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John Barry Humphries
Dame Edna Everage
Dr. Aaron Azimuth
Sir Les Patterson
John Barry Humphries (1934) is an Australian comedian, satirist, artist, author, film producer, scriptwriter, landscape painter, and star of London's West End musical theatre. Humphries is best known for writing and playing his on-stage and television alter egos: Dame Edna Everage, Sir Les Patterson and Sandy Stone.
His early home life set the pattern for his eventual stage career—his parents bought him everything he wanted, but his father in particular spent little time with him, Humphries spent hours playing at dressing-up in the back garden. 'I would disguise myself as different characters ... I found that entertaining people gave me a great feeling of release; making people laugh was a very good way of befriending them. People couldn't hit you if they were laughing.' His first sustained invented character was Dr Aaron Azimuth, agent provocateur, dandy and Dadaist.
Humphries' one-man shows, typically two-and-a-half hours long, alternate satirical monologues and musical numbers and consist of entirely original material, laced with ad-libbing, improvisation and audience participation segments.
Barry Humphries was invited to join the fledgling Union Theatre Repertory Company early in 1955, performing Twelfth Night, directed by Ray Lawler. It was on tour that Humphries gradually invented Edna, as entertainment for the actors during commutes between country towns. Humphries developed her as a falsetto impersonation of a Melbourne housewife, imitating the Country Women's Association representatives who welcomed the troupe in each town.
At first the character was billed as 'Mrs Norm Everage'; 'Everage as in 'average', husband Norm as in 'normal', and later named Edna after Humphries' nanny.
Humphries regularly updated Edna; she started as a drab Melbourne housewife satirising Australian suburbia, and subsequently adopting an increasingly outlandish wardrobe after being performed in London in the 1960s. Following film appearances and an elevation to dame hood in the 1970s, the character evolved to 'Housewife and Superstar', then 'Megastar' and finally 'Gigastar'. By now Dame Edna was a character famous for her lilac-coloured or 'wisteria hue' hair, cat eye glasses or 'face furniture', her favourite flower the gladiolus, and her boisterous greeting: 'Hello, Possums!'
Although Humphries freely states that Edna is a character he plays, Edna refers to Humphries as her 'entrepreneur' or manager. Humphries and his staff of assistants and writers only refer to Edna as 'she,' and 'her,' never mixing the character with Humphries himself.
Dame Edna has such a complete identity that Macmillan published 'My Gorgeous Life', Edna's 'autobiography', on its non-fiction list; it was written by Humphries but credited to Edna herself. Humphries also wrote an 'Unauthorised Biography' of his life as Edna's manager: ‘Handling Edna’, published in 2010.
During 2001 and 2002, Dame Edna also appeared in the fifth season of the television show Ally McBeal playing the guest role of Claire Otoms, The character shared Dame Edna's voice and style and was explicitly listed in the opening credits as being played by Dame Edna Everage (although Barry Humphries received a credit in the closing credits).
In Australia streets and squares have been named after Edna Everage, and in 2009 a bronze statue of her was revealed. She also has her own cosmetic line with the Australian brand MAC Cosmetics.
In March 2012, Humphries announced that the character would be retired at the end of the current stage tour; however, as of 2013 he decided to bring her back.
‘Sir Leslie Colin 'Les' Patterson’ is another fictional character portrayed by Humphries. Obese, lecherous and offensive, this farting, belching, nose-picking figure of Rabelaisian excess is an antipodean Falstaff. He is Dame Edna Everage's exact opposite: she is female, refined, Protestant and from Melbourne; he is male, uncouth, Catholic and from Sydney. Patterson's humour abounds in such a wide range of racist and sexual stereotypes that it would offend almost anyone who takes it at face value. In March 2012, Humphries announced Patterson too was retiring from live entertainment, stating that he was 'beginning to feel a bit senior'.
‘Barry Humphries’, Wikipedia, retrieved 7 October 2014
'Dame Edna Everage’, Wikipedia, retrieved 7 October 2014
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