What is it about actors we love named “Perry”? We lost Luke to an untimely death at 52, and now Matthew Perry — unrelated, except in terms of having impact on our formative years — is gone at only 54. From what I’ve read around the Internet, much of it in his own words, Matthew Perry would have wanted first and foremost for us to mention his memoir from 2022, Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing (not an affiliate link; that would feel gross), which is a chronicle of the addictions and demons that were in a near-constant conspiracy against him. “It is very odd to live in a world where if you died, it would shock people but surprise no one,” he writes in it, heartbreakingly. Living long enough to write that book meant something to him. He strove to help others come out ahead, even when he himself was still fighting the battle. He had already, years ago, established a sober living house called Perry House, and was looking to start a foundation for those struggling with substance abuse. The book was part of that legacy, and a part of that work. Any of the Friends passing would be a terrible, sad shock, but somehow it being Matthew Perry sincerely hurts because of how hard he fought for it. His freaking colon exploded. He kept going. He wrote down his story, warts and all, and gave it to people as a cautionary tale because he’d survived, and he wanted that for everyone.
Also, I hope we can all be mindful of not stating any assumptions about the underlying cause of what happened until the medical examiner finalizes the autopsy. I imagine his family would appreciate the restraint. We don’t know where he was in his journey.
We SHOULD talk about his career. There’s Oz from The Whole Nine Yards, a surprisingly fun romp that has shades of Ruthless People (and what a sad thing it is to see stills of him with Bruce Willis, both of them headed for sad endings). He was in Silver Spoons, Growing Pains, Who’s The Boss?, and Beverly Hills, 90210. He must have been beloved because producers like Aaron Sorkin and Robert and Michelle King hired him multiple times. He swung by The Good Wife, The Good Fight, The West Wing, and Cougar Town. He starred in Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, an Odd Couple reboot, and the delightful and over-too-quickly Go On, which I’ve been thrilled to see people pay tribute to on Twitter, because it’s a gem. And of course, Chandler Bing. Miss Chanandler Bong. A transpondster. Season 4’s “The One With The Embryos,” with the famous apartment-swap contest, is one of the best episodes of Friends, but honestly, almost all the episodes of Friends were Matthew Perry’s best episodes of Friends. We can debate all day whether Friends holds up — as with a lot of older TV and movies from that era, aspects of it absolutely do not — but he never fails, even if the material around him might. He could play sarcasm, he could play flustered, he could play railroaded (I can still hear Janice’s voice in my head, along with him saying, “15 Yemen Road, Yemen”). And he could play romantic, and sincere, without ever losing the comedy. What a deft touch he had. He gave us his story, and he gave us his gift, and it’s just… really, really awful that time ran out before he felt like his work here was done.
I’m sure everyone will have a different favorite Matthew Perry moment, and I hope you’ll share them. I’m sorry we didn’t get this post up sooner.
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