The show is known for its many recurring signature gags, running from marriages to catchphrases.
Ross and Rachel
Main Article: Ross and Rachel
Ross and Rachel's on-again-off-agan relationship is a huge running gag throughout the series, spreading over the course of 7 seasons, starting in season 3. Their relationship involves wether the couple got back together or just had one night stands, before getting back together for good in the final episode of the series, The Last One, Part 2.
Rachel's long, drawn-out "Noooo!!" when receiving bad news became her catchphrase. In "The One With The Ride-Along", when Rachel shows Monica the message Emily left for Ross on his answering machine, they say each other's catchphrases. Monica says "Noooooo" and Rachel exclaims "I know!"
Returning all her presents
Rachel is known for returning every gift she ever gets. This shown in several episodes. In "The One Where Rachel Finds Out", she opens Chandler's gift to her of travel edition Scrabble and immediately hands it back to him. In "The One With Chandler In A Box", Ross becomes angry at her for returning a gold necklace he gave to her. Rachel notes an appreciation of her new gift in "The One With Christmas In Tulsa" by saying that she won't return it right then.
Similar to Rachel's "no". Monica often says (or yells) "I know", in a loud, high-pitched tone. Throughout the series, every friend has imitated Monica's phrase in the same tone.
Ross being the favorite child
Judy Geller is portrayed as constantly criticizing Monica, with Ross being the golden child. She once told Rachel that she was like the daughter she never had, and on another occasion said if Ross died she would be left childless. At Ross and Emily's wedding, she made multiple references to this being "the only wedding" they may be able to have for their children. While Ross's room was said to be maintained as a shrine to him when he moved out, Monica's was made into a gym "20 minutes after she moved out".
It is regularly mentioned and made fun of that Monica was fat when she was younger. It is first shown how large she was in "The One With The Prom Video" Ross especially pokes fun of that, for example when he mentions that Monica was the reason they regulates the weight on play-grounds (specifically swingsets). Other details include that Monica tried to ride their old dog as a child and the dog subsequently required knee surgery, or the revelation that Ross had to visit a child psychiatrist because of a recurring nightmare that Monica was going to eat him.
Throughout the series Monica has been shown to have a compulsive need to have things clean and organized.
Monica has been shown to have a very competitive nature. A classic example of this is seen in "The One With The Football" when she and Ross continue to fight over the Geller Cup long after the rest of the gang have left to enjoy their Thanksgiving meal.
A lot of Phoebe's character is built on her eccentricities, meaning to list them all here would be impossible. Some classic examples are:
Phoebe writes and preforms an eccentric range of songs. Her strange collection of songs have been played across the show, often sharing a common theme of being having odd topics, such as:
- "Smelly Cat", about a foul-smelling cat
- "Lather, Rinse, Repeat", about showering
- "The Woman Smelt Like Garbage", about a foul-smelling woman
- "Bisexuals", a song about bisexual people, which implies that they are "kidding themselves"
- "The Cow in the Meadow Goes Moo", a children's song about killing animals for food
- "Grandma", a children's song about a dead grandmother
- "Ode to a Pubic Hair" or "Little Black Curly Hair", a song about a suspicious hair found in the shower
- "Su-Su-Suicide", about suicide
Phoebe often mentions her belief in Spiritualism.
- She believes in reincarnation and past lives, and that she was a Red Cross nurse in two past lives; once in 1862 (U.S. Civil War) and again as a French nurse in 1915 (WWI). She also mentions being tortured which may or may not have been those two wars.
However she mentions her and her grandmother spending the afterlife on a spiritual plane and that the grocer's checkout counter and Central Park have counterparts there.
- She used, along with Rachel and Monica, a ritual to prevent them from meeting bad boyfriends. However the potion did not function correctly, possibly due to an important missing component: the semen of a righteous man (which "if [they] had, [they] wouldn't be doing the ritual."-Rachel) An alternative to this ritual would have been dancing around naked brandishing sticks.
- She believes she is cursed and that every time she goes to the dentist a loved one dies, as her last three visits coincided with the deaths of her aunt Mary, John the mailman, and her cowboy friend 'Albino Bob'. This belief apparently ended in "The One With The Giant Poking Device", when the gang insisted that she go to the dentist after she chipped a tooth and she subsequently called everyone she knew to confirm that they were alive (and poked Ugly Naked Guy with the titular poking device when he was very still on his hammock).
- In junior high school, she thought she was a witch.
