“We are lying down in an empty conference room.”
And thus begins host Dan Pashman’s first interview while sitting on the floor. Dan Pashman and guest Ron Funches sit on the floor (because Funches wanted to sit on the floor) in their hotel conference room (because it was quiet).
(Full disclosure: Dan and Ron met up at SXSW back in March of this year, and this episode aired for the first time in April)
Ron Funches is a comedian, currently stars in NBC’s Undateable, and loves gummies—his mom calls them “chewies”— for their texture. Raisinettes and popcorn are also a big hit with Ron. Maybe too much so. Predictably, he recently needed to go on a diet.
Bits of Funches’ standup are mixed into the episode, and believe me, they are worth a listen. After hearing him on The Sporkful, I checked out one of his appearances on Conan, and it was hilarious.
As someone that attempts to review podcasts from time to time, it’s tough to know when to refrain from poorly typing out a funny or well-delivered segment; so much is lost in translation. Ron Funches’ immense quotability and comedic timing only compound the problem. For the most part, I’ll try to let Ron to speak for himself.
That said, I’ll immediately break that rule to highlight that Ron says that his ten year-old, picky eater son “is also an asshole.”
Comedians, well at least successful ones, often have an ability to tiptoe right up to the line when it comes to sensitive issues. And sometimes they just run straight through them with a bulldozer. We’re trained to think that we can’t laugh at a father calling his autistic son an asshole and feel ok about it. Maybe we shouldn’t. But I had a good chuckle.
Comedy is clearly a great outlet for Ron. He can vent his frustration in a harmless way, and as a bonus it makes people laugh, too. When Funches says his kid is an @#$%&!, based on his tone, we understand this is where he’s coming from. He’s making light of an incredibly difficult situation.
His son has “classic autism and is pretty high functioning,” which, in Funches’ words means his son is great at some things and not so great others. He’s a bit of a picky eater. He likes fried chicken, bacon, and hamburgers with nothing on them. Oh and Oreos too. And that’s all he eats. Essentially, he likes meat, salt, solid textures and no surprises. This kid isn’t an asshole, he’s a genius. That must be terribly frustrating for a parent to deal with, but when taken completely out of context, Ron’s son sounds like he’s kind of got it all figured out.
Just when you start feeling we may be a little light on the typical hard-hitting, serious Pashmanian food discussion, dependable Dan Pashman saves the day! He brings up the trade-offs between bite consistency and bite variety. (Bite consistency all the way! in my personal opinion.)
Ron’s son’s preferences are magnified to the nth degree, but they’re still related to the consistency vs. variety trade-off, which is something even high-profile chefs stay up at night thinking about. While Dan Pashman doesn’t explicitly make this connection, he guides us along this thought process. And this is where The Sporkful really hits its sweet spot, at that intersection of eating and the humans that do it. There’s this reassuring and underlying commonality when we talk about food. It’s a simple reminder of how we’re all connected.
Ron eventually explains the connection between figuring out his son’s autism and the creative process: sometimes things work this way and other times they don’t. We can extend that idea to the kitchen too. Sometimes my chocolate chip cookies work well and sometimes they don’t. Ok usually they don’t. But eventually you sort of figure out what works.
And sometimes, just sometimes, that means bacon and Oreos for breakfast.
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