Friends: 20 Things That Make No Sense About Phoebe

She’s the quirky one, the odd one, the one who with the charming naivety that is just so wonderfully adorable. Yes, we’re talking about Phoebe Buffay, the most singular of all the characters in Friends.

While the other members of the friendship group have strong, understandable ties to one another, Phoebe definitely stands out as the odd one out in every single way. With a mysterious background, revealed to us little by little throughout the course of the series, discovering who the enigmatic Phoebe is, is as fun as it is watching her on screen. She’s lived on the streets, she can talk to animals, and she’s a multi-linguist. It seems there’s nothing Phoebe can’t do or can’t get through.

Lisa Kudrow did a masterful job of portraying a character who is both a little dim yet funny and witty enough to make you fall in love with her, imbuing in her a personality that is as unique as she is funny and kooky. Although it’s undeniable that Phoebe is one of the most likable characters in TV, there are quite a few things about her character that just don’t make any sense at all. It’s understandable that with such a long series there are bound to be a few inconsistencies here and there, but when it comes to Phoebe, you’ll see that there is quite a bit about her that is just plain confusing. From hypocritical values to messed up timelines, you’ll find out that there’s quite a bit wrong with everyone’s favorite blonde friend.

With that in mind, here are 20 Things That Make No Sense About Phoebe.

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Lisa Kudrow as Phoebe and Courtney Cox as Monica in Friends
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20 The Non-Veggie Lasagna

Lisa Kudrow as Phoebe and Courtney Cox as Monica in Friends

Phoebe is the free-spirited, street-savvy bohemian who is tuned into the mystical and the natural in a way that is as quirky as it is often naive. But, if there’s one thing that we definitely know about her, it’s that she champions the rights and lives of animals and is a staunch vegetarian. Her vegetarianism has come up in a number of episodes throughout the series, and the fact that she craved meat during her pregnancy was a subplot that was called upon numerous times in Season 4.

However, in the episode “The One With The Dozen Lasagnas” in Season 1, Phoebe eats a meat-filled lasagna Monica has made. This wouldn’t have been so bad had the entire premise of the episode been that Monica messed up by not making a veggie dish. This is certainly a weird thing for Phoebe’s character and an uncharacteristic betrayal of her staunch principles.

19 Her Ability to Speak Italian

Lisa Kudrow as Phoebe in Friends – Italian

In Season 5, there's an episode called “The One Where Ross Can’t Flirt” in which Joey brings his Italian grandmother to visit the group. The grandmother can’t speak any English, which seems like a problem until Phoebe suddenly reveals her ability to communicate fluently in Italian with Joey’s nonna. Now, this in itself shouldn’t be too odd to us since we know very little of Phoebe’s background, and we already know that she can speak French. Therefore, her knowledge of another language doesn’t seem too far-fetched.

The problem is, in Season 1 when Rachel is dating an Italian man called Paulo, Phoebe shows no sign of knowing what he's saying to her in Italian. Could Phoebe have learned to speak fluent Italian over the course of five years? Perhaps, but it seems strange that her language learning wouldn’t have come up at all in any other episode.

18 Her Fluency in French Is Also Sketchy

Lisa Kudrow as Phoebe and Matt LeBlanc as Joey in Friends

Phoebe’s ability to speak French fluently is one of her defining features and pops up quite frequently throughout the series. It’s weird then that in “The One With Rachel’s Date” in Season 8 where Phoebe meets Tim the chef, she doesn’t understand what "sous-chef" means. When Tim informs her that he is indeed a sous-chef, Phoebe asks him if that makes him Monica’s boss. It’s then Tim who has to tell Phoebe that “sous” means under in French, thus making him Monica’s inferior.

For someone who almost had a panic attack trying to teach Joey how to speak French, it seems odd that Phoebe wouldn’t know what “sous-chef” means. Maybe she was just dumbing herself down as a way to flirt with Tim, but even so, that doesn’t fit in with Phoebe’s normal character either.

