Monday, January 7, 2008

Sick Comic

The Australian genius Barry Humphries CBE is The Funniest Man in the World. In fact, after my humble and always abject self, he is probably The Funniest Human Alive, which, while not as important as the coveted title of Sexiest Man Alive discussed a couple columns back, still ranks high.

Barry had quite a year in 2007. When last year began, he was smack dab in the middle of Ednafest, a year-long celebration in his home town of Melbourne, Australia, of the 50th anniversary of Dame Edna, who officially first stepped on a stage in 1955. It was the Aussie equivalent of California's Disneyland's Golden Anniversary. Disneyland and Dame Edna have much in common: both make millions of people happy each year, both are elaborate and extensive fakes, and both came into being in 1955, with Golden Anniversary celebrations that lasted well into 2007.

Here Dame Edna is accepting the Key to her home City from the Mayor of Melbourne. I thought that Japan failed to conquer Australia back during World War II, but apparently I was mistaken. Well, the Governor of California ordered blackouts during the war, and I patriotically complied. My personal wartime blackout lasted a couple years, so I missed the end of the hostilities. Who won?

Another Ednafest Event was Ednaville, a painstaking museum recreation of Edna's Moonie Ponds home, where she began her career as a humble housewife and mother. She still is a mother.

The honors just kept coming. Australia issued a set of five Barry Humphries/Dame Edna postage stamps, so that everyone could lick Edna personally, and feel her get all sticky. Although I have never been honored with a postage stamp myself, I have done the next best thing; I have allowed most of the male population of the United States, and a good-sized portion of the allegedly-female population as well, to lick me in person, and I've been constantly sticky for the better part of a century.

Here's two of Barry's stamps, cancelled by Edna's neighborhood Moonie Ponds post office.

Although Edna may feel that allowing every Australian, from Aborigines to surfers to drag queens, to slather her with their saliva may be a bit uncalled-for, Barry is certainly on board. Here he is posting a letter with his stamps, after giving himself a good licking, a feat I've seldom seen performed by anyone but my cat Snatches, and my Great Dane, Baskerville, who often licks himself where it counts, saving me the trouble.

But what's even better than stamps? (Actually, what isn't?) Money, of course. Here's the the Dame Edna commemorative 50 cent piece issued by the Australian Government this past year. There's no truth to the rumor that issuing Dame Edna money is what caused the change of administration there this year, when the homophobic son-of-a-bitch Prime Minister was tossed out and replaced with a man named Kevin. Let's hope something along those lines happens here this year. In any event, it's just an acknowledgement that most of the money in Australia is Barry's now anyway. Although I have never been on money, I did receive a still-higher honor, when my picture was put on a bottle of commemorative vodka.

In June, Emily Perry, who played Dame Edna's bridesmaid and constant travelling companion Madge Allsop, turned 100 years old, and continues on in perfect health. There's an irony here we'll come to in a bit.

But Barry's highest honor came mid-year from the same source as all of my highest honors, a queen, in his case, The Queen, Helen Mirrin herself, when he was confirmed as a Commander of the British Empire, what they call a CBE. That's the same rank as Commander James Bond 007, so now he's Humphries, Barry Humphries. He has a licence to kill - on stage every night.

Weirdly, this means his two primary fictional creations, Dame Edna and Sir Les Patterson, still outrank him. This is how his creations were seen as reacting in an Australian newspaper.

Still not content to loll on his laurels, Barry did a Dame Edna TV series in England this year, The Dame Edna Treatment, during which Dame Edna had to endure the shame of finding our own Beloved President Bartlett disguised as Dame Martine Sheen. Apparently, Martin is dealing with the cancellation of The West Wing in an unhealthy manner. The next thing you know, he'll be shaving his head, driving drunk, and locking himself in the bathroom, refusing to hand Emilio Estavez over to Australian Prime Minister Kevin Federline as ordered.

Another TV legend to leave the air this year along with President Bartlett was Britain's Michael Parkinson. Edna kindly saw him off by appearing on Parkinson's final show, seeing him out much as Bette Midler did for Johnny Carson. Another guest was Spice Stud David Beckham, who naturally took the opportunity of being away from his Spice Wife to get it on with a real fake woman, and bend it like Beckham with Edna. (And yes, that's half of the face of Sir Judy Dench in the background, trying to pry her way in between Edna and Becks, as usual.)

