Well, Lisa Kudrow did anyway. And that makes now the perfect time to post my companion piece to Kim’s In Appreciation of Ross Gellar. Because we all know that Phoebe Buffay is the most historically underrated of the Central Perk girls.
“She was the weak link.”
“They’re all my favorite, except for Phoebe.”
While Monica and Rachel would occasionally hem and haw over what boys thought of them, Phoebe was all confidence. She was cute, knew it, and wasn’t going to let anyone make her question it. She wasn’t above using her sexuality as a weapon, and heaven help the poor sap in the crosshairs.
2. Her street-smarts
In the event of a nuclear apocalypse, Phoebe would be the only Friend to survive past the first day of our crumbled civilization. Her vagrant days prepared her to live off the land and maybe – just maybe – kill to survive. She’s the only one who has it in her, and you know it.
She’s also an accomplished artist, with an impeccable grasp of texture, color, and scary-as-fuck mannequin heads, from which not even Hugsy the bedtime penguin pal can protect you.
4. “They don’t KNOW we know they know we know.”
Remember that poor sap from reason #1? Well, in “The One Where Everybody Finds Out,” it’s Chandler.
Find me a Friends fan who doesn’t have this episode in their top 5 list. Chandler and Phoebe’s double-fake-out dance of seduction will just never not be funny. Phoebe, of course, wins this game of sexual chicken, by saying hello to “Mr. Bicep”; suggesting that Chandler rub lotion on her; and in a final power move, just showing him her bra. Watch, learn, and don’t eat her cookie.
The Chan-Chan Man just can’t handle the thunder, which is just as well, since he’s in love with Monica anyway. Not just doin’ it. And who do we have to thank for that revelation and the subsequent validation of Chandler/Monica? That’s right.
5. Oh, for god’s sake, Judy.
In my opinion, no matter how old you are, the birthday is sacred. Your friends simply have to drop everything, ignore all responsibilities, and spend the day – okay, the week – telling you how fantastic you are and doing all the things you want to do. Having a kid or two? No excuse.
So I can understand Phoebe’s frustration when Judy and Emma crash her birthday dinner and Ross and Rachel try to mime a little parenting note to grandma at the bar. It’s just a sock. Nobody’s getting hypothermia in midtown. But seriously, Judy. Look alive.
6. Step aside, Taylor Swift.
No Phoebe Buffay lovefest would be complete without mention of her music.
Now, I’ve lived in New York for six years and never seen the mythical coffeehouse open-mic. But it’s just as well, since I’ve been completely spoiled by these musical stylings. “Smelly Cat” was her biggest hit of course, but I’m partial to Phoebe’s b-sides, whether they be about writing a song in the shower or raising cattle for meat production. I just find them more relatable, you know? Who HASN’T had experience with this situation?
I think that, among the Phoebe detractors, there’s a misunderstanding of her character as not being self aware. But that’s not true. Phoebe didn’t sing at the coffeehouse because she thought she was a fantastic singer. She sang because she felt like it and because it made her feel good. And everyone was just going to have to listen.
Paul Rudd’s Mike was perfect for Phoebe, and I will remain a Joey/Rachel shipper till the day I die in front of my television, but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the sweetness of this pairing. Phoebe and Joey were all the more perfect because they didn’t quite happen. (They remind me of Toby/CJ in that way.) But they had an affection for each other that would manifest occasionally, like in Joey giving Phoebe her “perfect” 30th birthday kiss or Phoebe pretending to be her cold sister so she can give Joey the respectful breakup that Ursula won’t. Phoebe was a tough broad, but this relationship brought out her softer, more romantic side. Sigh. Que sera, sera.
8. She says what we’re all thinking.
Somebody’s gotta keep these privileged white people in line.
9. Her gifts to the lexicon
For help reacting to something, look to Phoebe. For moments when someone has confessed a secret that you’re not supposed to know already, the above is always appropriate. For that one couple who futilely tries to stay apart when they’re clearly meant to be, try the below. And for all other occasions, a simple and resigned, “Oh, no” will do.
10. Her alter-ego
Phoebe gets away with a lot on her own. But when she wants to go REALLY rogue, she calls in the big guns: Regina Phalange.
Regina trumps even Karen Walker’s Anastasia Beaverhausen (“where the beavers live”) as the best sitcom pseudonym ever. Maybe it’s just the way Lisa Kudrow says “Pha-laaaan-geee” that makes it so entertaining.
Everyone wants to be someone else for a day. And, as usual, Phoebe is our guiding light in boldly doing something a little ill-advised and a lot of fun. Here’s to you, Regina.
What do you think, readers? Is Phoebe under- or overrated? What are your favorite Phoebe moments? Leave it all in the comments.