Comedian Judy Tenuta, who built a widespread following on the stand-up circuit with her sometimes-bawdy act in which she adopted her persona of “The Love Goddess,” died Thursday at age 72.
Tenuta died Thursday at her home in Los Angeles from ovarian cancer, publicist Harlan Boll said.
An Illinois native, Tenuta performed with The Second City troupe in Chicago and began solidifying her act on comedy stages in that city in the late 1970s. She quickly became a stand-out performer, not only for her brash comedic wit but for her antics on stage, often playing an accordion as part of her act.
She raised eyebrows during an early performance when she dressed as the Virgin Mary on stage. When she began wielding her accordion, she developed her brash character of “The Love Goddess” and the “Aphrodite of the Accordion.”
Tenuta moved from Chicago to New York to Los Angeles in the 1980s, during which her stock grew on the comedy circuit — helping fuel the exploding popularity of comedy clubs during that era.
She gained particular attention in the late 1980s with an HBO special that also featured Rita Rudner, Ellen DeGeneres and Paula Poundstone. The following year, she was named best female stand-up comic at the American Comedy Awards.
During that same period, she toured the country with comedian George Carlin.
She has also lent her voice to animated shows over the years, including “Dr. Katz,” “Duckman” and “Space Ghost.” She also repeatedly collaborated with “Weird” Al Yankovic.
Tenuta was nominated for two Grammys in back-to-back years in the 1990s for her comedy albums.
She was also a longtime backer of gay rights, helping her build a large following in the LGBTQ community.