She was known for her sarcastic humor, jokes full of bad words, raspy voice, and playing the accordion. She was one of the performers who made live comedy clubs like the Comedy Store in Los Angeles, Laff Stop in Houston, and Caroline’s in New York City popular.
Tenuta was in the independent movie “Sister Mary” with Bruce Vilanch. She also had small parts in “Gibsonburg” and “Material Girls,” which starred Hillary and Haley Duff. She has been on TV shows like “General Hospital,” “Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide,” and “Corey in the House.” She was a regular in Al Yankovic’s comedy shorts and music videos, and she also played small roles on “The Weird Al Show.”
Yankovic tweeted after hearing about her death, “Earth has really lost a goddess.”
She performed on stage in L.A. and Chicago in “The Vagina Monologues” and “Menopause the Musical.” She also had her own stand-up specials on Showtime, HBO, and Lifetime.
One of these HBO specials was “Women of the Night,” which Tenuta appeared in with Ellen DeGeneres, Paula Poundstone, and Rita Rudner in 1987. This was the first time people all over the country heard of her.
By the middle of the 1980s, Tenuta had become well-known thanks to a series of TV ads for MTV and Diet Dr. Pepper. He moved to Los Angeles, but he still went on national tours and stopped in Chicago.
Tenuta was a vocal supporter of gay rights. He often played at gay bars and clubs in Chicago and was the grand marshal at many gay pride festivals. She became a minister so she could marry people of the same gender.
She was born on November 7, 1949, in Oak Park, a suburb of Chicago. She became interested in comedy when she took a class with the improv group The Second City in Chicago. Soon after, she started opening for other comedians in Chicago during the 1970s.
Tenuta was known for her elaborate, campy, and boundary-pushing costumes and personas, which included “egg bras” and “nippy cup necklaces.” She was also known as “The Petite Flower,” “Fashion-Plate Saint,” “Queen of Candy-Pants,” “Princess of Panty Shields,” “Empress of Elvis Impersonators,” and the “Buffer of Foreheads.”
Tenuta was the first woman to win the American Comedy Award for the best female stand-up comedian. “Attention Butt-Pirates and Lesbetarians!” and “In Goddess, We Trust” were both nominated for a Grammy for best comedy album. “Full Frontal Tenudity” and “The Power of Judaism” are books that she wrote.
Tenuta’s life partner, Vern Pang, and her five brothers (Daniel, John, Steven, Thomas, and James) and sister, Barbara, are the only ones who still care about her. Hollywood Forever is where Tenuta will be laid to rest. Instead of flowers, people can give money to the Make a Wish Foundation, St. Jude Hospital, or the City of Hope.
In a previous version of this story, it was said that Tenuta was 65 years old when she died. She turned 72.
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