Rick Gutierrez on Childhood, Standup, and His Earliest Comedy Influences
Comedian Rick Gutierrez grew up in a full house, the fifth of six children. Fittingly, his comedy is largely focused on marriage, kids, and aging in an era of changing family values. The 54-year-old comic has been performing for nearly half of his life, but is just now getting the attention he deserves. This attention is mostly due to the release of his special I’m Not Mad, I’m Just a Parent now on Netflix and his appearances on Fuse’s Fluffy’s Food Adventures, hosted by longtime friend and colleague Gabriel Iglesias. I recently talked to Gutierrez, who opened up about his difficult childhood, his first exposure to comedy, and his love and appreciation for Gabriel Iglesias.
How are you doing, man?
I’m a little under the weather right now.
Sinuses and upper respiratory infection. The road…you just breathe everybody else’s air, whatever they’ve got to give you. I’m glad there’s no air herpes.
Have you been touring a lot?
I’ve been touring a ton on my own, man. My special has been doing really well and now I’m on Gabriel’s Fluffy Food Adventures, so it’s been a good year.
What kind of feedback have you been getting on the special?
Everything is so positive. People like what I have to say. I’m just talking about life. That’s what I do. My whole show is about my life compared to these young kids. They shouldn’t bitch and moan. They’ve got it easy. Like, what the hell is wrong with you man? All I’ve ever done for 26 years of being a comedian is take something that I know, relate it to the people, and hopefully they can see it. I’m 54 years old. I approach comedy as something I’m trying to get across to people as a lesson that I’ve learned. You can quote Gabriel on this: “I am not a comic. I am only a good reporter. I’m only telling you what happened to me in life.” That’s the best quote I’ve ever heard from a comic.
How did you and Gabriel end up working together?
We met at Latino Laugh Festival. We had mutual respect for each other in what we did. So we hooked up — not “hooked up” like that — and he gave me his number. About two weeks later I got separated from my wife and drove down to LA. I spent the next two and a half years on his couch. It was the best time I’ve ever had. I was very fortunate to meet somebody like him that I could actually call a friend.
Do you remember your first exposure to comedy?
I was 11 years old. My brother and six guys from the neighborhood were at this house. My friend had brought two albums, one was Richard Pryor and the other was George Carlin. They wanted to kick me out of the room, but my brother said “No, let him stay.” We had one tallboy for eight guys, a tallboy of Schlitz. As we listened to the album we passed around that beer. That’s when I had my eyes opened up to comedy. I thought, “I could do that.” I don’t know why, but even as a kid I thought I could do it. That’s what I wanted to be.
What was the rest of your childhood like?
I had a very rough life. My dad was a pharmaceutical junkie and an alcoholic. He could be very abusive. Believe it or not, I think a lot of comics are comedians because we are messed up people. After many years of abuse from my dad, one day I decided, “I’m going to quit school and join the Army.” That changed my life. I found out when I was in the military that I had dyslexia. That had held me back from a lot of school, as far as passing and doing well. When I got diagnosed for it in the military they were able to help me. Humor is what kept me going through most of my life — being a person who could make people laugh and smile, being the kid in the classroom who could make people laugh even though the teachers were pissed off. I ended up going into drama. That’s what I excelled in. I played in band, tuba and trombone. The creative stuff is where I excelled. With academics I wasn’t too good.
Then at what point did you start doing comedy?
I used to watch it on TV. I kept telling myself, “I could do that. I could do that.” And then one day I got onstage at this place called Fiasco’s in San Antonio. I went up there and was kind of funny. I did some Ronald Reagan impressions, some stupid little…I can’t even call them bits because I didn’t know what I was doing. But the host said, “You’re kind of funny, dude. Come back.” So I kept coming back. I was in my late 20s. At 31 is when I started taking it seriously. I became a house MC in San Antonio. It was fun. It was what I wanted to do. I was actually living a dream. I quit my job and went on the road.
Are you based out of San Antonio now?
Yes, I am. I bought a house here actually. I’ve lived here my whole life. I was gone two or three years and came back. I’ve had a good life. There have been ups and downs. Comedy has been tough sometimes. Don’t ever get into this business if you want to make money. I do it because I love it. I don’t know anything else. When I got divorced I quit comedy. Comedy is like a girlfriend — you have your wife and your girlfriend and they both want your time. One can’t win against the other. I was like, “I’m done with comedy. I’m going to get a career.” I was going to be a nurse. Then I met Gabriel again. He wanted me to come on tour. He was going to help me out because I was going through bit of a bad time. I love that dude, man.
Photo by Anthony Nunez.