Maybe you’ve seen the now-viral video of Chicano icon George Lopez insulting up-and-coming comedian Ralph Barbosa. “Nobody knows who he is,” Lopez says before he advises fellow comedian Steve Treviño not to help others in the business but instead focus on himself.
It was a lot. Lopez was so, so wrong. The phrase “crabs in a bucket” dominated my feed, and it seemed like another one of those obnoxious stories of Latinos fighting amongst themselves instead of organizing together.
But then, because I’m an entertainment reporter, I dug a little deeper. The clip in question comes from Episode 97 of Lopez’s podcast OMG Hi! It is an unedited, over-two-hour-long slog.
I watched the whole thing and it is not an experience I would recommend. To parrot Lopez’s now-apologized-for insult, does anyone even know that OMG Hi! exists?
By the looks of the YouTube channel, the show’s doing okay, averaging between 15,000 and 50,000 views, with the occasional episode attracting more than 200,000. Still, I’d never heard of it, and I would imagine only George Lopez superfans and comedy heads were really tracking it.
From its very title, mocking a particularly feminine way of talking, OMG Hi! promises and delivers a lightly misogynistic take. In Episode 97, the three straight male comedians debate whether two young women who were previously on the show “suck cock” and mock gay sexual activities.
It was gross, and I wouldn’t watch or listen to it for fun. I do think words have power, and the words Lopez chooses to use in his podcast are making the world worse.
BUT words aren’t everything. Someone can use all of the pre-approved social justice jargon and still be a raging bigot. That’s why I’m always weary of white women with the phrase “intersectional feminist” in their social media bios. And folks who use the wrong language, whether accidentally or to provoke, can be still doing the work, on a journey to making themselves and our society more just.
I don’t know if George Lopez is going to get there. And I know he’s long been criticized for racist, sexist, and homophobic comedy. But watching all two hours of his unfunny podcast, I did note a few things.
The young women in question? Lopez is helping them with a project. When his co-host Gil Carrillo told the story of loving his son unconditionally before and after he came out of the closet, Lopez and Treviño supported him, saying in no uncertain terms that he’d done and continues to do the right thing.
Lopez may have told Treviño to not help others, but by the end of the episode, Lopez groused that “everybody that comes in here I say I’m gonna help.” And, indeed, Lopez was ready to make a call to get Treviño into a movie he auditioned for. Multiple times over the course of the show, Lopez encouraged Treviño to write and send him a treatment for a TV show. Lopez wants to help Treviño get that sitcom.
And Barbosa? Well, Lopez has reportedly apologized through a private phone call.
I’d also say, watching the whole damn thing, that Lopez appears to genuinely not know who Barbosa is. Remember, Lopez is a 61-year-old comedian taping a network show. He may host OMG Hi! in hopes of staying relevant in the comedy industry, but to me, his insult —which he repeated multiple times— was really just a poor reflection on himself. Lopez is out of touch, and his arrogance has him believing that what he doesn’t know, no one does.
He is wrong—about a lot of things. But don’t turn him into the poster boy (can you be a poster old guy?) for the famed and decried “crabs in a bucket” mentality. He’s clearly helping those coming up behind him now, even if he didn’t always before or doesn’t have the vocabulary to accurately discuss his actions.
Those failings mean I prefer my George Lopez as a TV dad rather than a real person or even a stand-up comedian. I think he benefits from the filter of a network sitcom, so I will go back to ignoring OMG Hi!
And I encourage you to do the same.
A writer and activist, Cristina Escobar is the co-founder of latinamedia.co, uplifting Latina and gender non-conforming Latinx perspectives in media. She’s a member of the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association and writes at the intersection of race, gender, and pop culture. Twitter: @cescobarandrade