The 'Friends' Joke You Didn't Hear: Joey's Gay?

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Wednesday May 26, 2021

Fans of "Friends" — the long-running '90s sitcom that's getting a new reunion special — have never heard about "The One With Joey Being Gay."

That's because the gag — a line written for Lisa Kudrow's character, Phoebe — was cut before the episode it was part of was filmed, according to Metro.

The wisecrack was initially part of the 1998 two-part season four finale in which Ross (David Schwimmer) gets married. Ross' ex, Rachel (Jennifer Aniston), doesn't attend the wedding, and neither does Phoebe.

Metro recalled the scene in which the line was originally supposed to appear. When Phoebe tells Rachel the real reason she hasn't gone to the wedding is because she's still in love with Ross, Rachel goes into a spiral of explanations that culminate with her realizing that Phoebe is right — she is still in love with Ross.

At that point, Rachel cries out, "Oh my God! Why didn't you tell me?"

After the first laugh line ("We thought you knew!"), Phoebe goes on to say Rachel's feelings are "obvious" to everyone, and pointing it out would be like telling neat freak Monica (Courteney Cox), "Hey, you like things clean!"

But there was another example in the original script of pointing out the obvious: "Hey, Joey, you're gay!"

Joey, played by Matt LeBlanc, was portrayed as a lady killer; his celebrated signature line was the cheesy pickup overture, "How you doin'?" But there was also a 2000 episode in which Joey and Ross fall asleep on a couch and then go into a frenzy of sexual self-doubt because they enjoyed their snugglesome snooze.

Though the series remains popular, "Friends" has had its detractors, who have called out the show's outdated jokes about sexist tropes, body types, and sexuality.

One running joke concerned Ross' first wife, who was a lesbian. In a 2018 appearance on BBC Radio 5, British journalist Rebecca Reid said the show's "homophobia is staggering - the punchline of every joke about Ross is that his ex-wife is a lesbian, as if that's some failing of his and that it's hilarious that she's a lesbian."

Metro also noted that LeBlanc, who co-hosted the British series "Top Gear" for three seasons, denied "Friends" was anti-gay in its humor, telling the BBC: "On 'Friends' we steered clear of that kind of thing.... 'Friends' was about themes that stand the test of time — trust, love, relationships, betrayal, family and things like that."

On the contrary, Metro recalled a more recent controversy: "Later this week, the original cast of the classic hit sitcom are set to reunite in 'Friends: The Reunion.'... While many fans are extremely excited to see the gang get back together, the reunion has received backlash for its failure to include any Black celebrity guest stars in the special."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.