Melbourne Comedy Festival denies 'cancelling' late Barry Humphries

Festival organisers 'clarify' their stance on honouring the legendary comedian after public backlash.

Melbourne Comedy Festival denies 'cancelling' late Barry Humphries
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The Melbourne International Comedy Festival organisers have stated they "did not cancel" the late, legendary Australian comedian Barry Humphries, who passed away last week at the age of 89.

Humphries was renowned for his characters Dame Edna Everage and Sir Les Patterson and was a key founder of the festival.

In 2019, Humphries' name was removed from one of the festival's top awards due to his comments about transgender people, which are shared by many Australians but controversial in progressive circles.

Earlier this week, media outlets reported that the festival would not be honouring the comedian, but under fire organisers have now announced they will be paying tribute to Humphries after facing significant public backlash.

Festival director Susan Provan addressed the comments circulating in the media and on social media platforms.

Provan acknowledged that, while they were saddened by Humphries' passing, the show had to go on with over 300 performances scheduled. She added that the festival would take the time to determine an appropriate tribute for Humphries.

In 2019, the Melbourne International Comedy Festival's top award was renamed from the Barry to the Most Outstanding Show, partially due to Humphries' "transphobic" remarks.

He had referred to being transgender as a "fashion" and had criticised gender reassignment surgery in 2016.

After Humphries' death, British-Australian actor Miriam Margolyes claimed festival organisers had "cancelled" her friend.

Margolyes expressed her outrage and defended Humphries, stating, "It's not about transgender (issues)... this was an artist." She added that, while she disagreed with his politics, she revered him as a friend and comedian.

Provan said that Humphries' comments had "lacked empathy" and "baffled" many in the progressive-dominated industry, who regarded the remarks as transphobic.

However, she claimed that the award was renamed to emphasise "the importance of equality and diversity," and they "did not cancel Humphries".

Provan announced that the festival would recognise Humphries' contributions to the industry and his role in raising the festival's profile. She emphasised that it is possible to "celebrate Barry’s artistic genius while not much liking some of his views," adding that "provocation in the world of comedy lives on."

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  • By Avi Yemini

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