Ron Funches is one of the most noticeable voices in American comedy today. The upbeat, lovable, sweet man that giggles like a Japanese princess (his words) is a performer who managed to make big changes in his personal life while retaining his notoriously positive persona. In his early days, Funches was at 320 pounds onstage in the Portland, Oregon comedy scene. He gained fame through his low-tempo stand up that discussed a series of hard-hitting personal topics, including his son's autism and the lifestyle of a young father. His set is also known for discussing some of his favorite interests including pro wrestling and cannabis. As his popularity grew, Funches' work led to starring roles on TV shows like Undateable and Powerless as well as a number of guest spots on series like Black-ish and Transparent. Along the way, he committed to improving his personal health and lost 140 pounds.
After a series of problems in his youth and early adult life, Funches represents what a personal evolution can look like for celebrities and everyday individuals. Whether it be on stage or on his new self-improvement podcast Gettin Better, Funches isn't holding back—unless you're looking for more political topics at his shows. On this endless journey of self-improvement and making people laugh, Funches talked to PRØHBTD about his life, comedy and his excitement heading into the biggest independent wrestling event of all-time, All In.
You've been pretty clear about your cannabis use in comedy. How much does it play into your writing and the process when you're performing?
I mean, it's part of my everyday activities, pretty much. It's a part of my writing and part of my performing sometimes. If I'm doing smaller shows or things where I'm trying out new material, I try to smoke just a little bit... usually a sativa.
I usually like a Sour Diesel if I can find it, which is being more difficult lately. I like [Sour Diesel]. It kinda mellows me out a little bit and also stimulates my creativity. Usually, I try to come up with ideas kind of stoned, then I edit them sober.
It's a pot version of the Hemingway approach.
How do you like to consume?
I prefer a nice bong hit. That's usually my favorite. A nice little solid bong hit. But I do a little bit of everything, you know. Edibles, I like. I have my dab rig. I have joints. It's really all types. I don't really smoke blunts or anything because it's usually with tobacco paper or split with tobacco, and I just like the taste of pot. So, usually I try not to get as lit lately, try not to smoke too much. Sometimes I'll use it as a way to chase boredom, which can kind of be counterproductive to when I should write.
For the most part, I'm just like an everyday smoker, but I try to use it to celebrate after I finish work and finish working out. So I come home in the evening and take a couple bong hits and enjoy my night.
How did growing up in Oregon shape your cannabis experience?
It definitely was very helpful because, when I started comedy in Portland, it was a very marijuana-centric community. We had shows in cannabis cafes. It wasn't uncommon to have just as many people under an awning outside smoking bowls as it was having audience members inside. It was just kind of a community thing that we did. It was also the first place I took my first dab a few years before I saw it become a mainstream thing.
I think Oregon's always been progressive in that regard. A lot of people grow pot in Oregon so it definitely helped shape my opinion on it. It was just something I was always interested in, I don't really do anything else. I don't drink. I'm allergic to alcohol. Maybe I do mushrooms on occasion, but other than that, I don't do any other kinds of drugs. I don't even drink coffee. I don't do caffeine. It just kind of works for me.
You recently put out your new podcast Gettin Better. Do you want to tell us a little bit about what we can expect?
It's just a fun lifestyle podcast. We do some advice on getting better, like focus on what I'm working on each week, whether it's career-wise or health-wise. I encourage my listeners to set up a new email account to tell us the things they're working on to getting better—their dreams, do a before and after picture and weight loss goals—things like that.
I just really turned my life around a lot from where I was in my teens and early 20s. It's just what I like talking about so I just wanted a place where I could do that every week. A lot of it came from when I lost 140 pounds in the last couple years. I was getting a lot of emails and DMs in my Instagram or Twitter asking me how I did it and things of that nature. I would try to respond to everyone, and it was getting to be too many. I figured it would be a better way for me to just talk about what I'm doing in a form where people can listen to me weekly. Just help promote myself and promote my new special when it comes out in January on Comedy Central.
I'm always looking for places to talk about things that I care about, and there's not really that many [places]. It seems like everything is about politics and things of that nature. I understand that, and I think it's important right now, but it's just not what I'm into. I'm more into self-responsibility and taking care of yourself and taking care of your community. That's my response to what I see going on out there. Seems to be a lot of negativity, a lot of people freaking out and a lot of people giving up. I always go, you know, it's easy to have hope when things seem like they're going good. You need hope when things aren't going as well.
I just kind of live that philosophy and give back to people like, 'Here, if you're feeling overwhelmed or down or too much negative moods going on, you know, there's a place at least on my podcast where we can talk about positivity. Talk about getting better and supporting each other. No matter what your gender, race or whatever." If you need that oasis, come on by. But if that's not your thing, I understand.
You faced a lot of challenges in your life, and you really seem to be one of the most upbeat people taking it in stride. Was it ever difficult to incorporate any of those things into your comedy? Were you ever thinking, "This is something that I just want to keep personal"?
Sometimes, you know. Like with my son not being regular. You know, my son has autism, and I try to be very public about that and talk about that. At first, I didn't know if people would just think I was making fun of my son or if people who have autism in their lives would think that I was belittling it. Sometimes people say that, but usually not people who have autism in their lives. It's just weird groups of strangers who are like, these are things you shouldn't joke about.