17 Not Going To Minsk

Lisa Kudrow as Phoebe and Hank Azaria as David in Friends

In the early days of Friends, one of Phoebe’s major narrative arcs was her relationship with socially awkward scientist David. Their meeting, love story, and split all unraveled over the course of just one episode in Season 1 and although short-lived, the impact of this relationship would follow Phoebe for the rest of the series.

The reason David and Phoebe broke up in the first place was because he was relocated to Minsk for work. The news devastated Phoebe, and at first, she tried to get him to stay in New York instead of pursuing his career. Although David ended up following his job offer in Minsk, Phoebe stayed behind. However, considering how free-spirited Phoebe is meant to be and seeing as though she doesn’t have any real close family or serious career at this point in New York, it’s odd that she didn’t decide to follow David to Minsk. 

16 Her Birth Mother’s Disappearance

Lisa Kudrow as Phoebe and Teri Garr in Friends

Phoebe only discovered that her birth mother was still alive in the third season, meaning that she had gone through her formative years and into her 20s not knowing that she even existed. Although they got off to a rocky start, they soon developed a close bond and Phoebe even sought her advice when she couldn’t make a decision about carrying Frank Jr.’s babies.

It’s peculiar then that after these two made such progress in their relationship that the whole narrative of Phoebe and her mother was dropped. The last episode we see Phoebe’s mother in is “The One With Phoebe’s Uterus” in Season 4, meaning that she was only around for a little over one season. With all the momentous things that happened to Phoebe throughout the series, including her wedding to Mike, it seems very strange that her birth mother was not mentioned or seen again.

15 Her disapproval of Frank Jr. and Alice’s Marriage

Giovanni Ribisi and Debra Jo Rupp as Frank and Alice in Friends

Phoebe’s family history is both complicated and fragmented, but of all her familial ties, her connection with her half-brother Frank Jr. is the strongest. They first meet in “The One With The Baby On The Bus” and Phoebe steps into her role as the wiser, older sister with the sort of kindness and grace that we would expect from her.

It’s odd then that when Frank announces his intention to marry an older woman, Alice, in “The One With The Hypnosis Tape”, Phoebe is completely disapproving of the relationship. Totally against the idea of Frank Jr. and Alice getting married, Phoebe tries to stop their union from happening. For someone who is meant to be open-minded and embracing of all people and all types of situations, this seems pretty out of character for Phoebe.

14 Agreeing To Carry Frank Jr.’s Babies

Lisa Ludrow as Phoebe with triplets in Friends

When Frank Jr. and Alice announce that they’ve gotten married, Phoebe is overjoyed for them (after finally coming around to the idea of their relationship) and she offers to get them a wedding gift. Unexpectedly, the couple asks her to be a surrogate mother for their babies as a wedding present to them.

Although Phoebe is reluctant at first, she ends up agreeing to the odd request. Although Phoebe is known for her kindness and her charitable nature, agreeing to carry and birth her half-brother’s babies is a pretty strange and awkward favor. It’s hard to imagine anyone really being comfortable with this request, and the fact that Phoebe goes through with it remains one of the stranger plots of the series as a whole.

13 Having Ross as her second backup

Lisa Kudrow as Phoebe, Jennifer Aniston as Rachel. Matt LeBlanc as Joey, and David Schwimmer as Ross in Friends – backup

We all know that Phoebe and Joey have a special connection and out of the whole friendship group, they are the two that have the most in common. On the flip side, Phoebe and Ross have the least in common, differing in pretty much all their views. However, in “The One With The Proposal Part 2”, Rachel and Phoebe agree that they should get marriage proposal back-ups if they find themselves aged 40 and still unmarried, and it comes out that Phoebe already has two such back-ups, her first being Joey and her second being Ross.

The thing that doesn’t make sense is Phoebe asking Ross, someone so antithetical to her, to be the back-up to her back-up. Furthermore, she didn’t even tell Ross that he was the second choice option. Both her choice of a plan C and her deception seem pretty odd when considering Phoebe as a character.

12 The Fur Coat

As previously mentioned, we all know that Phoebe is a friend to animals and is a practicing vegetarian. If eating meat goes against her principles, then surely wearing fur would be completely out of the question too - or so we would think. Nevertheless, in “The One With The Yeti”, Phoebe receives a fur coat as a family heirloom from her deceased grandmother, and despite her initial disgust for it, ends up wearing it and liking it. 