Phoebe frequently uses the alter ego Regina Phalange. Once when she is pretending to be French, she even adopts a French version called "Régine Phillange". Phoebe also used it when she pretended to be a fan trying to convince Joey's "identical hand twin" to join him in his hand show idea, though she and Joey were kicked out by a security guard. The first reference to Regina Phalange is when she is trying to contact Ross in England, and pretends to be a Dr. Regina Phalange diagnosing a disease. The last reference is in the series finale when Phoebe successfully stalls Rachel's plane to Paris by saying there was a problem with the "Left Phalange." Phalange is the correct universal name for the bones in the fingers and toes. Ironically, this is not Phoebe's choice for her new name in "The One With Princess Consuela", preferring to go as Princess Consuela Banana-Hammock.
Phoebe's strange history has been explained over the series. She was born along with her twin sister Ursula to Phoebe Abbot and Frank Buffay when Abbot was 18, then adopted by Frank and his wife Lily, who Phoebe believed was her biological parent until the above secret was revealed when she visited Phoebe Sr. The family lived in upstate New York. Frank walked out on the twins when they were 8. Lily remarried to an anonymous man, then committed suicide some time afterwards on Christmas Day by placing her head in an oven. Phoebe's stepdad was arrested for an unknown reason, leaving the children to be independent. They both moved to Manhattan, where Ursula got a job as a waitress, but Phoebe could not find work and became homeless. She was forced to mug for a living at some point in this period, and even crossed paths with Ross when she mugged him. She helped an albino man clean windows outside Port Authority, stayed with a man called Sindy who talked to his hand. When Monica needed a roommate, she befriended her and moved in with her. She was able to gain a massage therapy license, resulting in the steady lifestyle shown throughout the show. Phoebe's grandmother also lived in New York and when she passes away Phoebe is given her apartment and her taxi cab.
Similar to Rachel's "Nooooo" and Monica's "I know", Phoebe says "Oh, no!" when something bad happens, as evidenced in The One Without The Ski Trip.
Similar to Monica's "I Know!" Phoebe says "Yay!" when something good happens.
An exclamation for all times, in a slightly higher pitch than normal.
"How you doin'?"
Joey often says this to women he has never met, and occasionally to Phoebe, Monica and Rachel, much to their annoyance. He appears to have understood that the three will never respond positively to this line by the end of the fifth season, as shown when a drunken Rachel does respond positively and Joey warns Ross not to let her drink any more.
Joey has been known to be the most promiscuous of the group, with much of his relationships with other women consisting mainly of one night stands or dates which he doesn't return any calls.
HuggsyHuggsy is Joey's "bedtime penguin pal". First introduced in "The One Where Everybody Finds Out", where Joey lets it slip while trying to show that he has secrets of his own. Later when Rachel and Emma moved in, Emma became attached to Huggsy. Joey bought her a Brand New Huggsy so he could take the original back, but it did not work. Rachel asks how Joey can take Huggsy from a little child and he responds "How do you think I got him in the first place?"
HungerJoey often eats large amounts of food that most would find impossible. He has eaten a whole Turkey and pumpkin pie, six full meals followed by a cake, and Chandler once warned Ross that he eats five times a day.
Joey is a slow thinker and has a relatively low intelligence quotient, therefore he suffers when the situation becomes slightly complex. For instance, at the beginning of "The One With The Sonogram At The End", the friends discuss the importance of kissing in a relationship but employ quite a number of metaphors. Joey quickly loses grasp of the situation and asks, "Are we still talking about sex?" In "The One With The Red Sweater", when Ross reveals that the red sweater left in Joey and Rachel's is his (after the friends had earlier realized that the sweater had to belong to the father of Rachel's unborn baby), Phoebe and Monica quickly respond, but it takes sometime for Joey to realize. In "The One Without The Ski Trip", he forms the word PLEH on the ground; his rationale is that it is HELP written backwards so that a rescue helicopter can read it. Due to his low intelligence, a man was able to rob Joey and Chandler's house in broad daylight in "The One With The Cat"by convincing him to climb into his entertainment unit and be locked inside while he made off with their furniture. Joey's low intelligence is so prevalent that towards the end of the series, some of Joey's rare instances of quick thinking become the objects of comedy. Examples include "The One With The Home Study" and "The One With The Boob Job", where he convinces a woman that she never called him (When it was really the other way around) and works out how he knew that Chandler needed two thousand dollars for a loan without revealing that Monica had already asked him for money. It should be noted, however, that Joey is the only one of the friends who figures out in Season Five that Chandler and Monica are in a relationship. Rachel, Phoebe, and Ross find out when they see (or in Rachel's case, hear) Chandler and Monica together; Joey is the only one who takes disparate facts and puts them together to make a deduction (Although he may simply have been 'exposed' to the right data where the other three were not).
Joey is known to take a few seconds to figure something out (see above), but once he gets it his eyes go wide and he points wildly. This is seen, to name one example, when he realizes for the first time that Monica and Chandler are in a relationship.
