Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing: A Memoir

tags: biography, friends, addiction, television

Matthew Perry is lucky to be alive. In this book, he recounts his story of addiction, from alcohol as a teenager, through to pills as an adult.

As the book starts, he’s in rehab, in great pain. Opiates cause constipation, and he’s so constipated that his bowel ruptures. He almost dies. He spends months in the hospital and even more months with a colostomy bag. He’s since had 14 surgeries to his abdomen to try and clean up the mess.

He then starts at the beginning – he’s Canadian, born in Montreal to a beauty queen and an actor. His parents split up, so beginning his fear of abandonment, so he tells it. His mother went on to be press secretary for Pierre Trudeau, the Canadian prime minister. (Perry claims to have beaten up Justin Trudeau as a child.) His father went to Los Angeles and eventually became the Old Spice man in the commercials.

He talks a bit about the affection he has for both of his parents. In particular, he resented his mother’s professional and public status because it interfered with their relationship.

Perry’s story of becoming a successful actor mirrors most – he worked his way up from small-time parts, through a series of failed pilots, until he finally landed Friends. Apparently, Friends was the hottest script in town. Everyone knew it was going to be huge, and there was a massive demand to get cast. His best friend, Craig Bierko, was offered the part of Chandler, and Perry advised him to take it. He didn’t, and ended up on a failed TV show, and instead the role of Chandler went to Perry. This caused a rift between them for years.

He almost couldn’t take the part. He was committed to a show called LAX 2194 which was – I kid you not – a show about baggage handlers at LAX in the year 2194, with Ryan Stiles. He was finally, mercifully released from that, and was able to become Chandler.

He never married. The “lovers” of the title refers to all the women he’s gone through – and there we a lot. He’s terrified of being abandoned, so he stays at arm’s length, or breaks up with them before they can break up with him (this is what happened to his relationship with Julia Roberts). As he writes the book, he’s 53 and childless, and feels some regret for that.

I couldn’t help but feel that he was unapologetic for some of the dysfunction. Several times he talks about how women where there for him at his lowest points, and he always failed them.

He has also never gotten over his addiction. He’s got clean in 2021, but he’s currently on Suboxone, which is a drug that prevents you from getting high from opiates. He concedes he might be on the drug for the rest of his life.

He writes well. The book is both matter-of-fact and lyrical, which is a hard thing to balance. The writing is not what you would expect from Chandler Bing, which is probably an insult to Perry, given that he’s done quite a few other things in his career, which he writes about with great affection.

(Odd: he considers Fools Rush In as his best movie. That was also the movie during which he suffered a jet ski injury that led to his pull addiction.) A very, very good book.

Book Info

Matthew Perry

Here are some notes I took on the acquisition of this book:

My brother gave this to me for Christmas 2022.

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