After 57 years, one of the best shows that ever caught the public’s imagination is set to call it a day- so says its creator Barry Humphries.
Is it too ironic that instead of having our sweet heart Dame Edna Everage (yes who could of have invented a more perfect alter ego thank you very much) come to the fore and announce her impending retirement we have had to resort to watching the mythical and larger than life character’s (who we all despite secretly knowing otherwise believed to be her own living and breathing entity 24/7) real life creator 78 year old Barry Humphries make the public announcement? What could after all have been more jubilant than to have watched the Dame herself announce she would seen be leaving our shores? But then again that may be exactly what will happen when the Dame makes her final world tour as Mr Humphries chose to break it to us slowly yesterday in London that he is finally exhausted and can no longer continue the journey of being the better half of himself and the Dame.
For those somewhat confused, you needn’t be, Dame Edna has been the alter ego creation of Mr Humphries, a larrikin Australian whose business it has been to entertain his fellow country men and those to whom he took his vaudeville like show on the road to. To be sure he was the first bloke in drag before anyone really knew such concepts existed. Then again having grown up in Australia one couldn’t think of nothing better than to head off to the local pub on a weekday evening and watch our local drags play dress and glam and how we loved them for it.
With Dame Edna’s conspicuous physical trappings (I kid you not when I tell you that there were real life old ladies like this who walked up and down the street where I was growing up in Sydney, Australia) of diamond harlequin glasses, mauve wig and her over sized heels (I believe a size eleven as opposed to the more demure size 6 or 7 that most real life purple hair trotting dames at the time that Mr Humphries drew his inspiration from) perhaps it was only fitting as the original characters that he mimicked ceased to exist that he retire his alter ego Dame Edna. After all 57 years is one hell of a great run, and maybe just maybe the Dame may have out welcomed her stay in the age of high tech gadgetry.
Her Dame to be sure has fulfilled quite the legacy, standing tall there next to the Queen mother, Princess Diana, Sir Robert Menzies, the Australian Prime Minister of yesteryear, and just about every major Australian and British celebrity. It could even be said Mr Humphries alter ego has inspired such wonderful comic greats such as Sasha Cohen Baron who almost always insists in existing in costume/character. But alas like every great show, even this show had to one day close.
Offers the newyorkerin a well thought out observation: Dame Edna is that rarest sighting in our time of the absolute comic, an inspired personification of caprice whose comedy answered the primal call to take the audience for a tumble. “The art of the comedian is perishable,” Humphries said long ago. “Not only is it gone by the time you get home and pay the babysitter, but you’re thinking ‘What was it we were laughing at? What did Edna say? Did you get a gladdy?…’ That’s all we’ve got to remember.”
In the end Dame Edna one could easily argue has outlasted all those rock bands and pop stars save for outlets like the Rolling Stones, and the occasional icons that come out of retirement that you thought could never disappear. But even she has to disappear now, but of course we will always have her memory…
And as the Dame once opined (in falsetto please):
The English have a quality
I’d like to sing about
It’s not the sort of quality
Bestowed on wog or Kraut
When things are on the sticky side
You never throw a tizz
A special something see you through—
I’ll tell you what it is—
Spunk, spunk, spunk
You’re so full of British spunk
You’re never in a panic
You’re never in a funk
So in a time of crisis
There’s nothing quite so nice as
God bless you Dame Edna, you have indeed been the adored entertainer that will have their fellow country men and one easily imagines the world over crooning for your satirical wit and ability to turn dadaist art into its head. Quite literally thank you very much.