For much of the series, Chandler works in statistical analysis and data reconfiguration. This is often forgotten by his friends, and even his wife, Monica. Chandler often comments his job is pointless, and that it won't make any difference if he skips work. In The One Where Rosita Dies, after a man says a similar thing about his job, Phoebe responds with "Chandler?", wondering if it was him. He often mentions his dislike of his job, and in "The One With The Stoned Guy", he quits. He takes several aptitude and personality tests, only to learn he is best suited for the job he just quit. He returns to his old job, albeit with a raise and promotion, later that episode. According to the nameplate on his door (seen in "The One With The Ick Factor"), he has become Processing Supervisor. He remains at the same workplace and presumably, the same position, until he is transferred to Tulsa, Oklahoma, in season 9. He becomes head of the Tulsa office until he quits to return to New York and his wife and friends. He then starts a career in advertising.
His workplace uses acronyms for processing terms that spell out funny words, like W.E.N.U.S (Weekly Estimated Net Usage System) and A.N.U.S (Annual Net Usage Selling).
The friends' forgetfulness of what Chandler does for a living was what lost Monica and Rachel their apartment to Chandler and Joey in a high stakes quiz in "The One With The Embryos". A wild guess thrown by Rachel was a "transponster".
Chandler's smoking habit has been a running joke since the third episode of the series. He has quit several times, but relapses every so often, mainly in the early seasons. Supposedly he started smoking at the age of nine, soon after his parents told him that they were getting a divorce.
Another of Chandler's running gags is the fact that he constantly has to prove to others that he is not gay. This gag began in "The One Where Nana Dies Twice". Even though all of his friends thought he was gay at first, saying that he has a certain "quality". This causes Chandler to question everything about himself including his hair, to which Phoebe sarcastically says "yes, you have homosexual hair." This was still referenced even after his relationship to Monica became serious, with Phoebe noting during her trial songs for the wedding that she thought Chandler was gay when she met him and Ross posting a joke on the college web site that Chandler was gay (to the point that one old classmate assumed that Monica was a transvestite).
"Could I BE any more...?"
Chandler has a habit of asking rhetorical questions that start with "Could it be any more...?" or something similar, such as "Could this be any more...?" or "Could she be any more...?". He always puts significant emphasis on the word "be," in a somewhat unnatural way, leading his friends and co-workers to mock him on numerous occasions. However, the friends end up mocking him so much for it that they use the joke more than he would say it during the course of the show.
Although prominent in the first few seasons, the phrase eventually fizzled out and was no longer used by Chandler or mentioned by the friends.
Chandler often says to the gang "Hello children." as evidenced in The One Where Everyone Finds Out. Occasionally, he'll call the gang "kids" as well.
"Oh my god!"
Another common expression he uses when expressing shock at something, similar to "NOOOO!" "I know!" or "Yay!" (This, however, is said in one continuous flow, in contrast with Janice's version.)
Ross gets married and divorced three times in the duration of the show. First to Carol Willick, then to Emily Waltham, and finally to Rachel Green. He divorces Carol because she was a lesbian and started a relationship with Susan. His second marriage fails because Ross says Rachel's name in the vows instead of Emily's name, resulting in her leaving the reception through the bathroom window, the two remaining estranged but married until "The One With the Yeti" when the two accept that Emily's lack of faith in Ross's old feelings for Rachel will prevent her ever trusting him in their marriage. Rachel and Ross's marriage was a drunken mistake in Vegas and they eventually divorced, much to Ross' discontent. Any references to marriage after the third divorce were usually accompanied by a joke at Ross's expense, but even he started to make jokes about his own divorces later on in the series, such as noting that he was responsible for half of the yearly divorce income rate and even jokingly speculating in "The One With The Home Study" that he may get married two more times. 'The Divorce Force' and 'the Divorcer' were nicknames made up by him. Despite this bad track record, he admitted to Phoebe in "The One With The Boob Job" that he still appreciated marriage as he loved the idea of being that committed to another person.
Ross has made a few bizarre claims throughout the show, such as that he gave up a career in basketball to become a paleontologist ("The One On The Last Night") or that he came up with the "Got Milk?" slogan. He also claimed to have invented numerous other things such as the movie "Die Hard", and the joke Chandler told in "The One With The Joke". He lectures his class that he came up with the idea for "Jurassic Park", and mocks Rachel's love for clothes by conceiving "Jurassic Parka", where a bunch of man-eating coats take over an island.
"We Were On A Break!"
- Main article: "We Were On A Break"
|“|| Ross: She wants me to take responsibility for everything that went wrong in our relationship! She goes on for five pages about how I was "unfaithful" to her! WE WERE ON A BREAK!|
Chandler: Oh, my God! If you say that one more time, I'm gonna break up with you!
