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  • Writer's pictureDana Piccoli

"Julia Scotti: Funny That Way" doc is a captivating look at the trans comic's life and career

You may be familiar with comedian Julia Scotti as a quarter-finalist on America's Got Talent, but that's only a small part of her incredible journey. The documentary, Julia Scotti: Funny That Way, directed by Susan Sandler, takes a deep dive into the life and decades-long career of the award-winning comedian who began transitioning in her late 40's. After a ten year hiatus during her transition, Scotti returned to comedy in 2011. Director Sandler spent five years researching and preparing for this documentary, and the result is a touching exploration of Scotti's life before and after her transition, and what it means to live out loud.

If you can think of any comedy club, Julia Scotti has probably rocked that room. From The Dolby Theater in Hollywood to The Gotham Comedy Club in NYC, she's brought her stylings to millions of people. Also a speaker and mentor to young comedians, she's a fierce and dynamic presence on and off stage. Now in her mid-sixties, she rocks a silver fringe hairstyle and flowy sweaters, the kind of warm (but cool and funny) grandma-figure we'd all love to have. But besides her work on the stage, there's a lot to learn about Scotti, which is presented in candid interviews with Scotti, her children, ex-wife, and friends. There are also some delightful animations sprinkled in, narrated by Scotti herself, and clips of comedy routines past and present.

Scotti tackles some deep wounds in this documentary, like the break-up of her relationship with her second wife, who was very supportive of Scotti's transition, to her estrangement and reconciliation with her two children from her first marriage, to her own inner struggles. In one scene, she and her son watch an old video of Scotti doing comedy pre-transition, where she makes fun of trans women and the audience laughs along (this is probably late 80s-early 90s). Julia's pain and disappointment in watching the bit are palpable. Experiencing Scotti work through her comedy, her sorrows and joys is captivating, and not surprising that the film already won Audience Choice at the Paley Center for Media DocPitch Competition.

Julia Scotti: Funny That Way is hitting the virtual festival circuit beginning this week, at Austin’s AGLIFF 2020 (All Genders, Lifestyles, and Identities Film Festival) August 6th-16th, and Geena Davis's Bentonville Film Festival August 10th-16th. Find out more, here.

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