Welcome to Top 5 Fun Friday, a regularly-occurring blog feature where I give you a list of extremely specific pointless shit from my life no one asked for. Why? Because the internet is STILL incredibly un-fun in 2021 and I enjoy blogging. It’s Friday and these will be fun! This week’s list…
Top 5 Favorite Extremely Minor Characters from the show “Friends”
“Friends” debuted on NBC in 1994. It began running in syndication a few years after that, and no matter when you’re reading this, I’ll bet it’s playing somewhere at this very moment even if you exclude streaming platforms. It’s on TBS right now as I type this very sentence!
I’ve loved the show pretty much since its debut as discussed in my recent Top 5 Fun Friday post that included one Chandler Muriel Bing. Since more people than I can count have asked me if I’ve seen the Friends Reunion on HBO Max (I haven’t. I don’t pay for HBO Max which is a weird choice, I recognize given the veritable cornucopia of dumb shit I actually pay for), I think it might be time for me to curate a pointless list to commemorate this show I love and that so many others loathe.
So here we go. Let’s go DEEP into the show and pick out a few of my favorite characters whose time on in the Friends universe was way too short. And when I say minor characters, I’m not talking about Gunther or Judy Geller or David the Scientist Guy or anything like that. Hell no! I’m talking VERY minor characters here. None of these characters appeared in more than three episodes, except one, and she appeared in a mere six. So if you’re a Friends superfan, could you BE any more excited about this list? Let’s do it…
Eddie, Chandler’s increasingly unhinged roommate
Played by Adam Goldberg, Eddie moves in with Chandler shortly after Joey moves out thanks to newfound success as a result of his recurring gig on “Days of Our Lives.” Eddie starts out quirky but mostly agreeable, but quickly grates on Joey thanks to moving where the mail is kept, the way he cooks eggs, and an obnoxious “See ya, pals!” farewell. The first Eddie episode is mere scene setting. The second two really start to cook.
Like a great tragicomic opera, Eddie’s madness builds and swells and finally crescendos into pure insane, deluded psychosis. What’s my favorite part? Fuck, I dunno! What’s your favorite part of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony? Can you isolate it? Because I can’t. I love everything about Eddie’s brief tenure as Chandler’s ludicrous roommate. But in the interest of reliving some of the greatest hits, let’s choose a few choice moments, shall we?
- He’s literally the only character I’ve ever seen in a piece of pop culture anywhere that has an affinity for food dehydration. And a fierce affinity for it, too! Come to think of it, I’ve never known anyone in real life that’s dehydrated food. Is that even still a thing?
- He keeps a Goldfish cracker in an actual fish bowl filled with water. At some point he replaces it with a real goldfish, and after a fight with Chandler, snatches it out of there with his bare hand, stuffs it in his pocket, and storms out.
- The scene where Chandler walks through the door to find Eddie standing like a statue holding a tray of pecan sandies fills me with equal parts joy and utter terror.
- He’s standing in the window holding a human head! He’s standing in the window holding a human head!
Look, I recognize the writers pulled the plug on this character at exactly the right time. Any further episodes and he would have worn out his welcome fast or been forced to evolve into an actual human facsimile. Either way, Chandler and Joey realize they can only fight insanity with unreality, so the way they trick him and he ultimately disappears is one of my favorite adieus for a fictional character of all-time. In the spirit of that, I’ll just say, “Goodbye, you fruit-drying psychopath.”
If you gave me a month, nothing else to do and $10 million in 1997, I couldn’t come up with a better casting choice for Phoebe Buffay’s mom than Teri Garr. She absolutely NAILS the energy and essence of Phoebe, so when the gutpunch reveal that this is Phoebe’s birth mom happens, it lands flawlessly.
Teri Garr is a delight in every single thing she’s in, and she’s a welcome presence on Friends. There’s a mischievous innocence about her that allows her the versatility to dial up the ditzy goofiness or slow down and offer heartfelt pathos to the proceedings. Her primary arc occurs during the ill-fated beach trip that sees Chandler pee on Monica to alleviate the pain of a jellyfish sting, and also directly leads to Ross shouting “We were on a break!” at Rachel after they have sex. Those are two iconic moments in the canon of Friends (Chandler peeing on Monica less so, but still memorable), so in the hands of a less dialed-in actress, Phoebe’s birth mom story could be understandably forgettable.
