Barry Humphries: The Legacy of a Theatrical Genius

Barry Humphries is one of Australia’s most celebrated and controversial comedic performers. He is best known for his one-man shows, which feature his iconic characters such as Dame Edna Everage, Sir Les Patterson, and Sandy Stone. These shows have been entertaining audiences around the world for more than six decades.

The Early Years

In 1962, Humphries made his London debut with the one-man show “A Nice Night’s Entertainment.” It was not well-received by critics, and Humphries did not return to London until several years later. His next show, “Just a Show,” performed at London’s Fortune Theatre in 1969, divided critics but was popular with audiences. This show helped him build a cult following in the UK, which he expanded with his shows in the early ’70s, including “A Load of Olde Stuffe” and “At Least You Can Say You’ve Seen It.”

The Breakthrough

Humphries gained widespread acclaim with his 1976 London production, “Housewife, Superstar!” at the Apollo Theatre. Its success in Britain and Australia led him to bring the show to New York in 1977, but it received poor reviews, and Humphries soon returned to London to continue his career there. Despite this setback, Humphries persevered, and his next show, “Isn’t It Pathetic at His Age,” premiered in 1978.

The One-Man Shows

Throughout his career, Humphries has presented many successful one-man shows, including “A Night with Dame Edna” (1979), “An Evening’s Intercourse with Dame Edna” (1982), “Back with a Vengeance” (1987–1989, 2005–2007), “Look at Me When I’m Talking to You” (1996), “Edna, The Spectacle” (1998), “Remember You’re Out” (1999), and “Back with a Vengeance” (2007). These shows have been performed around the world and have earned Humphries numerous awards, including an Olivier Award for Best Comedy Performance.

Retirement and Farewell Tour

In 2012, Humphries announced his retirement from live entertainment, stating that he was “beginning to feel a bit senior” and planning to retire from show business. He embarked on his Australian “Farewell Tour,” titled “Eat, Pray, Laugh!,” which featured his most iconic characters and introduced a new character, Gerard Patterson. The tour was widely praised, and Humphries continued to perform the show in the United Kingdom, including a season at the London Palladium and a national tour.

Weimar Cabaret

In recent years, Humphries has expanded his repertoire beyond his iconic characters. In 2016 and 2018, he hosted programs of Weimar Republic cabaret songs performed by chanteuse Meow Meow and accompanied by the Australian Chamber Orchestra and the Aurora Orchestra, respectively.


Barry Humphries’ influence on Australian and international theatre cannot be overstated. His iconic characters have entertained audiences for more than sixty years, and his one-man shows have earned him critical and popular acclaim around the world. Humphries has paved the way for generations of comedic performers and continues to inspire new generations of artists today.

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