Although Phoebe hates the idea of the fur coat, she can’t help but think she looks good in it and proceeds to wear it. She justifies her decision by stating that her research into the matter found that minks aren’t very nice animals. But again, this goes completely against Phoebe’s staunch principles and begs the question, is she really that easily swayed? Something doesn’t seem quite right.

11 She Doesn’t Believe In Gravity

Lisa Kudrow as Phoebe in Friends, playing in Central Perk

We all know Phoebe is pretty weird. Most of the time, her quirkiness is charming and lovable, but sometimes she says things that really are just bizarre and outside the realm of what anybody would say, ever. One such instance is her refusal to believe in gravity.

Phoebe is known to contradict Ross’ scientific statements and we’re all aware of her stance on evolution. But to say she doesn’t believe in gravity? The very thing that is evident in everyday life and the very fact that she is standing on the ground and not floating around like a helium balloon? This is just taking things a bit far. Although she tells Ross that “lately [she’s] not so much being pulled down as… pushed,” we still don’t think Phoebe even really believes her anti-gravity nonsense.

10 False Claims About Never Massaging Monica

Lisa Kudrow as Phoebe and Coutney Cox as Monica in Friends, massage

Phoebe is both a singer-songwriter as well as a masseuse during her time on Friends, but for someone who is dedicated to both of these professions, she certainly does forget her career history quickly. In Season 8, we get a storyline where Monica claims Phoebe has never given her a massage. However, in the previous season, we hear Phoebe say: “It’s already February, and I’ve only given two massages, and they were both the worst tippers in the world!” This is then followed by Monica retorting: “That was me and Ross.”

Either Phoebe has the worst memory or Monica completely made up her massage meeting with Phoebe. In any case, this is a wild inconsistency and definitely doesn’t make sense whichever way you decide to interpret it.

9 She Doesn’t Know Her Own Nickname

Lisa Kudrow as Phoebe and Jennifer Aniston as Rachel in Friends

Phoebe can often be slow to catch on to things and it’s safe to say she’s not always the sharpest tool in the toolbox. This fact has been proven many a time throughout the series, but one of the most baffling instances has to be when she didn’t realize that “Pheebs” was short for Phoebe, and thus her nickname.

In the episode “The One With Joey’s Dirty Laundry” in Season 4, Phoebe tries to comfort Rachel by stroking her head and saying: “Aww...Pheebs.” Obviously confused, Rachel asks her friend why she is calling her by her own nickname. Phoebe replies: “That’s short for Phoebe? I thought that’s what we just called each other!” This is by far one of the ditziest moments we’ve seen from Phoebe and really, despite being funny, the confusion just makes no sense.

8 She Thinks Einstein Is Her Grandfather

Lisa Kudrow as Phoebe in Friends with photo of Einstein

Much of Phoebe’s narrative throughout the series is her pursuit of family members. Whether it’s finding out about her birth mother and father or trying to connect with her twin sister Ursula, Phoebe is very family focused.

In “The One With Phoebe’s Dad,” we find Phoebe trying to track down her long-lost father and paying a visit to her grandmother in order to get an address from her for him. In the episode, we see Phoebe leaving her grandmother’s house, stopping first to say goodbye to a photo of her grandfather. This in itself is fairly believable, but what’s weird is the fact that she doesn’t recognize that the photo she is speaking to is of Albert Einstein. How does Phoebe not know who Einstein is? He is one of the most iconic, most-famous faces in the world, so her ignorance of him is pretty stupefying, to say the least.

7 Her Belief in Santa Claus

Courtney Cox as Monica in Friends

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, especially around the holiday season, but Santa Claus isn't real. Once we get past a certain age, sadly our childhood belief in The Big Man in Red flies out the window. Somehow though, well into her twenties. Phoebe still holds the myth of Santa to be true.

In the Season 5 episode “The One Where Phoebe Hates PBS,” Joey alludes to Santa Claus not being real, and there is a genuine look of shock on Phoebe’s face. We all know Phoebe can be pretty naive at times, but the fact that someone who comes from such a difficult background and childhood still believing in Santa is pretty far-fetched. We know Phoebe was homeless at a young age, so was Santa really delivering presents to her on the streets? Her streetwise nature makes her belief pretty hard to take seriously.

