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Revealed: Barry Humphries’ final phone chat with King

Watch Dame Edna upstage the royals Source: YouTube

An ailing Barry Humphries was delighted to receive a call from the King, just days before he died, it has emerged.

Humphries died on Saturday at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney following complications from hip surgery stemming from a fall. He was 89.

He had spent several days in the hospital, surrounded by family and friends, after being admitted last week.

Among them was film director Bruce Beresford, who confirmed Humphries and the King – with whom the Australian comedy legend had a long-standing friendship – had spoken.

“Barry said, ‘Well, I always admired him. We always got on well and I really liked his company and enjoyed being with him’,” Beresford told The Australian.

”’Barry was one of those people, he had great capacity for friendship. He was so interested in people.”

The King, when Prince of Wales, was even the unwitting star of one of Humphries more recent skits. As alter ego Dame Edna Everage, Humphries entered the royal box at the 2013 Royal Variety Show, taking a seat next to the prince and his beaming wife, the Duchess of Cornwall.

“Me with Prince Charles and Camilla at the Royal Variety Show. I absolutely ADORE them!” he captioned the video on his social media.

In a breach of royal protocol, Dame Edna grasps Camilla’s arm before a security guard enters the box and whispers into Edna’s ear.

“I’m so sorry. They’ve found me a better seat,” she says in the clip, to laughter from the royals and the watching audience.

The Victorian government is still in talks with Humphries’ family about a possible state funeral for the Melbourne-born comedy icon.

Other options are also being considered.

Barry Humphries' death sparks theatre tribute calls

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Channel 10

But the aftermath of Humphries’ death has not been without controversy. One of his close friends, British-Australian TV personality Miriam Margolyes told the ABC that the star had been “cancelled … rather late in life” by the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

Humphries was a founding patron of the MICF, leading to it naming its annual prize for most outstanding act after him in 2000. But an outcry about a series of comments widely seen as transphobic prompted the festival to rename its top gong in 2019.

Margolyes said she was “outraged”.

“He’d had more talent in his little finger than they did in their whole bodies, all of them,” she told the ABC, saying Humphries was “very hurt and saddened by what happened after the Melbourne festival”.

“He was acerbic, and he was often quite nasty, but he was a genius, and you have to accept it,” she said.

Margolyes said she didn’t agree Humphries’ politics, and had told him so. But she still appreciated Humphries as “the greatest comic who ever lived”.

“I didn’t like his politics. I really didn’t. But I revere the talent of the man,” she said.

“It was coruscating; it was all-enveloping.”

In a statement to the ABC, MICF festival director Susan Provan said: “We can celebrate Barry’s artistic genius while not much liking some of his views.”

“Some years ago the award for most outstanding show was re-named to reinforce the equality and diversity that our Festival community has always championed,” Ms Provan said.

Despite Humphries’ name being removed, Ms Provan said nothing could detract from his “great contribution as an artist” and he would always be celebrated.

“Barry made an extraordinary contribution to Australian comedy,” she said.

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