Jason Donovan, said Australia had lost one of its greatest, describing him as a funny, literate and fiercely intelligent entertainment genius.

“Australia has lost one of its greatest!,” Donovan posted. “Funny, literate and fiercely intelligent Barry Humphries was quite simply an entertaining genius. The characters he created brought laughter to millions … My thoughts are with family on this sad day!”

Eric Bana, who began his career doing sketch comedy, posted on Twitter that when he was in is teens he attended one of Humphries’ performances who “lit a creative fuse” in him.

“It was my very first exposure to live theatre. I remember so clearly the electricity, the collective sense of anticipation. He was extraordinary. He lit a creative fuse in me that night. Thanks Barry for the laughs,” he wrote.

Fellow entertainer Dannii Minogue also paid tribute to Humphries, choosing to remember his “cheeky humour”.

“I was lucky to meet Barry and Lizzie through my great friend Kathy. A cheeky humour that will be very missed. Vale Barry Humphries,” she said.

Rove McManus tweeted: “A sad farewell to the legend that was Barry Humphries today. From Dame Edna to Sir Les Patterson to Sandy Stone, his characters left an indelible legacy on the history of Australian comedy.”

Aussie comedian Adam Hills labelled Humphries “one of the greatest comedians of our time”.

“He was nothing but an utter gentleman to me, and occasionally a Dame. Appropriately, he took his final bow on a Saturday night,” he said.

This Monday in a FREE 12 page commemorative wrap, The West Australian pays tribute to Barry Humphries, one of Australia’s greatest entertainers. His life, his characters, his legacy. Only in The West Australian this Monday.


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