Monday, 20 June 2016

On Barry Humphries

I'm a great admirer of Barry Humphries but (dare I say it?) his most famous creation, Dame Edna Everage, Housewife Superstar, leaves me cold.  

As far as I'm concerned the palm (slick with ghastly ointment) goes to another Humphries avatar, Dr Sir Lesley Colin Patterson, Australia's  cultural attaché  to the Court of St James. This fabulously repulsive lecherous drunk with a donkey-like membrum virilis, rotting teeth and stained powder blue suit is among the immortals.

Sir Les is breathtakingly crude, sexist, homophobic and racist and would not be allowed near a telly station today. Yet - and this is the point - he's weirdly endearing. It's partly the lopsided grin, partly the fact that he doesn't always enjoy the best of health, but above all it's his indomitable that's hard to resist. Wherever he is, no matter how jet lagged or hungover, Les is on top of things (are you with me?). He's the main character in the drama of his life. He is also, and hilariously, an innocent:: 'Not so many moons ago they thought we were a bunch of rough diamonds' he belches, swigging from a pint of Chardonnay. His depravity is absolute and perfectly-judged, adapting the Cocteau principle that 'too much is never enough for me'.

Here he is, briefly, on the Parkinson show, and you'll savour the first moments in which he shakes hands with his normally imperturbable host and . . .   oh God.

If you can go the distance here's a recording of the one-man show from 1996, a superb performance that leaves his audience breathless, writhing, and aghast.

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