‘Friends’ Star David Schwimmer Claps Back At Critics Of The Show’s ‘Pre-Woke’ Jokes

The actor says the NBC sitcom was 'groundbreaking' when it originally aired.

The cast of the NBC series Friends -- Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Jennifer Aniston, David Schwimmer, Courteney Cox, and Matthew Perry (L-R).
Hulton Archive / Getty Images

The actor says the NBC sitcom was 'groundbreaking' when it originally aired.

David Schwimmer is clapping back at critics of Friends. The actor says the 1990s sitcom was groundbreaking despite complaints from those who think it lacked diversity and offered tone-deaf punchlines that haven’t aged well.

In an interview with U.K. publication The Guardian, Schwimmer said the Emmy-winning sitcom about six white friends living in New York City reflected the “pre-woke” times. The 53-year-old star made it clear that he doesn’t “care” about the modern-day complaints about the megahit show, which ran for 10 seasons on NBC from 1994 to 2004.

“The truth is also that show was groundbreaking in its time for the way in which it handled so casually sex, protected sex, gay marriage, and relationships,” the Friends star said.

Schwimmer pointed out that in the Friends pilot, his character’s wife left him for a woman and that Ross even attended his ex-wife’s gay wedding.

Schwimmer blamed some of the problem with how Friends is now perceived on scenes being taken out of context and not as they were taken during the era in which the series originally aired 25 years ago. Critics of Friends have pointed to cracks about Monica (Courteney Cox) being overweight as a teen, jokes about Chandler’s transgender dad — and the fact that said transgender dad was played by Kathleen Turner — and the lack of diversity among the main characters and their partners.

Pictured (l to r): David Schwimmer as Ross Geller, Courteney Cox as Monica Geller, Jennifer Aniston as Rachel Cook, Matthew Perry as Chandler Bing, Matt LeBlanc as Joey Tribbiani and Lisa Kudrow as Phoebe Buffay.
  Warner Bros. Television / Getty Images

But Schwimmer’s character, Ross Geller, actually had a diverse dating profile. He famously dated Julie (Lauren Tom) and Charlie (Aisha Tyler).

While he feels Friends writers handled the topics of sex and gay marriage just fine, Schwimmer admitted he was “well aware” of the lack of diversity on the show and “campaigned for years to have Ross date women of color.”

“One of the first girlfriends I had on the show was an Asian American woman, and later I dated African American women,” Schwimmer said of his role. “That was a very conscious push on my part.”

He also praised the series for breaking out of the usual sitcom Christmas box to celebrate Ross and Monica’s Jewish religion in a holiday episode.

As for recent buzz about a potential Friends reunion or reboot, Schwimmer said it doesn’t feel right to “mess” with the original end of the series, which wrapped everything up for the characters in 2004. The actor, who famously made $1 million per episode along with his six co-stars during the show’s heyday, added that he would “never” do anything just for the money.

“It would have to make sense creatively and nothing I’ve heard so far presented to us makes sense,” the Friends star said.