—Ross reading Rachel's letter in The One With The Jellyfish
After Ross and Rachel get into a fight in The One Where Ross And Rachel Take A Break, Rachel suggests that they "take a break" from their relationship. Ross, who had mistakenly suspected she was having an affair with a co-worker of hers, who she in reality had only ever considered a friend, later tries to reconcile with her by telephoning her at her apartment. However, he overhears Mark's voice in the background (not realizing that he had offered to comfort he as a friend after learning she was upset) and mistakenly thinks he is there to have sex with her. Now convinced that his suspicions about the affair were right and his relationship with her is now over, he hangs up before drunkenly having sex with another woman. The next morning, Ross explains how he thought his relationship with Rachel was dead, but she corrects him by saying "we were on a break". This becomes Ross' justification for why he slept with Chloe when nagged in future episodes. In an alternate reality "The One That Could Have Been" Rachel wanted to go on a date with 'Days Of Our Lives' star, Joey Tribbiani despite the fact she was still married to Barry, in this reality she claimed "I wish me and Barry were on a break".
After anything bad happens, Ross greets the rest of the group with a very miserable 'Hi', the first time he says it is in "The Pilot". Ironically, his son Ben Geller's first word is "Hi", which he is not there to hear.
Gunther's love for Rachel
Over the course of the series it emerged that Gunther had a crush on Rachel.
This became a running joke and he often made several comments that if put together, might show his love for Rachel, but since they were said to various characters, no one put it together. For at least part of the series, Rachel mistakenly thought that Gunther was gay, and in one episode, in what she thought was an encouraging remark, told him one day he would make "some guy the luckiest man in the world". In "The Last One", Gunther finally tells her that he loves her which possibly makes Ross jealous when he hears it.
Janice/"Oh-My-God!"Chandler's nasal ex-girlfriend Janice was one of the longest running gags in the show. She has a very bouncy character. Her signature catchphrase, a long nasal drawn out "Ohhhh. Myyy. Gaawd!", was usually used along with her entrance. After her third and final break up with Chandler on Valentine's Day, she has reappeared several times; at least once in every season (though only her voice appears in Season 6). In total Janice appears three times in the First Season, twice in the Second, six times in Season 3 (this was when Chandler was willingly in a relationship with her), and once in every season thereafter. Just after she decides not to move next door to Chandler and Monica (because Chandler pretends he is still in love with her) he notes that he will never have to hear the three words again, which he is happy about.
Ugly Naked GuyMain Article: Ugly Naked Guy
Ugly Naked Guy is the nickname the friends gave the overweight nudist who lives across the street from Monica and Rachel. According to Phoebe, he used to be cute, earning him the nickname "Cute Naked Guy", before he started to gain weight in 1993 ("The One With The Flashback"). Ugly Naked Guy has appeared on screen three times: once while he was suspected of being dead in ""The One With The Giant Poking Device", once with his back facing the camera, and once with Ross (who was also nude) in "The One Where Everybody Finds Out". His actual name is not known, and is never mentioned.
Fist-banging (Equivalent to the 'middle finger')
Throughout the series, the characters sometimes bang their fists together as an equivalent to giving someone the middle finger. This became a running joke starting in Season 4 (The One With Joey's New Girlfriend) when Ross did it to Rachel after she insulted him. Monica explained the story behind the hand gesture, saying: "It's this dumb thing that Ross made up because he was trying to fool our parents. It's a way of giving the finger, without actually having to give it." Aside from Phoebe (who also is the sole main character never to have the gesture directed at her), every character has performed this action, for a total amount of about 14 uses throughout the series (including one variation when Ross put his hands on the back of his neck and flapped his elbows together to infer the same meaning.)
Minor Characters With Obsessive Love
Throughout the series, the six main protagonists, for some reason, had a habit of encountering characters who appeared to be suffering from obsessive love, or to put it another way, appeared to be "love drunk." This happened in four different episodes-first in The One After The Superbowl, Part 1 (Season 2) when Joey was being stalked by Erika Ford, a mentally unstable woman with an obsession with the fictional character he portrayed, Dr. Drake Ramoray from Days Of Our Lives, who she believed was a real person. Then in The One With The Jam (Season 3), Phoebe was being stalked by Malcolm, who mistook her for Ursula, who prior to the events of the episode had following a relationship with him dumped him. In The One Hundredth (Season 5), the episode where Phoebe gives birth to the triplets, the doctor who delivers them causes her to initially take a dislike to him by relentlessly, sometimes completely spontaneously, talking about the Happy Days character Arthur Fonzarelli. And finally, in The One Where Monica Sings (Season 9), Ross crassly hits on a woman in the coffee shop who was upset and crying because her boyfriend had broken up with her, causing her to apparently develop an obsession with Ross.