The lovable, stoned teddy bear persona that comedian Ron Funches projects onstage is an extension of who he is in regular conversation over lunch at the Mess Hall in Los Feliz. His low-key delivery and absurdist observations on everyday life are refreshingly free of the cynicism that permeates much of today's comedy scene. One recent performance was highlighted by speculation about the wonderfully hilarious connotations of a neck tattoo that says “Screw Linda.” (“Either way, Linda could do better.”)
It's hard to believe that he experimented with being an excited, in-your-face comedian during his early days a decade ago in Portland, Ore., where he spent his teens and early '20s after growing up in Chicago.
“When I was hosting comedy nights up there, I would try to be the 'Who's drinking tonight!' guy,” Funches says. “But it was so fake. … I watched Tig Notaro perform up in Seattle, and to see her control this rowdy Bumbershoot crowd [at the Seattle festival] without raising her voice inspired me. I just needed to take some time to figure out how to do it myself.”
If the last few years are any indication, Funches is well on his way to figuring it out. Since moving to Los Angeles in 2012, guest slots on shows like New Girl and Kroll Show – along with appearances on Conan and his two wins on Chris Hardwick's comedy game show @midnight – have won over audiences. He also plays the likable, beer-drinking oddball Shelly on the new NBC dating sitcom Undateable, which premieres May 29.
Living in Glendale has also helped the 31-year-old performer become more confident in his persona, both onstage and off.
“The vibe of L.A. has relaxed me even more,” Funches says. “I've been engaging in vision boards and meditation. My stand-up's been getting more absurd. It's nice to be able to say something that's a little weird and you don't have five people immediately telling you to shut up.”
Amidst his regular routines, his love of comic books, video games and professional wrestling pokes through in his performances, his Twitter feed and online videos such as his “Guide to Black Cosplay.” (“Lando Calrissian … an easy look to pull off. Just borrow your grandmother's tablecloth, or rob a pimp.”) The genuineness of his love for nerd culture has endeared him to the same type of audiences that have embraced Hardwick and Patton Oswalt in recent years.
While some comedians in his situation might grow a bit of an ego, Funches says his 10-year-old son helps keep him grounded.
“He doesn't care at all,” Funches says. “The first time Conan O'Brien had me on, I was trying to show him that I was on TV. My son paused the DVR, and he put his butt against my face on the television. To him, I'm still a big nerd and not cool.”
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