When it comes to @Midnight guests, stand-up comedian and Undateable star Ron Funches is the reigning champion of making host Chris Hardwick nearly suffocate from laughter. He’s won 14 out of 18 appearances, though this ratio will likely change during his 19th appearance on Wednesday to promote his debut comedy album, The Funches of Us.
An avid gamer, Funches named the album after the video game The Last of Us. Between bouts of surviving the apocalypse in Fallout 4 (which Funches literally started playing as soon as our phone call was over), Funches took the time to chat about his first album, the Comedy Works in Denver and his famous giggle.
Most stand-up comedians put out an album or two before ever working in television, yet you’ve done the opposite. Was there a specific reason you waited until now to release The Funches of Us?
I wanted to wait until I felt it would be really good. There’s a standard of albums I really enjoy. People like John Mulaney, Matt Braunger, and Kyle Kinane. Their albums were such complete works, and so funny. I didn’t want to put something out until I was ready to move on and do new things, and it just kind of happened naturally in my life. I got divorced and moved to Los Angeles with my son, just a single dad who started seeing things and writing jokes about them from a different perspective, which didn’t match up with the older jokes.
I didn’t want to burn those old jokes, which I’d told on Conan and elsewhere, though those were shorter versions. A lot of my comedy has to do with flow, so I wanted people to get the full picture. The beginning, middle and end. That’s basically why I waited. And I’m a big procrastinator.
You told a few of these jokes on The Tonight Show, too. They were shorter, but you’re right — they sound that much better on the album since you had more control over the timing.
It gives you a sense of context of jokes told before and after. You get a full picture, a full range of my personality. Some of my jokes are weird, and some of my jokes are about family and simple. It’s weird to mix and match those in a five-minute span. So, to have the full hour to just relax and show it how I want is something that I really wanted to do. I wanted to collect those, then move on to do an hour television special. I didn’t want to have any old material on that at all.
Why did you choose to record the album at the Comedy Works in Denver?
Denver’s kind of a second home for me. It was a choice between doing it there or Portland. In Portland, I would have been doing old jokes that most of the people there, a bunch of my friends, had already heard a thousand times. The audience doesn’t lie. You can hear it when people have heard the jokes before. So, I wanted to go somewhere similar.
I’m well aware of the history of the albums that have come out of the Comedy Works. It’s a great club — one of the best clubs in the world. It’s well-built, underground and Denver just has a great audience. It’s perfect mix of intelligence, partying and legal pot.
Craig Ferguson didn’t record his latest special at the Comedy Works, but he shopped it there. He said it was the perfect space to do that.
You want smart people, but you don’t want people who think they’re too good for the jokes. You want people who are happy to get on the roller coaster with you. That’s basically all of Denver. It’s a weird place where people are athletic and drunk all the time. That’s a weird mix! Usually when you’re drunk, you’re just laying around on the couch. They’re drunk and riding bikes up hill.
The album’s title comes from The Last of Us, and you’re very open about your love of video games. Yet gaming doesn’t come up at all on the album. Was that a conscious choice?
It’s more about me and my son against the world, and we’re having fun. Our backpacks aren’t loaded up with weapons and guns. We’ve got video games and comic books, and we’re chilling and having fun. That’s how we’re going to survive, and I thought that fit perfectly with the theme of the album.
Do you let him play Fallout 4, or is that all yours?
He has the Pip-Boy. He took the Pip-Boy away from me and walks around with that. He’s not really into violent games at all, and I try to not let him play them, but he thinks it’s cool. He likes to watch me walk around. He’s all about racing games. He’s playing Need for Speed at the moment.
I laughed so hard at the “Just My Thoughts” track, I think I scared people on the train. All the same, you had quite a few loud laughers during your set. One guy sounds like he was right up on the mic…
Oh he wasn’t close! That’s just Dave Caldwell. He’s another reason I chose to go to the Comedy Works, because he has a shotgun laugh and gets everyone else going. He’s a great guy and a Denver comedy legend. When the physical album comes out, he’s getting a “thank you” in it.
Your laugh, too. Especially your giggle, which gets everyone going.
Early on in my comedy, I knew I was going to do things that I like — video games, comic books, wrestling and things like that. There’s not a lot of places where people are going to get that upfront. So, I made a conscious decision that, no matter what, I was going to have fun. That’s pretty much what happens. If I get going or am having a good time, I start giggling. I don’t know what else to say about it.
Have you ever been on stage and started laughing or giggling so hard, you had to take a minute?
I did Paul F. Tompkins‘ The Dead Authors Podcast. I was a pimp, Iceberg Slim. We just got going, and at some point, we convinced the audience to applaud the fact that my character had pimped over 400 women. It just tickled me so much that we had somehow, through our charisma, gotten the audience to cheer for a horrible human being. I couldn’t breathe. Working with Paul is great. He’s one of my favorite comedians.
You mentioned wanting to eventually do a television special. How far along are you with the new hour?
Maybe 20 to 25 minutes of things that I’m enjoying, and another 10 minutes of not-so-good stuff. So, I’m almost halfway there. Hopefully I’ll be able to focus on it and sharpen things up. It’s going to be a great project. I love projects and having something to work on, and that’s the next thing I want to work on.