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The One Where We Remember Matthew Perry

The+One+Where+We+Remember+Matthew+Perry

On October 28, 2023, the world lost a light. Fifty-four-year-old Matthew Perry was found dead at his Los Angeles home after an apparent drowning. The news of his passing spread across the world and, within hours, the internet was flooded with posts from people sharing the heartache towards his death. 

A beloved actor, comedian, writer, and producer, Matthew Perry was most well known for his role as the fun, zany-humored character, Chandler Bing, on the world-famous sitcom Friends. The series first aired in 1994 on NBC and instantly became a major hit. Set in New York City, the show hilariously explores the hectic, romance-filled, and sometimes unrealistic lives of six close friends—Chandler, Joey (Matt Leblanc), Ross (David Schwimmer), Rachel (Jennifer Aniston), Monica (Courteney Cox), and Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow)—as they navigate their intertwined lives.

The show was well-received when the first season came out, but its real popularity skyrocketed when the second season was released in 1995. Fans were quickly obsessed with every aspect of the show, especially the quirkiness of the characters, the romance (often between each other), the humor, and the heartwarming, seemingly unbreakable bond the characters all share. Fans also instantly fell in love with Chandler, who was portrayed incredibly by Matthew Perry. He showed his true talent, effortlessly using sarcasm and physical humor to make Chandler the charming and lovable character we all see him as.

Despite giving the characters unrealistically large New York apartments, the series’ success is largely due to how viewers can relate to the characters. People feel connected to the characters because they relate to their dating struggles, problems finding work, and their damaged familial relationships. Other viewers simply find comfort in the show’s lighthearted humor and portrayal of friendship. Many Friends fans love the show because it allows them to escape the stress of their lives and just have a good laugh.

From season two until the show’s end in 2004 after its tenth season, Friends remained in the top-5 most-watched programs on television. The stars went from earning $22,500 per episode in the first season, to around $1 million per episode by the end—keep in mind that each season of the show has at least 20 episodes. With the show broadcast in over 200 countries and translated into almost as many languages, the fanbase grew by millions and undoubtedly cemented the show’s popularity and influence in the world. 

While still only in their twenties, the six stars of the show were launched into immense fame and superstardom. They became household names, and despite working on other projects from 2004 until now, people only seem to talk about their role on Friends. So, it’s no surprise that with Matthew’s passing, and the massive amounts of posts circulating about him online, people are only really remembering him as Chandler Bing. 

The truth is, while onscreen Matthew Perry was bringing entertainment, laughter, and joy to the world, offscreen he sadly struggled with addiction and alcoholism. On set, Matthew was completely professional and did his job, but outside of the studio, he was fighting a battle that few were aware of or knew how to handle. At the time, he had no idea how to help himself, either, but after years of rehab and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, he was able to stay sober and gain back control of his life. 

In Matthew’s memoir Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing, published in 2022, he walks readers through an eye-opening telling of his start to fame, his addiction, his relationships, and his recovery, all in extensive detail. Though one could question why he wanted to describe in depth the extremely personal, intimate details of his life, like how he was on life support and in a coma briefly during 2018, he truly just wanted to be honest with the world, and for his millions of fans to hear about his struggles from him alone—not from rumors circulating the internet. 

Besides this, Matthew’s main reason for publishing the memoir was to help other people who are going through addiction and similarly have no idea what to do. During Matthew’s press tour to promote his memoir, he admitted, “When I die, as far as my so-called accomplishments go, it would be nice if Friends were listed far behind the other things I did to try to help other people.” It gives me chills reading this knowing it wasn’t too long before his death that he said this, but the sentiment is very important. When Matthew was finally well enough, he turned his house into a sober living facility, called The Perry House, to help provide people recovering from alcoholism with a safe home. Before his death, he was also planning to start a foundation to bring more assistance to those fighting addiction. Because of the insane success of Friends, Matthew had money for his treatment, even admitting that he probably spent around $9 million total on his rehab and recovery. The average person can’t even come close to being able to afford that, so Matthew hoped his foundation would raise money for the large number of people who need it for their recovery.

Though he died before the foundation could be created, in the week following his death the National Philanthropic Trust launched The Matthew Perry Foundation, hoping to continue Matthew’s mission of helping people with addiction. This is exactly how Matthew wanted to be remembered.

Matthew Perry’s passing is tragic. As someone who watched Friends several times and is a huge fan of Chandler, I am incredibly heartbroken by his death. It’s completely understandable to mourn the loss of a comfort TV character and great actor, but I believe everyone should take a minute to remember him how he would have wanted—as someone who went through hell and back but used his experience to help others recover from addiction.

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