Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Happy birthday Barry Humphries

Barry Humphries is 75 today. Graeme Blundell plays tribute in the Australian here. Dame Edna’s Questions and Answers page is here.

I saw him perform live three times – at His Majesty’s in Auckland in the early 80s, when he hauled three people up for a barbecue and promptly left the stage for five minutes, telling them to entertain us while he got changed; in the Auckland Town Hall in the 70s when he was still doing the elderly Sandy Stone and the trade unionist Lance Boyle, before Edna Everage shoved them aside and took over his act; and as himself in the Auckland University café. Humphries as his characters was superb, but Humphries as Humphries was a revelation – funny, naturally, but also urbane, elegant, quick-witted and erudite. Coming from Tauranga, I had no idea a person could do that.

In some ways it’s a shame that people know him now just for Dame Edna, as there’s a lot more to him. His early Dadaist phase, which he writes about in his excellent autobiography More Please, explains a lot; some of his early monologues – the Sandy Stone ones are quite poignant – are collected in A Nice Night’s Entertainment. Both seem to be out of print but are well worth tracking down.

No comments: