LOS ANGELES — Judy Tenuta, the gravelly voiced standup comedian who called herself the “Goddess of Love,” died Thursday of ovarian cancer. She was 72.
Tenuta died at her Los Angeles home surrounded by family members, publicist Roger Neal told The Associated Press. In an interview in April 2022, Tenuta revealed she had cancer. She had her last chemotherapy session in September 2021 and said her cancer was in remission.
“She was a very funny, amazing performer,” Neal said, and it was always a “happy time to be around her.”
Tenuta had claimed her birthdate as Nov. 7, 1956, but Neal said she was born in 1949.
“She was old school so she would never tell her real age but now that she’s gone we can tell her real age,” Neal added.
Tenuta’s raspy voice and accordion-playing antics established her as a top comedian during the 1980s. She toured with George Carlin as she established her career, according to the AP.
The comedian’s brash delivery, coupled with a heart-shaped face topped by a bouffant hairdo that had a flowery accent, gave her an innocent look. That was quickly dispelled by her acidic, loud delivery laced with expletives.
She called the accordion she used as a prop in her act “an instrument of love and submission,” the AP reported.
“Devastated to hear of the passing of my dear, dear friend, the lovely Miss Judy Tenuta. I can’t believe she’s gone,” tweeted Weird Al Yankovic, who worked with her on his 1990s television series and a 2006 music video. “Earth has truly lost a goddess.”
Tenuta was a large part of the 1980s live comedy group that excelled at standup and played clubs such as the Comedy Store in Los Angeles, Laff Stop in Houston and Caroline’s in New York City.
She gained national attention in 1987 in the HBO special “Women of the Night,” when she starred with Ellen DeGeneres, Paula Poundstone, and Rita Rudner.
The following year, Tenuta was named best female comedy club performer in the “American Comedy Awards” TV special, according to the AP.
“I would trade it in a minute, if I could just be a wife and mother,” Tenuta joked as she accepted her award from Carlin.
Tenuta also appeared in several films, including “Desperation Boulevard,” “Material Girl” and “Going Down in La-La Land.”
She co-starred with Bruce Vilanch in the independent film, “Sister Mary,” and had small roles in “Gibsonburg,” Variety reported. Her television work included appearances in “General Hospital,” “Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide” and “Corey in the House,” according to the entertainment news outlet.
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