Laughter is on the menu as we bid farewell to Barry Humphries

10:04am Wednesday 19th February 2014

By Jayne Bennett

IT WAS time to snap off the gladioli and wave farewell to Barry Humphries at the Bristol Hippodrome last night.

But Humphries, now 79, was determined to go out with a bang rather than a fizzle, and if anyone was expecting an evening of tame entertainment then they couldn’t have been more wrong.

Laughter was promised and laughter was what we got, starting with former Australian Cultural Attache and now aspiring Celebrity Chef, Sir Les Patterson, bringing social satire to an all time low.

"Is there anyone in Poland?” he asks, “ I reckon it's the Marie Celeste of Europe." Inappropriate, yes, but totally in character and we would have been disappointed with anything else, as Sir Les revelled in the shock tactics of toilet humour that never seem to lose their childish appeal.

Busting through the boundaries of bad taste, no subject was out of limits and with a couple of swift costume changes we were treated to visits from Gerard the gay paedophile priest and words of wisdom from Sandy Stone, reminiscing from beyond the grave. Although Sandy is perhaps Humphries’ least well known persona he is one of the oldest, and there were some poignant moments that really brought us back to Earth, leaving a rather sombre audience to head into the interval.

But to be honest, we wer all really waiting for the second half, and the chance to finally get to meet the living legend that is Dame Edna, who enters on the back of an elephant in a flash of diamante and with all the glamour for which she is famous – despite the fact that she is now living in an ashram in India.

Dame Edna is the queen of all drag queens, and as she picked on several unsuspecting members of the audience we remembered just why we love her (and her caustic comments) so much. However, those who remained safely in their seats were sure to pity those who were used as ‘extras’, no matter how funny the material.

Finishing with the traditional waving of the gladioli, it is not long before the entire audience was on its feet, saying ‘Goodbye’ to all the characters that have been loved by so many across several generations So, are misogyny, racism and bodily functions really that funny? Have we not risen above basic toilet humour? Possibly, but for many people Barry Humphries is funny. Really Funny. And let’s not forget that he was doing this well before The Inbetweeners thought they were the first.

Barry Humphries’ ‘Eat, Pray, Laugh’ farewell tour is on at the Bristol Hippodrome until Saturday, February 22.

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