Anne Pender, the literary scholar who has just published the first comprehensive biography of Barry Humphries, will address The Sydney Institute on Tuesday 16 November.
In her invited address to the independent current affairs forum, Dr Pender will discuss the politics of satire in Australia and the public perception of the politics of the satirist Barry Humphries.
Dr Pender, a Senior Lecturer in English and Theatre Studies at the University of New England, has titled her address “Poor old pinko conservative, half-arsed political puritan, crypto-fascist: Barry Humphries and the politics of satire”. She will argue that although Australians relish satire and are expert creators of the genre, they do not understand it, and frequently stigmatise the most talented satirists. She will examine key moments in Humphries’s life over half a century that reveal both the man and the power of his satire.
Dr Pender is recognised as an authority on satire. She is the author of Christina Stead: Satirist, published in 2002, in which she advanced the view that satire is central to discourse about culture and history, and central to healthy democracies. Her biography of Barry Humphries, One Man Show: The Stages of Barry Humphries, was published in September by ABC Books.
“Like one of our other great satirists, Christina Stead, Humphries satirises both sides of politics,” Dr Pender said. “Stead was a communist – she was a member of the Communist Party of the USA, and suffered for it – but she vehemently satirised both the Left and the Right throughout her long writing career. Humphries, although working in a different tradition to Stead, is a consummate satirist, picking his targets from the Left and the Right, and often mixing up the categories for maximum anarchic effect. For example, he spent almost 10 years of his career in the 1980s satirising the Prime Minister of Britain, Margaret Thatcher.
“To understand Humphries’s background it’s important to understand the Menzies years – a period we now associate with deep-rooted conservative thinking – because Humphries grew up during that period and was influenced by the values of Menzies and his followers. But it’s a mistake to pigeon-hole Humphries as captive to the Right.”
One Man Show will be launched in Sydney on Wednesday 17 November – at 6 pm in Shearers Bookshop, 99 Norton Street, Leichhardt.
THE PHOTOGRAPH of Barry Humphries and Anne Pender displayed here was taken in Dublin last year.