B a r r y H u m p h r i e s
The Real Barry Humphries
Two chapters from Peter Coleman's book
A mordant commentary on the publicly funded film industry in Australia.
A humorous sketch from Honi Soit, 1971.
Peter Coleman, friend and biographer of Humphries, points out that the most difficult assignment for any journalist or author is to find just where the real Barry Humphries is "coming from" behind the various personas that he assumes on and off stage. Some useful insights come from a piece by David Leser, appropriately published in The Australian Women's Weekly, October 2001. The irony of this is that the Weekly is the quintessential source which reflected and informed the unique Australian attitudes to house, home and life generally that provided the raw material and the targets for a great deal of Humphries satire. The Weekly would have been the essential and probably the only regular reading matter for the prototypes of Edna Everage. As Humphries told Leser, "The Weekly was the Gideon's Bible of the period. It took a week to read. It was all you needed".
Everyone wants to know how much of Dame Edna or other Humphries creations reflects the real-life attitudes and values of the man within. However the question is wrongly put. The business of the creator is creation and if he creates characters and actions of almost indescribable courage, or depravity, of triumph or disaster, of largeness of vision or mean-spirits, these reflect his capacities and his choice of subject matter, not his inner soul, his aspirations or his own views. Humphries said to Leser, "If I was in debate with Edna, I would disagree with Edna Everage on almost every point moral or ethical or metaphysical.". The veracity of the picture that he paints will reflect his capacity to empathise with a wide range of human experience, but that is a very different thing from 'acting out'. "The actor has to find something of his character in himself."
The style is the man.
Barry Humphries is his masks.
Image: (c) Kilmeny Niland