Barry Humphries as Dame Edna Everage could make even a newsroom full of journalists starstruck

Dame Edna Everage was the manifestation of Barry Humphries' comedic genius, and she could win over any audience - even a room full of journalists

Dame Edna Everage arrives at The Scotsman office in Edinburgh in 2013 (Image: Nick Mitchell)Dame Edna Everage arrives at The Scotsman office in Edinburgh in 2013 (Image: Nick Mitchell)
Dame Edna Everage arrives at The Scotsman office in Edinburgh in 2013 (Image: Nick Mitchell)

Journalists are a cynical, hard-to-impress bunch. The traditional impression is that hard-bitten hacks operate without emotion clouding their judgement, and without any trace of excitability when confronted with the rich, powerful or famous.

But there are, very occasionally, exceptions. People or characters who can reduce a pack of journalists to a gaggle of starstruck fans. Barry Humphries as Dame Edna Everage was one of these people performing as one of these characters.

A little over ten years ago, Dame Edna, then promoting her farewell tour, was invited to The Scotsman office in Edinburgh, and she brought the place to a standstill. After stepping out of a black stretch limo she arrived in the reception area of the Holyrood HQ to be met by a phalanx of excited staff pointing camera phones, before declaring, in that inimitable Aussie twang, “I’m your new editor!”

She was actually there to guest edit The Scotsman’s sister newspaper the Edinburgh Evening News, which was rebranded the ‘Ednaburgh News’ for the occasion. She joined the daily news conference and told the title’s then arts editor Liam Rudden about her plans for her farewell show in the Scottish capital.

“I’ve always felt there was a little bit of Scotland in me, you know of my love of gladioli, well, they are Australia’s equivalent of the thistle,” she said. “So instead of throwing gladioli into the audience at my Edinburgh shows, I’ll be throwing thistles. Perhaps you should wear fencing masks or protective clothing during my famous finale.”

This gets to the heart of Dame Edna’s enduring popularity. Any other almost 80-year-old entertainer, after decades of fame, could have just turned up, posed for a few photos and ticked off another PR opportunity. But Barry Humphries was a consummate professional who was never unprepared or lax in his comedy.

As tributes pour in today following his passing at the age of 89, it’s his commitment to his craft which is a common theme, as fellow comedians and TV presenters recall stories of how he’d done his research on them well in advance of a show or interview, in order to concoct a suitably hilarious anecdote or routine.

Despite the fact that by 2013 Dame Edna hadn’t been on our screens regularly for several years, the character’s star power meant that even a newsroom full of cynical journalists was like putty in her hands.

In her famous purple wig, she added a shot of colour to everyone’s day, before we all returned to our daily work routine, smiling just a little bit more than before. Goodnight, possums.

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