Funhaus creator Lawrence Sonntag is on a mission of self-improvement. He joins the Daily Dot’s Nicholas White to talk about that journey, his new Rooster Teeth documentary Haus of Pain, and about his experience training to be a pro-wrestler.
[Nicholas White] We’re here with Lawrence Sonntag, host of Funhaus on YouTube and First. We are also talking about the upcoming release of Haus of Pain, a documentary, an RT documentary covering his short, long beginning of his career in professional wrestling.
[Lawrence Sonntag] Yeah, very compacted. It was five days of training, and then a professional match. So very intense.
[Nicholas White] All right
[Lawrence Sonntag] Very painful. Hence the title.
[Nicholas White] Well, start at the beginning.
[Lawrence Sonntag] Sure.
[Nicholas White] Tell me about Funhaus. Give me the precis on Funhaus.
[Lawrence Sonntag] Sure. I guess we’re just kind of a collective of people that are very creatively harmonic. We all get each other’s humor. We all work really well together. And, you know, in media production, that is treasure. Oftentimes, you’re lucky enough to just get to work on something cool or with cool people. We get to do both. So over the years, we sort of grabbed people that we really enjoyed working with and kind of get our vibe of humor, and we have the fortune of sort of doing whatever we want.
[Nicholas White] So how long has Funhaus been running?
[Lawrence Sonntag] Founded in 2015, but, as a group, we’ve kind of been together for longer than that. And I guess, if you want to date it all the way back, a lot of the members in Funhaus go back to G4 days.
[Nicholas White] Where did Haus of Pain come from?
[Lawrence Sonntag] James and I went to a independent wrestling event. “Pro Wrestling Guerrilla” it was called at the time, and that was up in, you know, well past the Valley into the California desert type thing. Just Friday night warriors gathered at a civic center and just wrestle the hell out of each other to a crowd of couple hundred. So we went, had a great time, but only I received was a flyer for a wrestling school. And that was something James had always wanted to do, a lifelong dream of his basically. He was like, “We should do this.” And at the time, I was becoming more physically active, more willing to sort of test myself and try and learn new things, get out of my comfort zone, basically. So I was interested, too, and I’d done martial arts most of my life, and to me, that was a cool expression of it. Maybe a little more artistic, dancey, flourishy expression of some of the physicality I had already learned. So I was onboard with it, too. The only problem was, the school was like an hour and half away in California traffic, on a weekday. It just wasn’t feasible. We couldn’t get there when they did it. It was like 7:00 on a weekday, and if we break out of work at 6:30, it’s just not going to happen. So James’ rationale was, “Well, if we can’t do it on our own time, maybe we can convince Rooster Teeth to do it for work. So he started…he kind of… cheekily seeded into a couple of videos. Some of the audience started talking about it, and Rooster Teeth got wind of it and they thought it was a great idea. So they greenlit the documentary. So we got our way in getting Rooster Teeth to pay for our dreams to be realized. – What was the first day like? – The scheduling was a little sadistic, but not in a bad way. Or at least I understand why it shook out this way. So along the lines of like testing myself, putting myself outside of my comfort zone, I’ve always been a fan of like action movies and stunt work. More…you know, a little more fundamental than just I like seeing things blow up. I genuinely enjoyed seeing stunt people do what they do on movies, and I’ve always been fascinated by it. So my girlfriend, who I love very much, got me a stunt school course. This is out in Georgia. It’s called L.A. Stunts. It’s for people who want to become stuntmen and women. So she bought the course for me. This was planned like months and months and months ago. I went out there. I did that course, came back, and then the day after I got back, wrestling school started. So…
[Nicholas White] So you were already sore and bruised and…
[Lawrence Sonntag] I was already banged up. And on the flight back I sat next to somebody who was sick. So I picked up that dude’s sickness. I hit that guy so much. So, yeah, the first day, I was already sore, exhausted, and sick going into wrestling training. And then the first day of…the first day of any kinetic activity is always learning how to fall, no matter what. That was the case with stunts. That’s the case with martial arts because it’s the core of the safety of it. It’s learning how to roll and how to break a fall so you don’t hurt yourself because that’s how people…that’s when people really mess themselves up. So, yeah, we go in day one, and, you know, it’s an hour and a half in the car. I’m sneezing. There was everything running out of my face. I’m taking pseudoephedrine and ibuprofen to try and medicate my body to get to where I can go. And luckily, bizarrely when your heart rate goes up, the body sorts of forgets about being sick for a while. So, once again on the class, and started rolling and taking hits and stuff, it was fine. And then, yeah, with that night, everything crashed back down in, and that was kind of the case every night going forward. But, yeah, it was rough. Everything was already tender, and we’re just smacking on the mat. We’re rolling around. And, yeah, it was…it just reminds me of, you know, if you’re going to make a nice fillet and you just hammer that meat with a nice, spikey hammer, that’s kind of what it felt like.
