Stand-up comedian Judy Tenuta, who starred in two “Weird” Al Yankovic videos and was unusual and frequently outspoken, passed away from ovarian cancer on October 6 in Studio City, California. The comedian was 72.
Tenuta passed away from ovarian cancer at her Los Angeles home while being attended by relatives, according to her spokesman Roger Neal.
Tenuta had been battling Stage 4 ovarian cancer for a few years while the rest of the globe battled with the Covid epidemic. She released “Kicking Cancer’s Ass” late last year; the video was fully recorded at home when she was in isolation and quarantine.
It became a source of encouragement for others and an unexpected rallying cry for individuals dealing with Covid in addition to cancer.
Tenuta was a Chicago suburb of Oak Park, Illinois, born to an Italian father, Caesar, and a Polish mother, Johanna. One of nine siblings, including six boys.
She was brought up in a Catholic household. Tenuta, who studied theatre at the University of Illinois at Chicago, was the first member of her family to complete college.
Tenuta was popular for her loud, gravelly voice, biting comedy, and accordion playing. Friends advised her to add an accordion to her act as she built her whimsical, witty persona, the “Love Goddess,” according to her biography.
The comedian went on a country tour in the years 1987 and 1988 alongside legendary comedians like George Carlin.
Tenuta was nominated along with Jerry Seinfeld for the title of best male comedy club performance in the 1988 “American Comedy Awards” TV special.
Tenuta was featured in the veteran song parodist’s music videos for “White & Nerdy” and “Headline News,” and she made appearances in a few episodes of the CBS Saturday morning series The Weird Al Show in 1997.
Attention Butt Pirates and Libertarians (1994) and In Goddess, We Trust (1995) earned Tenuta back-to-back Grammy nominations for Best Spoken Comedy Album.
Tenuta also had a career in theatre, acting in The Vagina Monologues and Menopause The Musical in Los Angeles and Chicago.
She gained support in the LGBTQ community as a vocal supporter of homosexual rights. From the beginning of her career, the comedian was extremely open about her opinions.
Tenuta often performed in homosexual bars and clubs in the Chicago area, participated in various gay pride festivals as a grand marshal and performer, and even underwent ordination as a minister to conduct same-sex marriages.
The veteran comedian picked up the instrument thanks to encouragement from her mother, a lover of accordionist Lawrence Welk.
The Hollywood Museum is now displaying Tenuta’s accordion, which she referred to as “an instrument of love and surrender.”
She was one of a group of female comics that helped live comedy become more popular in clubs around the country, such as the Comedy Store in Los Angeles.
Tenuta and this group of female comics were able to succeed in a traditionally male-dominated industry.
Many celebrities are expressing their grief after hearing the news of Judy’s death. The comedian was truly one of her kind.