Ron Funches is back and gigglier than ever.
“I feel like I’m a chef, and here’s me delivering a full course meal of exactly what I’m about,” the comedian, writer and actor says of his of first hour-long stand up special “Giggle Fit,” which premieres Jan. 4 on Comedy Central.
Know for his positive spin on comedy in past projects such as his 2015 album “The Funches of Us” and a half-hour Comedy Central special in 2014, Funches makes a point not to use complaining as a crutch in his sets, preferring instead to tell jokes about the things he loves.
“I do think about how someone would feel about it when they heard it,” he says of writing his jokes. “One of the biggest creeds in comedy is to do no harm.”
At a time when disgraced comedians like Louis CK are under heavy fire for leaning on bitter tirades instead of owning up to their mistakes, Funches hopes his positive-centric routine offers an alternative. “I think it just reached the point that people are getting fed up, and I’m lucky I’m here as kind of an oasis from that,” he says.
Funches is always laughing and smiling on-stage, but his soft and gentle demeanor is not all there is to him. In the last year, the comic has put himself through a dramatic transformation — he lost 140 pounds — and he’s got a newfound confidence to show for it.
“If you look at my half-hour stuff, it’s a lot of a guy standing still and looking down and not really being confident in himself,” he says of his earlier standup. “If you watch ‘Giggle Fit,’ I’m a lot more dance-y, I’m a lot more fun. I look people in the eyes.”
Pre-weight loss, Funches was often typecast into roles playing “a lot of really goofy big characters, or homeless, or [who were] there to be shocking,” he says. Now, his roles have the chance to be as diverse as the genres they inhabit. “I’ve made out with a lady in a movie!” he says gleefully. “I don’t think that would have happened before.”
For Funches, losing the weight wasn’t the turning point in his career where everything magically fell into place, though. He was doing just fine before, with a long list of credits including perhaps his best known role as the oddball Shelly on the comedy series “Undateable,” as well as roles in “Get Hard,” “Black-ish,” “New Girl,” “Transparent” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” He’s made numerous guest appearances doing standup on late night comedy programs including “Conan” and “The Late Late Show with James Corden,” written for “Kroll Show” and “The Eric Andre Show,” lent his voice to animated programs including “BoJack Horseman” and “Bob’s Burgers” and even appeared as a judge on “Nailed It” and a contestant on “Chopped.”
“When you’re trying to expand your audience, you can’t keep going to the same well,” Funches says of his widely marketed persona. “When I go into a show like ‘Nailed It’ or another cooking show, not only do comedy fans see it [but also] the moms of comedy fans see it. There’s so many people who know me who don’t even know I do standup.”
Funches wanted to be a stand up comedian since he was five years old, when his mother took him to see comedian Shuckey Duckey open up for Morris Day and the Time. “I just was like, ‘That looks like a lot of fun!’ And I fell in love with comedy,” he remembers.
It would be a while before Funches took the plunge for himself. First, Funches tried several “regular jobs,” one of which included twirling a Liberty Tax sign. It wasn’t until his son was diagnosed with autism that he decided to pursue his dream career.
“It really put a fire under me,” he says. “I was like, ‘I have to find something I can do for the rest of my life that can potentially give me enough money to provide for my son even after I’m gone, in case he can’t work.’”
And so, at the age of 23, he began the long and arduous process of perfecting sets. Some of his first shows were at a Chinese restaurant in Salem, Ore. called Lucky Fortune. “They would have Chinese food all day from 7 a.m. ‘til 9 p.m., and then they’d have a comedy show, and then it became the world’s worst rap club. It was just a horrible, horrible place where I could go up and bomb and learn,” he recalls.
Twelve years later, at the age of 35, he’s still at it. Now with his health in check, he can literally breathe easier. “I’ve gone from being someone who was, at a time when I did my previous stuff, really struggling,” he says, looking back on his arrival in Los Angeles and bringing his son home to live with him. “Everything has changed.”