'Life won't be the same': King leads tributes to entertainer Barry Humphries at state service

ITV News Reporter Caroline Lewis reports on the tributes paid to Barry Humphries at his state memorial service

A message from the King has led tributes to Barry Humphries at a star-studded state memorial service for the late entertainer at the Sydney Opera House.

The Australian stage and screen veteran, who died on April 22 aged 89, was best known for his satirical characters, during a seven-decade career entertaining generations of fans.

Australian TV presenter Richard Wilkins hosted the state service on Friday, opening proceedings by thanking Humphries' family for their attendance in honour of their "husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle, and auntie", referencing his most well-known character, Dame Edna Everage.

Following the playing of the Australian national anthem, Australia's minister for the arts Tony Burke took to the stage to read a message from King Charles III.

Barry Humphries poses after receiving his Most Excellent Order of the British Empire from Queen Elizabeth II in 2007. Credit: AP

The message said: "I suspect that all those who appeared on stage or TV with Barry's Dame Edna, or who found her appearing at the back of the royal box will have shared that unique sensation where fear and fun combine.

"Those who tried to stand on their dignity soon lost their footing. Those who wondered whether Australia's housewife superstar might this time just go too far, were always proved right. No-one was safe.

"Barry Humphries, through his creations, poked and prodded us, exposed pretensions, punctured pomposity, surfaced insecurities, but most of all, [helped us] laugh at ourselves."

The King's message continued: "This cultured and erudite man, with his love of literature and the visual arts and passion for Weimar cabaret, could not have been more different from his various stage incarnations.

"Like so many, I have been deeply saddened by his passing. Life really won't be the same without him. May our gladioli bloom in celebration of his memory."

In a video message, Australia Prime Minister Anthony Albanese called Humphries' characters Dame Edna and Sir Les Patterson a great example of "the duality of power".

Barry Humphries performing on stage as Dame Edna in 2013. Credit: AP

He said: "[They make up] two halves of the one extraordinary whole. Two contrasting figures who ultimately balanced each other.

"No matter how unruly his creations became, it was Barry who had the final word. He brought people from every state and territory together and, in the process, this genius, this comedic giant, brought such joy to every part of Australia.

"Then, like a never-ending bunch of gladioli, he showered it upon the world."

Humphries' long-time friend Bruce Beresford, who directed and co-wrote the 1972 Australian comedy The Adventures of Barry McKenzie alongside Humphries, spoke fondly of Humphries' dedication to helping people in their fight with addiction, following his own battle with alcoholism.

Beresford said: "In the early 1970s, [Humphries'] drinking had become so overwhelming that Alcoholics Anonymous [AA], who had been on his trail for some time, came to the rescue.

"From 1972, he never touched alcohol again. His career flourished, and he regularly attended AA meetings all over the world, doing all he could to help other addicts."

'It's sad that we won't be seeing him again, but we have so many memories of him,' Sir Elton John pays tribute to Barry Humphries

Comedian Jimmy Carr said in a video tribute that Humphries' ability to improvise a comedy show "was like asking a magician to do real magic".

He said: "Barry Humphries had real magic. He was incredibly important to the development of my comedy, but also I think culturally."

In another video message, Sir Elton John called Humphries "one of the funniest people in the world", adding: "He was also the kindest, most generous person to me.

"I will miss him so much because… like Robin Williams, like Billy Connolly, he was a raconteur of incredible, incredible importance."

Humphries' daughter Tessa took to the stage to read a poem called Wattle Park Blues, which was written by her father in the 1970s as a love letter to his hometown of Melbourne.

His son Oscar said seeing the global outpouring of love following Humphries' death was a "buffer against grief and something we hugely appreciate and enjoy".

Rob Brydon was among the famous comedians who shared their memories of Barry Humphries at the state service

He said: "He will live on through his work and bring more laughter to us all."

In a further tribute, comedian Rob Brydon said it was "impossible to overstate the brilliance of Barry".

He continued: "He was the most remarkable man who had the most remarkable life.

"He was the best. He was the master. There was nobody better than Barry Humphries and I was honoured to call him a friend and I salute his talent, which was just interstellar."

The service closed out with a video of Dame Edna leading the audience in a rendition of Humphries' Song of Australia, which was originally performed at the Royal Albert Hall in 1981.

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