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The one and only Barry Humphries

By Andris Heks - posted Friday, 5 May 2023

By the time Barry Humphries shuffled off his mortal coil on the 22nd April 2024, he may have been satisfied that he had already completed his life's work: getting us Aussies look into the mirror and have a chuckle at our idiosyncrasies and make the world take more notice of us as they laughed along with us.

I have been privileged, with the rest of my generation to be witnessing live Humphries' hilarious progression from the humble Edna Everage of Moonee Ponds, who took the mickey out of the quintessentially boring and parochial Aussie suburbia to the Megastar Dame Edna, near the end of his career in his series of international interviews.

He triumphed through his American TV series in cutting down to size some of Hollywood's most iconic actors with his sarcastic humour; giving them a master class in humiliation.


He was at once a tall poppy and one who could not, in his presence, tolerate any other tall poppies to be greater than himself.

I met Barry briefly in person when he came in to give a tongue in cheek interview to Peter Luck in This Day Tonight's Sydney Gore Hill studio in 1972.

In my capacity as a Production Assistant and a Reporter Trainee I watched with awe the wonderfully instant rapport these two masters of story telling developed with each other.

They bounced ideas off each other about how to make a funny interview sketch in our studio in a few minutes time about Barry's coming 'The adventures of Barry McKenzie' film debut.

It went on to become the first Aussie film to surpass one million dollars in Australian box office receipts.

What struck me was Barry's extraordinary spontaneity; his ability to come up with one funny idea after another in rapid succession and bring Peter Luck along with the ideas.


I was able to witness personally for the first time, what continued to be Barry Humphries' trademark throughout his comic career – to wittily extemporise with the greatest of ease.

In fact, looking at Humphries's career as a whole, I cannot think of a single other comedian, with perhaps the exception of Robin Williams, who could make any situation as spontaneously funny as he did.

He was not just witty but he was instantly and consistently so.

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About the Author

Andris Heks worked as a Production Assistant and Reporter on 'This Day Tonight', ABC TV's top rating pioneering Current Affairs Program and on 'Four Corners' from 1970 till 1972. His is the author of the play 'Ai Weiwei's Tightrope Act' and many of his articles can be viewed here:

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Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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