From wrestling to Lucille Ball, comedian Ron Funches mixes it up

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      “I got into a fistfight at a pot store in Vancouver. I like it there; it’s fun.”

      Sounds like a comedic non sequitur, but Ron Funches means it. Long a staple of the Portland comedy scene and now taking Hollywood by storm, the lovable and famously nice stoner always sees the bong as half full.

      A fellow patron at the aforementioned establishment seemed to be a connoisseur of all drugs, not just mellow marijuana. “They’re normally very relaxed places,” Funches says. “The guy there was being very rude and racist to the Asian clerk that was working there and it got under my skin. The next thing I know, I’m in a fistfight with the guy and he gave me a bloody lip and I got a free bag of weed. I love Vancouver!”

      For a time, Funches even considered moving north—until he read up on the homeless situation here. On the phone from his home in Los Angeles, he says, “I didn’t have any skills or a job, so I was like, ‘I’ll probably just go add to that.’ So I ended up not moving there. But it’s one of my favourite places to be because it’s so gorgeous. It's like a pretty city that has so much greenery but also is kinda dirty. I like all those things.”

      Best known for his work on the NBC sitcom Undateable, Funches has also shared the screen with Kevin Hart, Will Ferrell, and Bruce Willis.

      “I’ve been having the best of a Hollywood education, where I get to learn from a lot of the best,” he says. “I’m hoping that I can translate the little bit I’ve picked up from them and become a great actor. And continue working on my standup. That’s my main thing. I just don’t like to do one thing. I don’t like to be in a box.”

      A lifelong fan of wrestling (think WWE, not Greco-Roman), Funches brings a bit of the spectacle to his latest standup show, at least in the name. Funch-A-Mania promises no body slams, just quality jokes.

      “To me, the biggest event in entertainment is WrestleMania, so I would like to do a big event in comedy,” he says. "It's still doing an hour of comedy. It's not like it's going to be all wrestling or anything like that. But I just wanted to let people know that this is an event."

      But the sport is very important in his daily life. He was at a wrestling night a week ago Monday. “I brought my girlfriend with me, which is always a good test of a relationship if she’s willing to go to wrestling. And she was. And she liked it. So we’re going to stay together.”

      Funches has an easygoing style, not unlike Todd Barry’s. But his biggest influence isn’t Barry or any of the usual suspects. He offers up Lucille Ball, unironically and unabashedly. “I feel like comedy is comedy. I Love Lucy was kind of my introduction to the world of comedy in general,” he says. “And when you look at the history of Lucille Ball, and the work that she did for women in Hollywood, having her own production company, and also showing an interracial marriage on TV in the ’50s, to me, she’s just one of my biggest influences overall as a human being. That's what it means to be a professional and what it means to stand up for yourself.”

      Ron Funches plays the Rio Theatre on Thursday (July 6).