There was the age of Chaplin and then the age of Humphries

Vale Barry Humphries. I’ve known you since 1956 and we did lots of things together – including three significant films – parting company because of politics. But I still regard you as the cleverest person I’ve ever known.”

– Friend and occasional filmic accomplice Phillip Adams
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27 Responses to There was the age of Chaplin and then the age of Humphries

  1. NFA says:

    Humphries, the original trans fag belittling women and ‘the proletariat’ to the ‘elite’ scumbags like Phillip Adams since the 1960’s.

    The Sydney Writers Festival will be agog but at least they have their Gillard ‘star’ to continue the belittlement finessed by Dame Edna Humphries.

    I always found him to be a boring snob.

  2. Christine says:

    I remember thinking that I didn’t know any women or men like the type Barry Humphries enjoyed mocking. He was said to be ‘right-wing’. That makes it awkward for some. The bigger bore is Phillip Adams and his sanctimonious need to state why the two men parted company.

  3. C.L. says:

    I saw Edna as a caricature rather than as a belittlement of women.

    It’s worth noting that when Humphries condemned transgenderism a few years ago as a “fashion” and “self-mutilation”, the Melbourne Comedy Festival renamed its top award – previously named for him. He was ahead of everyone on that.

    I remember too that he went out of his way to stand with Bill Leak when he was under attack.

    If the Adamses and various other left-wing elites enjoyed his characters because they saw them as attacks on Australian-ness, they were – IMO – very mistaken.

    Boris Johnson:

  4. calli says:

    Adams just can’t help himself. Even an estranged friend’s death has to be about him.

  5. calli says:

    Edna was a caricature, finely drawn from his mother’s friendship circle and their satellites. Like all caricatures, mannerisms, talk, outfits. The Women of Moonee Ponds. And the character grew over time.

    Those winged glasses, the blue rinse, the veneer of self-conscious respectability – this was a 60’s phenomenon instantly recognised. The Sunday School superintendent was an “Edna”! As time passed Edna became more outrageous and glittery, Humphries acknowledged this and re-worked the room with the now bloated, updated, 80’s style persona. And it worked.

    “She” will go down as one of the immortal Australian characters, reminiscent of a time when we could still laugh at ourselves.

  6. Rafiki says:

    At Melbourne University in the early 60’s, I was aware of his early work in art (Pus in Boots) and recordings (the Olympic Host), and it is the mid to late 60’s period of his stage and writing career that stand tall. His stage shows parodied a wide range of characters. Mrs Everage was less satirical than most of the others (apart from Sandy Stone, who was respected). The stage scripts are in his book A Nice Night’s Entertainment. Then there are the Barry McKenzie cartoons in Private Eye, which made a bleakish year in London some what enjoyable. Vale Bazza.

  7. C.L. says:

    Interesting, Raf.
    He was extremely multi-faceted.

    A self-confessed “biblio-maniac,” his house is said to contain more than 25,000 books – many first editions and rarities. His paintings are sweet – kind of naive, reminiscent of the sort of art found in the diaries of explorers etc.

  8. and says:

    Good to see that Dennis Elbow is working on continuing the frozen-in-time sartorial splendour of fashion (and stain) icon, Sir Les.

  9. cuckoo says:

    In addition to everything else, a serious art collector and one of the most deeply cultivated individuals this country has ever produced. Apparently he had an encyclopaedic recall for popular music and could immediately identify the most obscure tunes of yesteryear. As Les Pearson once observed “Barry may not actually be a poofter, but he gives a darned good impression of one.”

  10. Ed Case says:

    Monique Ryan calling Humphries an Absurdist and a Dadaist?

  11. C.L. says:

    Those were his early interests, Ed.

  12. Entropy says:

    Amazing that people ostracised him over something which, when it all boils down to it, was as trivial as political differences.

  13. Tom says:

    I think Rowan Dean”s tribute is the most accurate: Humphries made his audience laugh and think — the mark of a truly great satirist.

