An unabashed nerd with a love for video games, cartoons and even cosplay, comedian Ron Funches is just a great big kid at heart.
So it’s striking to find out the reason why the LaughFest headliner first got into standup. It wasn’t so he could avoid growing up. It was actually because he had to – and fast – when his son was diagnosed with autism.
“I was just working at dead-end jobs, but once I had my son I was like, ‘I better figure out a career,’” Funches said. “And standup was the only thing that I was willing to start at the bottom at. It was the only thing I felt I could see myself working hard at and doing for the rest of my life. So it was really because of my son being born that helped push me to get this started.”
Realizing that laughter really is the best medicine for life’s toughest challenges, he broke into the Portland comedy scene nearly a decade ago. There he developed his unique voice and contagious giggle, which he often describes as sounding “like an Asian princess.” With that, his super-chill onstage demeanor has paid off and earned him a loyal fan base.
“I figured out a long time ago when I was having some bad sets that no matter what I need to have a good time,” Funches said. “It’s infectious when people know I’m enjoying myself and I’m inviting them to have a better time than I am. I like doing standup and there’s nothing else I really like doing more. I think that shows.”
Now a single father living in Los Angeles, Funches said he was hesitant to discuss a topic as serious as autism in his act at first, but felt he had to if he wanted to keep his comedy genuine and honest.
“At some point I was like, ‘This is a big part of my life. And that’s what I talk about in my standup: My life,’” he said. “To avoid that would be avoiding a big part of what goes on in my day to day. I didn’t want to do that.”
Now Funches is perhaps most recognizable for his regular role as Shelly on the NBC series Undateable.
“He’s just a real cool guy who gets to be weird and have fun, which is very close to me,” Funches said about his sitcom character. “It’s not that difficult to play. I just think he’s a good character and a sweetheart and hopefully that’s part of me coming through.”
Born on the Southside of Chicago, Funches is familiar with the show’s Ferndale setting. He’s just not into Detroit sports as much as his character.
“Sometimes people assume that [I’m from Detroit], or they assume I really, really love every Michigan sports team,” he said. “I have a respect for the Lions because I’m a Bears fan and I love Barry Sanders. That’s about it.”
|Ron Funches at LaughFest — Sold out!
The Pyramid Scheme, 68 Commerce Ave. SW, Grand Rapids
March 11 & 12, shows at 7 p.m. & 9:30 p.m.
$25, 18+, laughfestgr.org, (616) 735-4242
In addition to his work on Undateable, Funches has also regularly appeared on Comedy Central’s panel game show @midnight, where he currently holds a tie-record for the most wins, as well episodes of Kroll Show, Portlandia, New Girl, Drunk History and Bob’s Burgers.
Last year he released his first full comedy album, The Funches of Us, and also made his major movie debut alongside Kevin Hart and Will Ferrell in the hit comedy Get Hard.
“It was fun to be a different character, especially from Shelly on Undateable and outside of my own standup, just to kind of be this tough gangsta,” Funches said. “[Some] people were like, ‘You were really scary,’ or, ‘At first I didn’t know it was you!’ And that made me really happy because that isn’t me – that really made me feel like I could act.”
Later this year, look for him to appear alongside Bruce Willis in the upcoming action-comedy Going Under.
“I play a transvestite prostitute. Her name’s Mocha and she’s a wonderful lady,” he said.
He’ll also have his voice featured in this year’s upcoming animated Trolls movie based on the popular wild-haired dolls.
“I get to run around and sing. I get to sing on a soundtrack,” he said. “That’s just real weird to be on a soundtrack with Gwen Stefani. I just giggle thinking about it. I love those types of movies and I love being able to do things that my son is into. It’s just awesome.”