There was a brief splash when this gimmicky accordion-packing *love goddess* and “petite flower” could rightly be considered the funniest woman alive. Judy Tenuta had catch phrases — “It could happen!” — and a pet name for her fans, “Hey PIGS.” She had a “Pope Song” and a few killer bits and a niche that was all hers, baby.
She co-hosted that NBC music videos show with Sonny Bono once, and Judy showed up as Cher and he stomped off the set. Hilarious. And I should add, she was a seriously funny interview. I caught up with her on tour, at her post-Sonny peak (He wanted to be taken seriously so’s he could run for Congress. She called him “That INFANT!”). The interview read funny — because I quoted her AT LENGTH — so funny that I used a clipping of it to get newspaper jobs for YEARS afterwards.
Yeah, this Pig owes Judy. Big.
Look at her interaction with the audience in this just-before-blowing-up MTV Golden Age performance. She had it. “Funny in her bones,” as the saying goes. Ellen DeGeneres was her contemporary and had a bigger upside and longer career. Judy? She burned like phosphorous, too hot and narrow in appeal to last. But damn. Helena Bonham Carter with Jersey accent and an accordion.
Cancer took her at 72, which is entirely too young.
RIP, Judy T.