Since my love life has been circling the drain for several years, NBC’s freshman sitcom Undateable is chicken soup for my blackened soul. Ron Funches stars on the show as Shelly, a shy dude who needs a bit of help with the ladies. Chris D’Elia is Danny, the ladykiller who gives Shelly and the rest of his buds a truckload of love advice.
The writing staff for Undateable have tailor made the roles to fit the actors’ own comedic voices, and Funches’ laid back and clever style is perfectly captured. I love the comic’s pinpoint observational humor as well as his unique delivery, and if you haven’t seen his stand-up routine, check out the video I’ve embedded at the end of the post. Until then, here’s my Q&A with Funches:
“Undateable” is a well written and funny show. Does having comics like you, Chris D’Elia, and Brent Morin help the overall quality of the program?
I think it’s because we have great writers in general. Bill Lawrence, who created Scrubs and Spin City, comes from an excellent lineage of shows. And like you said, we have a lot of stand-up (comics) on the show and (the writers) allow us to improvise and beef up their material and they provide us with a nice framework and then we can try to build on it from there.
Your comedic delivery as well as the angles you use on your observational humor is pretty unique. How much work does it take for you to craft a great joke or story?
I’m a very big stickler when it comes to the words that I use, so a lot of times I’ll work on jokes for a year before they’re actually ready. So it’s a long process that sometimes that makes me very upset (laughs)! I love it.
A lot of people don’t know that with some jokes, you’ve been working on for maybe your whole career to get to that point. Then you have to write and constantly work on things because you never know when they will ask for more material from you. It’s just a process and more of a lifestyle, you know?
What have you learned from your experience on Undateable – has it been an easy transition from stand-up to acting?
It’s just gaining experience and comfort in an environment. It takes a little bit of time. I’m a naturally shy person so I get a little bit in my head sometimes. (It’s about) becoming more relaxed and just getting into acting classes and making sure that I have a respect for it and use the terms that people use. It’s just really hard work, but a lot of fun. Especially when you do it in front of a live studio audience. It’s like a mix of doing stand-up, but just (using) other people’s words.
Many of your jokes on the show are scene stealers or serve as one of an episode’s top punchlines. Is that part of your own style?
It’s what I like doing. It’s what my comedy style is like and it’s (similar) to what I did as a kid. I was never the class clown who spoke a lot and got all the attention, but I’d have one or two jokes that I’d make fun of people on the side. That’s always been my style, so it’s nice to see that translate to where I end up being the punchline for a lot of the scenes.
What advice would you give performers who are naturally shy? How did you break out of your own shell?
Just doing things I’ve never done before and building more confidence and teaching myself that it doesn’t matter what I think of me. Mostly I think positive, but sometimes I’m not. (But) it doesn’t even matter what I think, it matters what these people think.
If they think I’m doing a good job or worth having around, then I am. When people tell you that your stories are good and you say “No, I could have done so much better, I’m not where I want to be.” That’s not for you to decide, let them enjoy it. If they enjoy it, then it was good. That kind of helped free me up a bit from self doubt and worry about being a perfectionist.
Since you’re a relative newbie to Los Angeles, are you surprised that much of it is an industry town?
It’s a mix of things. There’s definitely some of that, and then there are just weirdos from their hometown who are like minded. It’s nice to be in a place where you (can have a goal) to be on a TV show, win an Emmy or do stand-up and not have people look at you like you’re crazy. That is invaluable.
So sometimes you have to deal with a lot of background actors who are really into SAG and know everything about the business and I myself am trying to be more knowledgeable about the business. But I’m more into my art and what I’m doing then worrying about what’s going on about SAG awards.
Do you see stand-up comedy as your first love?
I kind of look at it as stand-up being my first kid and acting as a second kid that I didn’t know but I love just as much. I love them both. I will always want to keep doing stand-up and get better in my art, but I will always want to act, whether it’s on Undateable or another show. But hopefully it’s this show, because I really like it.
Undateable airs tonight on NBC (9 & 9:30 pm et/pt)