Over the course of my time writing for Pop Geeks, I’ve interviewed many talents who have ended up becoming friends of mine. I’ve saved their numbers to my contacts, and I always reach out a few times a year to say hello to them. It always hurts to lose one of them and, sadly, I now bid farewell to one of those friends, the Love Goddess, better known to all of us pigs as Judy Tenuta.
It’s difficult to recount how I first heard of Ms. Tenuta, but if I had to hazard a guess, it would probably be through “Weird” Al Yankovic’s work as the two of them were regular collaborators. Before I even knew Judy’s name, I could recall seeing her playing Lorena Bobbitt in the video for Yankovic’s song Headline News. Al had some funny lines about that story, and Judy, though her appearance was brief, embodied the comedy perfectly.
Many years later, I would see Judy Tenuta’s performance on the 1987 HBO comedy special Women Of The Night on YouTube. It was my first real exposure to her comedy, and I liked what I saw. She had a very unique style. From the fluctuations in her voice to her unique way of addressing, and interacting with, audience members, Ms. Tenuta struck me as a very cool and funny person.
I would later see that her 90s comedy album Attention Butt Pirates And Lesbetarians was on YouTube, and I would listen to it regularly. I was still a few years away from identifying as aromantic, but I admired how Judy truly exemplified being a Love Goddess by showing love to wide groups of people who didn’t always have that kind of love given to them. As my circle of friends includes many women and quite a few members of the LGBTQ community, I could see the impact Judy’s kindness had on them in reading the tributes to her on Facebook.
In 2017, I reached out to my friend, Harlan Boll, about setting up an interview with Judy Tenuta for Pop Geeks. He put us in touch in the early months of that year, and I did my first interview with Ms. Tenuta. It was one of my first times interviewing a comedian, so I was taken aback at first by Judy’s comedic answers to my questions, but I eventually came to understand where she was coming from, and we had a great first interview.
For all we covered in that first interview, there was just as much that we didn’t cover, so I reached out to Harlan again in 2019 about setting up a second interview with Ms. Tenuta. As much as I liked our first one, I think our second interview was better because I was more prepared in multiple ways this time out, and Judy could tell that. She remained as funny and cheerful, in her own unique way, as ever.
I would occasionally reach out to Judy via text in the years after our second interview to offer holiday greetings and wishes for a happy birthday, and it always cheered me up when she would text me back. It made me think of what an honor it is to count so many of my previous interview subjects among the friends in my life. That’s why I was devastated to hear the news of Judy’s cancer diagnosis in 2021.
I can recall seeing a video on her Facebook page announcing she had it, and as with so many of Ms. Tenuta’s fans and friends, I offered up the most positive and comforting words I could on her wall, and I offered them in texts as well. Judy kept up a brave and valiant fight, and she was still making funny videos and posts as recently as August. When the news of her passing came, it was shocking and sad.
Judy’s last post was in reference to Queen Elizabeth II’s passing, and in her own way, Judy was a queen as well. Her unique sense of humor was combined with a kind and compassionate heart, and though she is no longer with us, both of them will love on forever. While I will never again have the chance to send a text wishing her a happy birthday or a merry Christmas, I will always treasure the connection I developed with her.
Farewell, Judy Tenuta. I hope you’re having exciting new adventures in a land beyond our own.
It could happen!