In Appreciation of Phoebe Buffay

Friends Phoebe buy a computer

Posted by Sage

Get ready to feel old as the hills, y’all, cause our favorite flighty Friend turned 50 this week!

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.”

These statements and others like them inspire rage deep inside my heart, and not just because I am a TOTAL Phoebe. (“P as in Phoebe, H as in Hoebe, O as in Oebe, E as in Ebe, B as in Bebe, and E as in…’ello there, mate!”) Rather, it’s because Lisa took on such a deceptively one-note character with the full weight of her comic talent. And any fan of The Comeback or Web Therapy can attest that it’s formidable.
The Friends ensemble grew into each other over the years, and it’s clear that the writing staff wrote more and more to each actor’s strengths in every consecutive season. Phoebe was never just the crunchy one or the dumb girl, even in the pilot. But that character is as much Lisa Kudrow’s as she is the writers’, and I doubt that another actress would have inspired the lovable evil genius that Ms. Buffay became.
Won’t you join me in appreciating one of my favorite comedic characters of all time? Here’s 10 reasons why you should.
1. She’s humble.

Friends Phoebe ass that won't quit
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.

Friends Phoebe a little bit of this

2. Her street-smarts

Friends Phoebe he stabbed me first

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.

3. Gladys

Friends Phoebe Gladys Joey

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.”

Friends Phoebe seduces Chandler

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.

Friends Phoebe pick up the sock

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.

Friends Phoebe snowman song

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?

Friends Phoebe crazy underwear
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.

Friends Phoebe blackout song

7. Phoebe/Joey

Friends Phoebe Joey birthday kissFriends Phoebe Joey birthday kiss 2

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.

Friends Phoebe I wish I could

Somebody’s gotta keep these privileged white people in line.

Friends Phoebe stop the madness
9. Her gifts to the lexicon

Friends Phoebe brand new information

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.

Friends Phoebe she's your lobster

10. Her alter-ego

Friends Phoebe Regina Phalange

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.

Friends Phoebe Dr 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.

Friends Phoebe PHALANGE

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.

Friends Phoebe I'm Regina Phalange

What do you think, readers? Is Phoebe under- or overrated? What are your favorite Phoebe moments? Leave it all in the comments.

Friends Phoebe thank you my babies

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16 thoughts on “In Appreciation of Phoebe Buffay

    • HeadOverFeels says:

      I’ve always enjoyed “Terry’s a Jerk.” (And he won’t let me work, and I hate Central Perk!) –S

  1. Phoebe is second only to Chandler for me. Who are these terrible people who don’t like Phoebe?! SHE GAVE US THE LATHER RINSE REPEAT SONG.

  2. Um how are we forgetting that she MADE Ross and Rachel get together at the end? By calling Rachel and telling her that there was something wrong with the phalange on the plane! (This happened right?? I’m 99.9999% sure it did!)

    • HeadOverFeels says:

      You forget, though, that I am ANTI-Ross/Rachel ending up together. Hence that not making the list. Though I do love that she convinced Jim Rash that a plane has phalanges.–S

  3. JenM says:

    I know I’m a bit late to this party but I’ve not just found it 🙂 I LOVE phoebe buffay. I’ve found myself singing “the cow in the meadow goes moo” to my son so many times, except when the farmer gets to the grinding as I stop myself just in time. And when he asked why a kid in the nursery has two dads I nearly bit my tongue off trying not to reply with “sometimes men like men, sometimes women like women, and then there are bisexuals but some just say they’re kidding themselves”. She makes me an almost bad parent and I love it!

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