[Nicholas White] All right. So your hammered meat…
[Lawrence Sonntag] Yes.
[Nicholas White] Can I assume that’s your wrestling moniker? I mean, that’s the most important thing in wrestling, right, is the name? I think hammered meat is pretty good.
[Lawrence Sonntag] That’s pretty good. No, I was The Troll. That was my wrestling persona. By design, I picked that because it’s kind of a…it gives you a bit of safety net because if you mess up, you can just claim that it was because you were trolling people. And also it’s just, I enjoy satirization of internet culture because it’s a very real thing, and it’s one of the core, I think, subcultures that have popped out in the last to years. But it’s not really entered in the media much aside from a lot of hand-wringing articles about, you know, harassment on Twitter and things like that. So, to me, I think, incorporating elements of internet culture into other bits of media, but in a more fun way but maybe with a little hint of commentary, is fun.
[Nicholas White] So, by calling yourself the troll, you could basically say, if you suck at it, “Hey, man, I’m operating on so many levels of irony. You can’t possibly…”
[Lawrence Sonntag] That’s exactly it.
[Lawrence Sonntag] And even that’s a metatroll because it’s the most eye-rolling, aggravating because I mean, that’s what trolls do. No matter how you try to corner them on them being shitty, they’ll just claim that they intended it that way all along. And, no, I was just pretending to be stupid. Yeah, sure, whatever. No, I was bad at wrestling. Legitimately bad. No, but still, yeah, it’s…it gives me…it does give me an out, kind of in the same way it was fun to play that character.
[Nicholas White] That’s great.
[Lawrence Sonntag] Yeah.
[Nicholas White] So it sounds like there was a personal element to this as well, that there’s kind of a personal journey, sort of in terms of your relationship to, for lack of a better word, your own physicality, your own health, your own…how you feel about being a gamer and all that kind of…like get into that for me. Where did…
[Lawrence Sonntag] Sure.
[Nicholas White] Where did all that start from?
[Lawrence Sonntag] Oh, man. It’s…I mean, it’s been lifelong. I’ve never been happy with my body, which, I mean, may explain why I choose to spend too much of my time in my head, in digital experiences and games. The two are intertwined, clearly. Gaming is not a very active hobby. At least, until like DDR and Wii and stuff like that. So, yeah, the merging of the two didn’t really spell out the healthiest lifestyle. And the thing that’s ultimately frustrating is that became a point of pride in gamer culture, the sloth, the lack of sleep. It became…like you’re legit if you don’t eat right, like hot pockets of Doritos. If that’s your diet, you’re a gamer. And at a point, that really started to bother me, especially since even in gaming circles, people have died because they’re not in good shape, and it’s still something that people don’t want to talk about, and I get it. It’s hard to confront those sorts of things. And it was for me for a long time. Not being happy with my body or how I looked, both actively and passively, made me opt out of a lot of life experiences. My 20s, there’s a lot of stuff I could have done and chose not to because I didn’t want to reflect back on them and see myself how I was, which was overweight and out of shape and all that sort of stuff. And it was all dietary because it took me a long time to learn that calories are a thing. I’m going to choose to blame that one on Texas public education, but it was there. I guess I just refused to see it, and fast food is delicious, so… But, yeah, so the idea was, at least for me, that, in recent years, I’ve been able to control my diet a little better and find a more active lifestyle that I enjoy and can maintain. So I’m getting closer to a body image that I don’t, you know, convulse at every time I see it. And, yeah, another element of that is being in front of a camera. Certainly people will tell you just how bad your body is. So it’s been an interesting aspect of both ignoring them or being honest with myself and being like, “Yeah, my body is not in great shape.” And then also fondling that negativity into something positive. So fondling it into going to the gym, into controlling my diet a little more, not using food as a comfort mechanism. So this is part of that. Now that I’m sort of getting to the body that I want, I’m allowing myself to enjoy these weird fantasies that I’ve had my entire life by going to stunt school, becoming a stuntman. And then wrestling was another thing that I’ve always appreciated and respected the physicality of it, but never thought that I would have the ability to do it. Still, don’t think I do, but I took a step. And it’s another part of…even on top of just getting more comfortable with my own body, being willing to put myself in a place where I’m garbage at something I’m doing. That’s something that not a lot of people choose to do. In fact, they choose the opposite. No one wants to look foolish, wants to feel unskilled. But I think it’s important to sort of humble yourself in that way every so often. So it’s this grand process of both admitting to myself the current state of my body, striving for something better, putting myself in places where I’m constantly reminded it could be better if I stopped eating like shit and drinking all the time. And then also reminding myself that I’m not good at everything all the time, and that there are people…you can still learn something and probably should constantly remind yourself there’s a lot of people and a lot of amazing skills out there. And, man, it would be great to spend your entire life learning new things and experiencing new things.