Years ago, comedianJulia Scotti lived and performed as Rick Scotti, sharing stages with stars like Jerry Seinfeld and Chris Rock. Her return to the stage was part of an extraordinary journey, discovering herself as a trans woman, reuniting with her family after a long estrangement, and battling a life-threatening illness. A new documentary filmFunny That Way, directed bySusan Sandler and shot over five years, incorporates intimate footage from Sandler’s time with Scotti, as well as archival material and animations. Scotti and Sandler joined “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes via Zoom to take us through the making of the film, and through Scotti’s remarkable life in all its joy, pain, and humor.
Scotti on marriage:
“Kate is the most remarkable human being I’ve ever known in my life,” Scotti said. “She’s the love of my life. I still love her, and probably will ’til the day I die. She also is the person who, selflessly and lovingly, helped me discover that I was trans, when I didn’t know what the issue was.”
“The marriage was annulled, so I call it, ‘I was married two and a half times.’”
“Marriage, it’s not like the 1800s where we lived to be 30 and then died,” Scotti said. “You can get married at 20 and then be the widow by 30. So you’re going to be with somebody 40, 50, 60 years, you better be damn sure that you like this person.”
On pivoting to teaching:
“I love kids, and teaching and comedy are very similar. You have a captive audience in the kids, and you have a captive audience in a nightclub. The only difference is, hopefully the kids aren’t drunk, and the audience is.”
“No two days are the same in a classroom — there’s always multiple crises to deal with. I get to use all my creative juices, it keeps them flowing too … We make great teachers, comedians.”
On telling the Julia Scotti story:
“The journey of an indie doc is passion,” Sandler said. “There’s not a commissioned piece, this is not a production company standing around waiting for the film to be delivered — this is me, by myself, meeting Julia and feeling absolutely compelled to tell her story. And the compulsion was, I was fascinated by her as a performer, as an individual, as someone who had a very important story to tell.”
“That’s what documentary storytelling is — it’s a wonderful attraction to a subject that is absolutely compelling, but without a story map. The story map is what life gives us.”
Scotti’s final thought:
“I live by the words of Charlie Chaplin, who said, ‘to truly laugh, you must be able to take your pain and play with it.’”
Susan Sandler’s new documentary, “Julia Scotti: Funny That Way” is available now for streaming on iTunes, Amazon Prime, Google Play, DirectTV, and more.
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