    PS: the humourless dullards who cancelled the excellence awards named in his honour at the Melbourne Comedy Festival perfectly represented the target of Humphries’ satire — the dregs of the Australian middle class.

  14. dover_beach says:

    Saw his tour in the late naughties. Edna and Sir Les were great, LOL’d often, but his Sandy Stone was perfection, amusing in bittersweet way, thick with pathos. And because the audience was of a similar vintage, completely moving. He teased ‘old Australia’ but without any malice, rather out of love. You can’t say the same about contemporary comedians. Not at all.

    RIP, Barry.

  15. Rafiki says:

    It was at a Dadaist event at Melbourne University in the 50’s that he exhibited Pus in Boots, being Wellington boots full of overflowing custard. I think his first record is the EP Wildlife in Suburbia, which I think has his Olympic Hostess skit.

  16. Buccaneer says:

    The difference is that ‘old Australia’ was able to laugh about itself, that horrible lespian comedian was reduced to complaining about how her cohort was so humourless they just complained about her jokes. Well, yes and the reason it’s not funny is because they cancel normal people for even the smallest slight.

  17. Fred says:

    I’ve still got my dads copy of Les Patersons The Travellors Tool. Great book. Lots of Australianisms that are frowned upon today.

  18. Foxbody says:

    Agreed, Dover at 4.10
    I did not really enjoy the later, over the top Dame Edna –
    but when I saw a Sandy Stone segment 30? years ago I was transfixed – he had my grandparents ( born c 120 years ago, now) word perfect, accent perfect – it was a moving insight into an Australia even then fast disappearing. Pathos was exactly the word that came to me.

  19. rosie says:

    Yes a caricature of a very specific type.
    An Australian Hyacinth Bucket.

  20. SydGal says:

    Barry Humphries attended the launch of Gerard Henderson’s
    Book- Cardinal Pell, the Media Pile-on and Collective Guilt – in December 2021.

  21. Old Lefty says:

    Full marks to Miriam Margoyles – a leftist lesbian, please note – for defending Barry Humphries (whom she says she not only respected but loved despite their political differences) and saying that he had more talent in his little finger than the entire Hannah Gadsby generation out together.

  22. Rafiki says:

    At an Aussie Rules game at his expensive private school, he sat behind the goal umpire – thus making him highly visible – and knitted. Shock to amuse was his shtick.

  23. jupes says:

    I read his autobiography – I think it was ‘More Please’ but I’m not sure – about 30 years or so ago. While it contained some confronting detail about his alcoholism, it was one of the funniest books I have ever read. I truly admire his desire not to conform to what was expected of him, or any stereotypes. A man who shaped and lived his life his way.

    RIP Barry Humphries.

  24. C.L. says:

    Jane Caro: Gadsby and Humphries are comedy equals:

    Cope heroin.

  25. Real Deal says:

    My first view of Les Patterson was in the late 70s on Mike Willesee if my memory is correct. He had a cigarette in his mouth with the ash bit getting longer and longer.

    It finally dropped on his shirt which started to smoulder. Willesee drew Les’s attention to his shirt. He nonchalantly looked down and extinguished the potential conflagration with his glass of (presumably fake) scotch and casually remarked; “It was buggered anyway.”

    From that point on I became a huge fan and remained so to the day we lost him.

  26. A reader says:

    I think it was Margolyes (or maybe Kathy Lette) who said that he was never fully appreciated in Australia. I don’t think the term polymath is inappropriate. He was a collector of people and knowledge. A conservative contrarion with friends across the spectrum: Rowan Dean to Gough Whitlam to Elton John to Sharon Osborne to Bill Leak. An extraordinary clever, gifted but hard working writer, poet, satirist and performer.

    One of the great pleasures of my adult life was seeing him as Dame Edna at the Rooty Hill RSL a couple of years ago. It was a genuine joy to see an 85 or 86 year old with that much wit and vigour at close range.

    Vale Barry Humphries

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