The Melbourne International Comedy Festival did not offer a formal tribute to legendary comedian Barry Humphries on the final night of shows, after he died on Saturday aged 89.
The renowned entertainer in 1987 helped establish the festival which has grown to be one of the world’s largest comedy events.
But Humphries had fallen out with organisers following uproar over comments he made five years ago that were seen to be ‘anti-trans’ – with comedians like Hannah Gadsby speaking out against Humphries on Twitter at the time.
Organisers said there was no plans for an official tribute on the closing day of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival which ran from March 29 to April 23.
It added individual comedians – there were 316 performances scheduled for the day – were free to pay tribute in their own way.
The Melbourne International Comedy Festival on Sunday however, did post a heartfelt message to social media.
Comedian Peter Cook and Barry Humphries visit Dudley Moore backstage at the Sydney Town Hall in 1971, the year Humphries gave up alcohol. Peter Cook once said that Humphries was the only man he had seen so drunk that he fell up a flight of stairs
Humphries had many outrageous characters but the most iconic was Dame Edna Everage (pictured). The Melbourne International Comedy Festival renamed the Barry Award in 2019 after ‘cancel culture’ backlash over some of Humphries’ comments
‘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.
‘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.’
The talented comedian was a Melbourne raised law school dropout who found international fame with his outrageous characters including the camp Dame Edna Everage and the politically incorrect Sir Les Patterson.
Humphries, 89, died peacefully in Sydney on Saturday surrounded by close family including wife Lizzie Spender who he married in 1990 and children Tessa, Emily, Oscar and Rupert, and 10 grandchildren.
He had three previous marriages before he seemingly settled down with Ms Spender and largely blamed his mother for the tumultuous relationships.
‘She was impossible to read and I was never quite certain if I was loved. I’ve been searching for love and security ever since, which I’ve only fairly recently found for the first time with (fourth wife) Lizzie.’ he once said,
Humphries with his wife Lizzie Spender whom he married in 1990 after three previous tumultuous marriages (pictured at the Reinvented and Reimagined Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, London relaunch party on June 11, 2019 in London with Liam Neeson in the back)
The Melbourne International Comedy Festival came to a close on Sunday with organisers choosing not to include a formal tribute to Humphries
While the Pinder Prize is still featured at the festival, Humphries’ name was removed from the ‘Barry Award’ for the Most Outstanding Show in 2019.
It followed comments he made about transgender people including that it was a ‘fashion’ fad and that gender re-assignment surgery was ‘self-mutilation’.
Gadsby, who won the Barry Award in 2017 for her show ‘Nanette’ and fellow comedian Zoë Coombs Marr, who won the Barry the previous year both called for the award to be renamed.
Gadsby tweeted that Humphries was an ‘irrelevant… d*** biscuit’ and ‘loves those who hold power, hates vulnerable minorities and has completely lost the ability to read the room’.
Festival director Susan Provan said in 2019 the comments were ‘appalling’ and she wanted the award to ‘to celebrate the breadth of the artists that participate in the festival’.
‘We can call our awards whatever we like,’ Provan told 3AW.
Comedian Hannah Gadsby, 45, (pictured) slammed Barry Humphries as ‘irrelevant and inhumane’ in a resurfaced Tweet
In a resurfaced Tweet from 2018, Gadsby labelled Humphries as ‘irrelevant and inhumane’ as she criticised his comedy act. Following news of Humphries’ death on Saturday, media insider Peter Ford reposted the Tweet and hit back at Gadsby
English entertainer Miriam Margoyles, who knew Humphries for six decades, said on Sunday he was ‘deeply hurt’ after being ‘cancelled’ when the award was rebranded.
‘He was acerbic, and he was often quite nasty, but he was a genius, and you have to accept it,’ she told the ABC.
English transgender comedian Jordan Gray was up for this year’s Most Outstanding Show but lost out to Gillian Cosgriff’s show Actually, Good.
At a media call at 1920’s-built venue The Famous Spiegeltent on Sunday morning, festival director Susan Provan said Humphries made an ‘extraordinary contribution to Australian comedy’.
‘He particularly made a very positive contribution to the Melbourne Comedy Festival, particularly in our early days … and was here to help us celebrate our 30th birthday. He made an amazing contribution for which he will always be celebrated’.
Asked by reporters if Humphries comments on transgender people had tarnished his reputation Provan said ‘nothing can ever detract from his great contribution as an artist. He was remarkable. That will always be with us’.