How Phoebe Buffay Was Just There

By this time, twenty years after the show’s premiere, countless articles have been written dissecting the nature of Friends. But no one ever seems to address that Phoebe Buffay (Lisa Kudrow) was just there, hanging out, doing absolutely nothing with her life, while all the others in the group aspired to some sort of higher ambition.

Phoebe: the cipher
Phoebe: the cipher
Sure, she had loose ambitions to become a singer (though those were quickly dashed by her signature song, “Smelly Cat,” being turned into a cat litter commercial wherein her vocals were replaced by someone else’s), but, ultimately, Phoebe was simply loafing about Central Perk, occasionally giving massages. Even Joey, with his lack of discipline as an out-of-work actor, managed to finagle more success than his deadbeat female counterpart. So how, one might ask, did Phoebe continue to stay lauded within the group when she never “grew” with them professionally?
Loose musical ambitions
Loose musical ambitions
The simple answer is that she was their only source of 1) amusement and 2) appearing to seem more interesting than they were by having this quirky weirdo in their circle. Moreover, Phoebe’s existence as a remnant of Mad About You (Kudrow played the similarly odd twin sister Ursula Buffay, who also makes recurring appearances in Friends) further added to her general out-of-placeness with the rest of the cast.
A legitimate question
A legitimate question
While there are countless implausibilities on Friends that would never happen in real life, perhaps the most incongruous of all is that Phoebe stayed within the good graces of Chandler, Monica, Joey, Rachel and Ross–and vice versa. She was too different for them, too wild; and, in many ways, they broke her like a goddamn mare.