Ron Funches is a comedy assassin.
He lurks, like a stealth comic, in the fringes of scenes on his new sitcom, "Undateable."
But he stays quiet.
Until the perfect moment appears, and, wham, the Chicago-reared comedian strikes with an often off-color, 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," said Brent Morin, who plays protagonist and bar owner Justin.
NBC's newest multicamera sitcom, "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. In episodes three and four, airing back-to-back Thursday, Danny helps Justin win over a longtime crush, to hilarious effect.
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, calm 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 said. "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, is excitable and has a giggle that makes it impossible to hold a frown. He's enjoying this moment in his career, he said.
In addition to "Undateable," which garnered 3.85 million viewers for its premiere, 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. (He's scheduled to come to Chicago in August.)
"I want to try as many things that I never tried before as I can," Funches said. "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."
Funches lived in the Woodlawn neighborhood with his mom until he was 13, when he moved to Portland, Ore., to stay with his dad. Chicago "is where my edge comes from, and then living in Oregon afterward softened me up," he said with a laugh.
Funches professed a love for comedy since he was 5, and he "didn't have any interest in pursuing anything else."
After high school, he went to community college for three weeks, dropped out and held odd jobs, including one as a Lady Liberty-costumed sign-twirler.
He didn't get on stage until he was 23.
"I was finally like, I either try it or I am going to end up working at a grocery store forever," he said.