‘Matthew Perry Was the Sarcastic Soul of “Friends”’

Alan Sepinwall, writing for Rolling Stone:

There’s not a lot of Matthew Perry in the pilot episode of Friends, but he gets to deliver one of its funniest jokes. As the gang sits around Central Perk, a newly-divorced Ross admits that he just wants to be married again. A second later, Rachel wanders into the coffee shop, soaking wet and wearing a wedding dress. Without missing a beat, Perry’s Chandler Bing declares, “And I just want a million dollars!”

Like a lot of Chandler punchlines, it’s quick and biting in its sarcasm. And like a lot of Chandler punchlines, Perry’s delivery elevates it from a smartass quip that a few dozen actors could say into something you can’t imagine leaving anyone else’s mouth.

Note the timing and the emphasis of the thing. The pause after “And I,” the way he hits the “I” as hard as he does, and the way his voice goes full game show host as he says “million dollars,” all combine to give the gag a musicality beyond what Friends creators Marta Kauffman and David Crane wrote on the page. It’s a small moment in an episode that is primarily concerned with characters who are not Chandler Bing. But you watch it and you want to hear him say things like it, again and again and again.

Perry was so great on Friends, but my favorite show he was on was the short-lived Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, a 2006 Aaron Sorkin show that I’ve always thought failed in part* because it was a few years ahead of its time. Its lone 22-episode season aired on NBC. It was too smart, too cinematic, for network TV. It should have been on a cable channel like HBO, or, if it aired a decade later, a streaming service. The show was so good (at times — 22 episodes was way too many for a show striving for such quality), and Perry was sublime.

Perry, too, deserves accolades for his remarkable openness regarding his long struggle with addiction, and his heartfelt willingness to help anyone and everyone else with The Problem. Rest in peace.

* I don’t know if it hurt Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, but another weird thing about it was that it debuted the same year, on the same network, as Tina Fey’s hall-of-fame-funny sitcom 30 Rock. Both shows shared the same fundamental premise: they were about fictionalized versions of Saturday Night Live. They even both had numbers in their titles, and those numbers were oddly similar. Studio 60 was a funny drama, and 30 Rock a sitcom’s sitcom, but I always wondered if it was a bad idea to launch two roman a clefs about SNL at the same time.

Sunday, 29 October 2023