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Comedian Judi Tenuta dies

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  • Beloved comedian Judi Tenuta dies.
  • She was known to fans as ‘The Aphrodite of the Accordion’.
  • She died from ovarian cancer.

Judi Tenuta dies. Fans knew the stand-up comedian as The Aphrodite of the Accordion. She was a victim of ovarian cancer and passed away at 72, her manager, Roger Ball told the New York Post.

Judy Tenuta was a daring comedian who unabashedly proclaimed herself the «Love Goddess» and toured with George Carlin as she built her career in the golden age of 1980s comedy. Tenuta died Thursday afternoon at her home in Los Angeles, surrounded by her family, publicist Roger Neal told The Associated Press. She died of ovarian cancer.

Judi Tenuta dies

Judi Tenuta dies
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«She was a very funny, amazing performer,» Neal said, and it was always a «happy time to be around her.» Tenuta claimed her birth date was Nov. 7, 1965, but she was born in 1949, Neal said. «She was old school, so she would never tell her real age, but now that she’s gone, we can tell her real age,» he added.

Her heart-shaped face, topped by a bouffant hairdo adorned with a flower conveyed an impression of sweet innocence that was quickly shattered by her strong, deep voice and acid humor, including swearing. The accordion that she made part of her act was “an instrument of love and submission”, as she affectionately called it.


mourning comedian
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Tenuta 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.

Devastated to learn of the passing of my dear, dear friend, the lovely Miss Judy Tenuta. Can’t believe she’s gone,» tweeted Weird Al Yankovic, who worked with her on her 1990s TV series and a 2006 music video. «Earth truly has lost a goddess.»


Judi Tenuta dies
Photo Twitter

Michael McKean of Spinal Tap fame tweeted: “One of a kind. Dammit.» 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 their work in the club or on screen included Robin Williams, Lily Tomlin and Bette Midler. “She would change it in a minute, if only she could be a wife and a mother,” joked Tenuta, wrapped in gold lamé and chewing gum as she accepted her award from Carlin. She was a frequent guest on late-night talk shows and game shows and with radio shock 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 in The Vagina Monologues in Los Angeles and Chicago.


mourning comedian
Photo Twitter

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.»

Tenuta grew up in the Chicago suburb of Maywood, attending Catholic schools that included one she called “St. Obnoxious and Bondage”. She said that she was the “little isolated flower” (Petite Flower became one of her stage nicknames) in a Catholic family that included six siblings. After graduating from college, she worked odd jobs that included wrapping meat and taking inventory at a Catholic religious clothing store.

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