Film & TV

Remembering James Michael Tyler: A Look Back at Gunther’s Best Moments in Friends

Credit: TVLine | Courtesy of Warner Bros. / Everett Collection

By Abi Edwards

Gunther is renowned as being one of the most entertaining characters in the well-loved NBC sitcom, Friends. He appeared in 148 episodes across the series during its run between 1994 and 2004, and was often seen in the background pouring coffee when Chandler, Monica, Rachel, Ross, Joey and Phoebe sat on the iconic orange couch in the middle of Central Perk. Sadly, James Michael Tyler, who portrayed the comical barista, passed away in October of this year aged just 59, and appeared in the Friends reunion a few months prior to his death whilst fighting a battle against cancer. However, many people will remember Gunther for his hilarious dry attitude, his one-liners, his undying love for Rachel Green and for making millions of people laugh around the world. Here are some of his best moments from the show. 

The One with the Two Parties (Season 2, Episode 22)

The friends throw a birthday party for Rachel, which is sprung into absolute chaos when both of Rachel’s parents (who hate each other) turn up unexpectedly. This causes the friends to throw two parties simultaneously to keep the two separated. It becomes obvious that Monica’s party is extremely boring. Gunther tries to escape, which causes Monica to tell him off. Phoebe then attempts to sneak Gunther and some of the other guests out to the other, more fun, party. Poor Gunther, terrified of Monica, tells Phoebe, “She’ll yell at me again!” When Monica sees him later on at the other party and shouts at him, he ignores her and comically dances away from her, living his best life. 

The One with the Race Car Bed (Season 3, Episode 7)

This episode opens with the six friends sitting on the sofa in Central Perk. Ross is in the middle of telling a story, and viewers get a glimpse of the other friends talking in their heads in response through internal monologues. As well as the friends, we also find out what Gunther is thinking, and it is hilarious. It turns out that he doesn’t like Ross very much because at this point in the series, Ross is Rachel’s boyfriend, and Gunther is in love with her. He stares besotted at Rachel as he hands her a cup of coffee, then wistfully smells the air around her head. It is then he says, “I love Rachel, I wish she was my wife.” His expressions are what make the scene so funny, and the writers choosing to include Gunther in the scene too makes him appear as the seventh Friend, even though he is often overlooked by the others.

His hatred towards Ross is seen again later on in the episode, where Ross says “Hi, Gunther.” Gunther angrily says “Yeah. We’ll see.” 

The One with Chandler in a Box (Season 4, Episode 8)

There is a scene in the first half of the episode where Joey walks into Central Perk looking for Chandler. Joey asks Gunther if he’s seen him, and Gunther replies, “I thought you were Chandler.”  This hilarious encounter not only expresses Gunther’s dry attitude, but shows just how little attention he pays towards the other friends – except for Rachel, of course. 

The One Where Emma Cries (Season 9, Episode 2)

At this point, it is evident that Gunther strongly dislikes Ross, resulting in scenes that had many viewers in fits of laughter. One memorable scene is where Joey accidentally proposes to Rachel after she gives birth to Emma, and Ross is furious. After Gunther saying he couldn’t believe Rachel had a baby with Ross in the first place, Joey tells Ross to punch him in the middle of the coffee shop in return for what he did. Joey hilariously ducks and Ross ends up punching the pillar. Gunther has a priceless look of joy on his face and beams at Ross, who is clutching his poor hand. Gunther’s facial expressions often made the scenes absolute comedy gold. 

The Last One, Part One (Season 10, Episode 17)

When Rachel gets a new job and is about to start a new life in Paris, Gunther finally gets the courage to tell Rachel his true feelings for her. After he declares his love for her in the middle of the coffee shop, Rachel tells him that although she doesn’t feel the same way, she still loves him anyway for who he is. Her heart-warming last words to him are, “And when I’m in a café, having coffee, or I see a man with hair brighter than the sun, I’ll think of you.” These words have grown even more poignant after Tyler died, and the clip was shared by Jennifer Aniston on Instagram as a tribute towards the actor. To the cast members and fans of the show, Gunther will always be remembered fondly for being unique, funny and brilliant, and Friends certainly would not have been Friends without him. 

There are so many Gunther bits I haven’t even mentioned, and each of them are equally brilliant. Thank you, James Michael Tyler, for bringing Gunther to life on our screens for so many years and providing us with many laughs.