LOS ANGELES, CA. (THECOUNT) — Judy Tenuta, a veteran stand-up comedian known as the “Goddess of Love,” has died. She was 65.
Tenuta was diagnosed with cancer during the height of the Covid pandemic, though a cause of death was not provided.
Tenuta, who toured with George Carlin in the 1980s, died Thursday afternoon at her home in Los Angeles surrounded by family members, according to publicist Roger Neal.
“She was a very funny, amazing performer,” Neal said, and it was always a “happy time to be around her.”
Tenuta gained national attention in 1987 with “Women of the Night,” a HBO special in which she starred with Ellen DeGeneres, Paula Poundstone, and Rita Rudner.
Her heart-shaped face, topped by bouffant hair with a flower accent, conveyed an impression of sweet innocence that was quickly shattered by her loud, gravelly delivery and acidic humor, expletives included. The accordion she made part of her act was “an instrument of love and submission,” as she fondly called it, according to huffpost.
Tenuta was among a generation of performers who drove the popularity of live comedy in clubs nationwide including the Comedy Store in Los Angeles, Laff Stop in Houston and Caroline’s in New York City. A typically male-dominated field found room for women, including Tenuta.
In 1988′s “American Comedy Awards” TV special, Tenuta was named best female comedy club performer opposite male winner Jerry Seinfeld. Other honorees that year for their club or screen work included Robin Williams, Lily Tomlin and Bette Midler.
“I would trade it in a minute, if I could just be a wife and mother,” wise cracked the gold lame-wrapped, gum-chewing Tenuta, who accepted her award from Carlin.