Stand-up Comedian and Accordion Player Judy Tenuta, Known as the “Love Goddess,” Passes Away at Age 72

David Smith
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Judy Tenuta

Judy Tenuta, a standup comic who became famous in the 1980s for performing her chaotic, offbeat humor while donning bizarre costumes, playing the accordion, and self-proclaiming as “The Love Goddess,” passed away on Thursday in Los Angeles. That meant she was 72 years old.

Roger Paul, her longtime manager, speculated that it was ovarian cancer.

According to her website’s biography, Ms. Tenuta made history as the first woman standup comic to win “Best Female Comedian” at the American Comedy Awards in 1988. Her comedic albums “Attention Butt-Pirates & Lesbetarians!” and “In Goddess We Trust” both earned her Emmy nominations.

According to her website’s list of credits, “Judy’s stand-up routine is accurately defined as crazy, mind-blowing comedy.” According to the article, “she recently became an ordained preacher and converts her audiences to her signature religion, ‘Judyism.'”

In 1987, the comedian starred in an HBO show called “Women of the Night” alongside Ellen DeGeneres, Rita Rudner, and Paula Poundstone, which catapulted them to national recognition. Tenuta, who dubbed herself “Aphrodite of the Accordion,” was a frequent guest on numerous talk shows, including “The View,” “Late Night With David Letterman,” “Larry King Live,” “Entertainment Tonight,” and “Comics Unleashed.”

The New York Times’ Stephen Holden hailed her as “one of the fastest growing women comics” in February 1988, putting her in the same league as Joan Rivers and Roseanne Barr.

Ms. Tenuta has provided the voices of several characters in adult animations such as “Space Ghost Coast to Coast,” “Duckman,” and “Johnny Bravo.”

Judy Tenuta was born to parents Johanna and Ceasar on November 7th, 1949, in Oak Park, Illinois. According to The Chicago Tribune, Ms. Tenuta was raised alongside seven brothers and a sister in a devoutly Catholic household.

Her partner of many years, Vern Pang, as well as her brothers and sister, all survive her.

She gushed to the press about her self-proclaimed love goddess status in the early Nineties. I’d order my brothers to “kiss my hands and kiss my feet,” and they’d obey. I had to clean their rooms, of course (how wonderful!).

Judy Tenuta

She rarely came out and said how old she was, claiming that doing so made her feel “limited.”

Ms. Tenuta told The Tribune, “When you’re a goddess, you’re forever.” In other words, I don’t want women to feel limited because of their age. They classify you as soon as they find out your chronological age.

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