My Celebrity Life

Lisa Kudrow has had the best career since Friends

She took a character who could have been borderline annoying and two-dimensional and made her a real standout (Picture: Getty)

If the enjoyable yet over-stuffed Friends Reunion taught us anything, it’s that Lisa Kudrow remains a God-tier legend.

Yes, more important than the tidbits about Jennifer Aniston and David Schwimmer’s real crushes, Matt LeBlanc’s new status as everyone’s favourite uncle, or… er… finding out David Beckham’s favourite episode(?), was the welcome reminder – if one was even needed – that the Phoebe Buffay actress is still the one you’d most like to have round for dinner.

That infectious laugh, that quick wit, that grounded personality… not to mention the fact that those table read scenes proved she’s a strong contender for the greatest actor of the bunch.

Across Friends’ 10 years on air, she took a character who could have been borderline annoying and two-dimensional and made her a real standout – and on top of that, she’s done some of the most interesting work since it ended in 2004.

Of course, all of its stars are marvellous: the show succeeded because all six leads knew their way around a punchline, and generally speaking they all made their respective characters warm and likeable and easy to root for.

As well as that, they’ve all done great stuff since: among other things, Matthew Perry wrote a play and worked as both an actor and producer on The Odd Couple, Courteney Cox fronted another long-running comedy in Cougar Town, Matt LeBlanc hosted Top Gear and won a Golden Globe for Episodes, and David Schwimmer – in addition to finding success behind the camera – was massively acclaimed for his role in The People v. O. J. Simpson.

I’m sure I don’t even need to go into everything Jennifer Aniston has achieved; becoming a bona fide box office megastar with multiple hit movies under her belt, plus deserved plaudits for her recent return to the small screen in The Morning Show – complete with a season finale that reminded us just how phenomenal she can be with the right material.

But if you were to tell me I was only allowed to watch one Friends star’s post-Central Perk output, I would pick Lisa Kudrow’s every time.

For a start, she’s even being amazing and iconic in something right now: the second season of Mae Martin’s Feel Good, which dropped on Netflix just days ago.

In that, she plays Mae’s mother, Linda; a character whose initially uptight, cold demeanour is gradually unravelled to reveal a struggling parent who just doesn’t know how to effectively express her love and concern.

She’s often – surprise, surprise – extremely funny, too: there’s a moment in the first season in which she informs a restaurant waiter that she’ll change her order to ‘the braised pheasant’; and when he tells her it’s not even on the menu, she delivers a perfectly matter-of-fact ‘that’s what I would like’ before whispering a quiet ‘what a rude man’ under her breath as he smiles and leaves.

Prior to that, she was fantastic in her self-created series Web Therapy, she’s played memorable supporting roles in movies like Booksmart and Easy A, and she’s also moved behind the camera as a successful producer. Did you know she’s one of the people behind the US version of Who Do You Think You Are?

But her greatest post-Friends job is playing a character who has arguably become even more of a pop cultural icon than Phoebe Buffay – at least in some circles. I’m talking about Valerie Cherish from The Comeback.

That show – a mockumentary in which she played a former soap star plotting her return to the A-list – wasn’t much of a mainstream commercial hit at the time. But thanks in part to its loyal gay following, it’s comfortably become a cult classic; and if you’ve spent much time on Twitter in recent years, you’ve probably seen the ‘well, I got it!’ GIF at least four million times.

As Valerie, Lisa not only gave us endless laughs and cringe-worthy moments, but she also perfectly realised the tragedy of her character: someone with delusions of superstardom who was almost completely lacking in self-awareness.

And the show – which was initially panned and cancelled after just one series, before being revived and retroactively lauded a decade later – shone an unforgiving light on Hollywood misogyny, too.

In season one, we saw the writers on Valerie’s sitcom either bully or ignore her, and we saw her having to gloss over her own humiliation and smile along, desperately trying to save face and act like she was totally unphased. As highlighted by Amrou Al-Khadi in their look back at the series from last year, it’s telling that this programme – with an older female character – was originally met with indifference and disdain, while The Office (which had a not-dissimilar form and tone and – in some respects – lead character) was widely praised.

Lisa’s CV includes loads more standout credits (guest stints on Scandal, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Grace and Frankie and The Good Place among them), and she delivers the goods every single time.

For her comic instincts and the way she can find humanity in characters who could very easily become broad pastiches in less capable hands, she really is incredible. She may not be the most famous of the Friends, but for me she certainly has the most interesting body of work.

And the accolades are there, too: while Jennifer Aniston has rightly collected plenty of prizes over the years, Lisa is unmatched when it comes to the prestigious Emmys. Since picking up six (six!) nominations for playing Phoebe, she’s gone on to collect another eight in the years since – far more than any of the others.

Aniston, for comparison, has had two (in addition to three Golden Globe nods and, er, five post-Friends Razzie noms); while Matt Le Blanc has had four, David Schwimmer has had one, Matthew Perry has had three and Courteney Cox has had one (if you count the Daytime Emmys).

At this point the temptation is to say that while the Friends Reunion is fresh in everyone’s minds, I hope Lisa can pick up some bigger, more high-profile roles. But actually I don’t know if she needs or even wants them.

I’d bloody love to see her in a Kathryn Hahn-type part in something like the Marvel franchise, but perhaps that’s not the sort of job she’s after.

In shunning blockbuster fame and focussing instead on projects that truly satisfy her, she’s crafted one hell of a resume and quietly become one of the most consistently brilliant actors of her generation.

And if she’s not, per my deepest wishes, going to release a full summer remix of Smelly Cat with Lady Gaga, I can’t wait to see what she does next.


Credit: Original article published here.

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