Judy Tenuta, an unconventional often brash stand-up comic who guested on numerous TV shows and appeared in two “Weird” Al Yankovic videos, died October 6 of ovarian cancer in Studio City, CA. She was 72.
Known to fans as “The Love Goddess,” Tenuta’s stage act was delivered in a shrill, loud, sometimes gravelly voice and often included an accordion. Her style sometimes veered toward shock; one bit had an audience member near the stage open their mouth so she could drop her chewed gum in it.
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During her first solo stand-up performance, Tenuta shocked the audiences by dressing up as the Virgin Mary, and after being encouraged by her friends to incorporate an accordion into her routine, she began to develop the character into her iconic persona as the wisecracking “Love Goddess.” She regularly dressed in wild costumes made up of Aphrodite dresses, feather boots, egg bras, nippy cup necklace and gauzy capes, and used a variety of props.
Along with dozens of guest roles on TV and some movies, she hosted a popular HBO special that featured contemporaries Ellen DeGeneres, Rita Rudner, Martin Short and Paula Poundstone.
Born on November 7, 1949, in Oak Park, IL, Tenuta took an improv comedy class with the Chicago improv group The Second City and shortly after began opening for other comedians in Chicago throughout the ’70s.
She was an outspoken advocate for gay rights and has amassed a following in the LGBTQ community. During the early years of her career, Tenuta frequently performed at gay bars and clubs around Chicago, perform at and appeared as a grand marshal for numerous gay pride festivals and even became ordained as a minister to officiate same-sex marriages.
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