Matthew Perry has never failed to make us laugh on screen but he has also touched the hearts of many struggling with addiction. Let’s take time to celebrate and honor the comedic genius’ legacy.
On October 28, 2023, comedy legend Matthew Perry passed away at age 54 from an apparent drowning. While we all know and love him as Chandler Bing from the hit NBC sitcom Friends, he has touched people’s lives not only through humor but through compassion and inspiration. On a podcast last year, Perry said, “When I die, I’d like Friends to be listed behind helping people.” Throughout the last couple of years of his life, he has devoted his time and energy to helping people recovering with a substance use disorder.
The actor had struggled with alcohol and drug addiction throughout the majority of his life. He set out to utilize his platform as a way to spread awareness and destigmatize addiction. Let’s honor the comedic genius by recognizing his philanthropic efforts, focusing on his legacy beyond his television character.
Autobiography – Friends Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing
“There is light in the darkness. You just have to look hard enough to find it.” – Matthew Perry
Matthew Perry published a memoir on November 1st of last year, and it has now topped Amazon’s best-selling book list. It was an instant #1 New York Times Bestseller and #1 International Bestseller.
#1 ⭐️ Wow- a dream come true! Thank you all so much for making #FriendsLoversBook #1 on the @nytimes bestseller list. Feeling grateful and humbled for all of the love you have given my memoir and am happy to hear my words resonated with you. pic.twitter.com/nAC0XpkSD3
— matthew perry (@MatthewPerry) November 9, 2022
The 272-page book chronicled his rise to success through the megabit that was Friends and the “Terrible Thing,” alcohol and drug addiction. He writes, “In the end, admitting defeat was winning.” Perry reached 18 months of sobriety in the Fall of last year, expressing his gratitude for life and ability to share his story. His open and honest communication about the disease aims to decrease the stigma and judgment surrounding addiction.
The Guardian describes his memoir as vulnerable and raw, delving into his self-hatred and craving for validation. The memoir explores his wake-up call when he nearly died five years ago due to opioid use. He experienced health issues early on, but his experience in a two-week coma deterred his desire to use drugs.
While promoting his book last year, He told Good Morning America that sharing his journey will help those struggling with the disease: “If they’ve gone through anything close to what I went through, I can come in and help.”
“…The disease doesn’t care where it goes. There’s a stigma attached to [addiction] and that’s got to end. And hopefully me telling my story will help that stigma end.”
Matthew Perry on what he hopes people learn from his memoir, “Friends, Lovers and the Big, Terrible Thing.” pic.twitter.com/zqE5fPVyHu
— Good Morning America (@GMA) October 31, 2022
Diane Sawyer Interview
“Addiction, the big terrible thing, is far too powerful for anyone to defeat alone, but together, one day at a time, we can beat it down.” – Matthew Perry
On the exact date of his death a year ago, Matthew Perry sat down for an interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer. He went into harrowing detail surrounding his addiction and efforts to help others. He expresses his desire to use his platform as a way to bring awareness and “help as many people as [he] can.”
The actor shared how addiction plagued him throughout the majority of filming the hit NBC sitcom. He even said that could not bring himself to rewatch the show, being able to decipher what he was using and when. “When I’m carrying weight, it’s alcohol. When I’m skinny, it’s pills,”he told Sawyer.
He discussed his 30 years of therapy, his time in rehab, and his attendance at around 6,000 alcoholics anonymous meetings. The cast of Friends was there for him during his struggle, and he even highlighted Jennifer Anniston, who was the most supportive of the co-stars. You can stream the full 42-minute interview on Hulu.
“The Perry House”
“I give myself credit for being sober today, for caring about others, for never giving up. Helping people as much as I do.” – Matthew Perry
Matthew Perry found a higher purpose, devoting his life to helping others struggling with addiction. In 2013, he turned his former Malibu beach home into a sober house called “The Perry House.” The 5,500 square foot home sitting on 2.32 acres of land offered a safe and comfortable space for the residents. It was an oasis for those in recovery, containing a swimming pool, a view of the ocean, a large green garden, and other grounding outdoor activities. He ran the facility with the addiction specialist, Earl Hightower, who taught the 12 steps of recovery, mediation programs, and other holistic services.
Unfortunately, Perry told The Hollywood Reporter in 2015 that managing the house became too expensive, selling it for $10.65 million. He and Hightower began looking into purchasing smaller facilities in Santa Monica and Studio City.
The Matthew Perry Foundation
“A lot of people think that addiction is a choice. A lot of people think it’s a matter of will. That has not been my experience. I don’t find it to have anything to do with strength.” – Matthew Perry
Before his passing, Perry reportedly began establishing a recovery foundation called The Matthew Perry Foundation. The foundation launched a website page Friday, November 3rd with its mission statement.
View this post on Instagram
The non-profit, National Philanthropic Trust, launched the foundation and is accepting donations.
His Movies and Television Series
“After I got my first laugh on stage, I was hooked.” – Matthew Perry
While we all know and love Perry as Chandler Bing, he has accomplished much more in his acting career, starring in movies and television shows. Before Friends, he was Davey in Silver Spoons and Sandy in Growing Pains. He also guest-starred in a season one episode of Beverly Hills 90210 as a high school tennis star.
He earned his role on Friends in 1994, and while shooting the series, he had his big screen debut in the romantic comedy Fools Rush In (1997) with Selma Hayek as his love interest.
After Friends, he was nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance in the 2007 television mini-series The Ron and Clark Story. In 2009, he also played Mike O’Donnell in 17 Again as the adult version of Zac Efron’s character.
In 2012, Perry was nominated for an OFTA Television Award for his guest-starring role in The Good Wife as the chair of a blue ribbon panel.
You can find more of his other memorable performances with this link.
Remembered for His Heart
‘The best thing about me is that if an alcoholic comes up to me and says, “Will you help me stop drinking?” I will say, Yes. I know how to do that.” – Matthew Perry
If Perry was able to make us feel like his closest friends on screen, just imagine the bonds he created with those he was actually closest to. Producers and writers of Friends Marta Fran Kauffman & David Crane told NPR days after his passing that they will always remember Perry for his heart: “He had a huge heart. He was just a loving guy who seemed to, you know, get along with everybody.” She explains that his vulnerability and authenticity grew throughout the show. David Crane said that Perry was “one of the funniest people [he has] ever worked with” not just as an actor, but as a human being.
They further said in a statement, “We will always cherish the joy, the light, the blinding intelligence he brought to every moment — not just to his work, but in life as well. He was always the funniest person in the room. More than that, he was the sweetest, with a giving and selfless heart.”
USA Today details Perry’s other co-stars who have expressed nothing but delight and positivity working with the actor.
In last year’s interview at Q with Tom Power, Perry articulated how he wanted to be remembered: “I would like to be remembered as somebody who lived well, loved well, was a seeker. And his paramount thing is that he wants to help people. That’s what I want.”