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Dame Edna Everage: 11/09/06

Dame Edna

There's a long British tradition of men dressing up as women on the stage going back to Elizabethan times and more recently in the Panto. Of course, Dame Edna and her creator, Barry Humphries, is Australian, but many of the traditions are the same and certainly the historical heritage is the same.

John Lahr took on the Herculean task of interviewing Barry Humphries for this book but you'll see that the book sports his most famous character's name: Dame Edna Everage and the Rise of Western Civilisation. Of the 274 pages of text, maybe forty pages are actually about Humphries. The bulk of the book is filler about waiting for a show to start and older gags and of course Dame Edna's "life."

Barry Humphries' instance on staying in character as Dame Edna for all of his public events makes me think of the San Diego Chicken aka Ted Giannoulas. That damn chicken started as a lame radio advertising campaign (thanks KGO!) and went on to be a piece of San Diego culture that could not be escaped. The chicken ended up being the mascot of the Padres for a while (and pretty much any other venue in San Diego). I remember in junior high there was a lot of hubbub over discovering the Chicken's true identity. It was stupid then and it is stupid in this book.

Here is my BookCrossing Review:

My husband enjoyed this book more than I did. He found many of the passages amusing enough to laugh. I found myself struggling to read the book, bored at being back stage with a celebrity who was treating his interviewer horribly. If anything, Lahr got back at Humphries but recounting just how awful it was to write this book.

I suppose fans of Humphries' and his characters (Edna and Les) would love this book. Humphries apparently rarely broke character while Lahr was trying to write this book and was therefore forced to write more about the characters than the man behind them (yawn). While I went into this book finding Edna somewhat funny (and never having heard of Les) I'm now bored with both of them. The best story in the entire book was how the show boomed in New York. Humphries seemed completely baffled that anyone might not find his shtick funny.

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