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Interview: Comedian Judy Tenuta

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Although the title of Queen of Comedy is always up for grabs, Judy Tenuta has never fallen below that of Grand Duchess in her long career. The first time we saw her was in the mid-1980s in San Francisco and she's been going strong ever since, keeping her standup extremely topically focused and peppered with up-to-date musical numbers (see her take on Lady Gaga in the above video) armed with an accordion and a sharp wit. She'll be performing on Saturday night (8pm) at the Hollywood Improv on Melrose, one show only, and she's calling on all members of her cult/religion of Judyism to show up as well as possible converts.

Our wide-ranging conversation touched on pop culture, politics, and frustrations with packaging among many other items. Below is just an excerpt.

LAist: Hi Judy, do you mind if I record this so I can transcribe it later.

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Judy Tenuta: Please do but what's funny is I was talking to this guy last week and he misquoted something even though he was recording it [laughs].

LAist: Well, you switch around a word and you have a completely different meaning.

Judy Tenuta: I have this video on YouTube called "Hot Bra Cones," [see above] it's a take off of Lady Gaga, and this got turned into "Bra Hot Cones." But let's talk about our present shall we?

LAist: Yes, please!

Judy Tenuta: I'm very excited, I feel like more things are happening for this country, there are new job openings now.

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LAist: There are, tell me?

Judy Tenuta: There's going to be a lot more jobs because we have to protect our children - there's going to be sippy cup testers at Applebee's. I mean, how can you serve a toddler a sippy cup full of Martini? I don't get it. But that's one of the job openings, but I also heard that Donald Trump is running for President, what an idiot, right? He and Sarah Palin are going to run on the same ticket but she's going to run with the Tea Party and Trump is going to run with the Whig Party. What they would spend their entire campaign on is checking out each other's birth certificate.

LAist: He's ahead of the other Republicans by almost 10 points.

Judy Tenuta: What?! Well that's just all awareness from being on TV constantly. It's like JLo being named the most beautiful in the world - when we all know that's me. But she's on camera every 2 seconds, I realize she's beautiful but, excuse me, to qualify for the most beautiful woman in the world, you have to have your own hair. You can't have 20 weaves in your head while Ryan Seacrest is pointing at you! For example, when Elizabeth Taylor was the most beautiful world, which she was, she wasn't wearing 80 hair pieces.

LAist: Maybe not until the end.

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Judy Tenuta: Right, but when she was in her prime between the ages of 20 and 33, that was all her. But you've got to know what someone really looks like - when you are wearing enough makeup to be Ru Paul.

LAist: Between her and the Kardashians, you don't know what anybody looks like.

Judy Tenuta: Oh, the Kardashians, there can never be just one of them.

LAist: There always seems to be a bunch of them getting disgorged from a limousine to yet another stupid event.

Judy Tenuta: Oh god, they seem to be everywhere....[then the conversation turned to riding in a limousine with George Carlin on the way to doing a show] We were on our way to this show and George and I used to like doing these voices, there's no way I could imitate him, but we were doing these voices back and forth and his manager got angry with us and had the limousine pull over to give us a time out! Hey, you can't do that to us, we're the performers! This is how we get ready for the show!

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LAist: That's you guys doing your scales.

Judy Tenuta: Honey, oh my god, you said it the best - that is correct! People that don't understand performing think that you're always just "like that" and that you can just be "that" - you have to really get into it.

LAist: You guys have to warm up.

Judy Tenuta: That's what we need to do. This reminds me of things that we need. Even in this very modern age - women do need men. I've come to this conclusion. Not, by the way, for having children, because we could always get a turkey baster. No, we need men, I need a man, to open these impenetrable plastic packages that we have our shavers and everything else in. I can't open anything. I have to call my next door neighbor or my love pig over, and they have to get an axe to bash the thing open anyway.

LAist: It's for your safety.

Judy Tenuta: [Laughs] For my safety. It makes me mad though, I want to blow them up. This can't be for child safety, it's designed to make us nuts.

LAist: Tell us about the show you're doing.

Judy Tenuta: I'm doing a big show coming up, on April 23rd, and I will be at one of my original stomping grounds, the Hollywood Improv on Melrose. I'm doing one show only, it's going to be a big fat celebration. So I want all my love slaves and even the people that don't like me to come in, because I can convert anyone.

LAist: Convert them to your cult, what is it called?

Judy Tenuta: Ah yes, Judyism. I don't want to bring this up, our country is fighting 4 wars and we might not have a government. What I've noticed is that doesn't seem to affect ordinary Americans. If we were out there, nearer Saudi Arabia or even England. We'd be far more politically conscious. Everybody is anesthetized in the mall. I think that keeps people happily ignorant. It's like the news gets snuck in, in between the gossip. Do we need to know every 5 seconds that Catherine Zeta Jones is bipolar? Is that news? Isn't that the definition of a good actress? Being bipolar is what makes you a good actress, you know what I mean? Seriously, to be a great actress, and I think she's excellent, I think you have to go from 0 to 90 in 2 seconds.

LAist: Now we have a whole set of celebrities coming forward saying that they're bipolar too.

Judy Tenuta: Not only that, but they need to one-up her. Did you see that the Judds are saying that they've all been accosted as kids - by the way, write a song about it, isn't that what you do? I just find it suspect that after 80 years somebody saying "I think I just remembered somebody touched me."

LAist: They've hit a limit, they couldn't get their hair any bigger so they needed...

Judy Tenuta: They have to get attention this way, correct. Don't you find it suspect? They're all saying they were [molested], not just one, but all of them. I don't know, I'm just saying.

LAist: It seems to be too coincidental.

Judy Tenuta: Hey, before we go, can you tell people about my website?

LAist: Absolutely.

Judy Tenuta: Thanks so much for talking with me about my show.

Judy Tenuta performs Saturday night (8pm) at the Hollywood Improv on Melrose