Matthew Perry’s truth: Could Chandler Bing BE any more of a Nice Guy?

Matthew Perry’s new autobiography Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing is an eye-opening read. More than anything else, it gives an insight into Nice Guy Syndrome from an extreme level; that of the highly successful Performer Type of Nice Guy.

Despite getting all the fame, love and wealth he could ever wish for, Perry still turned to drugs and meaningless sex to try to numb the void within. He shows all the classic signs of an approval seeking people pleaser, using humor to avoid intimacy and struggling with self worth no matter how much validation he received.

Chandler Bing’s character in Friends is a classic representation of the Performer Type of Nice Guy, and this book shows how close he was in spirit and behavior to the real Matthew Perry.

In this video, we look at the painful lessons we can learn from the man who brought us Chandler and showed the world the dark suffering of the Nice Guy who tries to be funny all the time.

Check out my Nice Guy Recovery and Social Confidence course if this speaks to you.

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Full transcript

Today we’re going to delve deep into one of my favorite TV actors of all time, Matthew Perry.

Matthew Perry is a nice guy and his latest auto biography proves it. And he might in fact be the ultimate model for certain nice guys like myself. In this video, we’re going to explore the lessons that we can take from his life as recovering nice guys.

So his biography, which I’ve almost finished reading, is called Friends Lovers and The Big Terrible thing.

The terrible thing being addiction, friends being Friends the TV program, and lovers being his insatiable appetite for sex. And I’m not going to ruin it. I want you to read the book for yourself. If you’re a nice guy in recovery I think it’s an excellent book to read, just to get an inside view of other nice guys, how they function and what you might see in yourself.

But in general, the book focuses primarily on his drug addiction and his intimacy issues. And this is on a background of super fame and wealth. So we get to see what it’s like to be a nice guy when you’re also one of the most famous people in the world and have so much money you couldn’t possibly spend it all or lose it.

And it’s very special in my life because Chandler Bing is me. I even did the little emphasis there. You know, when I saw Friends for the first time back in the 90s, I was just really emerging into my nice guy persona that was about to throttle me and take over my life. And I was Chandler. Really, I had friends who joked about how I was Chandler. I was the sarcastic witty one. I never let an awkward silence go by without cracking a joke. I couldn’t let anything serious happen without breaking the tension with a joke. I was terrible with women, terrible with sex and intimacy. But everybody loved me and nobody could figure out why I struggled so much. And I was just the New Zealand version of him.

As soon as I saw that Matthew Perry had written a book, I thought I’ve got to read this book, this is my guy. There’s no way somebody can act as Chandler without knowing what it’s like to be Chandler, you know, and so I knew instinctively without knowing anything about Matthew Perry that he must actually be a lot like Chandler in real life. He must be a nice guy, an approval seeker. Someone with intimacy issues in real life. He just he understood it so well. When I saw Chandler I just felt so understood. I felt like somebody had written me into a TV series, and then Americanized it. And that the person who was acting me had studied me intently.

Chandler, Matthew Perry himself, and I are all “performer” types of nice guys. Now I’ve got a piece of content on different types of nice guys, you can message me,, if you wanna see it – it’s a very in depth content covering the four or five different types of nice guys  -but the performer type, generally, we’re extroverted. We have an avoidant attachment issue around we don’t like people getting close. We’re approval seekers, so we get our approval deliberately, we put on a show. That’s why I call it the performer type, as opposed to those who get approval by trying to avoid disapproval, which is much more kind of passive. We go and get approval. We make you like us.

We control people’s emotions, through manipulation – humor being a primary manipulator. But we have other things. We’re good at arguing, convincing people and selling things. We hide all negative emotions and experiences. And Matthew talks about this in his book, like most of the time nobody had any idea that anything was wrong with him, even though he was in very dire straits with his addiction.

We self medicate, because we’re independent. So because we’re avoidant types, we don’t like letting anyone in, we don’t like getting help from anybody else. So if we were to have a mental health issue, we’re gonna sort it out ourselves. And like Perry is self medicated, I’ve done a fair few amount of drugs in my time. I think I’m lucky that I’ve never had the kind of drugs he had, which are more like the prescription opiate type medications.

Actually, I just got out of hospital, and one night I was really in pain there after my surgery, and they gave me a pill. There was exactly the experience that Matthew Perry was talking about, you know, your blood turns into warm honey. So it’s a sense of wellbeing that’s unmatched by anything else. Not the same as ecstasy, which is like a loving feeling, this one’s moreso self centered. You feel warm and cozy all by yourself. After they gave me that pill, I told them not to give me more pills like they’re, like I’m not the right person to have those kinds of pills. Luckily, I’m strong enough now. But 15 years ago, if I had surgery and had a pill like that, I would have been like, how do I get more of those pills? My drugs were primarily weed, ecstasy and speed, and stuff like that.

And I don’t have what he has, an addictive thing in me, where he becomes addicted. I don’t have that I’ve always been able to wean myself off stuff have quit cigarettes, alcohol, weed, they’re all hard to quit, but not that hard. Whereas he really seems to struggle.

