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Friday 22 August 2014

No Everage Dame

Creator Humphries collects UCD James Joyce award for alter ego

Caitrina Cody

Published 30/09/2009 | 05:00

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Barry Humphries before receiving the James Joyce award from University College Dublin's Literary and Historical Society yesterday for his contribution to entertainment in the guise of Dame Edna Everage
Barry Humphries enjoying a cup of tea and a joke with UCD students.

There was no sign yesterday of lilac-haired prima donna Dame Edna Everage.

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Instead, her creator was on hand to speak for her at an awards ceremony in Dublin.

"Edna was far too busy and she costs a lot of money; I'm free," said a dapper Barry Humphries, Dame Edna's alter ego, at University College Dublin yesterday.

And despite the absence of the shrill-voiced, sharp-tongued matriarch, Humphries proved he was the brains of the outfit, discussing everything from political correctness to drama, before receiving a James Joyce award from UCD's Literary and Historical Society in recognition of his career.

He told the mainly student crowd crammed into the small lecture theatre that, unlike himself, his mother was not a fan of the Irish people.

"My mother's family was not very pro-Irish. When one of her brothers married a Roman Catholic girl called Dorothy, my mother's sister -- also called Dorothy -- changed her name."

According to Humphries (75), many well-known personalities "pretend to be Irish", including his late friend the poet Spike Milligan, and while he couldn't personally claim any Irish ancestry, Dame Edna could.

"Her maiden name was Beazley -- as Irish as they come," he said, before revealing that he thought James Joyce would have been a fan of the famous housewife-turned-superstar.

"I think he might have liked Dame Edna; she was a bit like a respectable Molly Bloom."

Haughty

As Dame Edna's haughty stare followed the comedian from posters on the lecture theatre walls, Humphries told the students that although his passion was for arts and the theatre, his parents wanted him to study law.

"I should have followed their advice. If I was a lawyer, I would have saved myself a lot of money -- mainly at the divorce courts," said the Australian, who is now married to his fourth wife.

Reading from his upcoming book about the most well-known of his comic incarnations, Humphries recalled the time Dame Edna chastised an audience member who was wearing sunglasses and not paying attention to the show -- only to discover that she was in fact blind.

"If it had been me, I would have bolted from the awkward situation but Dame Edna was very brave -- she looked at her and said, 'Well, at least you didn't bring the guide dog along'."

Dressed elegantly in a navy suit and red tie, Humphries revealed his passion for the works of Samuel Beckett and said he had had an informal approach from the Gate Theatre to join the cast of a play next year. "It's nothing definite yet, but I am particularly interested in one of Beckett's radio plays called 'All That Fall' -- it would be very good on stage."

The auditor of the Literary and Historical Society, Conor McAndrews, said Humphries deserved recognition for his colourful career and contribution to the arts.

"With her trademark lilac-coloured hair and over-the-top cat-eye glasses, Dame Edna is one of the world's most recognisable comedians," he said.

Irish Independent

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