Lisa Kudrow as Phoebe Buffay
|First appearance||"The Pilot" (1994)|
|Last appearance||"The Last One" (2004)|
|Created by||David Crane|
Kevin S. Bright
|Portrayed by||Lisa Kudrow|
|Family||Frank Buffay, Sr. (father)|
Phoebe Abbott (birth mother)
Lily Buffay (adoptive mother; deceased)
Ursula Buffay (twin sister)
Frank Buffay, Jr. (half-brother)
Frank Buffay III (alias Frank, Jr., Jr.; nephew)
Leslie Buffay (niece)
Chandler Buffay (niece)
Phoebe Buffay-Hannigan is a fictional character, portrayed by Lisa Kudrow, one of the six main characters from the American sitcom Friends, created by David Crane and Marta Kauffman. She appeared in each of the show's 236 episodes, from its premiere on September 24, 1994 to its finale on May 6, 2004. She is a masseuse and musician, notable for her offbeat and sometimes ditzy behavior. She was Monica Geller’s roommate before Rachel Green. Phoebe is best friends with Monica and Rachel, along with their neighbors, Chandler Bing and Joey Tribbiani, and also Monica’s brother Ross Geller. She plays guitar and sings at Central Perk. During the show's ninth season, Phoebe is introduced to Mike Hannigan, played by actor Paul Rudd, by Joey, and the two begin a romantic relationship. The two later get engaged, then married. She is the daughter of Frank Buffay and Lily Buffay and her birth-mother's name was Phoebe Abbott. She has a twin sister named Ursula Buffay. She can speak several languages, including French and Italian.
In the pilot episode, Phoebe is introduced as one of the six original friends, including neighbors Joey (Matt LeBlanc) and Chandler (Matthew Perry), former roommate Monica (Courteney Cox), Rachel Green (Jennifer Aniston), and Monica's brother, Ross (David Schwimmer). She is a musician at their typical meeting place, Central Perk, where she plays guitar and sings self-written songs. During the first season, she has a myriad of boyfriends, including Tony, a physicist named David, played by Hank Azaria, and a psychologist named Roger, played by Fisher Stevens. Phoebe's twin sister, Ursula Buffay, a character originally created for and appearing in the American sitcom Mad About You as a waitress, is also introduced in the first season, in "The One With Two Parts". Ursula is also portrayed by Kudrow. Phoebe works as a temporary secretary for Chandler for a brief period of time in "The One With The Ick Factor". It is revealed that the woman Phoebe believed was her mother, Lily Buffay, committed suicide when Phoebe was about 14, by means of carbon monoxide poisoning.
During the second season, it is revealed that Phoebe was married to a Canadian ice dancer, Duncan Sullivan, who was posing as gay, in order to allow him to get a green card, for six years. The two agree to get a divorce after he comes to the realization that he is, in fact, heterosexual, and wants to get married to another woman, in "The One With Phoebe's Husband". Phoebe is also temporarily replaced as the primary singer for Central Perk by a professional singer named Stephanie Schiffer, played by singer Chrissie Hynde. Phoebe's song "Smelly Cat" is introduced in the same episode. "Smelly Cat" is discovered by a record company, and Phoebe stars in a fictional music video for the track, in which her voice is dubbed over by another singer.
Although the facets of Phoebe's character are manifold and extremely complex, Phoebe can generally be classified as kind-hearted, but ditzy and whimsical. Due in no small part to her extremely traumatic childhood, Phoebe has developed a child-like naïvité in an attempt to shield her from the world's evils. In addition to being a vegetarian and an avid tree hugger, she also displays a remarkable lack of experience with the "darker sides" of life. In season 2, it is shown that her deceased mother Lily would always turn off films before anything traumatic would happen, including the death of Old Yeller or Bambi's mother being shot. It is also revealed that she was never told the truth about Santa Claus.
