Humphries in July 2001
|Born||John Barry Humphries
17 February 1934
Kew, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
|Alma mater||University of Melbourne|
|Occupation||Comedian, actor, satirist, artist, author|
|Spouse(s)||Brenda Wright (m. 1955; div. 1957)
Rosalind Tong (m. 1959; div. 1970)
Diane Millstead (m. 1979; div. 1989)
Lizzie Spender (m. 1990)
|Children||4, including Tessa and Oscar|
|Genres||Character comedy, satire|
|Notable works and roles||Dame Edna Everage
Sir Les Patterson
One of the strangest experiences one can have is to sleep on stage, as I once did in Sydney when I'd lost the key to my flat. I had to stay at night in a bed, which conveniently was on stage because my character Sandy Stone did his monologue from a bed. To wake up looking at a shadowy auditorium is a very peculiar feeling.
I denied this for many, many years and years… but you cannot help but not see a little of my mother in the character of Edna.
I really feel sorry for kids who aren't interested in history – recent history, either, because it is this that made us what we are.
Madonna is a creation, so perhaps we should give her and the factory that created her a little credit, but I think that she should quietly disappear now. Poor Madge seems unable to decide whether she wants to look like Marilyn Monroe or Marlene Dietrich.
I've played Beckett. I put on in the 1950s the first Australian production of 'Waiting for Godot.' I played Estragon. The most interesting conversation I've had about Beckett was with a Dublin taxi driver.
To live in Australia permanently is rather like going to a party and dancing all night with one's mother.
In Australia, they really want to turn me into a religion. A religion! Can you imagine? The Church of Edna? Oh. I don't want to be over-revered.
When people laugh at me, they are not laughing in the way that they normally would at a comedian. They are laughing with relief, because the truth has been spoken, and political correctness has not strangled this particular gigastar.
Am I old-fashioned? I think I might be. I am a lucky woman, because I was born with a priceless gift… the ability to laugh at the misfortunes of others.
I have charity work that I do. I started my own charity, the Friends of the Prostate, and I'm also working on awareness of the deviated septum. I do this because not many people are interested in it. There's also Save the Funnel-web – they're dying out.
Those women with collagen lips just look like frogs – 'muffin mouths,' I call them. There's not a line on their brows, and all the emotion gone from their faces, like all those actresses in 'Desperate Housewives.'
Political correctness means nothing to me. Nothing. It's the new Puritanism, darling. Preventing us from expressing ourselves.
I suffer greatly from nerves. I have stage-fright badly, and it gets worse, but the stage is still my life.
New Zealand is a country of thirty thousand million sheep, three million of whom think they are human.
I never thought that I would become a staple in the Australian cultural diet. The equivalent of bread or milk, or a fine old Tasmanian Mauve Vein. I think it's because I talk about things that people dare not mention. I don't mean raunchy things or unsavoury things. I call a spade a spade – I discuss things in a realistic manner.
My husband passed away a long time ago, and of course a lot of people have courted me. I've been taken to dinner and also to things like Larry Hagman, in particular years ago. And more recently, of course, little Hugh Jackman – and he's too young for me though, frankly.
Oddly enough, Dame Edna is not interested in show business. Her friends in Los Angeles are mostly in the world of petroleum. She used to have some acting friends. Sadly, Joan Rivers has passed on. Larry Hagman was a close friend. A number of others.
I Sellotape whole tins of sardines to my face at night, attach two squeezed lemon rinds to my armadillo-skinned elbows, and put cucumber on my eyes. By the time I'm finished, I look like a fruit salad with added fish. In the morning, the pillow is pretty much a write-off.
I hate it when theater people go on about professionalism – aren't they boring? I try to be as unprofessional as possible. And I'm a little bit politically incorrect.
I think of myself as an actor. The duty of an actor is to be able to impersonate anything – a child, an old man, a tree, a chair, a woman.
I say things other people wish they could say. I don't pick on people – I empower them.
I've turned from an ordinary Australian housewife into a gigastar, icon, talk-show host, swami, spin doctor… and now I'm a style guru!
I have beautiful, beautiful clothes, designed by my bachelor boy son, Kenny. Kenny has a big following as it is, and even Lady Gaga has asked Kenny to design dresses for her. But Kenny isn't very keen on, well, shall we say, extreme women. He likes someone that women all over the world can identify with.
Peter Cook and Dudley Moore were friends and the last people I expected would predecease me. They were, in a sense, casualties of fame.
I feel like I've cheated. I never knew what to do. I was never a good enough painter to earn a living, and so I drifted into the theatre, and I've had a successful life. I feel guilty that I've never done a day's work in my life!
What is extraordinary about the character of Edna – and I speak as though I am completely outside this character and I am talking to you – I'm, as it were, in the wings, and she's on stage, and every now and then she says something extremely funny, and I stand there and think: 'I wish I'd thought of that.'
Now the point of comedy is not just looking funny, it's use of language. We have at our disposal a great language… and the imaginative, creative use of that language can be at the service of humour.
Sex is the most beautiful thing that can take place between a happily married man and his secretary.
I guess you could say I'm an addict – an adrenalin addict – I get great excitement and stimulation from doing stuff in public, even though I'm nervous and I have very bad stage fright.
People only watch my shows for me, and those shows have remained evergreen long after the guests are forgotten.
I am writing a book called 'The History of Australia in Hundred Objects.' It's of things we have invented in Australia. And you know, some of them are amazing. We invented the clapper boards used in films. We invented those cranes – those big long cranes used on construction sites.
Most of my contemporaries at school entered the World of Business, the logical destiny of bores.
There's to be a film about my life. I can give this as an exclusive now. Meryl Streep was offered the part but, no, I wanted Kate Winslet. Kylie Minogue is playing me in middle age. In old age, I'm not sure who's going to play me. I haven't got there yet. Perhaps Cate Blanchett. Or Jacki Weaver.
I have got to the point in my life when a lot of people I know have died or are dying, so I realise that somewhere outside the pearly gates is a queue, shuffling nearer and nearer to the celestial box office.
My parents were very pleased that I was in the army. The fact that I hated it somehow pleased them even more.
I've never looked at my Facebook page or my website, because I'm fundamentally an amateur.
In Edna, I created a satiric portrait of my hometown of Melbourne, a large provincial English city paradoxically in far Southeast Asia. She's a theatrical figure, related to vaudeville in some respects. She inhabits a world in which there are comparatively few female exponents of comedy.