Why Undateable's quiet assassin is unforgettable
Ron Funches is a comedy assassin. He lurks, like a stealth comic, in the fringes of scenes on his new sitcom, Undateable. He listens.
He reacts. But he stays quiet.
Until the perfect moment appears, and, wham, the Chicago-reared comedian strikes with an often off-colour, seemingly off-the-cuff retort that leaves the live studio audience completely in stitches.
Then he retreats to the periphery, basking in the collective chuckle and waiting for his next opportunity to cut in with a razor-sharp punch line.
"He's really like the drive-by guy that comes and hits you with this moment and then gets out," says Brent Morin, who plays protagonist and bar owner Justin.
Undateable follows Justin and his gang of lovable losers as they try to escape arrested development and enter into healthy relationships.
Lady's man Danny - played by former Whitney star Chris D'Elia - is introduced to the group after becoming Justin's roommate and decides to take them under his wing, guiding them in the ways of love.
Funches plays Shelly, a sports-loving, happy-go-lucky guy who lacks confidence when it comes to women. He's the most lovable of the losers, the sweetness at the center of the Undateable Tootsie Pop.
While Funches may not have the most lines or screen time, he's easily the show's most memorable character. His cool delivery and winning one-liners balance out the largeness and plentiful physical comedy of his co-stars.
"A lot of us are really manic and animated, and so whenever we have a joke that comes out of nowhere, it's always given to Ron," D'Elia says.
"He kind of slows the pace down. He just stands out so much because he is so different . . . in his delivery.
"It's way slower. It's way more deliberate."
Speaking by phone from LA, Funches, 31, has a giggle that makes it impossible to hold a frown. He's enjoying this moment in his career, he says.
In addition to Undateable, Funches has a role in the 2015 Will Ferrell comedy Get Hard, is working on a talk show for Funny or Die and still tours widely as a stand-up.
"I want to try as many things that I never tried before as I can," Funches says. "Being on a sitcom is never something that I thought I would do, and seeing my face on a billboard or a bus is crazy. I used to be in the bus and now I am outside the bus looking at my face on it."
Undateable co-creator Bill Lawrence, co-creator of Spin City and Scrubs, says Funches aced his audition for the Shelly role, adding that "whatever he said became the new script because it was so funny".
"Sometimes people even laugh at his setup lines, things that we don't inherently think are jokes on the page.
"It's a gift as a comedy writer that you can write something that is maybe a B or B minus and he turns it into an A."
Although Funches can hit a punch line with the best of them, his hallmark on Undateable is his reactions. When a scene cuts away, it inevitably cuts to Shelly, who is always fully engaged and, most of the time, making a face that says more than words can.
He has learned to express himself silently in part as a way to communicate with his autistic son, who he often discusses in his act.
"He doesn't speak that much, so I just learned to do more things without talking because of him," Funches says.
Undateable, 8pm, Wednesdays, TV2.