Lisa Kudrow Is Rewatching ‘Friends’ Because of Matthew Perry 5

For years after Friends, Lisa Kudrow has admitted she could not bring herself to watch reruns of the beloved NBC sitcom, explaining she didn’t want to risk not liking her work on the show. But in a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter to promote her upcoming Apple TV+ series Time Bandits, Kudrow — who became a household name in the mid-’90s as the endearing and idiosyncratic Phoebe Buffay — says that she has begun to revisit old Friends episodes, in large part to keep the memory of her late co-star Matthew Perry alive.

Perry died Oct. 28, 2023, at age 54 from the acute effects of the anesthetic ketamine, his tragic passing sending ripples around the world. A criminal investigation into how he died is ongoing.

“Honestly, I wasn’t able to watch it because it’s too embarrassing to watch yourself. But if I make it about Matthew, then that’s okay,” Kudrow tells THR. “And it’s just celebrating how hilarious he was — and that is what I want to remember [about him].”

Friends premiered on Sept. 22, 1994, to 21.5 million viewers, immediately transforming its cast of Kudrow, Perry, Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Matt LeBlanc and David Schwimmer — who played six best friends living in New York City — into global superstars. The show ran for 10 seasons and 236 episodes, with last month marking the 20-year anniversary of the series finale.

During the Friends reunion special, which aired on HBO Max in 2021, Kudrow had told her former co-stars that, after beginning to catch up on the show with her husband Michel Stern, she was struck by how funny the show was — a sentiment that still stands today.

What does Kudrow see when she revisits the show now?

“I’m laughing out loud, and everyone is hilarious. I’m blown away by Courteney Cox. I’m blown away by Jen. Matthew, obviously, is just uniquely hilarious. No one ever knew that cadence or comedic rhythm before him. Matt LeBlanc is hilarious. And David Schwimmer, too. Sometimes I even laugh at what I’ve done,” Kudrow says with a self-deprecating laugh. “So yeah, I mean, that’s my own little way of celebrating [the anniversaries], just watching it. But it’s embarrassing. At home, if anyone walks in the room and I’m watching Friends, that’s a horrible look, I think, don’t you?”

Of all the moments from Friends that have been immortalized in pop culture, one of the show’s funniest episodes was “The One Where Everybody Finds Out,” when the rest of the characters discover that Perry and Cox’s characters, Chandler and Monica, have been secretly dating. After finding out, Phoebe decides to mess with both of them by flirting with — and even trying to seduce — Chandler. While she has admitted in past interviews that she does not remember certain moments from Friends, Kudrow says she remembers that it was LeBlanc who suggested that Joey unbutton Phoebe’s shirt, in an attempt to outsmart Chandler.

“It’s like, ‘We’ve got to come up with something to up the stakes.’ And I think it was him that went, ‘What if he just [imitates unbuttoning a shirt with one hand] … and the shirt flies open?’” Kudrow recalls of the farcical storyline with a laugh. “And they’re like, ‘Are you okay wearing a bra?’ And I went, ‘A bra? There’s more covering than a bathing suit! It’s fine.’”

And it’s that overwhelming sense of joy she felt every day with her ensemble that remains Kudrow’s fondest memory of making Friends. “You’re just laughing all day long, basically, in between the scenes, because these are funny people. And especially someone like Matthew whose goal was: How many laughs can I get in real life every day? So we were always laughing so hard, tears were flying out of our faces,” she recalls with a fond smile.

When asked how she hopes the world will remember her friend Perry, whom she thanked in a heartfelt tribute after his passing last October, Kudrow put it simply: “I think the world is remembering him the way he wanted to be remembered. I think that’s happening [already].”

Kudrow will next be seen in Taika Waititi, Jemaine Clement and Iain Morris’ Time Bandits, the Apple TV+ series adaptation of Terry Gilliam’s 1981 fantasy classic. The original film starred Gilliam’s Monty Python co-stars John Cleese and Michael Palin, as well as Sean Connery, Shelley Duvall and Ian Holm. In the series — which continues Kudrow’s trend of playing charming, comedic characters who lack a certain amount of self-awareness — Kudrow plays Penelope, the de facto leader of a ragtag group of thieves who journey through time and space with their latest recruit: an 11-year-old history nerd named Kevin (Kal-El Tuck).

Time Bandits premieres July 24 on Apple TV+.

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