'Quite simply the greatest': Dame Edna comedian Barry Humphries dies aged 89

Tributes have poured in for the 'genius' comedian and actor, best known for his character Dame Edna Everage

Australian entertainer Barry Humphries has died at the age of 89, a spokesman for the hospital where he was being treated, has confirmed.

During a seven-decade career, the stage and screen veteran entertained generations with satirical characters including Dame Edna Everage and Sir Les Patterson.

Humphries died around 7pm on Saturday evening (11am BST) according to a spokesman for St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney.

The comedian had been readmitted to St Vincent’s after suffering complications following hip surgery last month.

'Unique wit and generosity of spirit'

Humphries' family paid tribute to his 'unique wit and generosity of spirit'. Credit: PA

A statement from Humphries' family said: “​He was completely himself until the very end, never losing his brilliant mind, his unique wit and generosity of spirit.​

“​With over ​70 years on the stage, he was an entertainer to his core, touring up until the last year of his life and planning more shows that will sadly never be.

​“​His audiences were precious to him, and he never took them for granted.

“Although he may be best remembered for his work in theatre, he was a painter, author, poet, and a collector and lover of ​a​​​​rt in all its forms.​

“He was also a loving and devoted husband, father, grandfather, and a friend and confidant to many. His passing leaves a void in so many lives.

“The characters he created, which brought laughter to millions, will live on.”

Dame Edna chatting to Princess Diana in November 1987. Credit: PA

A family statement issued to the Sydney Morning Herald also thanked fans and hospital staff for their “support and good wishes”.

Humphries became a staple of the British comedy circuit after moving from Australia to London in 1959 and appearing in West End shows such as Maggie May and Oliver!

He was among the leading members of the British comedy scene, alongside Dudley Moore, Alan Bennett and Spike Milligan.

As well as Dame Edna Everage, he also appeared as the lecherous Sir Les Patterson and Sandy Stone, an elderly, childless man living in the suburbs.

'Entertaining genius'

Comedian and friend Rob Brydon said he was with the Australian entertainer just three days ago when “he was, as ever, making me laugh”.

“RIP Barry Humphries. A true great who inspired me immeasurably,” Brydon tweeted. “It was a delight to call him my friend.

“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".

Journalist and broadcaster Andrew Neil was among those remembering the “funny, hugely literate, fiercely smart” Humphries, tweeting: “When I visited him in his Sydney Hospital two weeks ago he was ailing from several health problems. But his spirits and wit were as acute as ever.

“We laughed away as the stories poured out.”

In a further post, he added: “I count myself lucky and privileged I got to see him one more time. A comic genius the likes of which we will never see again.”

Australian prime minister Anthony Albanese has paid tribute, describing him as “the brightest star” in “a galaxy of personas”.

“For 89 years, Barry Humphries entertained us through a galaxy of personas, from Dame Edna to Sandy Stone,” Mr Albanese tweeted.

“But the brightest star in that galaxy was always Barry.

“A great wit, satirist, writer and an absolute one-of-kind, he was both gifted and a gift. May he rest in peace.”

Comedian Matt Lucas described Humphries as “quite simply the greatest” as he paid tribute to the Australian entertainer after his death.

“I wonder if all geniuses are as lovely as Barry Humphries,” Lucas tweeted, sharing a picture of them together.

“Thank you for delighting and inspiring us. Quite simply, you were the greatest.”

Australian actor Jason Donovan posted a picture of himself as a young man posing with Humphries dressed as Dame Edna Everage, tweeting: “Australia has lost one of its greatest!

“Funny, literate and fiercely intelligent. Barry Humphries was quite simply an entertaining genius. The characters he created brought laughter to millions.”

TV presenter Carol Vorderman praised Humphries’ “bright intelligence and mischief”, tweeting: “You will be mourned Barry Humphries.

“I only met you a few times but that look in your eyes full of bright intelligence and mischief, knowing trouble was ahead and looking forward to every special second of it: I’ll never forget it. Thank you Sir. A genius.”

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