The Real Barry Humphries

Peter Coleman, Author
Peter Coleman, Author Robson Books $24 (0p) ISBN 978-0-86051-678-1
Reviewed on: 04/03/1995
Release date: 04/01/1995
Barry Humphries, the Australian creator of Dame Edna Everage and other satirical exemplars of his people's follies, is, to Coleman, a former Member of Parliament, ``the greatest entertainer of the age.'' This biography may not convert Americans--who, unlike the British, have not by and large taken to the self-described ``music hall artist''--but it provides a competent account of Humphries's rich career, at least through 1990, when this book was published in Great Britain. Coleman traces his subject's path from suburban Melbourne and his youthful embrace of Dadaism through the emergence of characters like suburban everyman Sandy Stone, obnoxious expat Bazza McKenzie and debauched cultural attache Sir Les Patterson. Coleman provides entertaining excerpts from Humphries's works and recognizes his brilliant rage at the cheap philistinism of his native land. But this book, unlike John Lahr's 1992 biography, Dame Edna Everage and the Rise of Western Civilization, lacks insight into the sources of Humphries's indignation and the calculation behind his stage spectacle. Photos. (Apr.)