If you’ve been following the Annual, and our special interviews of comedians and entertainers, then you are familiar with the usual format. I normally introduce the person I’ve spoken to in high esteem, with glory and majesty. The person I introduce to you now will be no different, and my hopes are that you will fall in love with him, or at least be inclined to find some of his stand up on Youtube. He has illuminated Portland with his mastery in comedy, and is now doing the same in Los Angeles. This man is delightful, and warm, and genuinely kind. He is…
(There are moments in the interview where I note that Ron is giggling or laughing, but in reality, he’s giggling all the time. As you’ll soon learn, he’s exceptionally positive.)
David Luna: What is your earliest memory?
Ron Funches: In life?
DL: Yes, in life.
RF: [Giggles.] Let’s see. I don’t know how old I was, but probably like four or five years old. I had a Rambo helicopter that I liked to play with, because it had a little thing that you could press and it would make the rotator spin. That’s the first thing I remember.
DL: Growing up, who or what made you laugh the most?
RF: Probably my sister and Sinbad.
DL: Can you recall your first time doing stand up?
RF: The first time was at Harvey’s Comedy Club in Portland, I did five minutes about man-boobs, and I wore lady’s pantyhose over my stomach, because I read that it was a thing that people with man-boobs would do. It was very not good, but I had fun, and I ate a lot.
DL: Do you have any memorable train wreck sets?
RF: Oh yeah, a bunch [giggles]. I did a show at a nightclub that used to be a bank. That was horrible, people yelling at you and cursing at you during the set. That’s probably the one I remember the most. And they also had a mechanical bull on the side of the stage that you were told not to talk about.
DL: Why weren’t you allowed to talk about it?
RF: Because I guess everybody wanted to talk about it, because it’s a weird thing to have while you’re trying to tell jokes.
DL: People familiar with your stand up know that you have a tendency to put a positive spin on things. Is it just your positive nature, or is it more deliberate than some might think?
RF: It’s both, probably. I think it’s just a natural way that I handle things. But I definitely go out of my way to write that way. I guess that’s just who I am. There’s a lot of comedians who are good at complaining about things, and I’ve never really been good at that. I think that the best things that I do are either ignoring negative things or trying to find a positive thing within them. And that’s just how I live my life in general.
DL: Do you think pain and struggle are necessary to create a good comedian?
RF: I think it’s important to create a good person. I don’t mean that everybody has to be depressed and struggling, but life naturally has its ups and downs, and so through those you usually come out a more well-rounded person. It’s important in a comedian and just a person in general.
DL: What has been your greatest struggle as a stand up?
RF: My greatest struggle is the fact that I don’t get to hang out with my son everyday. You kind of get into it because you’re like, “Oh, I’m never gonna have a boss and I can do whatever I want to do,” and then you find out quickly that if you want to make money out of it, that’s not the case. Learning to treat it like a job and sacrifice for it is the most difficult.
DL: What is the most rewarding aspect of what you do?
RF: When you know that you’ve made other people happy or when you change other people’s days. I’ve gotten a couple of emails from people—I had a lady in particular who emailed me and said that she saw me perform on a day that her son or daughter (I don’t remember) got diagnosed with autism, and it was one of the worst days in her life, and she saw me do comedy. My son has autism, and I talked about it, and she said that it really helped her out. Her saying that to me meant a lot to me.
I think bringing people joy is one of the most important things in the world.
DL: I think it’s what all people should strive to do, in one way or another.
DL: Is standup the only thing you’ve ever wanted to do, or did you have other aspirations at other points in your life?
RF: I’ve always wanted to work in entertainment. I wanted to be a rapper just because I liked rapping, or I wanted to be a professional wrestler for a while. Other than that, there wasn’t anything else I wanted to do. I’ve kinda had to admit to myself that this is what I want to do and then go for it.
DL: Do you have an interest in creating programs of your own—writing or directing your own projects—or do you see yourself as more of a performer?
RF: Yeah, I like both. I like writing, and I like performing. So I’m interested in creating things that I have some ideas for. But I’m mostly just trying to be patient because nobody really cares about what I want to do. It’s kind of just being patient and learning. Just because I want to write a movie doesn’t mean I necessarily know how to write one that would actually be good. So I’m just learning from other people who already do that, and then see if I can apply it later in life.
DL: How did you become
involved in Undateable?
RF: I just auditioned for it. My manager thought I would be a good fit for it, so he got me an audition, and then it took a couple more auditions, and things and all this other stuff, and then I got it. I hope it becomes a thing that people watch. Either way I’m happy that I got the opportunity to be in it.
I love it. I love all the guys on it.
DL: Do you know when it premieres?
RF: No, it’s going to be a replacement. It’s basically, when another show falls off, we’ll come in and replace it. So probably early next year.
DL: What has been your proudest accomplishment in your career thus far?
