Even though Ron Funches is one of the most exciting and refreshingly original comedians working today, it’s quite possible (if not probable) that the charismatic comic has gone undetected on the collective radar of those who aren’t avid stand-up fans. Though his name alone might not resonate with everyone, it’s safe to assume you’ve seen him, heard him, and laughed at him at some point.
His résumé is bursting with television credits (Undatable, Powerless, Drunk History), film roles (Get Hard), voiceover work (Trolls, Bob’s Burgers, BoJack Horseman, Adventure Time, Home), late night appearances (every show), but Funches still considers himself to be a comedian first and foremost. Before he drops by Turner Hall on Thursday, August 10 as part of his “Funch-a-Mania” tour, Funches spoke to Milwaukee Record about the end of @midnight (which he’s won more than 20 times), his new hour of material, why he loves voiceover work, his time writing for Kroll Show and The Eric Andre Show, and what to expect from his new animated show that stars Kesha.
Milwaukee Record: Before we get into you, I feel this is a week where we should acknowledge @midnight. I think it’s ending on Friday. You’ve won on that show more than 20 times and appeared around 30, if I’m not wrong.
Ron Funches: I think so—about 30, 32 times. Somewhere around there. That’s a pretty good average [of wins to appearances].
MR: What has that show meant in your life, and in terms of increasing audiences’ awareness of your comedy?
RF: It’s been a big deal. As far as things I’ve worked on, it’s the thing people know me the most from. It allows people to get to know me and my sense of humor without me needing to run through a bunch of material. And being on TV over 30 times is a big deal. It gives people a chance to know me little by little by little and see more of my personality. So it’s been great for me, and great for a lot of my friends as well. It’s been great for a lot of comedians.
MR: Yeah, I feel @midnight shows the genuine side of a comedian, whereas if you go on stage, audiences see the polished version of your material. You’re reacting on the spot on the show, and I think it invites the audience to get to know you.
RF: Yeah, you get to play around with a lot of your friends. It’s a lot of fun to interact with each other and joke around with each other, and Chris [Hardwick] was just the best at setting people up, being a great host, and making people look good.
MR: In looking back at all those appearances, are there any episodes that you look back on with love or any that really stand out to you?
RF: Absolutely. The Mother’s Day one where I got to go on the show with my mom. I got to be on TV with my mom, and she was very funny, and she got to see me work and put jokes together. She got to see behind the scenes more than she ever had and I think it gave her a lot more respect for what I do. I really enjoyed that and I’m glad we’ll forever have something with us on TV together.
MR: On that subject of your mom and your roots, you were born in Illinois. I know you moved [to Oregon] when you were 12 or 13, but before you moved, you were right by Milwaukee. I’m wondering if you ever visited or what your opinion or awareness of Milwaukee is.
RF: I’ve been to Milwaukee just a couple of times. It always just seems like a huge bar-y area where people like to drink and have a good time. I’ve been there a couple times as an adult to do comedy, but this will be my first time, you know, doing my own show there. I’m excited and I hope people will come out.
MR: Yeah, and this is your first real large-scale tour—the Funch-a-Mania tour—that you’ve been doing since June. Has the experience of playing to larger audiences and in larger rooms than you had before altered your material or your approach at all?
RF: Nope, not really. I just kind of do what I do. If anything, I just kind of take more time and go slower. It’s more fun. Now, a lot of the people are there to see me, so it’s been a little more stressful trying to sell tickets, making sure everything is set up, and being more in charge of everything, but it’s way more fun to travel with my friend and have him open for me and know the type of comedy that’s going to open the show is the type of comedy I enjoy. That’s not always the case when you do clubs. It’s just a lot more fun. It’s real chill. I like it.
MR: And once the tour ends, what’s your plans for this new hour? Are you going to have it be a Netflix special, I mean something like that, or another album?
RF: That’s what I’m hoping. I’m trying to sharpen it up and showcase it to people to see who’s interested, whether it be Netflix or whoever. I’ll go with whoever believes in me, really. Then I’ll be ready to move on [to new material] because you always want it be better than what you were doing before. I already feel like this hour is better than my album. But I’m already wanting to move to new topics and to a more personal level, so I’m getting ready to move on, but either way, you got to catalog it, so we’ll see what happens.
