Dame Edna Everage, often known simply as Dame Edna, is a character created and performed by Australian comedian Barry Humphries, known for her lilac-coloured or “wisteria hue” hair and cat eye glasses or “face furniture”, her favourite flower, the gladiolus (“gladdies”) and her boisterous greeting: “Hello, Possums!” As Dame Edna, Humphries has written several books including an autobiography, My Gorgeous Life, appeared in several films and hosted several television shows (on which Humphries has also appeared as himself and other alter-egos).
Humphries has regularly updated Edna, originally a drab Melbourne housewife satirising Australian suburbia. Then he caused the Edna character to adopt an increasingly outlandish wardrobe after performances in London in the 1960s through which his Edna character grew in stature and popularity.
She is known for her outlandish spectacles. Barry Humphries has claimed that they were inspired by the glasses worn by Melbourne eccentric, beautician, radio broadcaster, actor and dancer Stephanie Deste, as were many other aspects of Dame Edna’s personality.
Following film appearances and an elevation to damehood in the 1970s, the character evolved to “Housewife and Superstar”, then “Megastar” and finally “Gigastar”. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Dame Edna became increasingly known in North America after multiple stage and television appearances.
Edna describes her chat-shows as “an intimate conversation between two friends, one of whom is a lot more interesting than the other”. 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 exuberant persona and scathing commentary on society and celebrity, as well as her habit of treating celebrities like ordinary people (on her television shows) and ordinary people like celebrities (in her stage shows) have become signatures.
Although Humphries freely states that Edna is a character he plays, Edna refers to Humphries as her “entrepreneur” or manager. Humphries and his staff of assistants and writers only refer to Edna as “she” and “her”, never mixing the character with Humphries.
In March 2012, Humphries announced that the character would be retired at the end of the current stage tour, but later in 2013 he decided to bring her back