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Dame Edna Everage and the Rise of Western Civilization: Backstage With Barry Humphries Hardcover – September, 1992


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Since 1969 Lahr has continued writing about show business with the sensitivity and informed views that marked his debut in Notes on a Cowardly Lion, his biography of his father, comic Bert Lahr. As theater critic for British Vogue , the author first recognized the talents of Australian Humphries, aka "Dame Edna," risen from suburban housewife to world star on stage and TV. The "lady" appears in hideously chic costumes before SRO audiences eager to be insulted and to hear her dirty jokes. Lahr also examines Humphries's other persona, Sir Les Patterson, the crude and priapic Australian cultural attache who features his big genitals in his performances. Observing Humphries close-up, Lahr explores the comic's history and finds the roots of his satiric genius in his outrage at the pervasive phoniness in society, which he targets with the strongest weapon: laughter. Sections of this excellent biography were published in the New Yorker .
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

"A brilliantly dramatic evocation." -- George Melly, Sunday Telegraph

"A fascinating book, a worthy tribute to one of the few true comic geniuses of our generation." -- John Wells, Sunday Express

"Lahr has now immortalized Barry Humphries. . . . An exhilarating and highly intelligent book, full of laughs." -- Michael Davie, Spectator --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 242 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar Straus & Giroux (T); First Edition edition (September 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374134561
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374134563
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,357,504 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

John Lahr writes for The New Yorker, where he was for 21 years the Senior drama critic of the magazine. A veteran of all aspects of the theatre, Lahr has contributed behind-the-scenes portraits, reviews, and Profiles, and has expanded the magazine's drama coverage beyond Broadway to include the work of international theatre and regional companies.

A former theatre critic at The Nation, The Village Voice, and British Vogue, among other publications, Lahr has published seventeen books on the theatre and two novels, "The Autograph Hound," and "Hot to Trot." His book "Dame Edna Everage and the Rise of Western Civilization," won the 1992 Roger Machell Prize for best book on the performing arts. His other works include "Light Fantastic: Adventures in Theatre," (1996) and "Show and Tell: New Yorker Profiles," (2000). In 2001, he edited "The Diaries of Kenneth." His expanded New Yorker article on Frank Sinatra was made into a book with photographs, "Frank Sinatra: The Artist and the Man." Lahr's most recent book is "Honky Tonk Parade: New Yorker Profiles of Show People," published in 2005.

Lahr served as literary adviser to the Tyrone Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis in 1968, and as Literary Manager of the Vivian Beaumont Theatre from 1969 to 1971. He was the co-producer of the 1987 film "Prick Up Your Ears," based on his Joe Orton biography of the same title, and was the editor of "The Orton Diaries." Lahr has also written numerous movie scripts. His short film "Sticky My Fingers. . . Fleet My Feet" (directed by John Hancock) was nominated for an Academy Award in 1971.

Lahr is a two-time winner of the George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism. In 1968, he became the prize's youngest recipient; he was honored again in 1993. Lahr has written many stage adaptations, which have been performed in England and the United States, including:"Accidental Death of an Anarchist," "The Manchurian Candidate," "The Bluebird of Unhappiness: A Woody Allen Revue," and "Diary of a Somebody," which began at the Royal National Theatre, played the West End, and later toured England. He co-authored the Tony Award-winning "Elaine Stritch at Liberty," which won the 2002 Drama Desk Award for outstanding book of a musical. Lahr, who was the first drama critic to win a Tony Award, is the son of the comedian Bert Lahr, whom he wrote about in his biography "Notes on a Cowardly Lion." He divides his time between New York and London and maintains a Web site at www.johnlahr.com.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 28, 1998
Format: Hardcover
John Lahr writes with such care for his subjects and this book is no exception. Reading this book is like standing next to Barry Humphries as he is preparing to go on stage. It also gives a good background of Humphries' work from its earliest days. Quirky, humorous and consistently engaging.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Australian reader on July 27, 2003
Format: Paperback
Put the words "Barry Humphries: Living National Treasure" before the title above this review and you will have my full intended heading. Thank you.
For anyone who is a fan of Humphries and his characters this book provides a detailed insight into the creative force and intellect that has produced the best comedy theatre in the world.
For any of the new American fans of Dame Edna, this book may go some way towards filling in what you have been missing out on since Edna Everage made her quiet and unassuming debut in Australia nearly 50 years ago.
Humphries' heavy touring schedule in the US is your gain, and our loss. If you haven't seen the show, do whatever it takes to see this man and his characters on stage. I have never seen theatre which could have an entire audience bent over in laughter, tears pouring down their faces, at the mere sight of a character walking across the stage - Sir Les Patterson - and then reduced to total silence, shedding noiseless tears as Sandy Stone quietly mourned the loss of a treasured lemon tree.
This book has opened my eyes to so many other reasons why we find Barry Humphries' characters funny. It is as incisive an examination of the man and the art as one could hope to find.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 5, 2001
Format: Paperback
This book is an amazing tale of an amazing man. If you've ever seen Dame Edna live or on T.V. you know she's a hoot. This well-written bio of her creator, Barry Humpheries, is truly fascinating. It actually had me laughing out loud time after time. He's a brilliant man who's carved a truly unique place for himself in the world of clowns.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Andy Orrock VINE VOICE on December 2, 2003
Format: Paperback
Barry Humphries is a genius. No book is ever going to do justice to seeing him perform live, but John Lahr has come close. If you're a Dame Edna fan, you don't want to miss this book.
Beyond creating an indelible character, Humphries is a master improv comedian. In November 2003, I saw 'Dame Edna' live at a Dallas, Texas appearance. (S)he balanced five or six active storylines that were conjured up in conversations with various audience members. How the evening went totally depended on what Edna pulled out of those people. The results had the audience rolling in laughter and shocked at how much wonderful material could get mined out of what didn't appear to be much to work with.
If I had 10% of Barry Humphries talent, I would be very happy.
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