6 Her roommate Denise

Lisa Kudrow as Phoebe in Friends

The first mention of Denise, Phoebe’s roommate, is in Season 6. The other friends as well as us viewers, have never seen or heard of this woman. Her name first crops up in “The One With Ross’ Denial”, when Rachel asks Phoebe if she can move in with her. Phoebe says that she would love that, if it weren’t for her already living with Denise. Naturally, everyone, including the viewers, are confused at this statement, but Phoebe angrily insists that she talks about Denise all the time.

Whether Phoebe made up this supposed roommate in order to get out of living with Rachel or whether there really is some phantom lady called Denise staying with Pheebs, it doesn’t really make sense either way.

5 Phoebe’s Finances

Phoebe’s main career throughout the series is being a masseuse. We get the impression in the show that Phoebe is always a little strapped for cash and out of all the friends, she and Joey are portrayed as being the most consistently financially unstable. However, according to Centives, Phoebe underplays how much her income actually is.

Apparently, as a masseuse in a corporate massage chain, Phoebe would be expected to earn around $50,000 annually, making her the second biggest earner of the bunch. Perhaps she downplays her income in order to gain sympathy from group, since out of all of them, she is probably the most likely to be considered an outsider.

4 Her father’s Timeline

Lisa Kudrow as Phoebe and Bob Balaban in Friends

Phoebe certainly has the most colorful family background, with many members of her family either being estranged or missing at one point or another in the series. She often mentions to the others how she has never actually met her father, Frank Buffet, as she claims he left before she was born.

However, later on in the series when Phoebe actually gets to finally meet her dad at her grandmother’s funeral, Frank tells her about how he used to sing to her as a baby, and it turns out the tune he used to sing to her is a similar melody to Phoebe’s infamous song “Smelly Cat.” This would indicate that Phoebe somehow remembered the melody from her childhood, indicating that Frank was actually around after she was born.

3 No Romance With Joey

Lisa Kudrow and Matt LeBlanc as Phoebe and Joey in Friends

Joey and Phoebe are so alike in a multitude of ways, and for someone just now watching Friends for the first time, it wouldn’t be hard to believe if they assumed the two of them ended up together eventually. Connoisseurs of the show know, however, that this never happens.

Of all the relationships that happen during the series, a Joey and Phoebe romance makes the most sense, but never gets written into the show. What makes even less sense though is the fact that Phoebe constantly alludes to being attracted to Joey and even chooses him as her first backup option if she never gets married. A small part of all of us wanted Joey and Phoebe to get together, but alas we never did get our wish.

2 She tells Mike he's her first serious boyfriend

Phoebe’s one true love ended up being Mike, but their courtship started off as an accidental blind date set up by Joey. Although they got off to a bit of a rocky start, they ended up being the perfect couple, despite the fact that Mike wasn’t originally interested in the idea of getting married again.

Phoebe told Mike that she had never been in a serious relationship until she was with him, but as we all know, this is a complete lie. What about David, who left for Minsk? W hat about Gary the cop, who was so invested in his relationship with her that he asked her to move in with him? Maybe Phoebe told Mike this fib to make him feel special, but really it makes no sense that she wouldn’t come clean about her past relationships.

1 Being A Part of the Friends Group

Friends group in Central Perk

All of the members of the Friends group are connected in some relevant way. Except, that is, for Phoebe. We never really get a full, clear explanation as to how she ended up with this particular group of people, and it seems odd that she became such a staple of the group since her relationship with all of them began so randomly. She’s also very much the odd one out in terms of character and behavioral traits, so how is it that after ten years, she’s still hanging out with this group?

This is really the biggest question surrounding Phoebe and by far the thing that makes the least sense about her. We love watching Phoebe interact with the Friends group and it’s always a pleasure to see her story develop on screen, but that doesn’t take away the main question which is: “Why are you here?”


Is there anything else that makes no sense about Phoebe on Friends? Let us know in the comments!

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