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Murlie Joseph / Gavel Media

In Remembrance of Matthew Perry

On the night of October 28, Matthew Perry tragically passed away at his home in Los Angeles. Most famous for his Emmy-nominated role as Chandler Bing in the famous '90s sitcom Friends, Perry was one of the most well-known comedic actors of the decade. His contributions to the field of acting cannot be expressed enough; his comedic timing and ability to connect with an audience and his fellow actors made the revolutionary sitcom the cultural hallmark it remains to this day. After Friends, he notably starred in the romantic comedy Fools Rush In (1997) with Salma Hayek. His last large box office role was in the fantasy comedy 17 Again (2009) with Zach Efron, in which he played an older version of Efron. In the more serious, emotional role, Perry showcased his talents outside of comedy, cementing himself as one of the most underrated actors of the late 1990s and early 2000s. 

Since his passing, a majority of the articles, posts, and stories released in remembrance of him have focused on his time on Friends, seemingly mourning Chandler Bing rather than Perry himself. To quote Perry in an interview on the “Q with Tom Power” podcast in 2022, “When I die, I don't want 'Friends' to be the first thing that's mentioned. I want [helping people] to be the first thing that's mentioned, and I'm gonna live the rest of my life proving that." 

After dealing with alcohol addiction from a very young age, Perry developed an opioid and later methadone addiction, triggered when he was prescribed Vicodin after a jet ski accident. This addiction plagued him throughout his time acting, with him stating that he was taking fifty-five pills a day at one point.  However, Perry dedicated his life to helping others get clean, even while he was struggling. In 2011, he lobbied the US Congress as a celebrity spokesperson for the National Association of Drug Court Professionals in support of increased federal funding for drug courts. He opened Perry House, a rehab center in his former mansion, earning him a Champion of Recovery award from the White House in May 2013. More than simply an actor, Matthew Perry was someone who dedicated his life to helping others even when he was struggling behind closed doors, and that is how I believe he should be remembered.

In 2022, Perry released his autobiography titled Friends, Lovers, and The Big Terrible Thing, described as a story of addiction written for addicts. Perry doesn't shy away from writing the gritty, dark truth of his addiction—which he refers to as "The Big Terrible Thing"—and how difficult it was for him to stay present during what should have been the greatest period of his life. He estimates that he spent seven million dollars on his addiction, attended six thousand AA meetings, and detoxed 65 times, using his sarcastic nature to accurately portray the reality of living with an illness that takes your very freedoms. One cannot overstate the importance of this book and Perry’s openness about his addiction in tandem with his celebrity status. His work to destigmatize The Big Terrible Thing in popular culture has had a ripple effect, as sharing the realities of addiction makes those who are experiencing it feel like they are not truly alone.

The tragic loss of Matthew Perry is one that is felt across generations. Most everyone has heard a story from their parents about watching Friends during a formative moment in their lives, like my mother doing Friends, Wine, and Paint nights once a week at the pottery shop she owned in New Orleans in the '90s. Perry, through his jokes and inimitable presence on screen, brought people together, so his struggles with addiction shocked the world when revealed. His perseverance and dedication to helping those who hurt just like him are a calling card to all of us to help our fellow man for as long as we possibly can—for that is what we will ultimately be remembered for.

English major and double-minor in Sociology and Business Management. You can probably find me on a run around the res, getting coffee, or listening to Hozier.