'Dame Edna Everage' comedian Barry Humphries dies

In this file photo taken on July 5, 2012, Australian comedian, actor and author Australian Barry Humphries, dressed as his alter ego, Dame Edna Everage, appeares at a press conference in Sydney.

Australian comedian Barry Humphries, whose "Dame Edna Everage" alter ego left audiences in stitches, died aged 89 in a Sydney hospital on Saturday.

Humphries, best known for his impersonation of a suburban housewife in the guise of Everage, "passed away peacefully" surrounded by family, said a statement by his publicist to Australian media.

"He was completely himself until the very end, never losing his brilliant mind, his unique wit and generosity of spirit," it said.

"With over seventy years on the stage, he was an entertainer to his core, touring up until the last year of his life and planning more shows that will sadly never be."

He leaves his wife Lizzie, four children and 10 grandchildren, it said.

"The characters he created, which brought laughter to millions, will live on."

Humphries died in Sydney's St Vincent's Hospital after being treated for various ailments, Australian media said. The hospital declined to comment.

Prime minister Anthony Albanese paid homage to the actor, whose unforgettable characters included Everage, the lecherous and boorish Sir Les Patterson, and the dull, elderly man of the suburbs Sandy Stone.

'Brightest star'

"Barry Humphries entertained us through a galaxy of personas, from Dame Edna to Sandy Stone," the prime minister said on social media.

"But the brightest star in that galaxy was always Barry. A great wit, satirist, writer and an absolute one-of-kind, he was both gifted and a gift. May he rest in peace."

Humphries was taken to hospital in February after falling and hurting his hip at home, requiring a hip replacement, the Sydney Morning Herald said.

"I have to get back on my feet... I am going back on tour later this year," he was quoted as telling the paper last month.

His turns as Everage and Patterson saw him achieve international renown, particularly in Britain where he was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2007 for services to entertainment.

Former UK prime minister Boris Johnson called Humphries "one of the greatest ever Australians" and "a comic genius who used his exuberant alter egos, Dame Edna Everage and Sir Les Patterson, to say the otherwise unsayable.

"What a loss," he tweeted.

UK comic giant Ricky Gervais tweeted "farewell, Barry Humphries, you comedy genius". "Little Britain" actor and comic Matt Lucas wrote: "I wonder if all geniuses are as lovely as Barry Humphries."

'Hello Possums'

Everage was first conceived when Humphries toured southern Australia as a young actor in the 1950s and she evolved from drab housewife to a self-proclaimed "gigastar" parody of celebrity best known for her catchphrase "Hello Possums".

She went on to host her own 1980s talk show, "The Dame Edna Experience", which attracted an array of luminaries including Mel Gibson, the late Sean Connery, Charlton Heston, and Chubby Checker.

Her 1990s talk shows, "Dr Dame Edna Kisses It Better" and "The Dame Edna Treatment", were just as star-studded, with guests ranging from actors Susan Sarandon, Alec Baldwin and Martin Sheen to the late cricketer Shane Warne.

Everage also starred in the closing ceremony of the 2006 Commonwealth Games, held in her home town of Melbourne.

The coarse and vulgar Patterson came later, first appearing in a Humphries stage show in 1974 and evolving into a caricature of Australian diplomats abroad at a performance in Hong Kong.

Best known for his offensive behaviour, which included belching, flatulence and nose-picking, the buck-toothed, grubby "late cultural attache to the Court of St James" also won a devoted following.