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Interview: Judy Tenuta (2012)

“I was one of nine children in a Catholic family where we were not allowed to laugh in the living room,” Judy Tenuta says, explaining how she got into comedy, “we had to wait until Sunday Mass, when the priest asked for money!” She’s been doing comedy for decades, had stand-up specials on HBO, Showtime and Lifetime, and earned two Grammy nominations for her comedy albums. Audiences will recognize her from her appearances on Late Night with David Letterman, Larry King Live, Entertainment Tonight and Comics Unleashed. She’s also an ordained minister of her own signature religion “Judyism”. On Saturday, February 11, 2012, Judy Tenuta will be performing at Jon Lovitz Comedy Club to celebrate pre-Valentine’s Day with her “Put a Ring on It!” show. Showcasing her distinctive quick wit and political savvy, Tenuta entertained a few questions from Working Author.

When it comes to comedy, Judy Tenuta has probably seen it all – and then some. As a veteran stand-up comedian who’s been performing since before the Internet was so accessible, she’s able to see how technology has altered the comic landscape. “Now everyone thinks they’re a comedian because ‘How to be anything, including a stand-up’ is online,” she quips. “I’m addicted to Google, so I know everyone’s net worth, plus I’m my own dentist.”

While the Internet has borne a number of wannabe stand-up comics, it has also created an interesting challenge for comedians to write new material since it’s easy to search the web for exact jokes. Surprisingly, Tenuta avoids that trap. “I don’t check online,” she admits. “You’ll go crazy doing that. I just give everything my own spin.”

Tenuta has always distinguished herself from other comedians by her outrageous voices, acerbic wit and signature accordion. For shutting down hecklers she even claims to “make the pig come onstage and ride them around until they convert to ‘Judyism’!” Yet there are also universal trials, like incessant travel, that every stand-up comic faces, and Tenuta is no exception. “It’s the travel delays, and waiting on the tarmac while the pilot sobers up that take their toll. But once you hit the stage, an enthusiastic audience makes it all worthwhile.” When it comes to the TSA, however, Tenuta says, “Who doesn’t love a random pat down from a disgruntled security guard on steroids?” It’s hard to tell if she’s joking.

Fans and newcomers alike can see Tenuta online in a couple of excellently produced parody videos. In “Hot Bra Cones” she skewers the pop divas of Hollywood to the tune of Lady GaGa’s “Telephone”. The comedy is genuinely funny and it makes one wonder if Tenuta had ever considered producing her own Web series. “Of course,” she says, “but first I’d rather do my own movie, and if it doesn’t get distributed, I’ll break it up into webisodes.”

As a comic with strong Liberal values, Tenuta skewered the Right once politics entered the interview. “Who cares?” she asks, regarding who she’d want to see win the Republican primary. “None of them will beat Obama, the Terminator of Osama and Gaddafi. But it will most likely be Romney because he’s the most well-shroomed – oops, I mean groomed.” But when it comes to which candidate she’d like to see fall down some stairs, the answer is obvious. “Of course, Newt Gangrene.”

Regardless of which side of the political spectrum a person falls on, it seems obvious that comics shy away from telling jokes about President Obama. Tenuta bristles at the idea of feeling safe making fun of a white President. “First of all, we don’t ever want to feel safe, that’s why we do this. Instead of risking our lives by skydiving, we do it by going on stage. Second, no matter who wins, we’re going to make fun of him, but never as much as George W.”

With Rosanne Barr throwing her hat into the ring for Presidential candidacy – to which Tenuta asks, “Why not?! She’ll give those stuffy pigs a run for their money!” – there seems to be room for a stand-up comic in the White House. Could President Tenuta be in America’s future?

“Please, just let me get a TV series first, or at least a stay at Betty Ford Center.”

Make sure to catch Judy Tenuta’s “Put a Ring on It!” show at the Jon Lovitz Comedy Club on Saturday, February, 11, 2012.

Buy Tickets Now!

“Put a Ring on it!”, with The Love Goddess Judy Tenuta
8 PM Saturday, February 11th, 2012 AT THE JON LOVITZ COMEDY CLUB
1000 Universal Studios Blvd #222
Universal City, CA 91608