My Opinion


Written by ceditor

Ever since Perry starred in Friends, fame never bid him goodbye. He reveals stuff that may change the show for you


If the TV show Friends had another name, it would either have been Everyone Loves Chandler or Laugh Like Bingbecause no matter where in the world you live or which age group you belong to, you love Matthew Perry as Chandler Bing. He was witty, sarcastic and delivered punch lines that went on to become more famous than the combined one-liners of the rest of the bunch in Friends.

In Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing, his newly released memoirs, the 17 Again actor pens down his struggle ― before and after Friends – which saw him go from one of the most popular actors in the world to the guy who fought drug addiction and survived.

If you picked this memoir thinking it will give you an insight into what went on behind the scenes in Friends, then stop right there because this is not about Friends but one character in Friends ― Chandler Bing, played by Perry. Yes, the one who cracked a joke even before the hat dropped (pun intended!) and who had the best job amongst them all (he’s a transponster!), but was unable to carry the success forward despite making it to Hollywood. He explains in his memoir that while he is thankful to everyone who helped him achieve success in life, he is most grateful to be blessed with a second lease on life, because not many survive the kind of drug ordeal that he went through.

Before you move ahead, you have to place yourself in one of the two groups ― people who love Friends and those who don’t. If you belong to the former, then you will fall in love with this book from the moment you set eyes on Friends’co-actor Lisa Kudrow’s foreword. But if you fall into the latter group, you will have to read the book with an open mind. In either case, you will get to know about Perry who was at one time the most popular actor in the world and had a short, but successful career post Friends.

Perry makes a lot of revelations in this book. He discloses how before he ventured into acting, he was into tennis, and had he not been bitten by the acting bug, he would have represented Canada internationally as a tennis player. He also talks about his young American folksinger father John Bennett Perry, who had left his former beauty queen- Canadian wife Suzanne and their son to pursue an acting career and later shared the screen with him in Friends.

In typical Bing style, Perry proudly mentions the fact that he studied with the current Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and even had a fight with him once, but that had more to do with Matt’s mother working as the press secretary for Trudeau Sr. who was also a Canadian premiere, back in the day. If that’s not intriguing enough, you will find out that Perry had once dated Julia Roberts and it was the actress who demanded to be cast opposite Bing when approached for a cameo in Friends.

Enough of Bing, let’s talk about the guy who breathed life into that character. Perry writes the memoir himself, without the help of a ghostwriter, and that’s what makes it relatable. It wouldn’t be incorrect to say that the actor seems to be talking directly to the readers instead of them reading a book, which is exactly how one should feel while reading a memoir or an autobiography. The more one reads about Perry, the more one realises that he and Bing were one and the same. They talk in the same way, their jokes have the same depth, and if the writers weren’t credited in the beginning of Friends, many would have assumed that Perry created Bing, based on himself.

In fact, Perry admits in these pages that once he read the script for Friends, he knew that Bing was tailor made for him and thankfully when his friend Craig Bierko passed on the character in an ill-advised move, Perry was able to make Bing his very own. He explains to the readers that while actors were auditioning for Friends, Perry was cast in another TV sitcom LAX 2194 which he knew might not even do well, but since it was the only work he had, he accepted it. Thankfully, that show couldn’t see the light of the day and he became part of a sitcom that not only changed his life, but transformed him into a bankable star.

But he does blame the success of Friends and the popularity of Bing for what followed later, described in the title as ‘the Big Terrible Thing’. Yes, this is all about his battle with drugs, and alcohol, and the freak jet-skiing accident on a movie set that introduced him to painkillers. He also accounts for his visits in and out of de-addiction centres, his more than half a century of relapses, and the painful process of recovery that saw him come full circle, but not without sacrifices.

Despite being a part of the most popular sitcom of the last 30 years, Perry describes his struggle without hiding anything. In his words, one can track the trajectory of his addiction if one gauges his weight from season to season. “When I’m carrying weight, it is alcohol. When I’m skinny, it’s pills. When I have a goatee, it is lots of pills.” He also names the many villains of his life such as Vicodin (sometimes 55 pills a day), alcohol, cocaine, Xanax, and Suboxone, and accepts spending millions of dollars on rehab which cost him his career and a lot of money.

While Perry blames his parents for many of the things that went wrong in his life ― from being given barbiturates to stop him from crying at an early age to being sent to visit his dad in another country as an unaccompanied minor ― he is grateful to them for how they redeemed themselves later in his life. He also is full of praise for his stepdad Keith Morrison which comes as a surprise to many, considering he is not just an award-winning Canadian journalist, but also a popular broadcaster associated with the long-running news show Dateline.

In these pages, Perry explains the reasons why he took up comedy and how becoming a joker helped him achieve his dreams later in life. Even though his father was an actor who had left him when he was young, it took Matthew some time to realise his passion for performing acts. He tells the readers that before he ventured into acting, tennis was his passion and he was amongst the best players on the junior Canadian circuit, however, when he went to try his luck in the US, he realised that he was no match for his American counterparts.

Thus began Perry’s career as an actor and even though his father was in the business, there was a time when Perry passed an audition and his father failed for the same project, making things awkward between them. He also describes the time when he had to attend his parents’ wedding which took his awkwardness to a whole new level. Not only that, he also blames himself for his failure to find the right life partner despite having his share of potential wives, claiming that when he dumped Julia Roberts, she stared at him because such a thing had never happened to her.

Let’s move over from sadness to happiness or as Perry says, the best thing to happen to him ― Friends. This book details everything about the series from how they all were finalised as the lead characters, how Matthew tried to first flirt with Jennifer Aniston and failed, and how being with Courtney Cox made him give his best performance on screen. He also explains how being on the series saved him from going completely nuts and why he and the rest of the cast members would remain indebted to David ‘Ross’ Schwimmer whose financial advice made them millionaires over the next few years.

The book also has its share of controversies, such as Perry’s dig at Hollywood stalwart Keanu Reeves for ‘simply existing’ in a world where his dear friends River Phoenix and Heath Ledger don’t. After John Wick fans protested against this needless remark, the author apologised and agreed to remove the comments from the second edition, but they could certainly have been avoided in the first one. His rant about co-stars Cameron Diaz and Salma Hayek also comes as a shock to the readers as does his friendship with Bruce Willis whom he refers to as the coolest man in the world. He also reveals how the success of their film The Whole Nine Yards helped him win a bet with the Die-Hard star who agreed to return to TV briefly and be part of an arc on Friends.

Besides anecdotes and stories, the book also has a psychological effect on the readers since it makes them realise that even successful actors have issues. Despite fame, wealth, and stability in his life, this memoir explains how Matthew Perry became the poster boy of addiction which remains a sad story. The way he describes his stay in hospitals, his recovery phase, and his fear of dying actually makes this book an important read because many out there can relate to him. You don’t have to be a drug addict to relate to Perry’s issues, but obsession, addiction, or people suffering from compulsive behaviour can learn a thing or two from the actor’s ordeal.

Unlike other memoirs, this book doesn’t have many pictures, but that doesn’t matter considering the narration is picture-perfect, if you get the drift. One gets to see a young Perry here, alongside his father, mother, stepfather, siblings, and later onscreen Friends with whom he continues to be close, to this day. Currently in his early 50s and living a life of a recovering addict, he ends the book feeling hopeful about getting his life back on track and settling for a family. Perry reveals in the book that if he could stay sober for one complete season of Friends, he could do anything, and might be talking about getting married, finally. After all, things got better for his character Chandler, when he married Courtney Cox’s Monica, and that might do the trick for the king of punch lines.

tribune – Omair Alavi

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