A Look At Matthew Perry's Longtime Friendship With Hank Azaria

The following article includes mentions of substance abuse and addiction.

Matthew Perry's shocking death came as a huge blow to many of his friends and co-stars in the industry — including Hank Azaria, who considered him one of his closest friends in the business. The two first met when they worked together on the 1987 television movie "Morning Maggie," in which they played uncle and nephew Philly and Alley McAllister, respectively. Moreover, they also shared the screen in the hit sitcom "Friends," in which Perry starred as the witty and sarcastic Chandler Bing, while Azaria played the role of Phoebe's (Lisa Kudrow) on-and-off boyfriend David. After news broke that Perry died from an apparent drowning in his L.A. home on October 28, 2023, at the age of 54, Azaria took to social media to honor Perry and reflect on their decades-long friendship.

In a somber video posted to Instagram, Azaria described Matthew as a great friend and brother. "Matthew was the first friend I made in Los Angeles when I moved there. I was 21, he was 16," he said. "Matthew and I became really good friends, [but] we were really more like brothers for a long time." He also remembered Matthew as the funniest and one of the most brilliant actors he's ever known. "He just lived to laugh," he said, calling Perry a "genius." "Most nights you spent with Matthew you were crying laughing by the end." He went on to talk about his struggles with addiction and how Perry helped him see the light during that dark period of his life.

Hank said Matthew 'totally helped me get sober'

Reflecting on their close bond, Hank Azaria credited his "brother" Matthew Perry with setting him on the path to sobriety as he struggled with addiction at one point during his career. "I'm a sober guy for 17 years, and I wanna say that, the night I went into AA [Alcoholics Anonymous], Matthew brought me in," he said. He went on to praise Perry for being generous and supportive, saying that the actor would even go with him to these AA meetings. "He was so caring and giving and wise, and he totally helped me get sober," he said.

 The "Tuesdays with Morrey" star also reflected on Perry's own lifelong battle with addiction, which the "Friends" star talked about in interviews and in his book "Friends, Lovers, and The Big Terrible Thing." "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 in his autobiography — there was so much suffering," Azaria said. He admitted that seeing his friend's pain in black and white was a tough experience as he wished Perry was able to find more happiness in his life. 

While promoting his memoir on the "Q with Tom Power" podcast, Perry said he took pride in helping other people in their own journey towards sobriety. He also expressed his wish to leave behind a legacy that goes beyond his work on "Friends" and his stellar acting career. "I would like to be remembered as somebody who lived well, loved well, was a seeker. And his paramount thing is that he wants to help people," he said, per Time. "That's what I want."

Hank admitted he used to be jealous of Matthew

Hank Azaria admitted there was a point in time in his career when he felt jealous of Matthew Perry's huge success and fame on "Friends." During a previous appearance on SiriusXM's "Radio Andy" in 2017, Azaria talked about navigating his envy towards Perry and his ex-wife Helen Hunt, to whom he was married from 1999 to 2000. "It was very difficult... I mean, when your wife is Helen Hunt and your best friend is Matthew Perry — and this was 15 years ago — I mean, that is some pressure. And I didn't realize how much [I was affected by it] until [many years later]." 

Regardless of his thoughts, Azaria stressed that he never harbored ill feelings towards Perry, or himself. "We tried our absolute best to be honest about it. I did, anyway," he said, adding that he would acknowledge his feelings instead of fighting it. Nevertheless, it was tough at times to reconcile his feelings about his Hollywood career in comparison to Perry's. 

In his book "Friends, Lovers, and The Big Terrible Thing," released one year before his tragic death, Perry referred to Azaria as one of his oldest and dearest friends alongside fellow actors David Pressman and Craig Bierko. He talked about their friendship and how their constant presence had provided him with solace as he continued to battle addiction, saying, hearing "their laughter was once the only drug I needed."

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).