Hank Azaria remembers Matthew Perry, his ‘first friend’ in Hollywood and guide into sobriety

Separate headshots of Hank Azaria in a tuxedo and Matthew Perry wearing glasses, a black blazer and a dark shirt
Hank Azaria, left, shared an emotional tribute to Matthew Perry in which he said the late “Friends” star was the first friend he made when he came to Hollywood.
(Vianney Le Caer/ Invision / Associated Press, left; Rich Fury / Invision / Associated Press, right)
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Matthew Perry’s former “Friends” co-star Hank Azaria shared a touching video message about his relationship with the five-time Emmy nominee on Sunday, following the news of Perry’s death on Saturday.

In a nearly four-minute video on Instagram, Azaria spoke about how he had known Perry since his earliest days as a professional actor.

“Matthew was the first friend I made in Los Angeles. When I moved there, I was 21. He was 16,” the “Simpsons” star said. “We did a pilot together called ‘Morning Maggie’ that never saw the light of day. But Matthew and I became really good friends. And we were really more like brothers for a long time. We drank a lot together. We laughed a lot together. We were there for each other in the early days of our career. “


Perry and Azaria shared the screen in five episodes of “Friends.” Azaria played David, a scientist who was in an on-and-off relationship with Lisa Kudrow’s Phoebe Buffay for years.

Authorities found Perry unresponsive in his Los Angeles home Saturday. There was no sign of foul play.

Oct. 29, 2023

Azaria then commented on Perry’s impeccable comic sensibilities on and off the screen.

“[H]e was to me, ... as funny as he was on ‘Friends’ and he was, and in other things too. In person, he was just the funniest man ever. He just loved to laugh. He was like a genius,” Azaria said. “He would start to weave comedy threads together. Just hanging out. A joke here, a joke here, a joke here, a joke there. And then by the end of the night, he would weave them all together and in this like crescendo of hilarity. Most nights you spent with Matthew you were crying laughing by the end.”

The “Brockmire” actor touched on how Perry’s struggles with maintaining sobriety were difficult for those around him to process.

“I really loved him. A lot of us who were close to him felt like we lost him to drugs and alcohol a long time ago because, as he documented his autobiography, there was so much suffering,” Azaria said. “I had to pick up and put down that biography like 11 times it was so painful for me to read ... as his friend who loved him. I knew he must be suffering, but the details of it were just devastating, just physically, emotionally, mentally, psychologically.”

Hollywood is mourning the death of ‘Friends’ star Matthew Perry, who was found dead Saturday in a hot tub at his L.A. home.

Oct. 29, 2023

Azaria talked about his own journey with sobriety and shared that Perry helped him navigate his early days of recovery.

“[F]rom a recovery perspective, I’m a sober guy for 17 years. I want to say that the night I went into AA, Matthew brought me in. The whole first year I was sober we went to meetings together. And ... I got to tell him this, as a sober person he was so caring and giving and wise and he totally helped me get sober. And I really wish he could have found it in himself to stay with the sober life more consistently.


“But, you know, as a recovery guy, it was hard to read that too. I just felt so bad. I mean, I knew he had gone in and out for years. You know he documented it all publicly and then in the book. But it’s heartbreaking for those of us who loved him and knew him really well personally, we just missed him. We just missed him. It’s one of the terrible things about this disease, it just takes away the person you love.”

Matthew Perry was found dead at his Los Angeles home on Oct. 28. ‘Friends’ stars and others shared tributes to the actor.

Oct. 30, 2023

The “Heat” actor ended his message by adding, “Professionally as an actor, [Perry] was so brilliant. I just wish I and the world could have gotten what the rest of his career would have been.”

On Saturday, authorities responded to Perry’s Pacific Palisades home, where he was discovered unresponsive in a hot tub. He was 54.

Los Angeles police Capt. Scot Williams told The Times on Saturday that the “cause of death may not be known for some time, but at this point foul play is not suspected.” His cause of death was deferred, pending investigation.