Stand-up comedian Judy Tenuta died on Thursday from ovarian cancer in Los Angeles. She was 72. Tenura was known to her fans as "The Love Goddess" and "Aphrodite of the Accordion." She made guest appearances in dozens of shows and appeared in two music videos with Weird Al Yankovic.
Tenuta was born in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park on Nov. 7, 1949. While studying theater at the University of Illinois in Chicago, she developed an interest in comedy when she took an improv comedy class with The Second City. She soon started opening for other comedians in Chicago and became a star in the city's comedy scene. She started developing the "Love Goddess" character and moved to New York City to build on her growing profile. In the late 1980s, she moved to Los Angeles, where she helped fuel the popularity of live comedy. Her appearance on the 1987 HBO special Women of the Night with Ellen DeGeneres, Rita Rudner, and Paula Poundstone helped Tenuta gain national fame.
Devastated to hear of the passing of my dear, dear friend, the lovely Miss Judy Tenuta. I can’t believe she’s gone. Earth has truly lost a goddess. pic.twitter.com/TiRuWTARiB— Al Yankovic (@alyankovic) October 6, 2022
The comedian was known for her boundary-pushing style, complete with elaborate costumes and an accordion. Her acts included characters like "The Petite Flower," "Fashion-Plate Saint," "Queen of Candy-Pants," "Princess of Panty Shields," "Empress of Elvis Impersonators," and "Buffer of Foreheads," notes Variety. She also became one of the first women to be named Best Female Comedian at the American Comedy Awards. She also scored Grammy nominations for her albums Attention Butt-Pirates and Lesbetarians! and In Goddess We Trust. She also appeared in stage productions of The Vagina Monologues and Menopause the Musical.
Tenuta's unique voice also drew her to voice-acting roles. She voiced characters on Johnny Bravo, Mighty Magiswords, Space Ghost Coast to Coast, Duckman: Private Dick/Family Man, and Nightmare Ned. She also worked with Bruce Vilanch on Sister Mary and Hillary Duff in Material Girls. She made regular appearances on The Weird Al Show in 1997 and appeared in Yankovic's "White & Nerdy" and "Headline News" music videos.
Tenuta was also an outspoken supporter of gay rights. She performed at gay bars in Chicago during her early career and continued making appearances at Gay Pride events throughout the country. She was ordained as a minister just to officiate same-sex marriages.
The comedian is survived by her partner, Vern Pang, five brothers, and sister Barbara. She will be buried at the Hollywood Forever cemetery. In lieu of flowers, fans can make donations to the Make a Wish Foundation, St. Jude Hospital, or City of Hope in her memory.