But she immediately jibes with Phoebe, and on a recent rewatch, she gets flustered when young Phoebe shows up, stands up and shouts to no one in particular, “Or sangria! I could make sangria!” It makes me laugh every time.
Marshall Talmant, Director of Boxing Day
Joey gets cast in a play and is opposite a pretentious woman named Kate who doesn’t like him and makes fun of him. They sleep together after dialing up the heat on a scene they’re working on, but the relationship stalls because the actress is dating the director, whom Joey refers to as “a cartoon.” Ever been to drama camp? I have! And the director is not only a cartoon, but a pitch perfect representation of the types of goofballs you find populating local theater scenes across the country.
“Peel the onion” he says exaggeratedly to Kate with regard to deepening her motivation in the scene, which is something said to me verbatim during a drama camp session. At one point during rehearsal, he receives a call on his cell phone and says, “I’m going to take this call. But when I return, I want you to work something in the theater we call COMMITTING… TO THE MOMENT.” Me and the 50 or so other kids in this camp had “commit to the moment!” shouted at us literally multiple times a day, every day, all summer. I didn’t really get what it meant at the time because I was largely thinking about how cute all these theater chicks were, but adding age and perspective has made me appreciate the spirit of that phrase.
And, like all bombastic, fraudulent, overdramatic lords of their own pathetic fiefdoms, his talents are panned by a drama critic and he becomes completely undone. There are times around here when I have a nagging pain or am the recent recipient of a well-placed zinger by my wife where I’ll arch my back and shout to the sky with the same theatrical vigor of Talmant, “I am HURT!” I always feel better.
Mrs. Knight, Frank Jr’s girlfriend/fiancé/wife
There are two types of people in this world: Those who think Debra Jo Rupp is a comedic genius, and people are fucking stupid. Known primarily for her time as Kitty Foreman on That 70’s Show, Rupp is the glue. She can literally play off of anyone in that cast and spin comedic gold with them. That’s far from true of many pairings on that show, but Rupp finds new notes in every interaction and new layers in every shared moment.
The whole storyline with her and Giovanni Ribisi shouldn’t work. I mean, she’s a married home ec teacher, and he’s an idiot teenager and they want to have kids together. It’s like when Law & Order does those “ripped from the headlines” stories, except in the 90s every few months you’d get a new story about a teacher having sex with a student. Gross. How did she not get fired, and how were they not on the news?
But both her and Ribisi are such unusual individuals who seem to have tapped into each other’s ids, you can’t help but root for them to succeed. Also, this is a fictional universe where Monica the professional New York chef seems to have an easygoing 9-to-5 schedule, so that helps. Rupp plays everything with a barely-contained neurosis diffused by nervous laughter in social settings, and unquenchable horniness for Ribisi’s weirdo energy at all other times. It’s quite the combo platter!
Steve, the stoned restaurant owner guy
In a show where I love so much, Jon Lovitz being baked out of his gourd and getting lost in the verbiage of Monica’s next culinary creation might be all-time favorite moment. He’s onscreen in this episode for all of maybe 5 minutes, and they’re all fucking gold. From him proclaiming, “Aw cool, taco shells! These are like little corn envelopes.” to him responding to Monica’s request to give back the gummy bears he swiped from her shelf with a petulant, “Nnnnnooooo.” It’s all great. I will always find Jon Lovitz funny even if he’s basically always playing exceedingly minor variations of Jon Lovitz. The less said about his return as Rachel’s blind date in a much later season, the better.
Credit is due to Courteney Cox for being a great foil for him in this scene, as well. She knows exactly how to play uptight and anxious against Jon Lovitz’s mischievous, couldn’t-possibly-give-a-shit, high as balls energy to create comedic cold fusion. I have no evidence of this, and can’t seem to find confirmation one way or another online, but I think MTV saw this episode (which aired in February of 1995) and based on the strength of their chemistry booked these two to host the 1995 MTV Movie Awards in June of that year. That was the awards show where Pulp Fiction finally defeated Forrest Gump for Best Picture in something, and Speed and Interview with the Vampire fucking cleaned up.
I seem to remember the two of them having an exchange that went something like this:
Lovitz: You’re just jealous because my breasts are nicer than yours.
Cox: Well… at least mine are bigger.
Lovitz: But mine are POINTIER.
Can someone get these two another show together, please?