People who actually respond to most of my jokes have been people who have autism in their lives, or perhaps people who have autism at my shows who let me know how much it meant to them that I talk about them. I had someone send me an email after my special in Seattle that we taped. On the special, I talk about my son. I talk about how he wears earmuffs when he goes outside because he gets overstimulated. I guess there was someone in the crowd who's also wearing little earmuffs, a teenage kid with his parents. He got so excited and was really happy that I was talking about it and talking about these things and making them seem normal and chill. Not making a big deal out of it or stigmatizing it.
When I got that type of feedback from being more personal, it made me lose my reluctance to do it. Made me feel that I had a responsibility to people who have gone through similar things. To speak up for them since they don't really have the venue to do it.
You're giving them a platform and generating inclusion in more outlets. Is that right?
Yeah, that's what my plan is. I think on it, and I just noticed a lot of comedians and everything, especially lower level comics, were starting to use "autistic" and words like that. It's sort of a buzzword to make fun of people. Like "retarded" or whatever. They're just using it as a way to say "retarded" because "retarded" isn't socially acceptable right now. And I was like, this isn't—you're just changing the word. You're doing the same thing. If there's going to be people like that out there promoting that, I have to promote my message just as hard. Which is that everybody deserves a fuckin' place at the table, so shut the fuck up.
It's amazing how hard of a concept that is for some people to grasp.
Speaking of your upcoming Comedy Central special, can you tell us about it?
It should be out January on Comedy Central. It's just me at my best, really. I just wanted to put everything into this as if I'll never have another Comedy Central special in my life. I hope I will, but just in case I don't, I wanted to have something I was really proud of. I love everything about it from the intro to the exit. It's about me, a lot of my positivity, and about my son. Just about my life, and about the journey I've been on losing weight. Just about jokes. No real political jokes, no jokes about Caitlyn Jenner, nothing like that. Just jokes about me and my life and what I'm about. I'm proud of it.
Switching gears, how hyped are you for [the pro wrestling event] All In?
I'm very hyped! I'm so excited. I'm looking at my action figures trying to pick out which ones I'm going to bring, see who can sign them for me. Hopefully without paying them a large fee. Although I'm sure that they'll be looking for money. You know how wrestlers are. They're like carnies. (Laughs.)
I'm so excited about it, and I love the whole spirit of it. It being this independent show put on by the wrestlers, for the wrestlers, for wrestling fans, and how it grew from just this show. I was already excited for the show with Starrcast—I'm going to be there doing the rope with Bruce Prichard, and I'm going to be doing a video game tournament. Pretty much, I'm going to get paid to do all the things that I fantasize about doing. I get to just hang out with wrestlers and play video games and talk shit. I even get a ticket to the event, and I'm so excited. I hope Cody Rhodes comes in for the NWA title because that would just be… that's just history.
I love wrestling. I've spent such a beautiful time in wrestling. I love how big it's getting. I love how accepting they've been of people like me who don't wrestle and just love it and tell jokes. It's a lot like comedy in that regards. Where you watch people hone their craft or hone their skills. It's also an art form where sometimes people don't even understand why the fuck you would do it. They're like, "This is ridiculous." But if you're meant to do it, you're meant to do it, if it's something you want to do. It's watching people grow and get better, and then get these NXT deals, WWE deals or just do things independently like All In. It's amazing to me, a beautiful time.
Ron, let's say you got this scenario going: You smoked a bong load of Sour Diesel, you're kicked back, you're ready to go and you get a dream Commissioner role where you get to pick one match. You're sitting ringside. Who do you want to see as your main event?
Right now, I would probably pick—and I'm picking people who are available or not available even then—I would love to see a match between Johnny Gargano and Shawn Michaels. I think that would be amazing. That would be an amazing match. I think [Michaels] could still do it today. But if you're asking me, like all time, like if I could just watch one match over and over again, it's probably, I'm going to make myself sound old, but Ric Flair and Ricky Steamboat. That's my pick. It's the thing that blew my mind as a kid. Also, if we could just throw Owen Hart in there. He could do a three-way dance. That would be it.
Rapid fire round: Who's your favorite wrestler of all time?
Favorite of all time is Ric Flair. He's the best wrestler of all time. He's my favorite. I love him. He's the best person. He's great.
Favorite wrestler at the moment?
Wrestler at the very moment is probably Tommaso Ciampa, but he is fucking just killing it as a heel. He's great. I love him. I love Matt Riddle, as well. I'm so excited for him coming up in NXT, the finals.
Bret Hart and Owen Hart at, I think, Wrestlemania 13? I'm not sure which Wrestlemania, but Bret Hart versus… No! Summerslam! I think it was at a Summerslam. I don't know! One of the two.
The Four Horsemen. It has to be The Four Horsemen. Or there's also, because of strong black men, The Nation of Domination. They had everybody there. They get The Rock and Owen Hart and Ron Simmons. Those two for sure.
Best entrance music?
"Stone Cold" Steve Austin. I use it on the road when I'm in clubs because it really changes the temperature of the room. As soon as you hear that glass break, you know shit's about to pop off. For him it was middle fingers and Stunners, but for me it's low tempo comedy.
Last one, which promotion do we need to be watching right now?
I guess, if we're going to one that's national that anybody can watch, I would be an idiot if I didn't say New Japan because they just killed it with their G1 Tournament. That was really, really good. NXT is amazing. MLW, they're doing some great work that you can watch on YouTube for free. You get to watch a lot of people coming up and liking it. If you're in the Los Angeles area or West Coast in general, you got to go to Pro Wrestling Guerrilla. Pretty much the entire roster of NXT right now was PWG three years ago. It's fun to watch everybody just come up and move on. You get to watch the future of wrestling in my backyard. I love it.