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Judy Tenuta

"Petite flower, earth mother goddess, geisha girl, healer of hermaphrodites, and empress of Elvis impersonators" are all words this gum-spitting, male-bashing, and undeniably brilliant comedienne uses to describe herself. Ms. Judy Tenuta's comic stylings border on performance art; she never appears out of character when being interviewed. Tenuta's stage persona is as colorful as the garb she wears on stage (Goddess outfits) while attacking audience members in a fun and feminist fashion. Those two words could end up in the same sentence together? Who knew? During her act, Judy Tenuta can be seen mesmerizing the audience with her accordion and singing wacky songs while attempting to convert all to a religion of her own persuasion: "Judyism." She collects canned goods from the audience, as "offerings for the Goddess," and demands nothing less from her devotees/pigs/stud puppets than complete adoration. Her voice (one of her more notable features, if you make it past the prom dresses) is even comedic as she exaggerates her inflections ranging from sweet-sing-songy-sappy to sounding like a big brass band right outside your window at six a.m. This may be what accounts for such a clear-cut line between Judy Tenuta fans and non-fans. "Ya either love her or ya hate her." Raised in Oakdale, IL, this comic made her debut in comedy clubs across the country in the early '80s. One of her earliest televised performances can be seen in the Women of the Night special hosted by Martin Short, in which she performed with comediennes Paula Poundstone and Ellen Degeneres. In 1987, her first album, Buy This, Pigs! was released. That same year she made an appearance at the Comic Relief II fundraising special. She then became the first standup to ever win Best Female Comedienne at the American Comedy Awards. She has been seen on virtually every talk show in existence since then, including Late Night with David Letterman, The Joan Rivers Show, and The Donnie and Marie Show. In the late '80s and early '90s, Ms. Tenuta had her own one-hour comedy specials on HBO, Showtime, and Lifetime Television. Her acerbic stage persona proved a little too much for network television and Joan Rivers dubbing her "the funniest woman in the world" didn't seem to help. "Judyism" has never really made it into the mainstream (not that Tenuta necessarily wanted it to). This Goddess doesn't have her own sitcom, but she definitely has a cult following -- disciples, if you will. In 1994, she released Attention Butt Pirates and Lesbetarians, recorded live at the C.S.W. Gay Pride Festival, which cemented Judy Tenuta's icon status in the gay community. In 1995 her album In Goddess We Trust was nominated for a Grammy. Judy Tenuta was still traveling the nightclubs through the late '90s and branched out to include a film credit as a dominatrix in the movie Butch Camp to her repertoire. The Power of Judyism" was released in 1999. Despite the resistance she's encountered from the general public, she does pop up every now and again. She has been seen in a soft drink commercial and as a patient on Comedy Central's Dr. Katz. She sometimes acts as a correspondent for Entertainment Television and similar shows, and the last lucky interviewee of the century was the Reverend Jesse Jackson himself. ~ Sandy Lawson, Rovi
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