‘Matthew Perry Made It Look Easy’

Alexis Soloski, writing for The New York Times:

A confession: When I received a news alert that the actor Matthew Perry had died, my mind adopted the particular cadence that Perry perfected as Chandler Bing, the character he played for 10 seasons on the NBC sitcom Friends. Here is what I thought, “Could this be any sadder?”

Perry, 54, died nearly a year after the publication of Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing, an unusually candid memoir of addiction and recovery. As he detailed in that book, he spent many of the best years of his career oblivious, avoidant, numb — conditions that don’t typically encourage great acting. But he was great. And it had seemed reasonable, if rose-colored, to hope that sobriety might make him better, returning him to the nervy, instinctive brilliance of his peak years. That hope is now foreclosed. [...]

To say that he never did anything quite as good as Friends, before or after, is not to diminish his achievement. Even among the irrepressible talents of his co-stars, Perry stood out, for a rubbery, heedless way with physical comedy and a split-second timing that most stopwatches would envy. If you have seen more than a few episodes of the show — and many, many millions have, including fans born years after its initial airing — you will have absorbed Chandler’s rhythms, his catchphrases, the way Perry’s handsome, moony face would stretch like spandex, the better to sell a reaction. He had both an absolute commitment to what a line required and a way of gently ironizing that line. His character was the butt of jokes. Perry was in on those same jokes. There was a boyishness to him that seemed to excuse his characters’ worst behavior, on Friends and in subsequent roles.

Sunday, 29 October 2023