Judy Tenuta, a brazen stand-up comedian who jokingly referred to herself as the “Goddess of Love” and performed on stage with George Carlin during the 1980s Golden Age of Comedy, passed away on Thursday. She was 72.
According to publicist Roger Neal, Tenuta passed away on Thursday afternoon at home in Los Angeles with her family by her side. Ovarian cancer was the death’s cause.
It was always a “great time to be around her,” Neal remarked. “She was a very witty, amazing performer.”
Neal noted that although Tenuta had given her birthdate as November 7, 1956, she was actually born in 1949. She was a traditionalist who would never reveal her true age, but since she’s passed away, we may.
Her heart-shaped face and bouffant hair, which had a flower accent, gave off the appearance of sweetness and purity, but her harsh, gravelly voice and acerbic humor—which included expletives—quickly destroyed that impression.
She referred to the accordion she included in her act as “an instrument of love and submission.”
She was one of a generation of comics who helped live comedy become more popular in clubs around the country, such as the Comedy Store in Los Angeles, Laff Stop in Houston, and Caroline’s in New York City.
Tenuta and other women were able to succeed in a traditionally male-dominated industry.
In the 1987 HBO special “On Location: Women of the Night,” Tenuta co-starred with Ellen DeGeneres, Rita Rudner, and Paula Poundstone, and attracted widespread acclaim.