FRIENDS — Season 1 — Pictured: (back l-r) Matt LeBlanc as Joey Tribbiani, Lisa Kudrow as Phoebe Buffay, David Schwimmer as Ross Geller, Matthew Perry as Chandler Bing (front l-r) Courteney Cox as Monica Geller, Jennifer Aniston as Rachel Green — (Photo by Reisig & Taylor/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
Here’s something to make you feel old: It’s been 25 years since Friends graced our TVs with its 90s humor, iconic one liners (PIVOT!), and classic laugh track. Yes, believe it or not, it’s been 25 years since we fell in love with Ross and Rachel (were they on a break, though?), cheered on Monica and Chandler, and laughed endlessly at Phoebe and Joey’s antics.
With its resurgence on Netflix, I couldn’t help but rewatch (and rewatch) and I’ve got to say, the humor mostly holds up… but the whole paying East Village rent on a waitress’ salary thing absolutely does not. I mean, I wish I could afford a giant purple-walled, open concept East Village two-bedroom, but I am, unfortunately, not a gazillionaire (and I also don’t have any relatives who can conveniently gift me a rent-controlled apartment, Monica).
All this got me thinking about the minutia of how exactly the Friends cast afforded their lives, and more importantly, what they did for a living. So, I did some digging — and I gotta tell you, I completely forgot that Monica once donned a blonde wig and fake boobs and danced on a diner counter for a living. Read on for a deeper look into the working lives of six iconic (fictional) New Yorkers who somehow made it work.
Rachel Green: Waitress Turned Fashion Exec
Rachel Green came in hot at the beginning of the series after running out of her wedding and into her old friend Monica’s arms. Rachel always had big fashion aspirations, but life isn’t easy, so she starts her working career as a waitress at Central Perk. After three seasons of pouring coffee and making Gunther fall in love with her, Rachel briefly works as an assistant at Fortuna Fashions — where she mostly serves coffee to her boss. She eventually moves on to Bloomingdale’s where she gets her big break as a buyer and personal shopper. After putting in her time at Bloomies, Rachel gets her dream job as an executive at Ralph Lauren — where she stays for the final five seasons (and briefly dates her assistant, Tag).
Monica starts the series as a chef, where she thrives until she gets fired for accepting a gift from a vendor. Monica then spends some time living that unemployed life, which has me once again questioning how the heck she could afford Manhattan rent. She breaks her unemployment streak with a brief stint as a waitress at Moonstruck Diner, a 50s-themed diner that requires Monica to wear the aforementioned blonde wig and fake boobs. She eventually goes on to become a food critic and then head chef at two high end restaurants — Alessandro’s and Javu.
Phoebe Buffay: Masseuse/Musician
Oh, beloved Phoebe. While Phoebe makes most of her money as a masseuse, her true passion is singing and songwriting. Pheebs had to occasionally get crafty to bring in extra dough. For instance, she spent one spectacularly terrible day on set as an extra on Days Of Our Lives and saved a man’s life during a quick stint as a telemarketer. And as a teenager, before the series began, she briefly supported herself by mugging fellow New Yorkers (including an unsuspecting, dino-obsessed young Ross), which proved to be Friends’ darkest story line.
Joey Tribbiani: Actor
Joey is the celebrity of the group, playing Dr. Drake Ramoray (and his twin brother) on Days Of Our Lives for many seasons. Much like the stereotypical actor, when Joey isn’t on Days Of Our Lives or other various film and TV projects, he is consistently underemployed, working as everything from a cologne sampler to a Christmas elf. He even spends some time working as a gladiator at Caesar’s Palace when a role falls through.
Chandler Bing – IT Procurement/Advertising Copywriter
For the first nine seasons, always sarcastic Chandler hates his job. He works first as an IT Procurement Manager and then as a Vice President of IT Procurement. This completely unsexy job constantly has Chandler down about life, and keeps his friends completely confused about what he actually does. I did a little digging and found IT Procurement is exactly what it sounds like — procuring information technology and services, and it is (in my humble opinion) not super exciting. After nine years of frustration, Chandler gives it all up to go back to being an intern at an advertising agency. There, he finds use for his quick wit and dumb jokes and ends the series with a promotion to junior copywriter, with a promising career ahead.
Ross Geller – Paleontologist/Professor
Ah, the group’s resident nerd. While Ross gets a bit of flack for having a boring nerdy job, I gotta be honest, paleontology is actually really cool. His job is to study dinosaurs and then teach college students about them. That sounds like a little boy’s dream come true, and it also leads Ross to meet one of his long term girlfriends, a fellow professor named Charlie. Also, Ross is the only person in the whole cast that manages to begin and end the series with the same job — so kudos to you, Ross.
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