Which “Friend” Worked the Most? The Answer May Surprise You

It’s a long-running joke about the television show Friends that the six main characters spend more time drinking coffee at Central Perk than they do actually learning a living.

Personally, I think the lack of work is pretty understandable – the show is supposed to be about a group of close buddies and their struggles and triumphs together, and seeing them at their individual jobs doesn’t allow for those fun interactions to take place.

After all, if they worked all the time, when would they get to play football or poker together? Or crowd in on Chandler’s bathtime? When would they tease each other about having a third nipple, or breaking the porch swing? These are the things we want to see.

Although it makes sense to me that the Friends aren’t often shown working, I was still curious about which one works the most. In order to find the answer, I watched all 236 episodes of the show – episodes I have seen dozens and dozens of times before – and combed over each and every scene for any signs of the characters working.

I took meticulous notes. There was a spreadsheet involved.

It was totally worth the effort.

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So what counts as “work”? Obviously, I included any scene where the characters are shown doing their jobs at their actual work places – whether it’s Monica cooking something delicious at a restaurant, or Ross lecturing to a classroom of students. However, for the purposes of my super scientific study, I counted other types of situations as “work” as well:

  •  Odd jobs that are separate from more consistent employment – such as writing restaurant reviews, temping, spraying cologne on unsuspecting store customers, etc.
  • Discussing  the work day – applies when Friends exit the room, saying they’re “headed to work,” or return home and share a work story with the others
  • Work-seeking behaviors – job interviews, auditions, internships, etc
  • Appearances of work – wearing uniforms (such as Monica’s outfit at the 50s-style diner), or dressed professionally, PLUS carrying work-specific props (such as a briefcase or massage table)
  • Miscellaneous work-related events – includes charity functions, conferences, dinners at boss’ homes, formal work parties, etc – the Friends may not have been paid to be at these events, but were probably still expected to be there
  • Performances – seeing a Friend act on television, or perform in public places (where tip money could be made) totally counts. This one’s specific to Joey and Phoebe.

On the other hand, these more ambiguous references to employment did NOT count toward the tally:

  • Talking about work in general terms – “I don’t like my job” or “I have to work that weekend.”
  • Dressed professionally, but not discussing work in any way, nor carrying any props that might suggest they’re headed to (or coming from) work. We see that you’re wearing a nice outfit, but how do we know you were at work, and not some other dressy event?
  • Non-public performances – singing in other Friends’ apartments does not count

Now that we’ve gotten the boring criteria out of the way, it’s time to reveal our winner and hardest worker. Are you ready for this? Drumroll, please…

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Winner: Rachel
It probably comes as a shock that the character known for being a spoiled rich girl (at least in the beginning) is actually seen doing the most work throughout the ten seasons of Friends. There’s something so fitting about this, actually: the woman left a financially-secure lifestyle behind in order to make a stab at independence, and we get to see her gradually progress from waitress, to low-level employee in a fashion company, to merchandising manager at Ralph Lauren. You go, girl.

Admittedly, Rachel probably never won any Employee of the Month awards, as we often see her sitting on the big orange couch when she’s supposed to be waitressing. And then there’s that whole affair-with-her-subordinate thing. And the falsely-accusing-her-boss-of-trying-to-buy-her-baby thing.

Ironically enough though, Rachel is the only character who never really dealt with unemployment on the show – unless you count the day-long gap between getting fired from Ralph Lauren and hired at Louis Vuitton.
Total days worked in 10 seasons: 137

Runner up: Joey
When trying to convince Chandler to hire him for a role in a commercial, Joey refers to himself as a “chameleon” – and he is, at least in terms of employment. Despite not working quite as much as Rachel, Joey held by far the most jobs: actor, model, sperm donor extraordinaire. The list goes on. Even his acting jobs ranged in prestige from playing Al Pacino’s butt to playing Dr. Drake Ramoray on Days of Our Lives.

Admirably, Joey carried out ALL of these roles with pride. (And with dishonesty, as he lied quite a bit on his resume.)
Total days worked in 10 seasons: 115

Ross
Despite having the most advanced degree of the group, and once enthusiastically proclaiming that he “can’t get enough dinosaurs,” Ross really isn’t seen working all that much. He technically comes in third place in this list, but his number is far behind that of Rachel and Joey’s. Perhaps all of those weddings and divorces got in the way of getting much work done.
Total days worked in 10 seasons: 73

