For the Times
Judy Tenuta is the most famous person who has ever lived. And if you don’t believe it, just ask her.
And she’s even more.
“I am the Love Goddess and Princess of Panty Shields,” proclaims the wisecracking, accordion-wielding Petite Flower who excelled during the golden age of character comedy in the mid-1980s, and is sure to bring back lots of fond memories when she appears at The RRazz Room, at The Ramada in New Hope on Friday and Saturday, May 2 and 3.
An actress, comedian, author, producer and now even an ordained minister, Tenuta, 57, was born in Oak Park, Illinois. One of nine siblings, she said, “Throughout my whole childhood, I could never hear myself talk. It wasn’t until I got to high school that I realized I had a voice.”
It was also during those high school years that she also realized she could act.
“Performing started then, and it was really from not being heard at home. But I will tell you that I had fun with my siblings, and my parents, who, though strict, were great. It was not a terrible childhood at all.”
Originally planning on becoming an artist, when she went to the University of Illinois, she decided she’d rather pursue theater.
“I like art,” she volunteers, “but when you’re an artist you’re isolated. You can paint for hours and hours and never know if it’s something people will like — or buy.
“But when you do live comedy or theater, you get an instant reaction, which I prefer. So I soon realized I wanted to be out there in front of an audience.”
Hoping to become a performer, at the age of 20 she moved to New York and began the round of auditions.
“But they were horrible,” she said. “They were like cattle calls. And I didn’t want to wait in line for 70 hours just so I could end up in the back line of some chorus. I wanted to do my own show, and so that’s what I eventually did.”
Not only did she do it, but she became a strong presence on stage, television and film while accumulating a large fan base.
She appeared in The Vagina Monologues and Menopause the Musical, and has had her own stand-up comedy specials on Showtime, HBO and Lifetime. In fact, Tenuta was the first female stand-up comic to win “Best Female Comedian” at the American Comedy Awards, and is a two-time Grammy nominee for her comedy CDs.
Additionally, the self-described “Aphrodite of the Accordion” has appeared on General Hospital, Corey in the House, Material Girls and much, much more. She also produced and starred in her own film, Desperation Boulevard, about a former child star who stops at nothing to make a comeback.
“And guess what? I even started my own religion called Judyism. And as an ordained minister, I can even marry people, and sometimes at shows, I do. If somebody wants to get married, I’ll do it. If they want to be punished like the rest of us, it’s my pleasure to perform the ceremony.”
Now in show business for 33 years — “Which is strange since I’m only 35!” — Tenuta said she really enjoys when people come up to her to let her know how much they enjoy her and her shows.
“My goal is to bring joy to people. There are enough problems out there for people to deal with on a daily basis. I just want to make them happy,” she concludes. ••
For times and ticket information, call 1-888-596-1027.