I consider myself lucky that I never pursued acting, because I have a sense that I would have been good at it. And if I had been, and got as famous as Matthew Perry had, I think my story would be the same as his his. If you read the book, it’s not a good story. I’m lucky I didn’t stumble upon the type of performing that would have elevated me to superstardom. I was in a band. And I was funny with my friends. I considered stand up comedy for a little while, maybe that would have been a similar path. But I ended up sort of doing it with achievements and stuff in other fields.

And probably just because I was born and raised in New Zealand, which is very anti emotional, I never got into acting, because it would have been seen as “soft”. And I want to always be seen as hard. Whereas, Matthew was growing up in an environment where acting was applauded. He lived in LA as a as a young man. So I feel now lucky that I never went into acting, because I think that would have been a tragedy for me. I think I would have been good at it. And I think if I’d done well, if I got to being on TV level doing well, there would have just been drugs and mayhem for me as well. So I’m glad I missed out on that, even though I was so sure I wanted it for a long time.

Matthew Perry clearly talks about being avoidant/needy. This is a horrible combination for the performance type nice guy, where we end up engaging in this constant push and pull through performing. We like to be the center of attention. We like to get lots of laughs. We like to be the cause of other people feeling good. We like people to say that we are the funniest person they ever met, or the nicest guy that they’ve ever met, or “You gotta meet Dan, he’s fucking awesome, nothing wrong with him!”. We like people to think that way about us.

But at the same time, we have to resist intimacy and commitment. We don’t want people to get deep. We don’t want it to get real. We don’t want ugliness or confrontation. We don’t want difficult conversations about how we really feel about things. So we’re constantly trying to keep people at just the right distance. They love me, but don’t get anywhere near me.

And I think being a famous TV star is just a brilliant way to achieve that goal. Everywhere you go, you’re loved but nobody knows you. It’s perfect. It’s absolutely perfect, and unfortunately for Matthew he found that perfect Nice Guy hole to start digging.

Perry even mentions in the book talking about having erectile dysfunction, which is very common for us performer type nice guys, because we get performance anxiety. And we’re always wanting to put on a good performance, even in the bedroom, even for our first time, we want to blow them away. It’s just ridiculous. And he got over his very quickly because he had a partner that was understanding. It took me many many years to get over mine because I had a few partners who would criticize me.

As performer type nice guys, we think fame – and wealth to a lesser extent, but more so fame – would solve all our problems. That we’d finally find the kind of beer tap of approval with a keg that never runs dry. But all it does is feed the monster. The problem with actually being funny is that if you’re good at it, you then you get the validation. And it’s like being good at buying drugs, it just means you’re going to get more addicted, you going to get more drugs. The best thing for a recovering drug addict is that you don’t have access to drugs, that nobody wants to sell them to you. That’s the only way you’re gonna get clean.

And it’s the same with being a performaner. If nobody thinks you’re putting particularly entertaining and you get bad reviews, nobody laughs at your jokes, then maybe you won’t do it so much. And if you won’t feed that nice guy approval seeking monster then maybe you find some other way to live. Perry never got a chance to find another way to live because he found the eternal tap of approval.

So it’s interesting; you might think from watching Friends Perry must be fucking crushing it, but no, he suffers more than most people around the whole world despite his wealth. Drugs and alcohol almost killed him multiple times. He lives in a prison inside his mind, where most of the time he’s suffering. When he’s using he’s actually suffering even worse, it just comes to bite him later. He  really almost died multiple times by his account, came very close. He’s been in a lot of physical pain, he has permanent injuries, both mental and physical, from all his using. He does not enjoy many minutes of the day. He doesn’t know if he even really likes people, he feels disconnected from everyone. He’s not winning.

So his relentless need for approval and his avoidance of intimacy, his fear that letting people in will hurt him because it hurt him as a child (because people close to him hurt him as a child), that isolated him and prevented him from achieving normality. See, for the nice guy performer type, normality is the solution. We need to have a basic as, middle of the pack life in order to be healthy, we can’t be high performers. We can’t survive at the top, with all the attention and everything, Just like a drug addict, we cannot survive in a house full of heroin. We need to be a place where we don’t have access to it. We need to humble ourselves.

That’s what guys like me and Matthew Perry need. We need to just live out a regular life. That’s how we’re going to be healthy and confident. And he actually mentioned this – I haven’t finished a book so maybe it ends there somewhere – but he mentioned just the idea of kind of like pottering around the garden and stuff. Now there’s something brilliant in that. There is a clue there, as he would say, from God that this is how we’re supposed to live.

o the greatest lesson I think from the Chandler Bing character, which is really just an extension of Perry, is a using humor to get approval. You got to see that for what it is: a coping mechanism for abandonment and trauma. And all it does is create more isolation. You end up causing more of the problem that you’re trying to solve. If you know anyone, or you are someone who’s funny all the time, always got a joke, always crazy, and never serious, I guarantee you that person is severely traumatized. That is not healthy functioning.

