It’s hard not to compare Friends to Seinfeld. The latter paved the way for a new brand of television comedy that was frank, honest, and pushed boundaries like never before. Friends was a less sarcastic vision of singles living in New York City, but it was revolutionary just the same.
And the characters even overlapped a little. Turns out Courteney Cox (Monica Geller) was a Seinfeld alum who used her experience on that series to inform her iconic role on Friends. Those tweaks most likely helped make Monica even more hilarious.
The major difference between ‘Friends’ and ‘Seinfeld’
Seinfeld co-creator Jerry Seinfeld once accused Friends producers of stealing their idea. “We thought, ‘They [Friends creators] wanna do our show with better-looking people. That’s what they’re doing here,’” the comedian told The Hollywood Reporter. “And we thought, ‘That should work.’”
It wasn’t the only show being accused of copying the original. However, Friends was different from Seinfeld because it included more involved, multi-episode storylines. The characters matured over 10 seasons while the Seinfeld crew stayed stubbornly stagnant. And no one would accuse Friends of being “a show about nothing.”
Courteney Cox used her ‘Seinfeld’ experience to make Monica Geller hilarious
One thing Friends and Seinfeld had in common was the intention of making people laugh. Cox, who was offered the part of Rachel at first, knew exactly what kind of traits to bring to Monica. But she wasn’t above getting some advice from her castmates.
As co-star Lisa Kudrow (Phoebe Buffay) recalled (via Vanity Fair): “Courteney Cox was the best known of all of us, and she had done a guest star on Seinfeld. She said, ‘Listen, I just did a Seinfeld, and they all help each other. They say, ‘Try this,’ and ‘This would be funny.’”
Kudrow said that Cox added, “And she said, ‘You guys, feel free to tell me. If I could do anything funnier, I want to do it.’ There’s a code with actors. Actors don’t give each other notes under any circumstances. So she was giving us permission to give her notes, and we all agreed that that would be great. Why not?”
According to Kudrow, Cox also said, “‘Listen, you know, we all need to make this thing great.’ She just set the stage with: ‘I know I’m the one who’s been on TV, but this is all of us.’ She was the one who set that tone and made it a real group that way. And I thought that was a real turning point.”
The cast of ‘Friends’ all deeply respected each other
Most actors don’t feel comfortable critiquing each other’s performances, but the Friends castmates were a tightknit group who truly got along on and off screen. Their close relationship allowed them to provide constructive criticism to help make the series better.
Cox set the precedent at the beginning of the show that she was willing to listen, learn, and develop her skills as an actor. That’s likely a huge part of what made Friends so successful — and so hilarious.