When Julia Scotti first revealed at age 50 she was trans to her then-wife, the comedic star thought she had lost everything: her family, her friends, and her career. Now at age 63 a new documentary, The Julia Scotti Story: Funny That Way, chronicles the comic’s journey from those dark times to her ultimately successful efforts to reconnect with family and the stage on her own terms.
For the first 50 years of her life, Scotti appeared to have everything going for her. She was married with children, and was performing comedy onstage alongside such comedic luminaries as Jerry Seinfeld, Paul Reiser, and Eddie Murphy, leaving audiences in fits of laughter with her caricatures of her loud, animated, overbearing father. But that changed when she began to live her life as authentically as she does now.
“Is it another woman?” Scotti told LGBT Nation her wife had originally asked after she disclosed her identity. Her wife later divorced her, her children abandoned her, and a successful career performing comedy seemed over. But she slowly staged a difficult but ultimately successful comeback, appearing on America’s Got Talent in 2016.
“It is NEVER an easy process whether you’re a public figure or not,” she told NJ 101.5 in 2015, noting the process involves “killing your old self and ending your old life. And with that comes the history you’ve built with friends and family. Some are very accepting, but most are not.”
The result, as she told LGBT Nation, was that she was able to cull “toxic people” in her life, leaving only “good friends and family.”
During her hiatus from the stage, Scotti became a middle school teacher where she learned that it was more frightening to stand in front of a class of sixth graders than to perform onstage for a live audience of nearly a thousand people. She recalls it as “the most frightening thing I’ve ever done.”
Her eventual return to the stage was predicated on two conditions: she had to be honest with herself and her audience, and she had to be fearless. She revealed that the experience has been “very rewarding” for her, and that she especially enjoy connecting with her audience as a trans woman.
“Whenever I start to talk about it to cisgender audiences, a little piece of me is going 'they get it, what I’m talking about. They’re not condemning me for being who I am. They understand,'” she explained. “That’s cool.”
The Julia Scotti Story: Funny That Way is currently screen in various film festivals.