Dustin Ybarra is no stranger to fans of stand-up comedy in Dallas. He drew belly laughs for years at the Improv in Addison, where he became an alumnus of the Funnest Comic in Texas competition. So, many of those watching ABC on Feb. 6 will recognize Ybarra, who's a regular on Kevin (Probably) Saves the World, whose headliner is his buddy, Jason Ritter.
When it comes to Texas connections, Ritter has a big one. He's the son of the late John Ritter, a sitcom legend (Three's Company) and the grandson of country music icon Tex Ritter, who spent much of his childhood in Carthage, in the Piney Woods of East Texas. Carthage is home to the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame & the Tex Ritter Museum.
As for Ybarra, he moved around a lot as a kid. Born in San Antonio, he moved with his mom to New Braunfels, Austin, Daingerfield and, finally, Bedford. He graduated from Euless Trinity High School, where, he says, he was everyone's favorite target.
"I was always a nerd," Ybarra told me in 2010. "I loved Pokémon. I was a fat kid. I wore glasses. I had nothing going for me. I was just a weird kid."
As so often happens, Ybarra is now having the last laugh. He moved to New York almost a decade ago and is now making movies and starring in TV shows in Hollywood. His first film, Penelope Spheeris' Balls to the Wall (she also directed Wayne's World), came out in 2011. That same year, he appeared with Matt Damon in We Bought a Zoo.
After his open mike debut years ago at a now-shuttered coffeehouse, Ybarra graduated to working stand-up at least five nights a week until he was 21. Doing a guest gig for Bill Bellamy at the Improv "changed my life" and landed him in New York.
"I just try to be real," Ybarra says.
Plan Your Life
Jason Ritter and Dustin Ybarra will star in tonight's episode of Kevin (Probably) Saves the World, which airs at 9 p.m. Tuesdays on ABC (WFAA-TV, Channel 8).