Born in a Chicago suburb in 1949, Tenuta became the first in her family to graduate college after attending the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she majored in theater.
Her interest in comedy began when she took an improv comedy class at The Second City. She served as the opening act for many comedians throughout the 1970s. After earning her “Love Goddess” title by dressing up as the Virgin Mary and incorporating an accordion into her routine, she moved to New York City.
She went on to host an HBO comedy special and appeared in several TV ads, before moving to Los Angeles. With California as her home base, she embarked on national comedy tours over the years.