Comedian Judy Tenuta, ‘The Love Goddess,’ Dies at Age 72

Everett Collection

The beloved “Aphrodite of the Accordion” and “The Love Goddess” Judy Tenuta died on Thursday in her home in Studio City, Calif. She died of ovarian cancer at age 72.

Tenuta was a guest star in many television shows and movies and she hosted the popular HBO special, Women Of The Night, which featured contemporaries Ellen DeGeneres, Rita Rudner, Martin Short, and Paula Poundstone.

Tenuta also appeared on Hollywood Squares, Celebrity Wife Swap, Who Wants to Date a Comedian?, and Match Game. She also appeared in a few “Weird Al” Yankovic videos.

Tenuta was named after Judy Garland, and her mother, who was a fan of Lawrence Welk, urged her to learn to play the accordion. Her comedy career started out with Chicago’s The Second City, and she opened for comics such as George Carlin. She was the first “Best Female Comedian” winner at the American Comedy Awards.

For her own stand-up routines, Tenuta began every show with her signature greeting, “Hi Pigs!” before diving into a bawdy, chaotic, and whimsical whirlwind of stories, impressions, and songs. Her performance had been called a “surreal lunacy” and she was known for her outrageous outfits, comprised of Aphrodite dresses, sequins, feather boots, and gauzy capes. A longtime ally of the LGBTQ+ community, Tenuta frequently performed at gay bars and clubs around Chicago starting early in her career and continued to perform at Gay Pride festivals and events across the country until her death.