The overnight news of Matthew Perry’s sudden death at the age of 54 was greeted with sadness on Sunday morning at the current epicenter of the Friends universe in Ireland.
However, such is the cross-generational and everlasting appeal of the epochal sitcom in which Perry played such a pivotal role that attendees at the Friends Experience in Dublin’s Point Square universally acknowledged his legacy and the laughs his unique sarcasm evoked , will live on for a long time.
“I was very shocked, I almost cried this morning,” said Bláthnaid McKenna. She pointed to the 20-somethings in her group and said, “We’re watching [Friends] daily. It’s fun and easy and puts you in a good mood. We all grew up with our mothers and fathers watching it, it was always on.”
“The Friends Experience” recreates several sets, including the cafe and the two apartments where Monica and Rachel and Chandler and Joey lived. “I think it might be a little sad today, maybe especially in the boys’ apartment, but you don’t want to be too morbid at the same time.”
Liz and Dan McAuliffe traveled from Kerry for the experience.
“I’ve seen Friends many, many times,” Liz told The Irish Times. “I always recorded it on a Monday evening and then watched it throughout the week. Do I know every word? Oh yeah. Did I cry on the way here? Yes, I have. “Someone woke me up first thing this morning to tell me the news,” she added, pointing to her embarrassed-looking husband.
“It’s so sad,” Liz said. “He was very worried, but I think we all thought that things were going to change for him with his book and everything.”
His autobiography, “Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing,” published last year, details his decades-long battle with addiction. It received critical acclaim and topped the New York Times bestseller list.
Donna Byrne, from Meath, brought her daughter Kassia to the experience as a ninth birthday present. “I grew up with Friends, just like she grew up with Friends,” Donna said. “The news surprised me, I must say. I know he had demons and fought them. He was active in many things, but as friends will remember him, his sarcasm was next to nothing. It was brilliant.”
Friends’ appeal spans generations and across the globe. “I woke up to the news this morning,” said Yuloa Dmyrtyshyn from Ukraine. “It was devastating. Chandler was definitely my favorite. I watched Friends from start to finish maybe 30 or 40 times.”
While most of those mourning Perry have been fans for years, Tami Nascimento of Brazil only recently joined the ranks. “I’ve only been watching it for about a year. Chandler was always my favorite and I think we will all remember him for the best scenes, the jokes and his laughter. I think we would all like to be remembered that way. Everyone has their problems, and he was no exception,” Nascimento said.
Noirin Bannon from Glasnevin didn’t go to the Friends Experience, she was on her way to a burlesque dance class on Sheriff Street, but she was probably the biggest fan of all.
“He was amazing and I’m devastated. “I’m listening to a podcast about his trauma,” Bannon said. “I’m the same age as him and we grew up watching Friends. We all wanted the Rachel hairstyle, but Chandler was definitely my favorite, he was the funniest and the one you’d most want to date. But in real life he was so unhappy. I mean, think about it, he was worth so much and had so much success, but he was so unhappy. It just goes to show that you can have everything and still be unhappy.”
Bannon recalled how influential “Friends” was when it first aired in the mid-1990s. “It opened our eyes,” she said. “Even going out for a coffee was new to us back then. But [Perry’s] Demons were always after him and he could never truly escape. He had such fears, and I think it’s really amazing that he was able to do all the things he did while living with that level of fear. We will really miss him.”