Barry Humphries death: Miriam Margoyles slams Melbourne International Comedy Festival over snub

A long-time friend of late showbusiness icon Barry Humphries has lashed out at his critics and has called out their ‘disgraceful’ treatment, adding Australia didn’t ‘properly’ appreciate him.

The Aussie icon, 89, best known for his role as Dame Edna Everage and Sir Les Patterson, died in Sydney’s St Vincent’s Hospital surrounded by his family on Saturday night following complications from hip surgery.

As the outpouring of tributes continued, Humphries was snubbed by the major comedy festival he helped establish on its final night.

Melbourne International Comedy Festival didn’t offer a formal tribute, five years after Humphries fell out with organisers over his comments that were called out for being ‘anti-trans’.

It followed comments he made about transgender people including that it was a ‘fashion’ fad and that gender re-assignment surgery was ‘self-mutilation’. 

British-Australian actress Miriam Margoyles leapt to the defence of her friend of 65 years as she paid tribute to Humphries as a ‘great artist’ while also conceding his faults.

Barry Humphries (pictured with wife Lizzie Spender) was ‘deeply hurt’ about being cancelled by Melbourne International Comedy Festival organisers in 2018

She slammed the Melbourne International Comedy Festival and said Humphries was ‘deeply hurt’ by being ‘cancelled’ the event he helped establish in the 1980s.

‘I don’t think he was properly appreciated by Australia. I don’t think he was properly treated, particularly by the Melbourne festival who cancelled him rather late in life,’ she told the

‘How dare they!

‘He had more talent in his little finger than they did in their whole bodies all of them. I’m outraged by it. I want to speak up now to support him.

‘I’m furious about how he was treated in Australia. I think it’s disgraceful, and to all these people who think how clever they are, sharpen up and get to know what’s really important.’

Margoyles conceded Humphries had his faults and that she not always agreed with his views.

Farewell possum: Barry Humphries, best known as his role as Dame Edna (pictured) died on Saturday night

Farewell possum: Barry Humphries, best known as his role as Dame Edna (pictured) died on Saturday night

‘He was acerbic, and he was often quite nasty, but he was a genius, and you have to accept it,’ she added.

‘Barry was one of the greatest comics to have ever lived, one of the greatest satirists, one of the wisest, sharpest blokes you could ever meet.’

‘I’m lucky I knew him for so long.’

She added she didn’t really like Humphries’ politics but revered his talent.

‘If people don’t see that, they need something shoved up their bum!’ Margoyles fumed.

‘I’m not saying he was right in his politics. I told him to his face he was wrong and that I didn’t agree with him.’

‘But he was the greatest comic who ever lived.’

A heartbroken Miriam Margoyles (pictured) was friends  with Barry Humphries for 65 years

A heartbroken Miriam Margoyles (pictured) was friends  with Barry Humphries for 65 years

Entertainment reporter Peter Ford agreed Humphries had been deeply hurt by how he was treated in his final years.

‘Barry did have a problematic relationship with Melbourne, and with Australia generally, and the big elephant in the room is a terrible way he was treated by the Melbourne International Comedy Festival about five years ago,’ Ford told Sunrise on Monday.

‘They may have had their own justification for doing what they did, but I don’t think they handled it well.

‘Barry made comments about trans people which were considered to be offensive and as a result of that, they dropped a major award at the comedy festival named after Barry, and dropped him completely.

‘Expats always want validation in their hometown, and this was Barry’s hometown, and he helped create the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, so to kick him in the guts like that really hurt.’

While the Melbourne International Comedy Festival didn’t offer a formal tribute, organisers did post a heartfelt message to social media.

‘Having started his career in Melbourne, Barry’s early support, along with (English comedian) Peter Cook, helped kick off and raise the profile of the Festival nationally and internationally,’ it read.

‘With Festival founder John Pinder, Barry was part of a creative generation who celebrated and developed a global platform for Australian comedy.’

‘He will be remembered by legions of fans around the world for his wit, inimitable characters and biting satire.

‘Our thoughts are with his family and friends. Vale Barry.’

Despite his faults, Barry Humphries (centre) was one of the greatest comics who ever lived, according to good friend  Miriam Margoyles (right)

Despite his faults, Barry Humphries (centre) was one of the greatest comics who ever lived, according to good friend  Miriam Margoyles (right)

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