THE ANGELS – Judy Tenuta, a brash comedian who brazenly proclaimed herself the “Goddess of Love” and toured with George Carlin as she built her career in the golden age of 1980s comedy, died Thursday. She was 72 years old.
Tenuta died Thursday afternoon at his home in Los Angeles with his family around him, publicist Roger Neal told The Associated Press. The cause of death was ovarian cancer.
“She was such a fun and amazing artist,” Neal said, and it was always a “happy time to be around her.”
Tenuta claimed her date of birth as Nov. 7, 1956, but she was born in 1949, Neal said. “He was old school, so he would never tell his real age, but now that he’s gone, we can tell his real age,” she added.
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Her heart-shaped face, topped by bouncy hair with a hint of flower, conveyed an impression of sweet innocence that was quickly shattered by her strong, deep voice and acid humor, including swearing. The accordion that was part of her act was “an instrument of love and submission,” as she affectionately called it.
He was part of a generation of performers who fueled the popularity of stand-up comedy in clubs across the country, including the Comedy Store in Los Angeles, the Laff Stop in Houston, and Caroline’s in New York City. A typically male-dominated field found room for women, including Tenuta.
Tenuta gained national attention in 1987 with “On Location: Women of the Night,” an HBO special in which she starred alongside Ellen DeGeneres, Paula Poundstone and Rita Rudner.
On the 1988 “American Comedy Awards” television special, Tenuta was named best female comedy club performer alongside male winner Jerry Seinfeld. Others honored that year for her work in the club or on screen included Robin Williams, Lily Tomlin and Bette Midler.
“I’d change it in a minute, if only I could be a wife and a mother,” joked Tenuta, wrapped in gold lamé and chewing gum, accepting her award from Carlin.
She was a frequent guest on late-night talk shows and game shows and with radio jock Howard Stern. Her acting and voiceover credits were eclectic, including appearances on “The Weird Al Show” and “Space Ghost Coast to Coast.” She appeared on stage at “The Vagina Monologues” in Los Angeles and Chicago.
Tenuta was a two-time Grammy nominee, earning back-to-back nominations in 1995 and 1996 for Best Spoken Word Comedy Album for “Attention Butt Pirates and Lesbetarians” and “In Goddess We Trust.”
She was a supporter of LGBTQ rights, participated in pride festivals, and counted members of the queer community as enthusiastic fans. On her website, she said that as an ordained minister of Judism she was “available for same-sex marriages.”
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Tenuta grew up in Maywood, a suburb of Chicago, and attended Catholic schools, including one she called “St. Obnoxious and Bondage.” She said she was the “little isolated flower”-Petite Flower became one of her nicknames on stage-in a Catholic family that included six siblings.
After graduating from college, he worked odd jobs that included wrapping meat and taking inventory at a Catholic religious clothing store.
“They fired me because they caught me trying things on,” Tenuta said in a 1989 interview with the AP. “Then the boss came in, and I guess he got a little upset. And I said, ‘Well, I have to see if they look good, pig. I’m trying to make improvements for these girls.’ “
Tenuta joined Chicago’s Second City comedy troupe before beginning his solo career. Despite her extravagant clothes and strange appearance on stage, Tenuta said that most people immediately noticed her act, which included the self-centered religion of “Judism”.
“In my religion, I’m the only one who can complain. The really cool thing about my religion is that you can forget about your problems and think about mine for a while,” she said.
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Billy Eichner, ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic, Most Mourn Judy Tenuta’s Death
Several stars in the comedy community took to social media to mourn the loss of Tenuta, including “Bros” star Billy Eichner.
“I loved her. an originalEichner tweeted.
“RIP Judy TenutaMichael McKean wrote on Twitter. “One of a kind.”
“sweet and funny womanBobby Lee tweeted.
“Fly with the angels, fun girl!“ wrote “Too Close for Comfort” star Lydia Cornell. “The love and laughter will go on forever.”
“Judy Tenuta was one of the first comedians I met when I started doing stand-up comedy. We met the first time I went on stage.” Marsha Warfield tweeted. “#RestInPeace, Goddess of Love.”
“I can not believe he is gone” “Weird Al” Yankovic wrote on Twitter. “Earth has truly lost a goddess.”
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Collaboration: Edward Segarra, USA TODAY