The Hilarious Reason Matthew Perry Almost Said No To Friends

Matthew Perry is an actor who, despite many genuine attempts, hasn’t been able to pull his career out of the shadow of the hit comedy Friends, with one moderately enjoyable show after another failing to make a lasting impression on TV audiences. So it’s extremely interesting to know that Perry was one terrible series order away from completely missing out on playing Chandler Bing. Could there BE anyone better suited for the role?

Perry stopped by Late Night with Seth Meyers to promote his upcoming CBS series The Odd Couple – which you can read about here – and Meyers asked him about his pre-Friends troubles. Perry kicked the explanation off by saying he was broke, and he told his business manager to get him any job imaginable.

This happened to be the year that Friends was shot. But I was off the market because I had taken a job on a pilot called LAX 2194 that was about baggage handlers at the L.A. airport in the year 2194. So I was wearing a futuristic shirt and little people played the aliens, in which I had to sort out the aliens’ luggage, and that was basically the show.

There’s a masochistic side of me that is extremely interested in seeing what this show would have been like. This would have been after The Ben Stiller Show unfortunately tanked, and just before The George Carlin Show fortunately tanked, and during the time when Martin, Living Single and In Living Color were going strong. Obviously that’s the perfect time for Fox to bring out a show about a white guy handling aliens’ baggage.

Luckily for Perry, Fox seemed to understand that no one on this world or any other one would ever tune into that kind of malarkey on a weekly basis.

And so then a script came out, at the time it was called Friends Like Us, and it was hilarious and great and there was this part that was perfect for me and it was making me crazy that I couldn’t go up for it because of the baggage handler show. I was losing my mind, and then finally someone at Fox at the time said, ‘We’ve seen this. It’s the worst thing we’ve ever seen in our lives. He is available. You can hire him for your little show called Friends Like Us,’ which then became Friends.

If you're wondering what the worst thing Fox had ever seen at that point looked like, here's a Perry-free promo for LAX 2194, which not even Ryan Stiles or Kelly Hu can save.

This goes right along with the stories of Courtney Cox originally being chosen for the Rachel role, in that I can’t possibly imagine what this show’s humor would be like with such a radical character shift. Plus, if Perry hadn’t ever starred on Friends, we might not have had such films as Fools Rush In or Three to Tango. On second thought…

Check out the Late Night interview below.

Watch Perry on Friends reruns all over Netflix, and find him on CBS’ The Odd Couple starting Thursday, February 19. There are no aliens, I promise.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.