I always find that whenever Pheobe says something funny and just before the camera changes angle, Lisa Kudrow makes a face that is similar to someone holding their laughter. I have seen the gag reel and there are a lot of scenes where she was laughing because of the lines. But there are some instances where she says something funny and makes that "holding laughter back" face. What I try to figure out, is that PHOEBE that makes that face, or does Lisa Kudrow? Any interviews or articles that describe this?

  • Interesting question, I've made the same observation. Commented Sep 10, 2016 at 15:10
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    Right!!!!???? Also, given your display name, you should be knowing the answer @ChanandlerBong :P
    – AtulBhatS
    Commented Sep 10, 2016 at 15:23
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    Interesting - I always thought of it as the "Phoebe snort" expression, never considered it to do with 'Lisa'
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Sep 10, 2016 at 19:55
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    TBH, Cox did it a lot too. Possibly even more than Kudrow.
    – Walt
    Commented Sep 11, 2016 at 4:42
  • I know Jeniffer Aniston held her laugh in a lot of scenes. Specially the one where Ross plays the bagpipe.
    – LeonX
    Commented Aug 15, 2017 at 17:52

2 Answers 2


Friends is a sitcom, and a lot of sitcoms and other comedies1 are kind of meta, in that the characters will say something funny for the audience's benefit but the actors will laugh or almost laugh. The filmmakers often leave this in the show because, even though they technically broke out of character, the show isn't meant to be all that serious in the first place and audences might be more likely to laugh if they see the actors laughing or almost laughing.

1 For example, in the comedy sketch show, Studio C, the actors often visibly struggle to repress laughter and keep a straight face, but they leave that in the show because often it makes it even funnier. :)

  • Even more so - Mrs Brown's Boys, which uses a lot of 4th wall breaking anyway, will also leave in fluffed lines, the pauses necessary to re-say the line, & the actors' responses to those fluffs. The main character will also frequently ask questions in character which were clearly not expected by the actor on the receiving end of the question.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Sep 11, 2016 at 9:12

Friends, as a show, rarely explicitly breaks the fourth wall. It's more accurate to say that all of the characters on the show frequently, implicitly, lean on the fourth wall for humor (Chandler about babies names, Rachel referencing fan obsession with her hairstyle at the time, etc..). There were a handful of one off exceptions, eg. Ross in a laurel and hardy homage.

Phoebe's infrequent 4th wall breaks stand out because they are performed in character, as part of regular episodes.

So while I don't find any specific references to her "holding laughter back" face being intentionally allowed screen time more often than for other characters, it would make sense as a decision.

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    Would you mind explaining how does Chandler's comment lean the fourth wall? I'm afraid I don't get it. Commented Sep 12, 2016 at 14:00
  • Me neither. Although some of those lines sound good as fourth wall interactions, the characters were portrayed to be of such thoughts through out the show. Like the random Donald Duck wearing a towel when out of a shower remark by chandler. That's their personalities. I guess?
    – AtulBhatS
    Commented Sep 12, 2016 at 16:51
  • Both we and the characters know Monica ate a lot of snacks as a child, making it an in character joke. The 4th wall lean is a reference to the latter episodes heavy reliance on snack and pop based product placements - by that point in the show's life, there likely would have been a serious conversation about making the baby's name a product-placing joke Commented Sep 12, 2016 at 21:22
  • Thanks, I wasn't aware that the snack product placement was that big, but I guess I'm not paying attention to this kind of stuff. Commented Sep 13, 2016 at 7:56
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    Yeah, it was both ridiculously excessive and unusually well done in the latter shows. The One with the Apothecary Table is often quoted as an example of the best done intentional product placement on television - well meshed with the episode, and very effective. To this day, Pottery Barn sales spikes correlate to reruns of the episode. Commented Sep 13, 2016 at 14:28

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