Comedian Ralph Barbosa opens up on George Lopez’s insult and apology

Ralph Barbosa may not be a household name in stand-up comedy just yet. But in the last week or so, one thing has become clear: people are starting to know who the F…he is. The Dallas-based comedian’s years of grind are starting to pay off as he breaks into the national tour and returns to LA this week for a string of sold-out shows at Improv. Before that, he wore a suit and told jokes on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, and late last year made his HBO comedy debut in the third installment of the Latin stand-up series Entre Nos. Before that, his Don’t Tell Comedy Set had millions of views on YouTube. As a young comic novice, he was a 2019 winner of the Funniest Comic in Texas contest and a 2021 winner of the New York Latino Film Festival Stand Up contest.

One could argue that that would be enough to garner respect for the 26-year-old. But earlier this month, it was harsh comments from one of Latin comedy’s godfathers, George Lopez, that ironically took his notoriety to a new level.

In the controversial clip from an episode from February 6th from Lopez’s podcast “OMG Hi!” guest Steve Treviño discusses the importance of highlighting new Latinx comics and yells Barbosa. After Treviño verified his name, Lopez interjected, “No one knows who this mom is! Why do you keep mentioning his name?”

Although Barbosa may have dismissed it at the time, the clip sparked a wave of backlash against Lopez for insulting him. Soon after, Lopez apologized to Barbosa for his comments. Though Gen Z comics like Barbosa may have other avenues to success these days, one paradigm applies: There’s no such thing as bad press — or bad podcast comments. Continuing to take things with aplomb has only helped his career take off. Barbosa recently spoke to The Times about his early days in Dallas, the state of Latin comedy, and what actually annoyed him about the Lopez podcast episode. Note: It wasn’t Lopez.

When did you first realize your comedy career was starting to explode?

Around November my social media had grown quite a bit and I was starting to get more booked on the go. I also did a special with Entre Nos on HBO. It was taped last July, but there was a lot of promotion for it in November and we did a promotional event for it at the New York Comedy Festival. With the rise of Instagram and TikTok and all that other stuff, it was kind of overwhelming that it was all happening together. By December/January I was booking more gigs and I had also been accepted to do The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. It all happened so quickly. I went from the ground floor to the roof of the building. Just a few months earlier, I was still struggling to make ends meet by running from open mic to open mic.

Can you tell us a little bit about the scene in Dallas where you started?

Yeah there’s a handful of clubs there… we have the Addison Improv, the Hyenas clubs, there’s also Back Door Comedy, which is a little room that I started out in. Linda Stogner was the first person to give me stage time, all the comics in Dallas know Linda. It’s also a clean club, [meaning you can’t curse on stage] which I think has helped me to improve my writing. And now there’s the Plano House of Comedy, the Dallas Comedy Club, and a couple of independent shows. There is no shortage of stage time. It’s not like New York or LA where you can get up every night in front of some big names but you can definitely stay busy which is all I really needed.

How is it as a comic representing Dallas touring other big cities like LA?

When I first started traveling, I always worried that my jokes would not be translated. Having only performed in Dallas for a long time, I thought, “What if my stuff isn’t made for crowds outside of Texas or Dallas in general?” What I’ve found is that no matter where I go — it’s Milwaukee or Salt Lake City – tons of people can relate to my stuff, even if they don’t go through what I’m talking about, a lot of people have still felt what I’m feeling. I think when it comes to comedy in general, the more specific you are, the more relatable you are.

What do you currently think about the state of Latin comedy and the possibilities There for comics like yours that haven’t really been recognized until recently?

I think it was dope. Edvin [Licona] Entre Nos has shown many Latino comics. I think of the great Mexican comics of the time that said Mexicans don’t get their shine… But I think the way it is today, you don’t have to be a Mexican comedian anymore, you can be a comedian who is Mexican. I am very proud to be Mexican. But with Entre Nos they’re betting on more than just the Mexicans, they’re betting on Latinos in general, I love the unity and the diversity in it. I love people who are funny and can dress whatever color they are. First the white comedians took the spotlight, then the black comedians and then the Mexican comedians. There’s just so much more these days. Maybe it’s a little difficult for Hispanic comics, but I love that Latinos are helping Latinos and I love that I get to be a part of it.

