Barry Humphreys, better known as Dame Edna, has died aged 89

But even though he was working steadily in the 60s, he was also in the grip of alcoholism. He said staying in psychiatric hospitals was not helpful.

In 1970, he woke up in a Melbourne sewer to find himself arrested.

With the help of a doctor, Mr. Humphreys soon sobered up; He didn’t drink all his life. He dusted off Dame Edna and, bit by bit, dulled her. By the late ’70s, celebrity culture was in full swing, giving him international fame and steady employment.

Edna didn’t charm every critic. She made her New York stage debut in the Off-Broadway production of “Housewife! Superstar!!”, in The New York Times in 1977, Richard Eder called it “abysmal”.

Edna’s lack of steadfast political correctness always makes her or Mr. Nor did Humphreys stand in good stead. In February 2003, she wrote an advice column for Vanity Fair as Dame Edna, answering a reader’s question about learning Spanish.

“Who is talking that you really want to talk about?” read Dame Edna’s characteristically caustic reply. “Help? Is your leaf blower? Try French or German, there are at least a few books worth reading, or if you’re American, try English.

A public outcry was led by Mexican-born actress Salma Hayek, who appeared on the magazine’s cover that month. Vanity Fair discontinued Dame Edna’s column shortly thereafter.

In a 2004 interview with The Times, Mr. Humphries was unrepentant.

“The people I offended were the humorless minority, I’m afraid,” he said. “If you have to explain the nature of satire to someone, you’re fighting a losing battle.”

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