Dame Edna Everage
Dame Edna is a character created and played by Australian dadaist performer and comedian, Barry Humphries. Humphries has regularly updated Edna, originally a drab Melbourne housewife satirising the conservatism of Australian suburbia. Everage started her stage career on 19 December 1955 as Mrs. Norm Everage, an "average Australian housewife" from Moonee Ponds. The character adopted an increasingly outlandish wardrobe after being performed in London in the 1960s, and grew in stature and popularity. She claims to be a friend and confidante of the Queen, and has advised prime ministers and presidents. The character has claimed to be giving Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, elocution lessons. Although Humphries freely states that Edna is a character he plays, Edna refers to Humphries as her "entrepreneur" or manager.
Edna before her 'Damehood' in the mid-1970s
For 57 years now, ever since the "average Australian housewife", Mrs Norm Everage, appeared in a Melbourne comedy revue in 1955, her rampant ego has grown and strutted on the world's stage, cutting her audiences to shreds with her merciless one-liners.
Starting out in comedy clubs and television shows in Australia, Edna Everage satirised the boring and drab suburban Australia of the 1950s - a conservative place, where nothing much ever happened. This was a society that had just got the car and the television and Edna held up a mirror to a culture obsessed with domesticity. For Everage - read "average" - even her signature flower, the gladiolus, was chosen for its supposed exoticism among suburban housewives at that time.
Madge and Edna
Edna at a Royal Wedding
Over the years fans of the character have been introduced to her family: her husband, Norm, who died in 1988 from a "testicular murmur"; her four children, and her mother who was locked away in a "maximum-security twilight home for the bewildered". And her long suffering silent 'bridesmaid' Madge Allsop.
The on-going family history has helped to strengthen and flesh out the Edna character in the minds of her audience, and of course has provided an evolving source of material for her act. Through West End shows and television series, Dame Edna became a national institution in Britain, pioneering a show based around interaction with her audience. Humphries has been credited with inventing the modern comedy/light entertainment chat show format.
Edna describes her chat-shows as "an intimate conversation between two friends, one of whom is a lot more interesting than the other" (by which she means herself). The character has been used to satirise the cult of celebrity, class snobbery, and prudishness and is often used by Humphries to poke fun at the political leaders and fashions of the times. Her larger-than-life persona and scathing but dead-on commentary on society and celebrity, as well as her habit of treating celebrities like ordinary people (on her TV shows) and ordinary people like celebrities (in her stage shows) have become signatures.
There's something about the layers of makeup, the lipstick, dyed hair,
flamboyant glasses and sequined outfits which provide a kind of force-field around Dame Edna. Jay Cryer says it's a common ploy for comedians to adopt a character to hide behind.
Barry Humphries shows off his Most Excellent Order of the British Empire at Buckingham Palace.
In 1982, Dame Edna's creator Barry Humphries was made an Officer of the Order of Australia for "services to the theatre" and on 16 June 2007 he was made a Commander of the Order of the British services to entertainment.
In 2012 he was won the title 'Australian of the Year' in the UK.
On 7 March 2007 in Melbourne, a city street was named in his character's honour: Dame Edna Place, formerly Brown Alley off Little Collins Street, was officially opened by the Lord Mayor of Melbourne, John So. Dame Edna Place is opposite Royal Arcade and The Causeway, between the major roads, Elizabeth Street and Swanston Street; it was, until its renaming, a service alley for adjoining buildings. Dame Edna was not at the renaming ceremony but was represented by ten look-alike Dames. Everage Street in suburban Moonee Ponds has also been named in her honour.
In MAC Cosmetics 2008 Winter Line-Up, a Dame Edna collection of cosmetics were released including eye shadow, lipstick, powder, and nail polish.
A bronze statue was unveiled at Melbourne Docklands in January 2009.
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