There’s not a lot of Matthew Perry in the pilot episode of Friends (1994-2004), but he delivers one of its funniest jokes. As the group sits around Central Perk, a newly divorced Ross shares that he wants to get married again. A second later, Rachel wanders into the coffee shop in a wedding dress. Without missing a beat, Perry’s Chandler Bing declares, “And I just want a million dollars!”
Like a lot of Chandler punchlines, it’s quick and biting in its sarcasm. And like a lot of Chandler punchlines, Perry’s masterful delivery elevates it from a smart quip to a signature of the character, one you can’t picture anyone else nailing with such effortless charm. The timing and emphasis of the line is vital. The pause Perry takes after he says, “And I”, the way he hits the ‘I’ as hard as he does, and the way he channels the animated nature of a game show host when he says, “a million dollars!” all combine to give it a musicality beyond what Friends creators Marta Kauffman and David Crane wrote on the page. It is a brief moment in an episode that is primarily not connected to Chandler, but when you watch it and you want to hear him say things like it, again and again.
Fortunately, Perry, Kauffman, Crane, and the rest of the Friends team had plenty of Chandler gags to reveal. Over the next decade, Chandler in many ways became the defining comic voice of the defining Gen X sitcom, and an essential ingredient in its global success.
It is terribly sad to realise that the voice of the man who played him has been permanently silenced. Perry reportedly drowned to death on 28 October 2023, at 54. When the series debuted, he was just 25. He, along with the rest of the cast, breathed life into characters who felt like lifelong friends, quickly becoming beloved icons for audiences worldwide. The laughter of Friends still echoes in our living rooms, a testament to its enduring legacy. As we mourn his demise, let us remember other comedic luminaries we have lost over the years. Their performances are still illuminating the path forward, reminding us that even in the face of tragedy, humour remains a powerful force.
Braugher wasn’t just a sitcom legend, he was a comedic innovator. Captain Holt’s dry wit and unwavering dedication to professionalism in Brooklyn Nine-Nine (2013-2021) were uniquely enjoyable. Braugher’s portrayal injected humour into every stoic glance and perfectly timed one-liner. He proved that deadpan delivery can be the heart and soul of a comedy, leaving fans wanting more of his hilariously serious Captain Holt.
The man who made us laugh as the wholesome Danny Tanner in Full House (1987-1995) and Fuller House (2016-2020), left us too soon. But his comedic spirit lives on, echoed in his heartwarming dad moments and mischievously funny stand-up routines. As the voice of future Ted Mosby in How I Met Your Mother (2005-2014), his storytelling blended humour and heart, reminding us to find laughter in life’s messy adventures.
A truly treasured actor, White’s career spanned over eight decades. Her roles in The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970-1977), Golden Girls (1985-1992), and Hot in Cleveland (2010-2015) cemented her place in sitcom history, forever remembered for her infectious smile and sharp wit.
Mahoney’s portrayal of Martin Crane in Frasier (1993-2004) was a masterclass in grumpy charm. His deadpan delivery and gruff exterior hid a heart of gold, making him a beloved sitcom dad.
A master of physical comedy and witty wordplay, Wilder’s roles in Mel Stuart’s Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971) and Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein (1974) are iconic. His blend of absurdity and vulnerability made him a true pioneer, inspiring generations of comedians with his infectious zaniness.
1951 – 2014
This comedic chameleon’s iconic role in Mrs Doubtfire (1993) showcased his unparalleled ability to blend comedy with warmth. It did not stop there – throughout his illustrious career, Williams starred in a plethora of fantastic movies, both comedies and dramas and left us all in awe of his talent.
These legends, along with countless others, left a legacy of laughter that continues to brighten our days. By remembering their comedic brilliance, we honour their contributions and keep their spirit of joy alive.