Friends, Lovers, and The Big Terrible Thing

A Memoir by
Matthew Perry.

This review originally appeared on

Graciously edited by Maria Crawford.

Who doesn’t love Matthew Perry? He’s a heart-throb, famous and hysterically funny as the character Chandler Bing on the hit TV series Friends.

With a Forward by the hysterical Lisa Kudrow, who plays Phoebe Buffay on Friends – Friends, Lovers, and The Big Terrible Thing, opens with a raw and chilling statement, “And I should be dead.” And Matthew should be, as he details in the pages that follow.  

One thing I know from my own experience with addiction is that while people with substance abuse problems are capable of great honesty, the shame and guilt that comes with addiction often propels them to lie and stretch the truth. Unless you’ve been through it yourself, or intimately know someone who has, people with addictions face a terrible societal ignorance about what it’s like to live with the disease. So we tell the parts that’ll resonate, that people can relate to, and lock away the really dark stuff, deep into the recesses of our mind. Yet right from the get-go, Matthew holds nothing back, jumping right in to tell a tale which is as horrific as it is fearless.

Friends, Lovers, and The Big Terrible Thing book cover
Friends, Lovers, and The Big Terrible Thing book cover. Photo by Raymond Helkio.

Abandonment issues, along with his parents’ divorce, fast become a major theme of Matthew’s life having found himself a latch key kid at a very young age. Recalling the first time he drank at age fourteen, he links the beginning of a drinking and drug career to back to when he was a colicky three month old and his parents tried to soothe him with substances. Not to justify giving your kids a half a sedative or rubbing whiskey on their gums but it was fairly standard back practice then. It was just a different time.

Matthew’s harrowing tails of treatment centres, hospitals and hangovers were symptoms of his profound lonelinesses and would later form the backdrop to what became his double life. On one hand a struggling addict while on the other, a million-dollar-a-week sitcom actor. A major influence to North American culture, Matthew lived most of his career split between Los Angeles and New York, however he grew up living in Ottawa, Montreal and, of course,  Toronto. His mother, a famous aid to Pierre Elliott Trudeau, and his father the face of the aftershave “Old Spice”, Matthew’s life as an actor was inevitable. 

Matthew Perry with one-time girlfriend Lisa Kudrow
Matthew Perry with his then girlfriend Lisa Kudrow. Photo from Friends, Lovers, and The Big Terrible Thing.

Prior to the book’s launch there was a fair amount of grumbling within the star circuit. Many famous starlets who had crossed paths with Matthew were now nervous that they might get raked over the coals, and for good reason. Matthew doesn’t seem to hold much back as tales are told about many icons including Julia Roberts, Gwyneth Paltrow, Salma Hayek, Keanu Reeves, and Robert Duvall. One story about Eddie Van Halen, who had passed out on his own couch, reveals that Matthew made out with Eddie’s then wife. Eddie is no doubt rolling over in his grave. 

A young Matthew Perry
A young Matthew Perry, from Friends, Lovers, and The Big Terrible Thing.

I’ve read a lot of memoirs over the years and many, if not most, have been written, and intentionally designed to enhance the image of the writer. Not so much with Matthew Perry’s memoir. It’s filled with antidotes, circumstances and mistakes that he’s made, much of which paint him as a devil, if not Satan himself. But this is the allure of Friends, Lovers, and The Big Terrible Thing, a memoir about addiction, faith, and clawing one’s way back, over and over and over again.

Matthew seems to posses an overly inflated Hollywood ego, often referencing his movies as the cats meow, when in fact many of his blockbuster movies are silly at best. As co-star of the movie The Whole Nine Yards, with Bruce Willis this film gets positioned as a classic, although in my humble opinion it ranks up there with slapstick comedies reminiscent of Meatballs. Same with his favourite movie he worked on, Fletch starring Matthew and Chevy Chase, which is mildly amusing at best. Why he loves this film is a mystery, but my best guess is that Matthew is blinded by the fact Chevy also happens to be a comedic idol of his. Referencing himself as one of the “most famous actors in the world” might hold true for North America because of his work on Friends, but he’s not exactly a household name elsewhere.

Matthew Perry and the cast of Friends
Matthew Perry and the cast of Friends.

During the filming of the movie Serving Sara, Matthew consistently showed up on set wasted, slurred his lines and effectively pissed off his fellow actors as well as the director. Having to re-record much of his lines from the movie, Matthew makes amends by offering to do an extensive promotional tour which sees him on every major talk show and capturing the cover of every entertainment magazine. Ah, the woes of Hollywood. At the end of this debacle Matthew gets sued by the studio for $650,000 dollars, a pittance considering he got paid 3.5 million to star in it.

All this being said, Friends, Lovers, and The Big Terrible Thing, is a deliciously salacious read. The memoir dives deep into the psyche of a troubled man who overcomes seemingly insurmountable odds, facing death at several intervals along his journey. Friends, Lovers, and The Big Terrible Thing, is a page turner and worth picking up if you want to get an unrestricted peek into the life of an A-list celebrity. •

Raymond Helkio writes reviews for The Reading Salon and is a theatre artist, writer and poet living on the edge of insanity. Get in touch.

The Reading Salon

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *