Comedian Ron Funches has a memorable role as an announcer in Golden Arm, a new road tripping buddy comedy starring Mary Holland and Betsy Sodaro that dives into the dysfunctional world of women’s arm wrestling. To promote the film, which is out today on video on demand services, Funches spoke with ComingSoon.net Managing Editor Tyler Treese about his experience shooting the film, his love of professional wrestling, and how All Elite Wrestling’s Justin Roberts saved his performance.
Check out our Ron Funches interview below!
Tyler Treese: One thing I found interesting in Golden Arm was that so much of the cast has comedy and improv backgrounds. Can you talk me through how much of the final product was riffing and improvising for your scenes?
Ron Funches: I mean, a lot of it was. I think that was [what] Maureen had in mind when she hired most of us. [It] was to take the script that they had and just look at it as a baseline. You could not only improvise joke-wise but to go ahead and shape our characters. Mary [Holland], Betsy [Sodaro], Eugene [Cordero], and all the wrestlers, they had some input on the characters they wanted to play. A lot of the character names were just names that I made up on the fly when I was announcing, they just didn’t have names yet, or we just asked the wrestlers what name they wanted to be. Even my character itself was really originally written more as a general just kind of sleazeball. Then when talking with Maureen, we just came up together with more of a character who was just in love with strong, powerful women. There’s a scene where he’s like all over Betsy’s character, but he doesn’t give Mary’s baker character the time of day because he doesn’t know that she’s strong or not. So, it just became what all of us kind of taking ownership and agency of our characters and improvising quite a bit. It’s because we’ve all worked together before, and she trusts us.
Getting that personal touch, it really shines through in the film. Having that amount of freedom, that’s not something you always have, but can you tell me the unique challenge that is? Obviously, with your comedy background, you’re probably very well suited to it, but not having a direct script and having so much freedom in your character, is that daunting in any way?
It can be. I think the two worst-case scenarios for me is one when someone just wants me to completely follow that script and that they don’t want me to play at all or add to it, and that feels so restrictive to me. Or if they’re just like, “We don’t know, we just think you’re funny! Just make it up.” And that, that is a lot of pressure. Fortunately, with this, it was more of the in-between where they had a good idea of what they wanted. They had a good idea of the script. It was funny as it was. So it’s more like, let’s do a pass as we have written, and then also go ahead and just do what you want.
For me as an entertainer, as a comedian, as someone who likes to think about the jokes and who also does the jokes… If you’re going to find someone who you just need to be a great actor, there’s probably above a long line of people you’d consider it before me. I’m good at problem-solving. I’m good at like seeing the direction of a scene and kind of seeing what I can add to it. And when someone wants me to do that, I think that doesn’t make me feel pressured. It makes me feel like we’re all in it together. We’re all problem-solving together.
Like you mentioned earlier, you have great chemistry with Betsy in the film. Can you just speak to how it was working with her? I really love how you mentioned that your character is not really a sleazeball, just really attracted to powerful women. I like that distinction.
Yeah. It’s not too different than me in my own life. And I just also thought, you know, as the guy who ran this event and takes care of these women, it’s kind of one-note to be like, “Oh, he’s just after all these women…” It became a lot more fun. It’s like, yeah, sure. He’s attracted to some of these women, but it’s also like, to him, these are the greatest athletes in the world, and they should be celebrated like [Michael] Jordan or [John] Elway or whoever. Patrick Mahomes or whoever. That’s what I liked about that character.
As far as working with Betsy, she’s just freaking hilarious and a force of nature and so fun to be around. Her and Mary, both, they both just kind of ran that set, and it was one of my first experiences where after [recording] like we called cut and everybody could go [get] martinis. We’d all hang out and eat dinner together. Going out to clubs together at night, it was really a good bonding experience. I was a big fan of Eugene Cordero, which is one of the reasons I took the job in the first place, a lot of my scenes were at him, and I think he’s just one of the most underrated comedic performers out, and I wanted to work with him and learn from him.
