When it first premiered nearly 25 years ago, there was no way that anyone could have anticipated that NBC's Friends would go on to become a pop culture phenomenon (and remain one to this very day). Chronicling the lives and loves of a group of twentysomethings trying to make their way in New York City, Friends touched on common themes of life, love, and young adulthood, while never shying away from difficult topics... or truly bizarre storylines.
What has made the series continue to mean so much over time, however, is its amazing cast of characters. Both in its main group of friends and its broad cast of supporting players, Friends has produced some of the most beloved and iconic characters in sitcom–and television–history. A large part of what makes these characters so instantly memorable, quotable, and worth rooting for is, of course, the mile-a-minute wit and humor displayed by almost all of them. Here, we recap the series' ten funniest characters. Sorry fans of Monica and Rachel – this list is for the funniest characters, so don't expect to see those two in here!
10 Estelle Leonard
Only someone as truly bizarre as talent agent Estelle Leonard could manage the career of an actor with the skills (or lack thereof) of Joey Tribbiani. Whenever Estells is on screen, viewers know that they're in for a scene that will either make no sense at all or involve lots of screaming and cigarette smoke. Oftentimes, both.
They're also laugh-out-loud hysterical, thanks to the commitment that the much younger actress June Gable gave to the role of the elderly Estelle. Estelle was never the best agent, and it's hard not to wonder if she prevented Joey's career from going where it really could have. She's such a truly eccentric character, though, that it's hard to imagine Friends without her.
9 Jack Geller
Sometimes, characters wind up being funny almost despite themselves, and funny despite their best intentions. One such example of this kind of character is Jack Geller, Ross and Monica's father. Played masterfully by the legendary talent Elliott Gould, Jack is a good dad (most of the time), but almost painfully unaware of whatever it is that he says and how it can affect other people.
Every episode that features Jack involves a faux pas on his part, whether that means insulting Monica indirectly while praising his perfect Ross or being far too frank about his romantic history with their mother. Whatever Jack is up to, his appearance in the series is always a welcome one, as it means awkward laughter isn't far behind.
Before going on to star in the long-running CBS sitcom Mom, veteran comedy actress Anna Faris had a recurring role in the final season of Friends. She played Erica, a pregnant young woman who agrees to let Chandler and Monica adopt her eventual twins. Erica is one of the many dim-witted characters in the series, often finding herself to be the butt of jokes she never even gets.
However, Faris' portrayal of Erica as wide-eyed and warm-hearted makes the character work without ever feeling cloying or insulting. Erica only appears in a few episodes in the tenth and final season, but her presence always guarantees that hilarity - and heart - will follow in equal measure.
7 Ross Geller
Just as his father Jack is always funny in spite of himself, Ross Geller is perhaps best described as a character who is funny purely because he isn't. A total nerd, socially awkward to the point of disbelief, Ross excels in putting his foot in his mouth. He also excels in having tantrums at basically the drop of the hat, which the series lampoons and treats with the lightest of touches, even when it eventually has Ross treated and sedated for rage issues.
Ross is a total absent-minded professor - both literally and metaphorically. His interactions with his fellow friends can get on the annoying side, given his tendency to be self-deprecating and self-centered all at the same time. But many of the series' most iconic moments - the holiday armadillo, "we were on a break," "I'm fine!" - would never have happened without him (and David Schwimmer's pitch-perfect line deliveries).
While resident Central Perk employee Gunther never gets to be a part of the main group of friends, he nevertheless somehow manages to become their unofficial seventh member. Over the course of the series, Gunther is privy to the most intimate of discussions and arguments that take place right in the heart of the very busy coffee shop - and never does a day go by when he doesn't get at least one good, snarky jab in.
Played with truly earnest conviction and the definition of deadpan humor by James Michael Tyler, Gunther is one of the series' best creations. His series-long love of it girl Rachel also allows Gunther to show his softer side, producing some of the series' most touching - and still quite humorous - moments, too.
5 Mike Hannigan
Long before Paul Rudd was running with the Avengers, he was romancing everyone's favorite hippie, Phoebe Buffay; proving he had what it took to keep up with the long-established cast of comedic actors as he did so. Mike Hannigan was a very late addition to the series, which had already found countless romantic choices for the perennially ditzy Phoebe - none of whom ever panned out into anything meaningful, except for Hank Azaria's David.
Unlike David, Mike was willing to get just as goofy, just as silly, and just as truly out there as Phoebe, often able to rein in her crazy ideas as a result of it. After all, he convinced her to not change her name to Princess Consuela Banana Hammock by professing that he would change his name to Crap Bag. Equal parts snarky and gleeful in his delivery, Rudd's Mike was one of the series' best additions. If only he'd gotten to be around longer.
4 Frank Buffay Jr.
There must be something in the Buffay family DNA. Well, there must be a lot of things in the Buffay family DNA, but that's really a conversation for another time. There's no denying that the Buffay siblings are some of the series' most hilarious character. They're totally unaware of the way they come off to others, and not at all affected by the odd looks and reactions they receive in return.
Frank Buffay Jr. might just be one of the dumbest characters in the entire show. But as portrayed by Giovanni Ribisi, his status as the series' resident idiot suddenly becomes something adorable and worth looking forward to. His character can sometimes feel like a one trick pony, but his enthusiasm and energy are infectious, thanks in large part to Ribisi's total commitment to the part.
3 Phoebe Buffay
Oh, Phoebe. How do we even begin to describe what it is that makes Lisa Kudrow's total flower child with a dark side as outrageously hilarious as she is? Maybe that's a good enough start. When the series first began, Phoebe was clearly meant to just be a sort of airy hippie, a character from a totally different world than all of the other members of the group. Over time, layers were peeled back that revealed just how complex - and occasionally frightening - Phoebe really is.
None of that would have been possible, or as consistently hilarious, without Kudrow's labor of love as the beloved ditz. Phoebe never compromises who she is, even when other people are willing to write her off as crazy. Whether she's singing "Smelly Cat" or screaming at the top of her lungs to get her way, Phoebe is a reliable source of humor that the series never shies away from mining.
2 Joey Tribbiani
Joey Tribbiani may not be one of the sharpest tools in the shed, but that doesn't stop him from being one of the funniest characters in the entire series of Friends. If anything, that may even improve his case. Matt LeBlanc's work as struggling actor Joey is nothing short of a spectacle. It should be hard to like someone like Joey: he's a total pig (with women and food both), he never takes his work seriously, and he's almost always only interested in himself and his needs.
But LeBlanc's performance as the ladies' man with a heart of gold makes Joey into one of the series' most successful characters. Whether he's reciting his favorite pickup lines, stuffing his face with far too much food, failing at speaking French, or just spending time relaxing with his best pal Chandler, Joey is always hilarious, and always one of the best characters in the entire series.
1 Chandler Bing
Could he be any more hilarious? Matthew Perry's Chandler Bing is far and away the best character that Friends ever came up with. In his own words, Chandler is hopeless and awkward and desperate for love. A character that could have been a one note boring businessman became a nuanced, self-deprecating, gut laughter-inducing icon, thanks to Perry's total grasp of Chandler's character.
Whether he's breaking out into some of the worst dance moves you'll ever see, struggling to smile for posed photos, suggesting slogans for items that really don't need them, or tending to the chick and the duck, Chandler is a guaranteed source of laughter. It's almost impossible to not laugh as soon as he enters a scene. If that's not the mark of a true comedy icon, we're not sure what is.