SAN ANTONIO — When Rick Gutierrez is on a stage it’s like therapy. He can talk about whatever he likes and address his childhood trauma, while making people laugh. 

He recently hosted a show that highlights young Latino comics and opened the evening with some jokes. 

“I got diabetes in San Antonio, who saw that coming ... nombre,” Gutierrez said.

It excites him to talk about being a comic. He’s has his own Netflix special, has a strong friendship with Gabriel Iglesias and writes for many comedic projects. 

“I did it for 33 years and I’ve worked with some amazing comics, and til this day work with some amazing comics — write with them, collaborate with them. You see how giddy I’m getting,” Gutierrez said. “This is amazing, but that’s the thing about it, that is what taking chances is all about.” 

His first taste of traveling the world started on San Antonio’s Southside.

“I went to Harlandale High School. I actually dropped out, man. It’s one of the things in my life that helped me,” Gutierrez said. 

After he dropped out, he joined the Army when he was 16, where he was exposed to all walks of life. 

The field of comedy is dominated by white men, and Latinos only make up 15% of standup comedians according to Zippia. Gutierrez helped host the HA Comedy Festival, the largest Latinx comedy festival. The three-day event was held in San Antonio where the comedians performed in several venues in the downtown area — Jokesters Pub N Grub, St. Anthony Hotel and the Lila Crockell Theatre, where the festival's HBO Max special would be filmed. 

“They are hungry just like the way I was, and we don’t know if there’s going to be another George Lopez or Gabriel Iglesias 'cause they started here too in this specific show — 1997 was the first time,” Gutierrez said. 

Jeff Valdez is the mastermind behind the festival. He’s a writer, producer, director and owner of New Cadence Productions, which is 92% Latino. 

“Because when somebody sees somebody that reflects a story they can relate to, looks like them, fun family situation like theirs, they think, ‘If he can do it, I can do it,’” said Valdez. 

It’s the type of inclusion that didn’t really exist when Gutierrez was coming up. 

“I started out in Midwest. I remember when the first time I went to the Midwest, I was in South Bend, Indiana. I walked in and the guy looks up at me, and he was a white manager and he goes, ‘Hey man, if you’re going to do a bunch of Latino jokes, you better rethink that,’” Gutierrez recalled. 

Despite the times when his loved ones doubted him or when he bombed in front of 20,000 people Gutierrez made his dreams come true. Three decades and a patch of grey goatee hair later, Gutierrez is sharing that wisdom with the next generation of Latino comedians. 

“So, we don’t know who is coming out here, but have some pretty bad (expletive) funny guys here right now,” Gutierrez said.