Etiquette

Dame Edna Will Not Be Interrupted

Thoughtful, practical advice from the self-proclaimed "gigastar" of stage and screen, as she embarks on the North American leg of her latest farewell tour.

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Photo by Craig Schwartz
Photo by Craig Schwartz

Way back in 1955, Australian comedian Barry Humphries created a colorful (purple, in particular) female alter-ego: the “gigastar and housewife” Dame Edna Everage.  The idea at the time was to amuse his fellow touring performers on trips between towns, but a few years later, Dame Edna had developed into a full-fledged stage phenomenon and embarked on her first international tour. Next came film cameos, television series, a Tony-winning stint on Broadway, two records, a “Vanity Fair” advice column, and her face on an Australian postage stamp. Now she’s on one final victory lap, called “Dame Edna’s Glorious Goodbye: The Farewell Tour,” which kicked off a six-city tour this month.

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Brendan Francis Newnam: Dame Edna, it is an honor to be here with you.

Rico Gagliano: Truly.

Dame Edna Everage: Well, hello, boys! It’s lovely to be on your program!

Rico Gagliano: We just feel blessed…

Dame Edna Everage: Well you are blessed. Because I do very little publicity… I don’t need to… and in fact, I don’t need to do these shows! I do them out of resentment.

Rico Gagliano: These farewell stage shows?

Brendan Francis Newnam: What do you resent?

Dame Edna Everage: Resentment that Mother Nature has not given me the strength to perform until I’m 100 years of age. But I just can’t keep on doing it!

Rico Gagliano: No, no. You’re 30 years old at this point, and it starts to take a toll.

Dame Edna Everage: No, don’t be sarcastic, please — we’ve only just met, Rico! Manners! This show is about good manners, isn’t it?

Brendan Francis Newnam: This portion is, yes.

Dame Edna Everage: I’m surprised you get viewers. I mean, what Americans are interested in good manners?

Rico Gagliano: None of them!

Dame Edna Everage: Incidentally listeners, I call you “viewers” because there are people — troubled people really — who watch the radio. They watch it, hoping someone like me will pop out! It’s sad, isn’t it.

Rico Gagliano: Yes.  So, your show hasn’t opened here yet, so we have not had a chance to see it. What do you have in store for us, and for America?

Dame Edna Everage: I have in store, really, a spiritual experience for people. There’s singing. There’s dancing, of course. I’m a well-known singer.  I’m a famous dancer. Well, in Melbourne, Australia anyway.

Rico Gagliano: And hey, once you’ve made it there…

Dame Edna Everage: …If you’ve made it there, Possums! Incidentally, I call my audience “Possums” —

Rico Gagliano: Yeah, why is that?

Dame Edna Everage: — Because, in Australia, they are very lovely, cuddly things. In America, they’re feral — again, they need a lesson in good manners.

Brendan Francis Newnam: So, you did another farewell tour in 2012 —

Dame Edna Everage: No, no!

Brendan Francis Newnam: — No?

Dame Edna Everage: No, I’m not one of those people like Barbra — oh, I shouldn’t mention her name — who keep touring “farewell” shows. No!  The last tour was to prepare the audience for a subsequent farewell tour.

Brendan and Rico: The penultimate goodbye tour!

Dame Edna Everage: “Penultimate!” That’s the word! Listeners, viewers, whatever category you’re in: I am in the presence of wordsmiths here. People who use the language.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Well Dame Edna, our possums have submitted questions for you. Etiquette questions. Are you ready to help answer them?

Dame Edna Everage: Why, certainly! Whenever I can help Americans! I love America. I should hasten to say, Brendan — and, to some extent, to say to you too, Rico — that America… not many people in the world know about you. The United States is one of the world’s best-kept secrets!

Rico Gagliano: I know, we’re a backwater.

Dame Edna Everage: They don’t know where it is! I have to tell people! I say, “Fly from Australia to Europe, and if you look down, that’s America.”

