On stage with George Carlin during the 1980s Golden Age of Comedy, brash stand-up comedian Judy Tenuta playfully referred to herself as the “Goddess of Love.” Tenuta passed away on Thursday. She was 72 years.
Tenuta died on Thursday in the late afternoon at her Los Angeles home, according to publicist Roger Neal. The death was caused by ovarian cancer.
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 described the accordion as “an instrument of love and submission” and said it was part of her performance.
She was a member of a generation of comedians who contributed to the rise in popularity of live comedy in clubs across the nation, including Caroline’s in New York City, the Laff Stop in Houston, and the Comedy Store in Los Angeles.
Tenuta and other female employees were successful in a field that has historically been controlled by men. Tenuta garnered considerable praise for her performance in the 1987 HBO special “On Location: Women of the Night” with Ellen DeGeneres, Rita Rudner, and Paula Poundstone.