Phoebe is shown to have a very strained relationship with her sister Ursula, who she almost never gets in touch with. Despite multiple efforts to get her crass twin sister (who is one minute older than her) to care about family affairs or other things that concern her, Phoebe nearly always goes home empty-handed and none the wiser. When it is revealed Ursula performs in porn under Phoebe's name, the latter eventually gets her revenge by cashing in Ursula's pay slips.
Very in tune with her emotions and those of others, Phoebe sometimes serves as a rock to her friends. She especially shows a great deal of maternal instinct towards her younger brother Frank, despite the latter's lack of intelligence.
Much to the dismay of her friends (especially Ross), Phoebe dabbles in metaphysics and other superstitions throughout the series. She is convinced she can feel the presence of her dead grandmother in her old apartment, she senses the spirit of her mother in a lost cat, reads tea leaves, and dismisses Charles Darwin's theory of evolution as “too easy”.
One of the running jokes during the show is also Phoebe's seemingly infinite criminal track record. She repeatedly makes reference to her underworld connections and crimes she committed while living on the streets. Since a lot of her claims are never backed up, Phoebe's boasting frequently gives off an air of pathological lying.
Similar to the short-lived Monica/Chandler/Richard love triangle, Phoebe had two serious romantic interests that overlapped with each other at one point during the series. David (Hank Azaria), known as "The scientist guy", has a romance with Phoebe in the first season of the series, but breaks her heart when he decides to leave for Minsk on a three-year research trip. He makes a few more appearances throughout the series, most notably trying to get back together with her and kissing her when they get interrupted by Phoebe's then-boyfriend Mike (Paul Rudd). Mike had been introduced to Phoebe in the ninth season of the show, when Joey forgot he was supposed to find Phoebe a double date and decided to shout for a random guy called "Mike" in the coffee shop instead. After a whirlwind romance, Phoebe and Mike eventually break up and she briefly reunites with David in Barbados. Mike beats David to the punch, however, and proposes to Phoebe before the latter gets a chance. Although she initially rejects both, she definitively breaks up with David and eventually marries Mike.
Jokes and sarcasm
The show's running gag and one of Phoebe's trademark characteristics is her song "Smelly Cat," which she performs at Central Perk. The song is about a cat who is shunned by society because of its foul stench as a result of flatulence ("What are they feeding you?"). However Phoebe sympathizes with it because she can relate to being an outcast. The verses consist of Phoebe rattling off a list of ways in which the cat is disliked ("They won't take you to the vet", "you're obviously not their favorite pet", etc.) while the chorus ends with the uplifting message to anyone who is different or unique that "it's not your fault". In the episode, "The One Where Eddie Moves In," Phoebe is discovered by a record producer who wants to make a music video for "Smelly Cat". After finding out that the voice used in the video belongs to another woman, however, she turns the idea down because she feels bad for the woman who will not get any recognition for her voice because she does not have the "right look." In the episode, "The One With Phoebe's Ex-Partner," Phoebe's former singing partner, Leslie, portrayed by E.G. Daily, wants them to get back together. The partnership fails again when Leslie sells the song "Smelly Cat" to a commercial agency against Phoebe's wishes. Phoebe teaches the song to Chrissie Hynde, who releases it in a 1999 album. On August 26, 2015, Kudrow performed the song as a duet with Taylor Swift during Swift's concert in Los Angeles as a part of her 1989 World Tour.
Her age seemed to have differed throughout the series. In "The One with the Mugging", it is implied that Phoebe is older than Ross, seeing as she was fourteen when he was 12. This episode made her possibly the oldest in the group. In "The One with the Jellyfish" (Season 4), Phoebe states that she is twenty-nine, placing her birth in approximately 1968. However, in "The One Where They're Going to Party," (Season 4), Ross states he is also 29, which does not work with the previously mentioned two-year age gap. According to "The One with Frank Jr.", Phoebe was born on February 16; however, in Season 9 ("The One with Phoebe's Birthday Dinner") Phoebe's birthday is sometime in early November, since they could not make the reservations and the dinner had to be moved back to October 31. In "The One Where They All Turn Thirty" (Season 7), it is revealed that Phoebe was born a year earlier than she thought, believing she was 30 but was truly 31, which further adds to the inconsistency of her age throughout the show's run. Phoebe also tries on at least one occasion to manipulate the other friends into celebrating her birthday again within months of a previous birthday party.
