Ron Funches Photo: Rebecca Pimm

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“Sometimes the world can be a pretty dark place but the comedy festival gives you an opportunity to hide in a dark theatre for an hour and laugh til it hurts.”

As the Sydney Comedy Festival approaches its 15 year anniversary Festival Director Jorge Menidis was emphatic with his statement above. Menidis doesn’t want to focus on the milestone year for the festival though as he would instead prefer to focus on the pride he has for the festival. Particularly its ability to showcase talent from around the world alongside the next wave of young talent.

This year the festival welcomes talent from all of the usual places such as the US, UK and Canada but also brings some surprises from China, Russia, India, Japan and Venezuela. One of the major acts coming to Sydney this year for the festival is American comedian Ron Funches. In recent years Funches has been resoundingly sweeping the world with his uniquely laidback onstage persona which he fuses with comedic, incisive observations on everything from casual racism to raising a son with autism.

When speaking prior to the festival Menidis’ pride for what they have achieved with the festival in its lifetime was clear.

“I’m wrapped that we’ve been running for so long. That the city has embraced the festival and that the people are willing to trust us to provide some quality and insightful entertainment that is not necessarily what you would get every other day.”

After an incredibly successful festival in 2018, which saw 120,000 people attending shows, Menidis was optimistic about the potential audience numbers they could achieve this year. “We’re probably looking at getting closer to 130,000 this year but don’t want to get ahead of ourselves.”

In order to achieve these figures acts like Funches are crucial. Thankfully Funches is just as excited to be a part of the festival as they are to have him. “I’m very happy and grateful that comedy is letting me travel to a place I’ve always wanted to visit but otherwise could not afford,” said Funches.

For Funches performing and writing new material consistently was vital for him to stand out from the crowd and be given this opportunity.

“Absolutely, I believe being yourself always helps you stand out. You may or may not enjoy my jokes but there is no denying that my show is uniquely me.”

This unique style has never been more present than in his most recent comedy special Giggle Fit. A show Funches says he only realised was so special when it was in the editing process, “I knew it was good when I watched the rough cut for the first time and had trouble deciding where to cut it down.” The standout segment of Giggle Fit is a bit about the wild world of professional wrestling, an art form which Funches adores, regardless of the negative stigma attached to it.

“The wrestling community has embraced me for years but the special and that joke has certainly helped me get more free tickets to wrestling shows and I even got invited to Ric Flair’s 70th birthday party which is something I’ll never forget.” Whilst in Sydney Funches says he would “love” to see some local wrestling, particularly “my buddy Robbie Eagles on his home turf.”

When looking ahead to his time in Sydney for the comedy festival specifically Funches told City Hub, “I want to see someone I’ve never heard of and fall in love with their comedy. That’s the best part of festivals. I enjoy seeing just how much talent there is out there that I don’t know about.”

Luckily for Funches, and the general public, the Sydney Comedy Festival’s FRESH program is curated to provide just that opportunity. The FRESH program consists of those performers who the Sydney Comedy Festival has “identified as someone who will go on to do great things.” Some of the past graduates of the FRESH program include; Matt Okine, Rhys Nicholson & Ronnie Chieng.

Ultimately when it all boils down to comedy at its core though Funches shared a similar perspective to that of Menidis from the opening of this article. 

“Live comedy is a beautiful, honest and brave thing. It can lift your spirits like no other art form and leave you spellbound with a grin on your face.”

Ron Funches

Apr 27. Factory Theatre, 105 Victoria Rd, Marrickville. $49.90+b.f. Tickets & Info: www.sydneycomedyfest.com.au

Sydney Comedy Festival

Apr 22-May 19. Various Venues & Prices. Tickets & Info: www.sydneycomedyfest.com.au