Lisa Kudrow Was Ill-Prepared for Her ‘Friends’ Role of Phoebe In One Way

When actors create an iconic role on a sitcom, there’s always an assumption their real personalities meshed perfectly with their characters. What usually comes out later is the actor in question usually found the character a polar opposite.

A lot of those roles sometimes involved learning new things or developing certain characteristics to win the part. Not many know Lisa Kudrow didn’t naturally fit into the persona of Phoebe on Friends.

While she’s since made it one of the most famous characters in TV history, there was one skill she didn’t have Phoebe has in the show. There was also a strong chance of Kudrow not winning the role after two prominent actresses auditioned first.

Before Lisa Kudrow auditioned, Phoebe could have been two other actresses

Lisa Kudrow as Phoebe Buffay on NBC's 'Friends.'
Lisa Kudrow as Phoebe Buffay on NBC’s ‘Friends.’ | David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images

According to Mental Floss, Phoebe could have been either Kathy Griffin or Jane Lynch. They both tried out for the part and became close friends there as a result. It’s not too difficult to imagine both in that role, even though it would have led to a different career path for Griffin.

One has to wonder if Griffin would have avoided going into insult comedy had she been stuck in the Phoebe role for a decade. Lynch might not have gone on to be a part of Glee either, but could have been a bigger star by then.

Whether they had the same guitar skills as Phoebe is another thing. A prerequisite to winning the role was knowing how to play guitar since (as every fan knows), she ended up singing in coffee houses.

That classic song Smelly Cat is iconic. Nevertheless, who can imagine Kathy Griffin or Jane Lynch singing the song? Only Kudrow’s quirkiness made it work, despite not knowing how to play guitar going in.

Lisa Kudrow didn’t like guitar

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Friends through thick, thin, and fire. #FRIENDS25

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Even though Kudrow was required to learn the guitar for the role, she hated playing the instrument. Why she did is kind of unusual since many people love learning guitar once they do learn.

Although if someone doesn’t have a natural musical aptitude, it can become an annoyance taking lessons. After only a few classes, Kudrow gave up on trying to play well. She just learned a few chords and went with that.

Of course, this made the performance of Smelly Cat all the funnier since it involved only the simplest of chords.

Kudrow’s limited guitar skills ultimately brought out more charm in Phoebe so she didn’t have to sound like a virtuoso. Some of the quirkiness with the Phoebe character didn’t stop there either.

Another interesting thing occurred to help flesh out the character and give a chance for Kudrow to expand in making Phoebe worth remembering in TV history.

Lisa Kudrow played twins on ‘Friends’

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Cat people understand.

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Since Kudrow was playing Ursula the Waitress on Mad About You at the same time she started playing Phoebe, the writers decided to get creative and have her be Phoebe’s twin sister. For eight episodes, Kudrow did just this, allowing another creative pursuit for character development.

Remembering back to this might make some reconsider Kudrow’s contributions to the show. She’s usually unsung compared to her fellow castmates.

While Kudrow won one Emmy for the role — and nominated numerous times — it proved she might have been the best comedic actor of the bunch. At least she doesn’t hang onto the role of Phoebe in any regard.

She’s said she doesn’t watch reruns of the show. Plus, she definitely doesn’t sing Smelly Cat at any opportunity, other than one celebrated time in 2015 with Taylor Swift. Already long moved on with other roles, Kudrow still created something memorable by making Phoebe less than perfect.