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In "Friends", Season 5 episode 5 (1998), Chandler says Joey that he has seen Donald Trump waiting for an elevator. Why Donald Trump? Was this supposed to be a joke related to some events or news of that time?

The dialogue:

Joey: Uh, so your weekend was a total bust?

Chandler: Uh, no, I got to see Donald Trump waiting for an elevator.

Joey: You know, at the Taj Mahal, he has his own private glass elevator. That's right. Made by Otis Elevators. Yeah. And they usually don't do glass.

  • He's rich and famous. Chandler wanted to make his story authentic. so he used well-known character – Vishwa Feb 16 '18 at 10:27
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    It's the trope of seeing a famous person doing something "normal". – BCdotWEB Feb 16 '18 at 11:05
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    Trump was a business tycoon that time – J M Feb 16 '18 at 11:46
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    Are you sure you have Joey's response line correct? Not only is it somewhat out of character for him, but it's not in version I have (perhaps it's only in the DVD version?) – Barry Carter Feb 17 '18 at 16:56
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The dialogue between Chandler and Joey contains two related jokes.

Chandler and the rest of the Friends are young, cool Manhattanites -- not the type of people who would get excited about seeing a publicity-craving celebrity like 1990s Donald Trump. So Chandler is using sarcasm to mock the idea that seeing Trump was a big deal, and confirming that indeed his weekend was a total bust. His mention of "waiting for an elevator" helps drive home the point of how meaningless the Trump sighting was for him.

Joey's follow-up comment about the private glass elevator makes fun of Trump's highly cultivated public image as a man of wealth, luxury, and exclusivity. The bit about "they usually don't do glass" sounds exactly like something Trump himself would brag about. Joey delivers the line deadpan, as if he is legitimately impressed by the elevator - but Joey's character is an airhead, and the joke is that only an idiot like Joey would be impressed by a cheesy private glass elevator.

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Donald Trump was famous back then too and appeared in many films and TV shows back then. His roles were mostly throwaways/jokes/gigs etc.,

Like the one in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air:

But that's not all, many shows film used his name as joke and throwaway lines too. In Designing Women (“Marriage Most Foul”, 1991):

Julia Sugarbaker’s call to Donald Trump:

Hello? Mr. Trump? I hope I’m not disturbing you. I’m just calling you to say, on behalf of the American public: Mr. Trump, we no longer care who you date, we really don’t. You are no longer obligated to alert the news media every time your pants are on fire because we don’t care. So please feel free to fire all your hacks, flacks and publicists employed for this purpose because — and I repeat — we don’t care! Who am I? Who am I? Well, you’ve never met me, but you can just call me “The Julia”. - source

So he was a rich and famous guy and Friends used it in the same way.that also was a way to make it clear Chandler and Monica were together. From the episode's transcript

Joey: How was your conference?

Chandler: It was terrible. I fought with (Pause) my colleagues y'know, the entire time. Are you kidding with this? (Throws away another Rollo)

Joey: Oh, so your weekend was a total bust?

Chandler: Uh, no, I got to see Donald Trump waiting for an elevator.

Then later in the same episode :

Phoebe: Hey!

Monica: Hey!

Phoebe: Oh hey, Monica, I heard you saw Donald Trump at your convention.

Monica: Yeah, I saw him waiting for an elevator.

(Joey thinks that sounds familiar, but dismisses the thought.)

It gives chance to Joey to connect dots which he didn't at the moment but he did know that they were together already.

And this was not the only trump reference, they mentioned him again randomly too:

Joey: Guess what job I just got?

Chandler: I don't know, but Donald Trump wants his blue blazer black. (pauses)

Ross: What?

Chandler: Blue blazer back. He wants it back.

Rachel: But, you said "black". Why would he want his blue blazer black?

Chandler: Well, you know what I meant.

Monica: No, you messed it up. You're stupid.

Chandler: (changing the subject) So what job did you get, Joe?

This reference also show the actor's improvisation:

In the episode "The One With Phoebe's Uterus", Joey walks into the apartment wearing a blue blazer. Matthew Perry (Chandler), while making a joke, accidentally said "black" instead of "back", but the actors' reactions to the mistake were so funny, they decided to put it in the episode - - tvtropes

  • Just wanted to add that I believe in this episode Chandler and Monica were going to Atlantic City in New Jersey and Trump famously owns a few casinos there (including the Taj Mahal casino). That's why they specifically used Trump and not just any famous person. – Kodos Johnson Apr 20 '18 at 1:45

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