Why Lisa Kudrow Hated Her Role in ‘Friends’

Lisa Kudrow hated being on Friends? What happened, was she asked to sing “Smelly Cat” one too many times? The answer to both of those questions is no. She reunites with her Friends pals fairly regularly, such as when Jennifer Aniston joined Instagram. She played “Smelly Cat” with Taylor Swift during one of her concerts, so it’s not the song — it’s the role of the evil twin Ursula that Kudrow disliked. 

Who was Phoebe Buffay?

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

Phoebe Buffay (Kudrow) got into the group of the six principal friends because she had been Monica’s (Courtney Cox) roommate before Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) was. Phoebe was also a musician at Central Perks, which gave rise to that song about pungent felines. She gave off the air of being a ditz, although she wasn’t a fool. 

All the friends got into romantic entanglements, often with each other. Late in the show’s run, Phoebe and Joey (Matt LeBlanc) decide to choose a blind date for each other. Phoebe holds up her end of the deal, but Joey forgets until the last minute, hooking her up with Mike Hannigan (Paul Rudd). Phoebe and Mike later married. 

Kudrow got the part on Friends because the producers liked her work as Ursula on the show Mad About You with Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt. Indeed, they liked it so much that they had Kudrow play both roles on Friends. And that’s where Kudrow got uncomfortable. 

Why did Lisa Kudrow hate Ursula? 

Kudrow didn’t seem to hate Ursula per se, because after all, Ursula landed Kudrow a very lucrative gig. However, according to Entertainment Weekly, Kudrow didn’t like bringing Ursula into Friends

“Lisa really did not have a good time doing them. She did not like acting with a double, and in a way she might have made it more difficult for herself because her double was her actual sister, [Helena],” said executive producer Kevin S. Bright. “I think feeling the [stress] she put her sister into by being the double was more in her head at the time, so those scenes were a little bit tricky to shoot.”

Bustle put together a Venn diagram comparing and contrasting the two Kudrow characters. They had more differences than similarities, with Phoebe being winning and likable, whereas Ursula could be abrasive and off-putting. Where they overlapped was twin sisters, bold career choices, similar taste in men and “Crazy family history perfect for Oprah.”

Lisa Kudrow has a successful career

Kudrow won multiple awards for playing Phoebe, including an Emmy, two Screen Actors Guild awards and an American Comedy Award. This was largely because Phoebe was the most outwardly comic of the friends, but she stuck a fine balancing act by not equating funny with dim-witted. 

Kudrow has gone on to use her comic talents in many other movies and TV shows, where she very often is the funniest person in the room. Some would argue that career-wise, Kudrow is the most successful of the Friends cast, with her comic timing being in high demand. 

And she’s not always playing another version of Phoebe. She paired ideally with Mira Sorvino in Romy & Michelle’s High School Reunion, and she most recently had a small but memorable turn in the acclaimed comedy Booksmart as Kaitlyn Dever’s overeager mother. 

Kudrow knows only too well her epitaph will probably say Phoebe somewhere on it, and she’s totally OK with that. The actress told The Guardian: “It’s not irritating. It was my job to make people believe that I was that person. It’s unconscionable to me to want to remove myself from Friends. It gave me every single opportunity. I appreciate it every single day, I promise.”