RF: Personally, doing a voice for Bob’s Burger’s is the coolest thing that I can think of.
DL: Seems like this is just the beginning for a lot of people. It’s been one of the most productive years. I think people have just been more active now that the world hasn’t been destroyed in some apocalyptic prophecy.
RF: It is a special year. It’s been a year of a lot of good for a lot of people.
DL: What do you hope people get out of your performances other than laughs, if there’s anything more that you’re projecting?
RF: Just being nice. Niceness. Mostly, I just want people to relax and be nice and maybe think about things a little bit. There’s a lot of easy comedy that goes for the quick homophobia, or sexism, or racism. I have a little bit of all types of topics in my comedy, but I just try to make sure I don’t do that type of stuff.
DL: Have you ever been called a Buddha or a bodhisattva before? That’s sort of the impression I get from you.
RF: [Laughs.] On occasion. Very rarely. People just tend to say that they like being around me, and that my positivity definitely makes them more positive in their life, and if I can do that, I appreciate that, and that makes me happy.
DL: Do you have a religious background? And just to be blunt, what do you believe?
RF: [More laughs.] I grew up in a Catholic school. I wouldn’t necessarily say that I’m Catholic in any way. Mostly I just believe in what I said, being nice to people. To treat people how you want them to treat you. It’s all basic stuff. I believe basically what Mr. Rogers taught me, mostly. That’s about it.
DL: That’s a good way to live. What would you hope happens after you die?
RF: What do I hope happens after I die?
RF: Um . . . I don’t know. I think that’s part of the fun of it. Not knowing is a big part of it. Honestly, I’m excited to find out, but I hope that I don’t find out for a long, long time.
DL: If you had one day to live, what would you do with it?
RF: I’d probably just play a bunch of videogames with my son
DL: That’s very touching. After you die, what do you want to be remembered for, and what do you hope to leave behind?
RF: I would like it if people just were like, “Huh. Maybe he was one of the greatest comedians of all time. But I’m not saying he was or not. I’m not saying he is, but maybe he was.” You know when people talk like that, they’re not like, “He was all that,” but, “Huh. When I think about it, this guy was really good at comedy and just a great guy and did a lot of really good stuff. Maybe he was one of the best.” I would love that. That would be the best. That would make me happy.
DL: If you could shape shift into any animal, what would you shape shift into?
RF: Do I have to stay that animal, or can I go back?
DL: Yeah, you can switch back and forth.
RF: I think it would be fun to be a panda bear.
DL: Have you ever had any experiences with psychedelics?
RF: Yeah! I know a lot of comedians do as well. Some of the best times in my life have been together with the comics, and we go out to the middle of the woods and do the mushrooms. I think that it really helped change my perspective on a lot of things. It made me a little more calm and relaxed about life. I often feel like I’m just this rat in a big maze, and then when I take mushrooms I can see above the maze to where the goal is. And then I can tell myself that it’s gonna be okay. Does that make sense or is that crazy?
DL: That makes sense. I mean, I’ve had similar experiences. It seems like more and more people are open to that sort of thing.
RF: Well, I think that goes hand in hand with what we were talking about with the world in general moving in a rapid pace towards more positive things in life. I think it’s just that time in life, and hopefully more and more people are getting their lights turned on, you know?
DL: Yeah. The thing that matters most is our relationships with people and the things that make you feel fulfilled, less so the materialistic sort of things.
RF: Absolutely. Chasing the pursuit of happiness.
I remember the stuff that you have to work through when you’re first starting comedy. Just an older way of thinking, people like my parents would be like “You don’t do what you want to do. You do what you have to do, and then you can do comedy on the weekends.” And I was just like, “No!” I’d rather die poor doing comedy than going to a place knowing that my soul is aching to get out of there. That’s why so many people have to take anti-depressants. It’s not them, it’s your body being like, “You’re in the wrong position. You’re not where you’re supposed to be.” And then you try to ignore it and you gotta shove pills down your throat. I don’t want to say that people don’t need those things, but I feel like a lot of it is definitely a misdiagnosis, and that you should probably just quit your job.
DL: Who are your friends over there? Have you made any comic friends in L.A.?
RF: I have a lot of older friends from Portland that moved here that I hang out with. As far as newer comedy friends, I’d say like Pete Holmes. I like that guy a lot. We hang out on occasion. Kumail Nanjiani. He’s a great guy. We play a lot of videogames together. That’s why we’re buddies. We play a lot of Mortal Kombat together. Other than that, just my regular old Portland friends.
DL: Make new friends, keep the old.
RF: One’s silver, one’s gold!
Undateable is expected to air midseason on NBC this 2013-2014 American television season. You can keep up with Ron’s performance schedule on his website, ronfunches.com, and follow him @RonFunches.
Illustrations: Buddy Purucker, Kevin Cole, David Luna