MR: You’re involved in a lot of projects off stage as well. I recently read you’re going to be voicing a character in an animated series on Fuse called Highly Gifted. Apparently Drake Bell and Kesha are on the show?
RF: Kesha’s in the show!
MR: I know that animated series will oftentimes do remote recordings apart from other cast members, but have you had any interactions with her yet?
RF: Nope, not with Kesha. I wish! She’s partially the reason I took the job, but Josh and I have hung out a couple times together. He’s a real cool guy, but I’m hoping to hang out with Kesha more in the future.
MR: If I’m not mistaken, you voice the role of “Jerry” who is described as a nerd who quotes Monty Python.
RF: Yeah, basically a comedy nerd. I’m basically playing myself, really. It’s not that hard of a job. It’s really easy and then they give me a check. I really like it.
MR: You’ve had lots of other voiceover work on shows like Bob’s Burgers, BoJack Horseman, Adventure Time, and the Trolls movie. How does your approach differ from when you’re on stage to when you’re on screen or when you’re doing voiceover work?
RF: Just different energy levels. Stand-up is the most fun, but it pays the least, so you have to find ways to supplement it unless you’re a big-name star. I love acting because it’s also very fun and, so far for me, it pays the most. But it’s also the one where you have to get the most approval. You have to audition. You don’t have to ask people to do stand-up. Voiceover is somewhere in the middle. You have to audition, but it’s lower pressure. I can just go in and record in my pajamas if I want to, then pretend to be a big kid and use the voice people always made fun of me for as a child to make money. So I love it!
I just like doing anything that’s entertaining, especially if it’s something my son can watch and something that can appeal to new fans that will hopefully be with me years later. Sometimes after shows I have people come up to me and say “I love your stand-up and my kids love you in Trolls.” That’s my favorite thing.
MR: One behind the scenes thing that maybe only I care about…you wrote on season three of The Eric Andre Show. It’s kind of surprising for a show as wild as that to have a full writing staff. How does that writer’s room compare to others you’ve worked in?
RF: It’s definitely different. With shows, usually you pitch ideas, refine those ideas, then go off and write sketches. Eric would just keep taking ideas and wouldn’t refine them until way later. My favorite days were when we’d think of ideas for set destruction, just spending all day thinking of ways for him to destroy the set. Any crazy, dumb idea we’d come up with, he’d run it. It was a really fun job, and he was the best at bringing in the best of comedic minds to come in for a day or two and just pitch ideas.
MR: Did any of your pitches really take off? Like, are you responsible for Bird Up! or something?
RF: No, I’m definitely didn’t have anything to do with Bird Up! My things with The Eric Andre Show were like “You should get Action Bronson on the show” and “You should get Curren$y on the show”—things that weren’t just destroying the set. My sensibilities are a lot different than his, which I think he liked because I would come in and give him pitches for things he wouldn’t be pitched normally.
The thing I’m actually most proud of is my work on the Kroll Show, where I wrote a lot of things for C-Czar, like the Dad Academy sketches and stuff for that character.
MR: Oh yeah! You played, like, his therapist, Johnny Pemberton was on some of them, and there was a baby headmaster named Wolfie, right?
RF: Yep! Me and Gabe Liedman, who writes for just about everything now, we wrote the Dad Academy sketch together. That was the first time I really had written anything that ended up on TV. And [Nick Kroll] let me write my own sketch that was a commercial for the lawyer, and that was a really cool experience for me. It was the first time people really saw me as a writer and an actor. I owe Nick Kroll a lot.
MR: Now you’re all over the place. You’re on stage, doing voiceover, you’re writing, and you’re on screen. Is there anything else you’re working on that I missed?
RF: Well, I’m going to be on a few episodes of the ABC show The Goldbergs in their upcoming season and I may—unless I’m cut out, who knows!—be in the new season of Curb Your Enthusiasm.
MR: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
RF: No, I think we covered it. I appreciate the fact that you’re aware of me.