The Melbourne International Comedy Festival did not pay a formal tribute to legendary comedian Barry Humphries on the final night of the shows, after he passed away on Saturday at the age of 89.
The famed entertainer helped create the festival in 1987, which has become one of the world’s biggest comedy events.
But Humphries fell out with organizers after an uproar over comments he made five years ago that were seen as ‘anti-trans’ – with comedians such as Hannah Gadsby speaking out against Humphries on Twitter at the time.
Organizers said there were 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 that individual comedians – there were 316 performances scheduled for the day – were free to pay tribute in their own way.
However, the Melbourne International Comedy Festival on Sunday did post a heartfelt message on social media.
Comedian Peter Cook and Barry Humphries visit Dudley Moore backstage at 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 down 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 ‘cancelling culture’ response to some of Humphries’ comments
‘Having started his career in Melbourne, Barry’s early support, along with (English comedian) Peter Cook, helped put the festival on the map nationally and internationally.
‘With festival founder John Pinder, Barry was part of a creative generation that celebrated and developed a global platform for Australian comedy.’
He will be remembered by legions of fans around the world for his humour, inimitable characters and caustic satire.
“Our thoughts are with his family and friends. Val Barry.’
The talented comedian was a Melbourne-raised school dropout who achieved international fame for 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 whom he married in 1990 and children Tessa, Emily, Oscar and Rupert, and 10 grandchildren.
He had three previous marriages before seemingly settling down with Mrs. Spender and largely blamed his mother for the tumultuous relations.
She was impossible to read and I was never quite sure if I was loved. Since then I’ve been looking for love and security, which I only found for the first time quite recently 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 and organizers opted not to include a formal tribute to Humphries
Although the Pinder Prize is still on display at the festival, Humphries’ name was removed from the ‘Barry Award’ for most outstanding show in 2019.
It followed comments he made about transgender people, including that it was a “fashion” craze and that sex reassignment 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 last year, both called for a renaming of the award.
Gadsby tweeted that Humphries was an “irrelevant… d*** cookie” and “loves those in power, hates vulnerable minorities and has completely lost the ability to read the room.”
Festival director Susan Provan said in 2019 that the comments were “appalling” and that she wanted the award to “celebrate the breadth of artists participating in the festival.”
“We can call our awards whatever we want,” Provan told 3AW.
Comedian Hannah Gadsby, 45, (pictured) denounced Barry Humphries as ‘irrelevant and inhumane’ in a resurfaced Tweet
In a resurfaced Tweet from 2018, Gadsby labeled Humphries “irrelevant and inhumane” while criticizing his comedic 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 has known Humphries for six decades, said on Sunday he was “deeply hurt” after being “cancelled” when the award was renamed.
“He was biting and he was pretty mean a lot of the time, but he was a genius, and you have to accept that,” she told the ABC.
English transgender comedian Jordan Gray was nominated for this year’s Most Outstanding Show, but lost out to Gillian Cosgriff’s show Actually good.
During a media call at the 1920s-built venue The Famous Spiegeltent on Sunday morning, festival director Susan Provan said Humphries had made an ‘extraordinary contribution to Australian comedy’.
‘He has made a very positive contribution to the Melbourne Comedy Festival, especially in our early days… and was here to help us celebrate our 30th anniversary. He has made a tremendous contribution for which he will always be celebrated.”
Asked by reporters if Humphrie’s comments about 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.”