You’ve definitely gotten a lot of support from Latin comics and fans alike on this subject, after the comments George Lopez made about you on his podcast about you not knowing who the hell you are. Not surprisingly, his comments helped her notoriety even more. And after the backlash, he even apologized. Can you talk about how it all went?

A lot of Hispanics were really angry at George Lopez for what he said. If the guest [Steve Treviño] When he mentioned my name on the podcast, he said, “Who even knows who that is? F— he! Don’t say his name!” And a lot of Hispanic fans were very disappointed in him, saying he doesn’t help other Latinos, he doesn’t help other Mexicans. But I don’t think he meant it personally and screwed up. I know he didn’t do it. I think it was very hot around the topic that they talked about on the podcast. Was it a bit much? Maybe, but he apologized. He was very nice and friendly to me personally. A few days later he called me and apologized privately.

I really appreciate that he did it privately. I think if he had made it public it would have been more for the people, not really for me. So I really appreciate that he called me and said, ‘Hey man, this is George. I just want to say that I apologize for what I said. It was a matter of the heat of the moment. I don’t mean to belittle you at all, you’re a talented guy, I’m just learning who you are and I don’t wish you any harm.” I accepted his apology and told him he did. You don’t have to and there is water under the bridge.

I joke a lot about my own culture, being Mexican and stuff like that. I think a lot of the fans who were disappointed in him were like, “Fuck George, we support Ralph!” They don’t even realize who I am in general. They only supported me because they saw me as an outsider. But what people don’t understand is that I didn’t take it that seriously because at the end of the day he’s a comedian and I’m a comedian, we talk crap together. As comedians, we’re the last people whose words should be taken so seriously. It was definitely overkill.

From comics I spoke to, it seemed like it had more to do with his track record of allegedly not supporting younger Latin American comics. Everyone has different opinions on this, but it seemed like something that’s been brewing for a while.

Whatever his reputation for not helping people, that may be the case, but I don’t think that was the case with this one. I’ve heard stories about how he wanted to be the only Latino comic on a show and other Latino comics don’t get jobs or whatever, but we’re so far apart generationally in this industry. But Steve Treviño could have said any name at that moment and it would have ended the same way.

It just so happens that your name has been mentioned and you are literally living the greatest moment of your career right now.

I didn’t even think about it right away and thought about it later, but if anything messed up about this podcast, it was Steve Treviño saying our generation of comics has it easier. He’s trying to say I had it easy, like I didn’t work that hard [the older comics] done for her career. That kind of bothered me when I look back on it. The George Lopez thing didn’t bother me at all, Steve Treviño said it was easier for the new guys – who said it was easy? Who said I don’t work?

Have you worked with Steve before?

I’ve never met him before in my life.

I think that was also the context that people missed in the clip, your name is mentioned and defended by a comic you don’t know…

He just texted me and said, “Wow, I had no idea this clip was going to explode like this… keep doing what you’re doing.” And I was like, “Thanks. man, that means a lot. Thanks for standing up for the new ones.” And then he copied the message and pasted it into the comments on my video [on Instagram]. And when he did that, I was like, ‘Ah, he’s lame, he’s just doing it so people can say, ‘Hey, thanks Steve, you’re a great guy.’ He’s lame as hell, he’s lamer than George Lopez in my book.

At the end of the day it’s a podcast, some guys shoot the shit. It’s just comics talking about other comics, we’re the last people whose words should be taken seriously. Our job is to just joke and shoot the shit. But as the saying goes: there is no such thing as bad publicity.

This is your second time in LA. Is there anything you’re looking forward to sharing with a new audience for the second time?

I look forward to LA because they were the shows that sold out the quickest – 10-12 shows sold out in one day. I look forward to going back and making headlines for a week. I’m a little nervous just because I’ve never been to a city where they show so much love. I just want to give them good shows, I hope to make them laugh a lot.

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