Culture

There’s No Longer A Melbourne Comedy Festival Award Named After Barry Humphries

In the past, Humphries has called LGBTQIA awareness programs "evil".

Barry Humphries

For the last few years, the Melbourne International Comedy Festival has regarded the Barry award — a coveted prize named after comedian Barry Humphries — with a degree of distinctly awkward trepidation.

After all, Humphries himself has done a great deal to sully his own reputation over the last little while. Rather than keeping shtum and enjoying the legacy he has built up for himself, the comedian has waded in on issues pertaining to the transgender community. He called gender-reassignment surgery “self-mutilation” in 2016, and, a few years later, described transgender awareness programs taught in schools as “pretty evil.”

As a result of those comments, the reputation of the Barry — Melbourne International Comedy Festival’s most prestigious award — has been tarnished. Indeed, when comedian Hannah Gadsby won the award in 2017 for the now internationally beloved Nanette, she took time out of her speech to admonish Humphries.

“I don’t agree with a lot of the things Barry Humphries has said recently,” Gadsby said at the time. “It is not something I will walk past. With full respect, I would like to accept this award just for me.”

Now, the Melbourne International Comedy Festival has decided to deal with the issue once and for all — from now on, the Barry will be renamed Melbourne International Comedy Festival Award.

In a statement to the press, the Comedy Festival’s director didn’t bring up Humphries’ name at all, choosing instead to describe the move as an opportunity to push the MICF brand.

“Melbourne International Comedy Festival is one of the world’s greatest comedy festivals and it is time for the award for the most outstanding show to be in our name to celebrate the city that inspired the growth of our festival and its outstanding artists,” said Susan Provan, the festival director.

For his part, Humphries is yet to respond.