Somebody Who Lived Well, Loved Well, and Was A Seeker: A Tribute to Matthew Perry

On October 28th, 2023, beloved author and comedian Matthew Perry tragically passed at 54 years old. Perry gained widespread recognition for portraying Chandler Bing in the popular television show “Friends,” but he also played a significant role in increasing awareness about addiction and substance abuse. Though loved ones and fans around the world are mourning this devastating loss, Perry’s impact on comedy and advocacy for substance abuse will live on forever.

Perry was born in Williamstown, Massachusetts, grew up in Ottawa, Canada with his mother, and then moved to Los Angeles, California with his father to pursue his passion for acting. Perry’s first acting role was in “240-Robert,” and some of his most notable early television roles were on “Growing Pains,” and “Beverly Hills.” However, his most notable acting job was in the popular sitcom show, “Friends,” featuring esteemed co-stars such as Jennifer Anniston, David Schwimmer, Courtney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, and Matt LeBlanc. Perry’s lovable performance in the role of Chandler Bing, a quick-witted and endearing character, earned him an Emmy nomination in 2002 and a million-dollar revenue for each final episode. However, despite Perry’s phenomenal success and worldwide adoration, he noted that “the American dream” was not making him happy and that his fame “was all a trick.” For Perry, fame and success did not fill the “lurking loneliness” he faced, and since the age of 21, Perry had turned to alcohol and drugs as his solace. 

Perry was 24 when “Friends” began, and while he could at first deal with his alcohol addiction, by about 34, he noted in his PEOPLE cover story that he was “really entrenched in a lot of trouble.” Though there were years in which Perry was sober, such as the entirety of Season 9, there were also points in which he was taking 55 Vicodin a day. Perry noted that his cast members were patient and supportive, and he compared them to penguins because “in nature, when one is sick, or when one is very injured, the other penguins surround it and prop it up. They walk around it until that penguin can walk on its own. That’s kind of what the cast did for me.” In response to Perry’s tragic death, the “Friends” cast issued a statement that reads, “We are all so utterly devastated by the loss of Matthew. We were more than just cast mates. We are a family. There is so much to say, but right now we’re going to take a moment to grieve and process this unfathomable loss. In time we will say more, as and when we are able. For now, our thoughts and our love are with Matty’s family, his friends, and everyone who loved him around the world.”

Though Perry at first attempted to hide his addiction issues, as time progressed, he became more vocal about his struggles to provide both assurance and comfort to others in similar situations. On November 22, 2022, his memoir Friends, Lovers, and The Big Terrible Thing was published, recounting his experience with relationships, mental health, fame, and his long-lasting battle against addiction. One significant event depicted in the book was Perry’s near-death experience at the age of 49. After suffering a colon burst from opioid overuse, he spent two weeks in a coma with a two percent survival rate. Perry underwent fourteen surgeries and many months in the hospital to miraculously recover, a vital force in Perry’s continued pursuit of sobriety. While Perry had gone to rehab over 15 times and finally become sober, he noted that he preferred not to specify the amount of time he’d been sober. Perry stated that sobriety length count is “important, but if you lose your sobriety, it doesn’t mean you lose all that time and education. Your sober date changes, but that’s all that changes. You know everything you knew before, as long as you were able to fight your way back without dying, you learn a lot.” Perry continued to say that he was most proud of his resilience in all of the difficulties of the recovery process and his expression of even his darkest truths in his memoir to help those who might relate to similar battles.

A year ago, Matthew Perry stated, “When I die, I don’t want ‘Friends’ to be the first thing that’s mentioned. I want that to be the first thing that’s mentioned. And I’m gonna live the rest of my life proving that.” Through his touching memoir as well as outspoken advocacy for addiction visibility, Perry has more than achieved his goal. Although Perry will be missed by fans, addiction survivors, and countless individuals around the world, his legacy and the impact he made will live on forever. 

Works Cited

“‘Friends’ Star Matthew Perry Dead at 54, Found in Hot Tub at L.A. Home.” Los Angeles Times, 29 Oct. 2023, Accessed 08 Nov. 2023.

Gjimeneznyp. “Matthew Perry through the Years: The ‘Friends’ Star’s Life in Photos.” Page Six, 29 Oct. 2023, Accessed 08 Nov. 2023.

“Jennifer Aniston: Friends Are ‘Concerned’ For Her Following Matthew Perry’s Death.” Yahoo!, Accessed 08 Nov. 2023.

Jordan, Julie. “Matthew Perry Opens Up About His Addiction Journey with a New Memoir: ‘I’m Grateful to Be Alive.’” Peoplemag, PEOPLE, 19 Oct. 2022, Accessed 08 Nov. 2023.

Oleksinski, Johnny. “Why Matthew Perry Didn’t Want to Be Remembered Just for ‘Friends.’” New York Post, 29 Oct. 2023, Accessed 08 Nov. 2023.

Raine, Andrew. “Matthew Perry, ‘Friends’ Star, Dead at 54.” CNN, Cable News Network, 29 Oct. 2023, Accessed 08 Nov. 2023.