Rico Gagliano: Yes, but as more and more Australians come here, we’re rapidly gentrifying.

Dame Edna Everage: You are! You’ve got Cate Blanchett…

Brendan Francis Newnam: Nicole Kidman.

Dame Edna Everage: Of course! Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman.  We are dominating — Woody Allen — we are dominating the American entertainment world!

Brendan Francis Newnam: That famous Australian, Woody Allen.

Knock off the gum-chewing at work or a show

Rico Gagliano: All right, let’s get to some of these questions. Here is something from David Bolliet in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Dame Edna Everage: Oh — David!

Rico Gagliano: David writes:

“In a meeting setting, how is one supposed to tactfully mention to the meeting attendees that finger-tapping/knuckle-cracking/ice-chewing/non-stop-pen-clicking are unpleasant distractions?” A lot of things bother David.

Dame Edna Everage: Well, they do. And you forgot to mention gum-chewing! When I’m on the stage — as I will be soon at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles, in case these boys forget to mention it — I look down, and I see slobs. People who don’t dress to go to a show. Wearing dirty trainers, track suits… The fact is, people need to dress and look nice for the theater.

And if they’re in a meeting… This chewing [gum] thing, you know where it comes from, don’t you?

Brendan Francis Newnam: Where does it come from?

Dame Edna Everage: The habit of Americans to chew comes because they were weaned too early. And they are nibbling on an invisible… breast, frankly.

Rico Gagliano: Wow, I’m never going to look at someone chewing gum the same way again.

Dame Edna Everage: That’s what they’re thinking in the back of their minds: They’ve got their Mummy leaning over them, and they are working away at her chest.  That’s why they chew!

Brendan Francis Newnam: So, Dame Edna, how is one supposed to get the people doing this in front of you to stop?

Dame Edna Everage: Look, what is wrong with honesty? Honesty! Just say, “Stop that at once or you’re out of this room, and out of a job!”

Rico Gagliano: What if David’s not the boss?

Dame Edna Everage: If he’s not the boss, well… I mean…

Brendan Francis Newnam: You probably can’t imagine it, can you Dame Edna.

Dame Edna Everage: …I can’t imagine not being in charge, that’s all.

Brendan Francis Newnam: So David, I think your answer is there, somewhere. Just tell them to knock it off, or they’ll lose their job.

Dame Edna Everage: Any more questions?

Brendan Francis Newnam: We do have more questions!

Dame Edna Everage: I’m in a mood! I need more questions!

For the quiet and interrupted (which Dame Edna certainly is not)

Brendan Francis Newnam: This question is from Becky Ayres from Cincinnati, Ohio. Becky writes:

“I’m a mid-level supervisor for an agency in the federal government. I’m also pretty soft-spoken at times. How do I correct people when I’m interrupted, without showing my obvious aggravation?”

Dame Edna Everage: Fall silent for a very, very long time.

Rico Gagliano: Have you ever done that?

Dame Edna Everage: No, I’ve never tried falling silent, because people never interrupt me!  And I’m not soft-spoken, or I couldn’t be heard in the back row of the beautiful Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles!

But… fall silent, or else: yawn. Yawn while they’re talking!  Yawn so they can actually glimpse your uvula. And I don’t think your uvula has been glimpsed often enough, Becky.

Rico Gagliano: Yes, speak up, Becky. And yawning is something you definitely will not see at Dame Edna’s farewell tour —

Dame Edna Everage: No, you won’t!

Brendan Francis Newnam: Oh, you’re having a tour, Dame Edna?

Dame Edna Everage: I am! I’m going from —

Brendan Francis Newnam: Oh, we’re out of time! We can’t hear where the show is taking place, we’re running out of time, but thank you!

Dame Edna Everage: Oh, thank you for tricking me!! Tricking me into coming on this show and not advertising my tour!

Rico Gagliano: Not nearly enough.

Dame Edna Everage: No, but thank you very much, little Rico and Brendan, for having us at your place.