Life after Phoebe: Lisa Kudrow post-FriendsWatch it now
Phoebe may have launched Lisa Kudrow’s career, but she hasn’t been waiting around for another shot at singing Smelly Cat. We caught up with the successful actress.
Ladies and gentlemen, can we have an OMG? (And all the tissues!) It’s Friends: The Reunion! Also known as The One Where They Get Back Together, the almost two-hour TV special is now on Showmax.
Now in their 50s, Lisa Kudrow (Phoebe), Jennifer Aniston (Rachel), Courteney Cox (Monica), Matt LeBlanc (Joey), Matthew Perry (Chandler), and David Schwimmer (Ross) bring us all the feels as they return to the iconic comedy’s original soundstage for a real-life unscripted celebration of the beloved show, including a line-up of guest stars and celebrities from host James Corden to Reese Witherspoon, David Beckham to Justin Bieber.
Friends has an 8.4/10 score on IMDb where, surprise!, it’s at #3 on the Most Popular TV list, and still at #53, IMDb Top Rated TV of all time, 17 years after the finale aired. The series won 77 awards over the course of its 10-season run, including six Emmys.
The quirky one
If, like us, you’ve spent the last 17 years pining for them to get back together, Friends: The Reunion delivers all the flashbacks, the reenactments, the tearjerker moments, and a few revelations that might have you screaming, “My eyes! My eyes!” (or, more likely, “My heart!”), in your best Phoebe voice.
Quirky, goofy, irrepressible and absolutely one of a kind, Phoebe Buffay (aka Regina Phalange, aka Princess Consuela Banana-Hammock) gifted us her eternal ability to find the funny side, her realness, humanity, and a plethora of absurd Phoebe wisdoms, like the time she told Ross (about Rachel, obviously), “She’s your lobster… It’s a known fact that lobsters fall in love and mate for life. You can actually see old lobster couples walking around their tank, holding claws.”
She also gave the world the Smelly Cat anthem, which she reprises on The Reunion… with a little help from a surprise guest celebrity.
On where Phoebe would be now, Lisa told People Magazine her character “is living in Connecticut with Mike and their kids, and she’s in charge of the arts program for the school, and just … the advocate for her kids because they’re different, like she was.”
Mike Hannigan was Phoebe’s long-time boyfriend, whom she married in Season 10 of Friends. And of course he was a keeper – he’d been vetted by her bestie! Actor Paul Rudd, aka Marvel’s Ant-Man, who played Mike, had dated Jennifer Aniston in real life prior to coming on the show, and the two remained friends.
The odds of Phoebe and Mike still being together (in that fantasy universe where Friends continued forever and ever) are pretty high. Lisa herself celebrated her 26th anniversary with French ad executive Michel Stern on 27 May 2021 – coincidentally, the very day The Reunion aired in the States. The couple’s son, Julian Murray Stern, was born in 1998. Remember that time in Season 4 where Phoebe was pregnant with triplets as a surrogate mother for her half-brother Frank (played by Giovanni Ribisi)? Yep, that pregnancy was real.
BFFs for real
Taking the show’s theme song to heart, Lisa has also been there for her girl-Friends through the years since the show ended. In 2000, the relationship between the series’ three women characters earned her, Jennifer and Courteney a Kids’ Choice Award nomination for Favorite Television Friends, and the three actresses have remained friends in real life.
Her bankability extends to her professional life too. Of the six main Friends cast members, Lisa’s career has been one of the most consistent, second only to mega-star Jennifer, with a track record for showing up and delivering the funny (or the heavy), every time.
Her role as Phoebe earned her an Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series, a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress, an American Comedy Award for Funniest Supporting Female Performer, and a Satellite Award for Best Actress in a Comedy.
But Lisa was never going to be “just” Phoebe forever. In fact, she wasn’t “just” Phoebe even during Friends’ run. Phoebe’s twin sister Ursula (also played by Lisa) first appeared in Mad About You two years before Friends kicked off in 1994. She was written into Friends as Phoebe’s twin sister, and in between shooting Friends, Lisa continued to show up on Mad About You, and starred in several movies.
The blockbuster comedy Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion earned Lisa an MTV Movie Award nomination for Best Dance Sequence, while she won a Teen Choice Award for Choice Hissy Fit in The Opposite of Sex, and a Blockbuster Entertainment Award for Favorite Supporting Actress – Comedy, for her role in Analyze This, opposite Robert De Niro and Billy Crystal, also starring in its sequel Analyze That.
Friends came to an end in 2004, and a different actress might have taken a well-deserved break, or gone into a tail-spin wondering if there was life after that career-defining, decade-long role. But, tongue firmly in cheek, Lisa jumped right into her next project as Valerie Cherish, a celebrity struggling to make the A-list again, in the HBO comedy The Comeback, which earned her two Best Actress: Comedy Emmy nominations.
In 2008, she co-created the online series Web Therapy, which morphed into a successful four-season TV series centred on Lisa’s narcissistic therapist character, Fiona Wallace, and she didn’t forget her friends. Each season of the Emmy-nominated show saw one of her Friends co-stars make a guest appearance. Courteney played a psychic, David was an obsessed patient, Matt played a gambling addict, and Matthew played a lying lawyer. The only one missing was Jennifer, whose own career was going full throttle too.
Lisa’s also acted in the Golden Globe-nominated Easy A and Booksmart; the Emmy-nominated comedy series Space Force; and in the groundbreaking BAFTA-nominated Mae Martin comedy-drama Feel Good, as well as guest appearances on hit comedy series like The Good Place, Grace and Frankie, and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, for which she received a Critics’ Choice nomination for Best Guest Performer in a Comedy Series.
Outside of comedy, Lisa appeared in the Emmy-winning 2013 Kerry Washington drama series Scandal, and in the 2016 thriller The Girl on the Train. At the opposite end of the spectrum – and showing off her versatility – she’s lent her voice to animated series and movies from BoJack Horseman to The Simpsons, Dr. Dolittle 2 to The Boss Baby. And behind the camera, she executive produced the reality series Who Do You Think You Are, which earned her five Emmy nominations.
None of which has ever stopped us missing Phoebe, or praying for a Friends comeback.
But on The Reunion, Lisa explains, “That’s all up to [creators] Marta [Kauffman] and David [Crane], and I once heard them say – and I completely agree – that they ended the show very nicely. Everyone’s lives are very nice. They would have to unravel all those good things in order for there to be stories. I don’t want anyone’s happy ending unraveled.”
So as much as we would love to hear Ross announce, “We were [just] on a break!”, the special is as close as we’re getting to a reboot.
Not that the actors, or the studio, will suffer financially if the show is never rebooted. Warner Bros reportedly still earns around $1bn a year from syndication of the evergreen show, according to USA Today. Even with the six main cast members earning just two percent of that, their annual income from reruns reportedly comes to $20m each…