James Michael Tyler: Gunther’s best quotes and moments on Friends

Actor died on 24 October following a three-year battle with prostate cancer

Maanya Sachdeva
Monday 25 October 2021 09:17
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'Friends' Actor James Michael Tyler Announces Cancer Diagnosis

Friends fans are remembering James Michael Tyler’s best moments on the show following his death aged 59.

On Sunday (24 October), the actor’s long-time manager Toni Benson confirmed the news to TMZ, saying said the actor had died “peacefully” at his home in Los Angeles following a three-year battle with prostate cancer.

Appearing on Today in June earlier this year, Tyler revealed that he had been diagnosed with advanced stage prostate cancer in September 2018.

“I’m sorry to say that I’m not appearing today with you to announce that there’s a Friends movie." Tyler had said at the time. "Actually, I’m here to let you know that in September of 2018, I was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer."

Explaining why he was unable to attend HBO Max’s Friends reunion episode in person in May, Tyler added: “It was my decision not to be a part of that physically and make an appearance on Zoom, basically, because I didn’t wanna bring a downer on it. I didn’t want to be like, ‘Oh, and by the way, Gunther has cancer.’"

However, having appeared in 150 episodes of the generation-defining hit show, Tyler’s legacy as Central Perk’s “Coffee King” will remain memorialised in comedy TV history anyway.

The one who never got over Rachel (Jennifer Aniston), the one with hair brighter than the sun, and the one you could always count on for a cup of coffee – Gunther was elevated by Tyler’s ability to spin comedy gold from simple, one-line dialogue hay.

Here we count down some of the actor’s top moments on the show — in no particular order.

"So, what is this? Some kind of snake or something?”

After Rachel realises her overpriced, pure-bred, hairless Sphinx cat is actually pure evil, she spends the season five episode trying to find someone to take Mrs Whiskerson off her scratched up hands.

Enter Gunther, who walks into Monica and Rachel’s apartment — cat in tow. It is revealed that the coffee shop employee has bought the cat from Rachel for the eye-watering sum of $1,500 (£1,089), hoping she’d come see Mrs Whiskerson and her new owner.

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Right at the end “The One With The Ball”, he turns to Ross (David Schwimmer) and asks: “So, what is this? Some kind of snake or something?”

Explaining that his character basically hated everyone except Rachel in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Tyler revealed he thinks this scene is among his character’s funniest.

“I dropped a cup”

Just as Gunther was working up the nerve to ask Rachel out on a date in season three, his plans are thwarted by Mark Robinson (Steven Eckholdt).

While Gunther is still thinking about the best way to approach his love interest, Robinson swoops in and asks Rachel out instead. A visibly upset Gunther then leaves his station at the coffee house. A few seconds later, Central Perk’s customers can hear lots of dishes breaking.

Tyler’s deadpan “I dropped a cup” a few seconds after he re-emerges is easily among his funniest moments on Friends.

“Jij hebt seks met ezels" (“You have s** with donkeys”)

When Ross tries to get Rachel an apartment in his building in this season eight episode, he decides to brush up on his Dutch so he can sway the owner’s decision in their favour before she dies. While he is practicing at Central Perk, Gunther brings him a cup of coffee at one point, Ross thanks him in Dutch. When Gunther responds in perfect Dutch, much to Ross’s surprise, Schwimmer’s character quickly dismisses him.

Gunther retorts by calling Ross an “ezel” (which translates to donkey or a** in Dutch). After Ross checks the meaning of the word in his Dutch translation book, offended, he calls Gunther an “ezel” too.

Gunther then shuts down the conversation with the line: “Jij hebt seks met ezels” (“You have s** with donkeys”)

In an interview with Parade, Tyler said he was thrilled by this exchange, even if he was surprised it was included in the final cut of the episode.

“It really surprised me that it made it to primetime. Fantastic."

“I thought you were Chandler.”

Apart from Rachel, Gunther doesn’t particularly care for any of the friends and couldn’t even be bothered to learn their names. When Joey comes in to the cafe looking for Chandler in this season four episode and asks if Gunther has seen him, the Central Perk staffer responds: “I thought you were Chandler.”

Tyler follows this classic Gunther one-liner with one more, for good measure, adding: “But um, one of you is over there.”

“Put the mouse back in the house.”

Asked to name his favourite Gunther moments in a 2018 interview with Insider, Tyler recalled the season three episode when the cafe worker calls out Phoebe’s new love interest for dressing inappropriately.

Basketball-playing Robert, who never seems to be wearing underwear under his shorts, inadvertently flashes all of the friends before Gunther calls him out at the very end.

Not one to “mince his words”, the barista tells Robert to “put the mouse back in the house” given that Central Perk is a family-friendly place. Ashamed, Robert makes a hasty retreat and that’s the last the audience sees of him.

The one where Gunther didn’t even need to say anything

Given Gunther’s intense love for Rachel, it makes sense that he hates her “lobster” Ross with an equal passion. In “The One Where Emma Cries”, this hatred manifests as a smile on Gunther’s face after Ross accidentally punches a pole in the coffee shop, instead of Joey.

In the aftermath of Ross and Rachel’s daughter’s birth, Joey “accidentally” proposes to Rachel. A fuming Ross confronts Joey about it in the coffee shop and, on Joey’s insistence, throws a punch at him. Joey ducks and Ross hits the aforementioned pole, while Gunther watches in delight.

Tyler previously told Entertainment Weekly that the scene was Schwimmer’s idea “in the spur of the moment”.

He said: “The way the camera was set up, I was in the background and originally, I was expressing, ‘Oh, what just happened?’ shock. Then David turned to me and said, ‘Oh my gosh, you should grin ear-to-ear because you hate me.’ I thought it was brilliant."

“No, she'll yell at me again.”

In an old interview, Tyler admitted that Monica was probably the only character that Gunther was scared of.

He said: “I think Gunther was always kind of frightened of Monica. I think she was the one who truly intimidated him."

In the “The One With Two Parties”, the friends attempt to keep Rachel’s divorced parents away from each other by throwing two surprise parties for her birthday. Stuck at Monica’s dull soiree, Gunther longs to escape across the hall to Chandler’s lively party.

Phoebe then comes to his rescue and creates a diversion so Gunther can exit without Monica noticing. This exchange is the beginning of Phoebe “smuggling” guests out to Chandler’s apartment and stands out because it painted Gunther in a different light.

Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, Tyler said: "It was [fun] having Phoebe's character help Gunther escape and [seeing] that he was very, very, very unhappy — and terrified of Monica."

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