Phoebe occasionally uses the alter ego Regina Phalange. The first reference to Regina Phalange is during season 5 following Ross saying "Rachel" instead of "Emily" at his wedding. She pretends to be "Doctor Phalange", Ross' brain doctor, claiming that names are interchangeable in his mind. When the friends go to Vegas, Phoebe introduces herself to the blackjack dealer as Regina Phalange. When Phoebe, Rachel, and Melissa go out to lunch (The One with Rachel's Big Kiss), and Melissa asks if she was in a sorority, she pretends to be a member of "Thigh Mega Tampon", a fictional sorority that was allegedly shut down when Regina Phalange died of alcohol poisoning. She also used her fake name to show Chandler and Monica how easily people lie about their names and to help Chandler with his interviewing skills in season 8 episode 4, when Joey says, "Hi, I'm Ken Adams" she replies, "Regina Phalange". In the season 10 episode "The One Where Joey Speaks French", Phoebe attempts to spare Joey from humiliation by introducing herself as "Régine Philange" and stating that Joey is speaking an obscure regional dialect from her "hometown" of "Estée Lauder". She immediately switches to French and claims that Joey is her younger brother who is "un peu retardé" (a little retarded), and requesting that the casting director humor Joey's French-speaking abilities. The last reference is in the series finale when Phoebe successfully stalls Rachel's plane to Paris by saying there is a problem with the "left phalange", causing everyone on the plane to evacuate. The passengers are eventually convinced to return to the plane. When a woman skeptically asks an airport employee if "the phalange" was fixed, he replies, "Yes, the phalange is fixed! As a matter of fact, we put a whole lot of extra phalanges onboard, just in case!"
Phoebe's pregnancy during Season 4 was to account for Lisa Kudrow's actual pregnancy.
Kathy Griffin, Jane Lynch, and Megan Mullally all auditioned for the role of Phoebe. Lisa Kudrow won the role because the producers liked her recurring role as Ursula, the waitress in Mad About You. The characters were connected to make them twin sisters. The producers said they liked the elements of Lisa in Ursula, but they needed Phoebe to be a lot more humorous.
Both the character and Kudrow's performance received critical praise. TV Guide ranked her #11 on their list of "TV's Top 100 Characters". Entertainment Weekly voted Phoebe Buffay on Friends as Lisa Kudrow's best performance.
- Crane, David; Kauffman, Marta. "The One With The East German Laundry Detergent". Friends. Season 1. Episode 5. NBC.
- Crane, David; Kauffman, Marta. "The One With The Monkey". Friends. Season 1. Episode 10. NBC.
- Crane, David; Kauffman, Marta. "The One With The Boobies". Friends. Season 1. Episode 13. NBC.
- Crane, David; Kauffman, Marta. "The One with the Baby on the Bus". Friends. Season 2. Episode 6. NBC.
- Crane, David; Kauffman, Marta. "The One Where Eddie Moves In". Friends. Season 2. Episode 17. NBC.
- Bob Leszczak (25 June 2015). From Small Screen to Vinyl: A Guide to Television Stars Who Made Records, 1950-2000. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. p. 269. ISBN 978-1-4422-4274-6.
- "Taylor Swift sang Smelly Cat with Lisa Kudrow on stage". BBC. 2015-08-27. Retrieved 2015-08-27.
- Bright, Kevin S. (November 15, 2005). Friends: Final Thoughts. New Wave Entertainment.
- Wild, David (2004). Friends ...'Til the End. London: Headline. p. 209. ISBN 0-7553-1321-6.
- "Lisa Kudrow Dishes It Out". Entertainment Weekly (1026). December 19, 2008. Retrieved November 25, 2011.