The outrageous and quirky comedian Judy Tenuta is heading to the Laugh Factory Chicago on Sept. 6 with each patron's $20 admission going to Pride Films and Plays. The Grammy-nominated performer is releasing a new book, Judy Tenuta: Full Frontal Tenudity, as well as appearing in several movies.
She chatted with entertainment writer Jerry Nunn before the Illinois native returns to her roots.
Windy City Times: Hey, Judy.
Judy Tenuta: Hey, Jerry. You are calling from where? Give me all of your stats.
WCT: I am from Chicago.
Judy Tenuta: Yay, my hometown!
WCT: You are from Oak Park.
Judy Tenuta: [Chants] Oak Park will beat New Trier! We were the smallest family on my block. My parents had nine children. Across the street there were a dozen Catholics in their family. The whole block was Irish Catholic. Next door to us were the Newtons. They also had 11 kids.
WCT: No birth control in this neighborhood!
Judy Tenuta: I called them the Fig Newtons. They would always sing out their window, "Put on your Sunday clothes when you feel down." The Catholics did not like them singing at all hours.
WCT: Are you the youngest in your family?
Judy Tenuta: Of courseI am the youngest now.
WCT: So you were the Cindy Brady of the Tenuta bunch.
Judy Tenuta: Yes, I had a lot of jock brothers. That is how I learned that you have to love the Cubs, the Bears, the Bulls and the Hawks. My favorites, of course, were the winners: The Bulls. Don't be mad.
WCT: Don't worry. I am not a sports gay.
Judy Tenuta: It was just exciting when they won in the '90s. I had just done another special. I was out on Lincoln Avenue. I didn't really know what was going on because I was like you and didn't know about sports. People started lifting me up in the air like I was in Cirque du Soleil.
WCT: So how did you wind up living in L.A.?
Judy Tenuta: I went to New York after Chicago. I got my HBO specials and Diet Dr. Pepper commercials. I realized I needed to be on TV more. Now you could be anywhere, but at that time people moved out to L.A. Then I needed a scandal and to be in the Betty Ford Clinic. I needed a sex tape like Kim Kardashian. Honey, they are only putting people like that on shows.
WCT: Would you ever do a reality show?
Judy Tenuta: They won't let me because I am not an alcoholic or 700 pounds going on The Biggest Loser. I'm not saying I was sexually abusedokay, Roseanne!
WCT: Did you watch Roseanne's roast on Comedy Central?
Judy Tenuta: Oh, please. Are you kidding? I was watching the Olympics. But I did see Gilbert Gottfried's part. He was really funny calling her Rozilla!
WCT: I was looking at your new book, with dating tips in there.
Judy Tenuta: There are really three separate books. The first part is about living in Hollywood, where I learned that people are full of crap, really. They say things they don't mean like "we will have to do lunch," which means good luck getting a hold of me. "My divorce is almost final" means I am married and broke. "I love your work" means I just saw your sex tape.
I made myself a part of everything because I have to do a tribute to the goddess. I thought if people just thumb through this, it looks like a mini-musical. You can be illiterate and still love it because it is a coffee-table book. I'm not bragging but the photos are great, right?
WCT: They are fun.
Judy Tenuta: I have another section because my brothers said I eat like a stoner. We were at a Mexican restaurant in Chicago. It was so great, like in the meatpacking district. They have a dessert that is like fried ice cream.
WCT: Uncle Julio's Hacienda? I used to work there.
Judy Tenuta: Yeah, that was it. I was dipping the tortilla chips in the ice cream. So I write about snacks like that then I have love advice. I have things like never surrender your bod on the first date unless you are with Hugh Jackman or Ryan Reynolds. This goes for gay men, too, honey! Although I know my gay men and they love to put out on the first date. Don't lie to me, but they always do.
WCT: Sometimes, this is true.
Judy Tenuta: You know what I love about the gay community? They tend to stay friends after a break-up; the straights never do. I don't know if it was just me but it was hard to be friends with someone that betrays you. But they can always be part of my act!
WCT: You mentioned performing at [the private club] Man's Country in the book.
Judy Tenuta: Thank you for noticing. I used to drive in a blizzard to get 10 minutes on stage there. I even did the IML Mr. Leather celebration. They always have it around Memorial Day and that is why I love that holiday so much.
WCT: People come from all over the world for that.
Judy Tenuta: I saw a lawyer with chaps on and said, "Excuse me. I don't think you can wear that in court!"
WCT: I went to the Sister Mary movie opening to talk to you last time you were in town.
Judy Tenuta: Oh, I loved that. I had a great part in it.
WCT: The new movie, called Going Down in LA-LA Land, looks good.
Judy Tenuta: I got to play a real hardcore bitch like Cruella de Vil, except I didn't have the black-and-white hair.
WCT: But you had the attitude.
Judy Tenuta: Oh my God, it was so much fun. We filmed that almost two years ago. My shoot was all day long. I get the parts that Meryl Streep turns down!
WCT: I have to see her new movie.
Judy Tenuta: Hmm, boring, but they can't all be gold.
WCT: You are coming to the Laugh Factory for the whole weekend.
Judy Tenuta: I have so much history with that theater. I will never forget when it was a movie theater. I was scared out of my mind and saw Taxi Driver there. It was so bloody I could hardly watch.
WCT: It is now a comedy venue and they have revamped it.
Judy Tenuta: I can't wait to see it. I hurt my knee so, hopefully, I won't be a pirate limping around by then. I tore my meniscus and I don't even play basketball!
WCT: You will bring your accordion?
Judy Tenuta: Oh, yes. Everyone wants to kiss my accordion so there might be a privileged few that get to come up and kiss it.
Pucker up for Judy at the Laugh Factory, 3175 N. Broadway, with performances Sept. 6-9 beginning at 8 p.m. with a two-drink minimum. Visit www.laughfactory.com for ticket information.