of an icon

Stripped of his gladioli, face powder and American tan tights, Barry Humphries looks nothing like his alter ego Dame Edna Everage. As Scotland greets the Australian comedian, David Harris spots the difference.

t is, of course. unchivalrous to discuss a

lady’s age, but Dame Edna Everage,

Melbourne megastar and friend of the

famous, is the kind of straight—talking

woman who considers her maturity to be

a boon rather than a burden. A sprightly 40 years old this December, the apotheosis of celebrity has made a virtue ofcalling a digger a spade, and giving us lesser mortals the'benefit of her long and rich experience.

Although it may appear disingenuous to describe Edna as if she existed independently of creator Barry Humphries, even he refers to the old girl like a mere spectator, which in a sense he is. ‘l’m not quite sure what Edna’s going to be up to from night to night,’ he avows, ‘or what subjects she’ll be discussing. It is really like talking about another person.’

Invented for a one-night stand in Humphries’ native Melbourne, the housewife superstar began as a satire on suburban complacency and only later developed into a parody of the very celebrity ‘she’ has achieved. ‘It changes in spite of you,’ says Humphries, ‘and you stop controlling it. The character itself seems to have such energy and motivation. I think soon she may become a registered religion.’

Although she is no longer as acutely satirical as she was, there is no stopping Dame Edna’s success. It’s easy to see why children and culturati enjoy the overblown, overdressed vulgarian, but Humphries himself has no . . . answer to the question of what makes his “.mnuu:mnufllm

12 The List 1-14 Dec 1995