Published20 hours ago
Fans of TV show Friends will be very familiar with Chandler Bing’s zingy one-liners and ability to cut through any situation with sarcasm – of its six main characters, he was arguably the funniest.
The late Matthew Perry’s character could be summed up by him saying: “Hi, I’m Chandler, I make jokes when I’m uncomfortable” and “I’m not great at advice, can I interest you in a sarcastic comment?”
Chandler was quick, dry and witty, although Perry struggled behind the scenes with his well-documented addictions, both still loved to get big laughs.
Friends’ script writers provided Perry with ample opportunity, which he was brilliant at delivering.
Perry told CNN’s Larry King in 2002 he was inspired to become an actor by his father, John Bennett Perry, saying he had wanted to “follow in his footsteps”.
In his 2022 memoir, Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing, Perry wrote about the huge crossover between himself and Chandler’s characters.
When he was sent the script he felt the role was made for him.
“It was as if someone had followed me around for a year, stealing my jokes, copying my mannerisms, photocopying my world-weary yet witty view of life…” he wrote.
“It wasn’t that I thought I could play Chandler; I was Chandler.”
Last year he told The Times: “At my audition I broke all the rules. For a start, I didn’t carry any pages of the script (you’re supposed to carry the script with you when you read, because that way you’re acknowledging to the writers that it’s just a work in progress). But I knew the script so well by this point. Of course, I nailed it…
“I read the words in an unexpected fashion, hitting emphases that no one else had hit…”I didn’t know it yet, but my way of speaking would filter into the culture across the next few decades.
“For now, though, I was just trying to find interesting ways into lines that were already funny, but that I thought I could truly make dance. (I was once told that the writers would underline the word not usually emphasised in a sentence just to see what I would do with it).”
The internet is peppered with some of Chandler’s best quips as well as endless memes of him getting the last laugh, usually with a whip-smart response to his on-screen friends – Joey, Monica, Ross, Rachel and Phoebe.
Sometimes it was at his own expense though.
Although Chandler wasn’t an emotionally open character, he occasionally referenced having had a “bad childhood”.
He was often self-aware, deflecting away from his vulnerabilities with humour, with lines such as:
- “When I first meet somebody it’s usually panic, anxiety, and a great deal of sweating.”
- “Until I was 25, I thought that the only response to ‘I love you’ was ‘Oh, crap!'”
- “It’s always better to lie than to have the complicated discussion.”
During one episode, Chandler is chatting with Joey [Matt LeBlanc], in their apartment and asks his friend: “What must it be like not to be crippled by fear and self-loathing?” to which his much less complex roomie replies: “It’s okay!”
Chandler was also good at puncturing Ross’s occasional moments of pomposity. Perry delivered his lines with perfect comic timing, despite his tortured insecurities off-stage about getting enough laughs.
When David Schwimmer’s Ross, who worked as a palaeontologist, says: “No, Homo habilis was erect. Australopithecus was never fully erect,” Chandler responds: “Well, maybe he was nervous.”
Another scene sees Ross directing Chandler and Rachel on getting a sofa up some stairs shouting: “PIVOT. PIVOT. PIVOT”
Chandler shouts back: “SHUT UP. SHUT UP. SHUT UP.”
And sometimes, Chandler just said stuff that made you laugh, like: “Cheese. It’s milk that you chew.”
When he appears with a face full of shaving foam and is asked by Joey: “Hey. Shaving?” he replies: “No, rabies.”
A long-running joke during the series was Chandler’s job – no one knew exactly what he did, other than the fact he earned a lot and worked in a skyscraper.
It eventually emerged he worked in statistical analysis and data reconfiguration – which meant they still didn’t know what he actually did. But by series nine, he’d moved into a less well-paid role he preferred, as an advertising copywriter.
In the episode Where Rachel Goes Back to Work, Chandler considers returning to his previous position, telling Monica: “I’ll just get my old job back.”
She replies: “No, I want you to have a job that you love. Not statistical analysis and data reconfiguration.”
Chandler responds: “I quit, and you learn what I do?”
Earlier in the series, Chandler walks into the room clutching Cosmopolitan magazine, and announces: “Alright, I took the quiz. And it turns out I do put my career before men.”
Another long-running thread in the show was Chandler’s romantic relationship with Monica, where they ended up secretly dating before moving in together and eventually getting married.
This provided an opportunity for Chandler’s wisecracks to be pushed aside for serious truths, which added poignancy to his lines.
When he proposes to Monica, played by Courtney Cox, he says:
“You make me happier than I ever thought I could be and if you let me, I will spend the rest of my life trying to make you feel the same way.”
At their wedding ceremony, he says: “I thought this was going to be the most difficult thing I had to do, but when I saw you walking down the aisle, I realised how simple it was.
“I love you.”
By the time the show ended in 2004, after 10 seasons and countless awards and nominations, his troubled character had finally found some closure and happiness.
In the end, being on Friends gave Perry a degree of happiness as well.
He told the New York Times in 2002: “If I hadn’t had the experience of being famous, I would have searched for it my whole life.
“I would have just gone on and on trying to find it.”