The film has so many hilarious women in it. We’re seeing a real emergence in the general comedy scene of more women. There have always been some amazing female comedians, but the comedy scene has always had a bit of the reputation of a boy’s club. So how great is it to see so many women finding success and really having their own road along with all the men in comedy,
I think it’s been great. It’s what you want. That’s what true equality is. It’s not like seeing one type of woman, one type of person of color, one type of anything. Everybody’s kind of starting to achieve on their own merit and not just because they fit a current mold. So to see a movie full of very funny women, I just love it. Aparna Nancherla, I got to work with her on The Great North, and to see her as a spokesperson for like Bubly and stuff like that, I get a kick out of that. It becomes more personal for me than just, “Look at all these women shine.” Like these are my friends, I grew up doing not necessarily mics with, but doing early festivals with, doing these small shows with, and then now still be working with them and see them own TV and movies. All of us are getting better and better. It’s amazing. I think it’s a true renaissance for the last few years, especially for black women and women of color. There have been so many great unique voices to where like Nicole Byer does not sound like Punkie Johnson, who does not sound like Wanda Sykes, who is kind of a godmother of all of that.
You’ve done a lot of voice acting in the past as well. In Golden Arm, you’re so physical with your performance, and the body language is so funny. Can you discuss how your acting approach changes depending on the medium?
Yeah, of course. I mean, actually, the main thing is that it doesn’t change that much. Like I treat most of my animated stuff like I do regular acting things, and they’re all about like breaking down the scene, breaking down what my characters wants are, and what changes from the beginning of the scene to the end of the scene. That doesn’t change, whether that’s animated or live-action. Sometimes I’m just as animated in a booth as I am in regular acting. I think different parts of myself and then dig them up or enlarge them or make them small for different parts. For this one, I just took my love of women, my love of professional wrestling, and just kind of added the two together. I’ve always liked a lot of pro wrestling and things like that, but it was the first time where I really started watching a lot of the announcers in wrestling and how they can sell a show. I was like, this is the biggest thing in the world. It doesn’t matter if it’s a smokey bar with like 50 people or a hundred people to him. He sells it and treats it like it’s Madison Square Garden, you know?
You mentioned that you did a lot of film prep of watching different announcers. Did you reach out to any professional announcers for any tips?
Yeah, I did. Actually, I reached out to my friend, Justin Roberts, who works at All Elite Wrestling, because the very first day, I blew out my voice completely. Like I couldn’t speak at all. After the first day, I did a lot of screaming and the line to do. I was like, “Man, I don’t know how you do your job. I did this for one day and blew my entire voice out.” He just gave me some tips on how to control it a little better and some tips on what to buy to rest my throat. So it was very helpful. It got me back to back in the game. So I appreciate it.
Now that you’ve had a taste of doing announcing and obviously, you know how demanding that work is, would you be interested in doing actual events? I know you’ve done commentary for pro wrestling, so is announcing for pro wrestling something you’d be interested in or something even ridiculous, like the slap fighting we saw on pay-per-view recently.
Well, I mean, I saw Pete Davidson and Ric Flair and a lot of people there. So I’m assuming the slap fight checks are pretty good. If the check is good, I will think about it for the slap fighting, but for the pro wrestling, yes, right away. All day, any day, if they want me to announce I’m in. Want me to take a chokeslam from someone? I’m open. I love it. I’d love to do something in the ring on television. I’ve been fortunate enough. I did a scene in the show, A.P. Bio on Peacock, where I got to be a wrestler. I got to be announced by Lilian Garcia, who was the WWE announcer for a long time. So I was like, “Oh, maybe this is the closest I’ll ever get it.” But hopefully, one day, I can do it in the ring on an actual WWE or AEW [show] or whoever. That’d be great.
What female wrestlers do you think would do well in arm wrestling in something like Golden Arm?
Oh, women with good, big arms that are strong. Piper Niven from WWE NXT UK. Charlotte Flair, she’s extremely strong in the arms for sure. She would be great. I think, Awesome Kong who was in AEW and then also in the GLOW show, she’s built very strong up top. I think any of them will be great. I would like to see that. I was going to say Sasha Banks. She probably has stronger arms than she looks. Even though she is a tiny, tiny woman, let’s put her in there. See what she can do.
Yeah. I think like Mary [Holland] in the film, I think Sasha would be a surprise to a lot of people. Finally, you got to work with Ric Flair in the past, which was amazing. I’m sure. Are there any wrestlers you’d love to act with in the future?
Oh, The Rock! Because that means I’m in it big! So that would be the easiest one for me. The Rock! But if it’s like an active wrestler, I love Big E, and he’s got a great personality. I think something with him would be fun. Or just Toni Storm or any other female wrestlers because I just love to be around them anytime.