“When I die, I know people will talk about Friends, Friends, Friends…”
~ Matthew Langford Perry
(August 19, 1969 – October 28, 2023)
1. The last time I attempted to write about a celebrity death, it became a self-eulogy.
When I die, don’t waste your time
On thinking up things to say
You know me not (as I knew you not)
And trust me, that’s okay
That was in 2012.
2. When The Hooghly Review asked me to write “a tribute piece to Chandler/Perry”, I said yes immediately, but later, I was hit by a moral dilemma. Was I not being a hypocrite? I knew him not outside of Chandler Bing. What then?
I decided to learn him.
This is what Wikipedia said:
“Perry had a perfectionist and obsessive personality, spending many hours perfecting his answering machine message.”
I have always felt that Perry had a resemblance to Aamir Khan, who, in turn, looks like Tom Hanks. All of them give off meticulous, hair-splitting, fussy vibes. (I am not trying to ruffle any feathers. Fans of Forrest Gump, go rant elsewhere.)
It is my belief that doppelgängers exhibit a sameness of behaviour. Who else thinks Perry would have killed it in Andaz Apna Apna? Imagine him lip-syncing, with that smirk, to Ello Ello.
Yep, I know I am filmi.
As a child, whenever I said something clever, my father would say, “Are you trying to be Kader Khan?” I have had some practice with humour too. When Aunty Acid first came on the scene, my sister was convinced I was ghost-writing it.
But I could never teach a Sarcasm 101 class on Saturday Night Live. My tongue-eye coordination is not what it should be.
Let me list out how else I differ from Matty:
1. His book was an instant bestseller.
2. I have never dated a literary manager. (I have been accused, though, of bribing critics with biryani.)
3. I have never had the pleasure, or the opportunity, to beat up a future Prime Minister.
Perry’s memoir, released in November 2022, is called Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing. The terrible thing being his decades-long addiction to alcohol and opiates.
In an author interaction, he said, “You know the thing that always makes me cry is that I had to go through this disease while the other five didn’t.”
The other five — Courteney Cox, David Schwimmer, Jennifer Aniston, Lisa Kudrow, and Matt LeBlanc — released a joint statement upon his passing:
“We are all so utterly devastated by the loss of Matthew. We were more than just cast mates. We are a family.”
Matthew was the youngest of the bunch; he joined Friends when he was 24. Eight years later, they were each earning USD 1 million per episode. For their reunion special, which I have not watched yet (blasphemy!), they were each paid USD 2.5 million.
But clearly, health >>> wealth.
On Good Morning America, during a book promotion, the host described Perry’s struggles with de-addiction and recovery as postcards from hell. He was taking up to 55 painkillers a day to get through the filming for Friends. His fluctuating appearance from season to season was a red flag. “When I’m carrying weight, it’s alcohol; when I’m skinny, it’s pills; when I have a goatee, it’s a lot of pills.”
Fame, he said, did not heal anything. In fact, it was the cause of added stress. All the fans of the show — scores of millions worldwide — “stared” at him. He was in a funk, but he had to be funny.
I know for a fact that sense of humour is directly proportional to sensitivity. After his infamous 2013 debate with Peter Hitchens — the topic was Drug Courts — on BBC Newsnight, both speakers, reportedly, had to be escorted out of the premises through separate exits. The Chandler snark was on sharp display, and Perry took no prisoners. If one can be forgiven for being mean, “Every Ross thinks he’s a Chandler.” Ross, here, is all of us.
But if you asked Perry himself, Lisa Kudrow was his funniest-person-ever. Kudrow, in fact, wrote the foreword to Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing. But she claimed not to have kept in touch and was given a separate copyright for her contribution. Now, I have received quotes/blurbs/introductions for my books from famous people, including a Nobel laureate, but no one ever asked for a piece of the pie. That probably sums up Perry’s relationship with people. He pushed them away.
The reviews for his memoir were not exactly glowing either. Readers were disappointed at the “unmitigated twattery” and his lack of regard for the women in his life. One Redditor called him out for his “malignant narcissism”. But it is so hard to know the motivations of a man whose quirks and eccentricities became his calling card. And his charm was undeniable, wasn’t it? Every time we saw him put the other five in their place, we loved him a little more. That’s talent, right?
Perry was agnostic. He believed in “an unspecified higher power” and called himself a seeker. Since the release of his book, he said these words a lot: “I did try to help other people.”
Let that be his legacy.