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Chandler
It was a surprise to see Miss Chanandler Bong work so little, considering it’s heavily implied throughout the show that he makes good money as a “transpondster,” and takes his WENUS very seriously. Shockingly enough though, he was the only Friend to go an entire season (the 6th, to be specific) without being seen working at all.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that he truly didn’t work, but we don’t see it taking place, and that’s what counts here. There are plenty of times that Chandler is shown wearing a suit, but with no work story or briefcase to provide supporting evidence, it couldn’t really be included.
Total days worked in 10 seasons: 63

Phoebe
Ah, Pheebs. It’s really no shocker that the free spirit is next-to-last in this study. She held consistent jobs as a massage therapist and Central Perk performer, but a lot of the work we see are side jobs, like catering with Monica or temping as a secretary for Chandler. Of course, it can’t be forgotten that she also held a one-day stint as a life-saving telemarketer.
Total days worked in 10 seasons: 56

Monica
It’s a bit cringe-worthy when the most competitive person in the group comes in dead last. However, although we don’t see Monica working as much, I’d hesitate to call the woman lazy – she cooks and cleans for everyone, gives the best bad massages, and is always the hostess. In a way, Monica was the stay-at-home mom to the other five. Especially when she made lunchmeat foreskins for Joey.
Total days worked in 10 seasons: 50

 

So, fellow Friends fans, what are your thoughts on this list? Could you BE any more surprised by the winner? Which character’s work record surprised you the least?

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20 thoughts on “Which “Friend” Worked the Most? The Answer May Surprise You

  1. What a fun experiment (but then, I also do crap like this. I once watched the Godfather about five times in a row, trying to ferret out every orange and fish reference to make sense of them).

    What I find especially interesting is that the breakdown of actual working times is probably the opposite of what most viewers would expect. Most of us would likely expect Rachel/Joey to have worked the least and Monica/Chandler to work the most… so, even after watching the show, we still have the impression that Monica is the most industrious and Rachel the least.

    That must speak to our associations/archetypal thinking: Monica’s uptight, (lovable) OCD manner convinces everyone that she is the hardest worker, even when it doesn’t actually play out that way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who does weird things like this haha. I actually really enjoyed it, and might do another “study” at some point, if I can come up with anything.

      You make a really good point about how we perceive the characters! There were frequent jokes that Rachel’s just not a good employee – forgets drink orders, talks about playing tetris on her computer, etc, so we probably started to think of her as not taking her job seriously. But she couldn’t have been THAT bad or she wouldn’t have been promoted to such a high-level position. I have new respect for Joey too – throughout the show, it’s known he has to rely on Chandler financially, so I think we start to see him as a lovable mooch, when he really did work quite a bit.

      It’s fun when a silly little experiment brings about a broader look at our perceptions of the world 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think it says a lot about the traits we associate with hardworking people versus people who take it easy… It makes me wonder if workers who appear more serious and rigid are typically assumed to be working harder than their more type B, relaxed-appearing coworkers (even if it’s not the case).

        Rachel’s development throughout the show goes from incompetent worker to hard-driving employee (which Ross doesn’t support well), but maybe she never shakes her image (to viewers).

        But then, I’m a fan of Rachel. I was pretty much firmly in Rachel camp throughout the entire Ross/Rachel saga… Ross is probably my least favorite character.

        Either way, I fully support these bizarre research experiments and will be happy to weigh in whenever the mood strikes you to conduct one, lol

        Like

      2. You might be on to something there! Maybe we DO associate certain personality traits with being more industrious vs. lazy. Perhaps I’ll apply the same project to another tv show and see what happens…

        I don’t hate Ross, because I think he’s genuinely a nice guy, and I find it hilarious when he gets super excited about things. But he’s definitely got a petulant side to him. When Rachel starts working at Bloomingdale’s and he whines constantly about her schedule and the Mark stuff, it drives me insane.

        Liked by 1 person

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  3. Holy crap – this was awesome! You listed your assumptions, you gave us your parameters; this is fantastic. I am surprised it was Rachel, but not when you listed it out. I haven’t done any “studies” on things like this, but I need to. I think Dawson’s Creek has the answer to some research question… 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, Sahara! I think it’s my new favorite thing to apply nerd research terms to fun things like tv 🙂 What research question are you posing about Dawson’s Creek? (Unless you’re keeping that under wraps for now, which I totally get!)

      Liked by 1 person

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  6. I’m super impressed that you figured this out! Granted, it’s not far off from the things I do with my TV show obsessions, but mine results in many, many fanfictions lol!

    I love the character growth of Rachel, and I’m not surprised that she was #1 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sometimes I still can’t believe I took the time to figure this out haha! I was watching Friends around the clock for awhile. I loved Rachel’s storyline too, but I admit to being really surprised that she was the winner. I had assumed Chandler.

      Fan fiction is super fun stuff! If you and I didn’t care this much about tv, then who would?! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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