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Last Updated: Friday, 15 June 2007, 23:43 GMT 00:43 UK
The man behind Dame Edna Everage
Dame Edna Everage
Dame Edna is currently doing a one-man show in Australia
Australian export Barry Humphries has long been considered a national treasure in the UK with his alter ego Dame Edna Everage.

The comedian, satirist and actor has now been made a CBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours list.

Much is known about housewife Dame Edna, who greets audiences with her famous catchphrase: "Hello possums!"

But the life of Humphries, who created the iconic Dame Edna over 50 years ago, is less documented.

Humphries once told an interviewer: "I'm very pleased that you like to talk to me because I sort of have a life of my own."

He was born in Melbourne in 1934 and began writing and performing revues while at university studying law, fine art and philosophy.

Dame Edna Everage
Humphries in a rare photograph without his make-up

"Making people laugh was a very good way of befriending them. People couldn't hit you, could they, if you were laughing," he has said.

Dame Edna - then just plain old Norma Everage - first made an appearance at Melbourne University's Union Theatre on 12 December, 1955.

Humphries left for London in his early 20s and enjoyed success on the stage with roles such as Mr Sowerberry in Lionel Bart's musical, Oliver!

But it was his satirical characters which shot him to stardom, with Aussie bloke Barry McKenzie and slobbish cultural attache Sir Les Paterson among them.

Humphries has said his aim in creating his characters is to "encourage people to look at Australia critically and with affection and humour, which is what all comedians should do".

Dame Edna Everage
Character Les Patterson has appeared on Michael Parkinson's chat show

Over the years, Humphries has made Dame Edna a cultural icon - she has starred in numerous command performances for the Royal family and fronted shows including Housewife, Superstar!, Back With A Vengeance, and more recently, ITV1's The Dame Edna Treatment.

Latterly, he has also enjoyed success in the US with tours on Broadway, one of which won a Tony award, and appearances in 1990s hit TV show Ally McBeal.

His other talents include painting - he is regarded as one of Australia's best landscape artists.

Humphries has been married four times and has four children. His current wife is Lizzie Spender, daughter of poet Stephen Spender.

Of his CBE, the comedian says: "I'm deeply honoured. At last I can address Sir Les Patterson and Dame Edna on an improved footing".

Dame Edna Everidge talks about the CBE

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