Barry Humphries was educated at the University of Melbourne, where he studied law, philosophy and fine arts. After writing and performing songs and sketches in university revues, he joined the newly formed Melbourne Theatre Company. In 1956, he created the character of Mrs. Everage, a Melbourne housewife who has since become the internationally celebrated megastar, Dame Edna.
During the 1960’s after moving to London, Mr. Humphries appeared in numerous West End productions, most notably the musicals Oliver! And Maggie May, by Lionel Bart, and stage/radio productions by his friend Spike Milligan. Mr. Humphries gained particular notoriety when he first brought Mrs. Everage to the British stage at the Fortune Theatre in 1969 for his one man Just a Show.
In the 1970’s with Director Bruce Beresford, he wrote and starred in two films inspired by his comic strip, Barry McKenzie which outraged the critics and delighted the public. In the mid-70’s, he starred at the Apollo Theatre in Housewife, Superstar! Since then Mr. Humphries has been featured as Dame Edna in four more London stage offerings, including A Night with Dame Edna (1979), for which he won the Society of West End Theatres Award; An Evening’s Intercourse (1982); two seasons of Back with a Vengeance (1987 and 1988); and Look at Me When I’m Talking to You (1996), Edna, The Spectacle (1998) at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, culminating in Eat Pray Laugh (2013) at the celebrated London Palladium. He has made theatrical tours in Germany, Scandinavia, the Netherlands, Australia, the US and in the Far and Middle East.
He won a Special Tony Award for his 2000 Broadway offering Dame Edna, The Royal Tour as well as an Outer Critics Circle Award and a Tony nomination in 2004 for Back with a Vengeance.
Dame Edna has also made numerous television appearances in Australia, the UK and the US, and these popular programs have since been repeated all over North America and Europe, winning Mr. Humphries the Golden Rose of Montreux in 1991.
Barry Humphries is the author of several books, novels, autobiographies and plays. His autobiography won the J.R. Ackerley prize for biography in 1993 and he is the subject of three critical and biographical studies: The Real Barry Humphries by Peter Coleman, and Dame Edna Everage the Rise of Western Civilisation by John Lahr and One Man Show: The Stages of Barry Humphries by Anne Pender. Mr Humphries most recent book is Handling Edna (2009, Hachette Australia/Orion UK 2010).
He is also one of Australia’s most admired landscape painters. His pictures are in many private and public collections both in his homeland and abroad.
He was given the Order of Australia in 1982, was endowed with an Honorary Doctorate of Griffith University (Australia) in 1994 and a Doctorate of Law at his Alma Mater, Melbourne University in 2003 and an honorary doctorate from the University of South Australia. He was also the recipient of The Sydney Theatre Awards Lifetime Achievement Award (2012). In 2007 the Queen awarded Mr. Humphries the CBE for his contribution to the arts.
In 2015 he was the Artistic Director of the world’s largest cabaret festival in Adelaide and in 2018 Mr Humphries toured Australia with The Man Behind the Mask, a revealing, funny and moving trip through his colourful life and theatrical career.
He is married to Lizzie Spender, the daughter of British poet Sir Stephen Spender, and has two sons and two daughters.