Comedian Ron Funches embodies everything Louis C.K. is not. And as he told me on this week’s episode of The Last Laugh podcast, that is entirely by design.
“I never want to be that type of person, that old-school, that old Louis comedy that’s like, ‘Oh, my daughters! And my wife! And I hate them!’” Funches says of his uniquely positive approach to stand-up. “Whenever I talk about anyone, whether it’s my mom, my son, my girlfriend, whatever, I try to make sure that it comes this place of love. I show that I love them—and then you can mock them relentlessly.”
Funches’ first hour-long special Giggle Fit, which landed on Comedy Central this year after executives at Netflix told him they didn’t consider him an “hour comedian,” is full of material about his family, including his mother, whom he jokingly calls “racist” and his teenage son, who has autism. But there is never an ounce of anger in his delivery or the message he’s putting forward.
That’s not always easy to achieve—“It’s easier to tear down than it is to create,” he says—but he’s been able to do it, in part, by channelling a newfound confidence after losing 140 pounds over the past couple of years. At his heaviest, Funches weighed 360 pounds and struggled to get through more than one stand-up set in a night. Now, he’s healthier and more successful than ever.
On the challenge of writing ‘positive’ comedy
“It’s easier to tear down than it is to create. It’s easier to mock something that already exists and to tell people why that sucks. It’s harder to be like, here’s this thing I’m building and I want to share it with you. Or here’s a negative situation I went through but here’s the positive spin on that. If I’m saying things two times a night on shows, I want to be saying positive things, I don’t want to be saying negative things. It’s easy and it’s lazy to me to just tear down—especially using old stereotypes. If you’re going to tear down people, tear down big people. But to go back and do the same old jokes, whether it’s different races or transgender or bathroom jokes. To me, it’s like, do you really care? To me, I don’t care about what bathroom a person uses. That’s why a lot of my comedy is personal, because I mostly just care about me and my family.”
On the decision to make jokes about his teenage son with autism
“I was apprehensive at first, because I didn’t want people to think I was making fun of my son and I didn’t want people to make fun of my son. But at some point, I had to realize that this was a big part of my life and if I was going to write personal material then I’d have to write about that because that’s a big deal. And it doesn’t define him, it doesn’t make him who he is, it’s just a part of his life and a part of my life, so we talk about it.”
How losing 140 pounds has affected his comedy career
“I was not a healthy person. And now I’m able to work more, do more things. When I was not active, when I was not eating and just extremely overweight, things were difficult for me. That’s been the biggest thing is I’m able to be more efficient. I’m not just passing out. I can do two shows a night and it doesn’t destroy me.”
Why he never liked Louis C.K.
“If you really look at my comedy, the way that write when I say I want to talk about positive things, they were a direct reaction to the fact that when I first started, when I was 19 or 20, the type of comedy that was very popular was his type of comedy, this shock humor, this negative humor and I just never related to it. I never enjoyed it. To me, I always saw behind it. You’re not joking, you’re just a piece of shit. You’re just a mean person. It’s a mean person who says these things about his daughters, who says these things about his wife. These are mean things you’re saying, and I never liked it and I never was into it.”
Next week on The Last Laugh podcast: Creator and star of Ramy on Hulu, Ramy Youssef.