Talking to Ron Funches About Standup, LA, and His First Sitcom Acting Gig

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It’s hard to find a more likeable person than comedian Ron Funches. Jolly with a soft-spoken sincerity about him, it is Funches’ optimism that makes him eccentric in the comedy world. He is the guy that other comics are actually happy for each time he gets something. He also has one of the top five best laughs in the universe — if you haven’t heard it, it’s a treat.

After leaving Portland for LA in search of more opportunity last year, Funches is achieving more and more success. He’ll appear in the upcoming Bill Lawrence sitcom, Undateable, and is fresh off of “the best week ever” at the Just For Laughs festival in Montreal where he opened for Dave Chappelle. I caught up with Ron to find out about his writing process, his sleeping habits, and his transition into acting.

What made you decide to become a comedian? 

I always wanted to do comedy. I started watching I love Lucy when I was about 6 years old and that was when I decided that I loved it. I thought it was something that you couldn’t do and then when I was about 22 years old, I had a son and he was diagnosed with autism. It kind of broke my brain a bit. I decided I really needed to do what I wanted to do and that’s when I started doing standup.

How long did it take you to get on stage after you decided?

Probably about a month. I had to research places to go up and scope it out for a little while before I actually got up the courage to get on stage.

Which comics have influenced you? Who are some of your favorite comics right now?

I was mostly influenced by comedians like Mitch Hedberg and Dave Chappelle — those are who I really loved when I was younger. People that I love right now, I’d say Tig Notaro, Todd Barry, Sarah Silverman, John Mulaney. I really like people that work hard with their words.

You moved from Portland to LA last year. How has it been for you? 

It’s been really good, it’s been a lot of fun and there’s a lot more opportunities. I just came from an audition, which is exciting. It’s a lot of fun to play in the big leagues with great comedians here every night, it’s inspiring.

What’s your writing process like?

It’s mostly me just listening to music and instrumentals in my room or listening to whatever is helpful at the moment. I just kind of jot down whatever thoughts are in my head. After that, it’s just a lot of editing on stage. Coming up with different ideas and premises and then boiling it down to a two-word or three-word saying and then making a joke out of it. Then I try it out, sometimes I’m right and a lot of times I’m wrong (laughs).

So you have structured time where you sit down every day? 

It’s structured in the fact that I try to do it every day, but not really at a set time. When I’m at my best, I do it when I get up in the morning after I work out. Sometimes I don’t work out and then I don’t do it until later in the evening, sometimes it’s at 2am.

What’s been your worst moment in comedy ever?

My worst moment in comedy was probably when I did a show at this little restaurant in Washington. It did not go well. I was getting heckled by these two people who made a few racist comments about watermelon and Oprah and the only thing I could say back was, “Well, that’s racist.” That’s probably the least fun I’ve ever had doing comedy.

That’s horrible. I hate those two people. 

Well, you asked!

I know, now I feel bad for asking. How do you usually handle a heckler? 

I handle it just like any conversation. I try to listen and respond appropriately to the situation. Some people just want attention and you have to know which ones to starve and which ones you can shut down by giving them a little bit. If they’re too drunk it’s not good. When I was younger and got heckled, I would do a lot of yelling right off the bat but that made it hard for me to go back into my normal jokes because I’m pretty relaxed. Now, I just try to stay relaxed and respond the best I can.

Can you take me through a day in the life of Ron Funches?

(laughs) I’m going to give you a day at my best instead of my worst because that’s my favorite. Actually, I’ll give you both.

Oh good, thank you.

At my best, my day consists of me waking up around 7:30 and then I go out and jump some rope and work out. If it’s a great day, I’ll have an audition to go to and then I’ll go do that. Then I’ll come back and I usually take a nap. Then I’ll go wake up and go do a show or two. I’ll stay up until about 2 or 3 just hanging out, relaxing, and doing what I do.

You don’t sleep a lot. 

No, I don’t sleep a lot. But, I mean I take a nap so I get some sleep there.

You’re right, I didn’t count that. 

Yeah, don’t count it, make me sound like a harder worker. And then on my worst days, I’ll kind of hang out all day, do a few shows, and then watch a lot of wrestling from the 90’s that I’ve already watched before. So that’s like not my best.

Congratulations on your new show, Undateable. Can you tell me a little bit about it?

Thank you. Chris D’Elia is the star of it. He was on that show, Whitney. You know who he is right? He’s really funny and I enjoy him. He plays the main guy, he’s got all the arrogance and charm that you expect him to have (laughs). And then let’s see, he has to get a new roommate and his new roommate is Justin, who is played by Brent Morin, also an excellent standup comedian. And then we have Matthew Wilkas and Rick Glassman, who are great. I play a really shy guy that can’t talk to girls which is something that I’ve had to deal with personally (laughs) so I understand that part. Danny (Chris D’Elia) tries to help us get more confidence with girls, but in turn, we also help him, it goes both ways. Bill Lawrence, is the executive producer, he made that show, Scrubs, and Cougar Town. 

Have you already started shooting? 

We start August 15th.

Was TV always a goal for you?

No, it wasn’t. With comedy I just wanted to make enough money doing it where I wouldn’t have to work any other job. Everything else has kind of just become icing. People started to become interested in me for acting and I didn’t have any type of background. I didn’t know how to do any of it, I didn’t do it in college or anything. It’s taken a lot of crash courses and acting classes and a great acting coach. It’s been a lot of hard work, but hopefully I’ll be ready for whatever opportunity comes my way.

Have you found acting to be difficult to pick up or has it been a natural transition?

I’ve found that my standup experience translates pretty well. As far as comedic acting goes, it’s easier for me to see and understand the punch line. I think of how I would approach it in real life in terms of acting and reacting. I really like it, I get a rush similar to the one I get from standup. I like acting a lot.

Do you think it will be difficult to balance shooting for the show and standup? 

I’m not too worried about it. I don’t go on the road all that much, I’ll probably just be doing a lot of spots around LA. Working in the day, and then going out and doing shows at night, it will be like I have a regular job!

Any good stories from Montreal last week that you feel like sharing?

Sure! I just had an overall wonderful time. It was the best week ever for me. I got to do a show with Dave Chappelle, which was really cool. I got to see my friends and they all did really well. There were a lot of comedians from Portland — Ian Karmel, Matt Braunger, Shane Torres — a lot of us that never expected to get to this festival, let alone the four of us all together at this festival. Then I got to kiss this beautiful French Canadian girl on a rooftop!