The most spectacular Edna Tribute came when thousands of Edna impersonators stood in formation as Edna's eyeglasses in a Melbourne stadium. Eat your heart out, 2008 Beijing Olympics!

The holidays are always a busy time for Barry. With her annual Christmas TV specials, Dame Edna has become as synonymous with Christmas as are Frankincense, Charles Dickens, and pregnant virgins. The holidays just aren't the same anymore unless one listens to Edna warbling I'm Thinking of Myself This Christmas and Spooky Christmas, and then sheds a rueful tear (Or some form of bodily moisture at least) listening to Sir Les Patterson's sentimental Give Her One For Christmas.

But sadly, it was not to be a Happy New Year for our Barry last week, for one week ago today, on December 30, 2007, Barry was struck ill at a family celebration in Sydney, and rushed to the hospital, where an emergency appendectomy had to be performed on the 73 year old Living Legend, thankfully, a Still-Living Legend! 100 year old Emily Perry is healthier than the future of Reality Television if the WGA strike continues, while 73 year old Barry's appendix is about as healthy as Britney Spears's brain.

But fear not! Barry has pulled through the operation, and is on his feet, in good spirits, and due to be sent home shortly. His new American & Canadian tour - Dame Edna, Live and Intimate - is still expecteded to roll on as scheduled. For those of you here in America and Canada, those tour dates are:

January 18 - 20, Austin, Texas.

January 22 - 27, Fort Worth, Texas.

January 30 - February 2, Palm Desert, California.

February 5 - 10, Scottsdale, Arizona.

February 14 & 15, Richmond, British Columbia, Canada.

February 21 & 22, New Brunswick, New Jersy

February 23, Sewell, New Jersy.
and February 26 & 27, Westbury, New York.

Looking at that schedule, I am reminded of why I left vaudeville the better part of a century ago. Two dates in New Jersey, and in February yet! Not how I recuperate from surgery. After I had Robert Altman's old heart transplanted under my breasts, and following my various liver transplants, I always cocooned at home, curled up with a penis and a bottle or 12 of vodka. (No mollycoddling! It's best to break in a new liver early and often.) But then, Barry realizes how very, very much people stuck living in New Jersey (If "Living" is the accurate term for such an existence) desperately need cheering up, and he is typically unselfishly coming there to give it to them. God bless him. Now wonder he still has such wonderful friends as these:

Get well quickly, Barry darling, and cheers!
January 8 Addendum:

Bad news dears. Another tragedy has struck Texas, although perhaps it's only God's way of punishing the Lone Star State for giving us President Dubya. Owing to his surgical recovery, Barry Humphries has cancelled at least the first two stops on his Dame Edna, Live and Intimate tour. No Texas. No word yet on whether that cancellation will extend to California and the Palm Desert engagement. Rescheduling is to be hoped and prayed for. First the Alamo, then Governor Bush, and now this; hasn't Texas suffered enough? No? All right. Watch this blog for further bulletins as they break.

While I have your attention, this is the 82nd birthday of quite another level of comedian, the one and only (Two would be too many) Soupy Sales! When Little Dougie was 10 years old, he lived for The Soupy Sales Show, live on KABC every day at 5 PM. The Soupster and his trademark pies-in-the-face, and White Fang, the Biggest and Meanest Dog in the United States (Who always sounded like he was endlessly barfing.), and Black Tooth and Pookie and Hippie all made Little Dougie roar with laughter. These days, perhaps not so much.

Bu then again, in 1995, Little Dougie went and saw Soupy perform his night club act live, and he said that, relentlessly corny and lowbrow as the jokes were, Soupy's many, many years of show biz professionalism showed in a dynamite act that was polished to a bright sheen. Sadly, shortly thereafter, a leg injury ended Soupy's stage work. But his comedy lives on on DVDs. And if you've never seen it, rent And God Spoke, a hilarious mockunmentary in the Chris Guest style (Thought NOT made by Chris Guest) in which Soupy plays himself playing Moses (He's better than Heston, - who isn't? - and far more believably Jewish.) in a disastrous low budget Biblical epic. Watching Soupy come down from the mountaintop (Actually the Vasquez Rocks) with the stone tablets in one hand and a six-pack of Coca-Cola in the other (Product placement) is truly hilarious, as are the performances of some of Little Dougie's friends in the movie: Jay Edwardes, Mike Saad, and Fred Kaz.

Anyway, happy birthday Soupy. I'm having mushroom soup made with brandy, and then pushing my face into an American fur pie in your honor.

Cheers darlings.

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