Being humorous, you know, having a lighthearted view of the world and occasionally cracking off a good joke and just kind of seeing things in the most playful light, that’s not the same thing as being funny, being entertainingly funny all the time. That’s the thing you got to watch out for. That’s a huge red flag. That’s somebody who’s not doing well psychologically. And nobody knows that because they look like they’re doing exceptionally well psychologically. They’re always having a laugh, they must be doing well, right? No, it’s a perfect mask. There’s nothing but pain under there.

Now they will laugh and have a good time because it’s also their medication. When the laughter stops, and they’re left alone with their thoughts, that is pure hell. I know this from experience and so does Matthew Perry. Taken to the extreme, the pain of that disconnection, that isolation of feeling like an alien amongst the different species, it’s so great that drugs are the only way to get over it, the only way to numb it.

For me, it was like ecstasy was the only thing, and speed or anything that made me actually say what I’m really thinking and feel like I’m part of the group feel, like I’m with people. Other drugs like alcohol actually used to emphasize that I felt like I was different others, but I just didn’t care as much. Let me just kind of giggle and numb the pain until bedtime. And Perry uses drugs for similar reasons: I can handle how fuckin alone I am and no crazy thoughts go through my head. So there’s a pill that stops that from happening, then I’ll do it, which of course, when you’re on drugs all the time, when you’re high, you’re not connected to anyone, it’s not real.

I used to love the conversations I’d have with people on ecstasy, because they’re just so real and honest and transparent. But then they wouldn’t remember it at all, and I wouldn’t feel any more connected to the other person. It’d be lonely. It just reset overnight. It wasn’t real. I didn’t even consider back then that I could have those conversations without getting high, and that the connection was maintained.

When you look at Friends, Chandler being clearly suffered more than any other character on the show. And I think that’s a real accurate portrayal. The other characters, for all their various foibles and flaws, they all had backbones, they were assertive, they were happy to disappoint the crowd in order to do what was right and so on and so forth. And therefore they suffered less, and I think that’s a great critique of nice guy syndrome.

If you watch the whole series – I’m actually a big friends fan – at the end Chandler Bing calms down a bit (which actually Matthew Perry talks about the drug use happening behind that and so on), in the last couple of seasons Perry puts on a bit of weight and becomes this kind of like settled in husband who’s just relaxed a bit more. He’s not so fucking sarcastic all the time and doing his little double takes and all that. He just got to chill he still got that sarcastic wit but it’s much more like relaxed with dad humor, and there’s so many more moments where he’s being intimate and honest and real.

It’s tragic to think that the real Matthew Perry behind that was not going through that same transition, that this Chandler Bing character is now if anything far from Matthew Perry. So once Chandler accepted a normal life, and committed to a loving partner, and just found a job that was right for him rather than the one that was easy, and all that, he found pace and he found confidence, and loving that as he found his balls along the. He way stepped up and gave up the easy funny path for the more sort of serious but real and authentic path. He stopped being as funny as well.

Did you notice that the at the end? At the start of friends first few seasons, Chandler’s the funny one, the funniest one, at least, the one he’s actually attempting to be funny. You might laugh at Ross more, but you know by the end of the Friends seasons Chandler just sort of fades into the background and he’s not the funniest one anymore. He’s not the star of the show anymore. And that’s actually a sign that he’s getting healthy.

One of the signs for me getting healthy was not being the funniest guy in the room anymore. And not being the center of attention, and being the smartest or the best at anything. And just being like an average dude who doesn’t know what he’s really doing and just kind of potters around trying to do something he enjoys, and speaks his mind and just let the chips fall where they may. For me, I used to think being married with a kid and the white picket house used to be my nightmare. I couldn’t think of a more horrible thing that that mundane existence. And now I realized I was shying away from my own humanity. That this is where I should be. This is peaceful.

I’ve got my problems, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t have this need to impress people all the time. I’m not constantly living and dying on the approval of others. I don’t feel this urge to be funny automatically. I can have serious long in depth conversations and have deep connections with people, and it’s way better. I’d rather go to my grave unknown but happy then to be a big star who wants to work and die all the time.

But it’s hard. It’s like an ego thing. I had to let go of being the star. I think I could have been being the big deal, that I probably could have been if I just pushed it and just went in the right direction. Who knows, maybe I’m delusional, but you know when I read Perry’s book – I’m gonna do another piece on Will Smith based on his book as well – when I read these guys who actually went in that direction and went all in being the man, the funny one, being the successful one, I’m so glad I didn’t do it. It ends in fucking disaster, they suffered endlessly.

I haven’t finished the book, so hopefully there’s some sort of happy ending for for Perry. But if anything else, I hope Perry himself can learn from the Chandler Bing of Friends and see that bit at the end when he settles down, just has a family and does some like unimpressive but enjoyable thing for a living, that life – that’s the answer. Matty, if you’re watching this, which you definitely aren’t, that’s the answer, mate. That’s the solution.

Thank you all for watching. I hope it was helpful. Get in touch If you’d like to recover from nice guy syndrome alongside me, and I’ll see you guys next time.

Check out my Nice Guy Recovery and Social Confidence course if this speaks to you.

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