Judy Tenuta, the popular comedian who called herself “The Love Goddess” while playing the accordion, has died, her publicist confirms to ABC News. She died of ovarian cancer on Thursday afternoon in Studio City, CA. She was 72.
Tenuta, who got her start in Chicago comedy clubs, broke out nationally in 1987 thanks to the HBO special Women of the Night, which also starred Ellen DeGeneres, Paula Poundstone and Rita Rudner.
Between 1987 and 1988, the quirky Tenuta toured with George Carlin, won the inaugural “Best Comedy Club Stand-Up Comic – Female” honor at the American Comedy Awards and starred in a series of Diet Dr. Pepper commercials, which you can see on YouTube. Her over-the-top stage shows included outrageous outfits, her signature greeting “Hi, Pigs!” and sarcastic references to herself as “The Love Goddess,” and to her own religion, “Judyism.”
A gay icon, Tenuta was nominated for two Grammys, wrote two books, starred in stand-up specials on Showtime, HBO and Lifetime and appeared in TV shows and movies including General Hospital, Material Girls, Space Ghost Coast to Coast, Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist, The Weird Al Yankovic Show and many more.
Last year, Tenuta shared her health issues in a comedic viral video called Kicking Cancer’s A**.
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