Sure, Ron Funches is an undeniably likable comedy teddy bear. But don’t get it twisted. “Oh, I’m sweet and nice. But don’t fuck with me.” Funches is having a great summer as his name is taking small strides toward household status, with his role on NBC’s new sitcom Undateable, the premiere of his Comedy Central Half Hour special, and being booked alongside a bunch of big names on Funny Or Die’s upcoming Oddball Fest tour. I talked with Funches about TV, balancing standup with acting, and how fatherhood fosters toughness.
Congratulations on Undateable. Did you do anything special for the premiere?
I was in San Diego at The American Comedy Company. I was onstage and then I went to work.
You haven’t had time to celebrate yet?
No, not really. There’s not really much to celebrate until I know if the show’s staying on the air. [Laughs]
You’re pushing the show pretty hard on Twitter, and you’re getting some flack from Todd Barry. Has anyone else give you crap for promoting too much?
No. [Laughs] Just cranky old Todd. Just him.
What’s been your experience working on the show so far?
It’s been really fun. Surprisingly, the thing for me was just how professional it was. From the catering to the grip, everything was super professional and with the mind of making the best show. I’ve talked to people who work on shows and say their editors check out or don’t even really care about it, but I can tell you for a fact that everyone that’s worked on this show cares about the show.
Did you know most of the cast before you went into production?
I knew Chris [D’Elia]. We worked together a few times and I was aware of Brent [Morin] and then met Rick [Glassman] through the show. We’re all actually too close. We hang out a lot. I’ve seen them all cry. There’s this group text between us that’s going on at all times, and [executive producer] Bill [Lawrence] hates it because he’s always waking up to like 20 texts of just me making fun of Brent.
Do you think that kind of camaraderie off camera helps you guys during filming?
Yeah, absolutely. I know that was a purpose of Bill’s. Shows don’t really get one or two full seasons to find their groove anymore. You have to get in the first few episodes or you’re done. So he wanted to make sure that the chemistry was already there. He wanted to hire people that already knew each other, and I think it was a great idea.
Are there any notable similarities or differences between your real life persona and your character Shelly?
There’s definitely a few similarities… easy-going, space cadet. So somewhat similar but separate because Shelly’s a little more naïve than I am. He’s more passionate about sports than I’ll ever be. [Laughs] But other than that we’re pretty similar.
You made the move a few years ago from Portland to Los Angeles. Was the plan to get into TV and film?
I don’t really have plans. I just try to push my abilities as far as they go. I was getting several auditions and failing at them miserably because I never did any acting but I really liked the process. I got the same thrill from going into auditions that I got from doing standup, so I was like, “I want to be good at this.” When I moved out, that’s pretty much been my main focus: standup and acting. Standup is like my first kid and acting is like my new kid that I didn’t know that I would love as much as my first one.
Continuing that metaphor, do you think that your first kid is in any way jealous or suffering because of the relationship with the new baby?
No, they’re like buddies. They love each other. I find that it’s actually the opposite. The better that I get at acting, the more my standup performances are getting better. I’m able to take some of those act-outs or facial movements that I learned from acting and use them in my standup to make my performances more enjoyable, I believe.
If you could define one moment or one period of your standup career as your big break, what would that be?
That’s a good question. The thing where I was like “I’m probably going to be okay at doing standup and I’m not going to just die in a closet somewhere” was when I got to do Conan. That was just a marker that says, “Hey, you’re okay enough.” Conan’s like the king to me. To get his stamp of approval is what motivated me to be like, “I can compete and be a national comedian.”
Your Comedy Central Half Hour special, where was that filmed?
Did you choose Boston?
That’s a Comedy Central decision.
How did you find the Boston crowd to be?
I liked them. I can see why they made that decision. It’s a town with a lot of colleges. I like that they’re intelligent but they also are like middle class party people who drink so you get the perfect mix of people who are smart but not too smart for the jokes and also not too drunk. They’re excited to be there, but they’re not heckling you, so it’s pretty cool.
What are some of the themes that you address in your half-hour special?
I think most of it is about my views on toughness and people who want to act tough or just the idea that sensitivity is not important. Those are pretty much the views I have on this: It’s okay to be sensitive, and it’s okay to be sweet and nice. You don’t have to be a tough guy, and I’ll never be a tough guy.
One of the things that I see the most when I’m reading a description of you or your comedy they will say lovable, sweet, adorable, huggable. Do you ever get sick of that characterization?
Yeah, totally. Adorable’s for babies. I’m a grown man that wants to have sex with people and nobody wants to have sex with a baby. I know I’ll always be adorable, there’s nothing I can do about that. But I’m also charming and smart and, in general, good at comedy. I’m a lot of different things. But I’m always going to be me. I’m playing video games as we speak. There’s nothing I can do about it.
Do you ever feel that you have to present toughness in a certain way just to overcome some of those stereotypes or being pigeonholed as a softer, adorable character?
Yeah, I mean, there’s a balance to it. I actually will sometimes, as a father who has to yell at his kid on occasion. I know how to take care of myself. I’m not a pushover. There’s a balance of being like, “Oh, I’m sweet and nice. But don’t fuck with me.” I’m not going to be taken advantage of but I’m also not here trying to take advantage of you. I’m just trying to chill.
As an actor, comedian, father, how do you find time to relax? What do you do to unwind?
I try to get massages once a month, that’s helpful with work and relaxing. Video games. Then I also like to go to Reseda and watch this thing called Pro Wrestling Guerrilla.
Anything we can look for in the near future?
You might see me in a small internet talk show on Funny or Die that we’re throwing together, and you might see me in a movie at the beginning of next year with Kevin Hart. Who knows?
Isaac Kozell is a writer and standup comic.