Hank Azaria has said that Friends co-star Matthew Perry helped him to get sober, and that it was “heartbreaking” to have to watch Perry deal with drug and alcohol addiction.
Simpsons voice actor Azaria paid tribute to comedy actor Perry after the news of his death aged 54.
The 59-year-old comedian and actor starred as Phoebe Buffay’s boyfriend David in the much-loved 90s sitcom, while Perry played the witty and sarcastic Chandler Bing.
In a video posted to his Instagram page, Azaria described his friendship with Perry and said they were like brothers.
“Matthew was the first friend I made in Los Angeles when I moved there,” he said.
“I was 21 he was 16.
“We did a pilot together … we became really good friends and we were really more like brothers for a long time.
“We drank a lot together, we laughed a lot together. We were there for each other in the early days of our career and he was to me, as funny as he was on Friends and he was and other things too, in person he was just the funniest man ever.
“And every night, he was like a genius, he would start to weave comedy threads together, just hanging out – little joke here, joke there, joke here, joke there – and then by the end of the night he would weave them all together in this crescendo of hilarity.”
Perry, who appeared in TV series including The Odd Couple and Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip, had publicly discussed his recovery from an addiction to opiates and alcohol.
Azaria said: “I really loved him. A lot of us who were close to him felt like we lost him to drugs and alcohol a long time ago because as he documented in his autobiography there was so much suffering.
“I had to pick it up and put down the biography like 11 times it was so painful for me to read.
“It was really, as his, friend who loved him I knew he must be suffering, but the details of it were just devastating, just physically, emotionally, mentally, psychologically.
“You know, from a recovery perspective, I mean I’m a sober guy for 17 years. I want to say that the night I went into AA Matthew brought me in.
“The whole first year I was sober, we went to meetings together and he was such a great – I got to tell him this. As a sober person he was so caring and giving and wise and he totally helped me get sober.
“I really wish he could have found it in himself to stay with the sober life more consistently.
“As a recovery guy it was hard to read that too, I just felt so bad.
“I mean, I knew he had gone in and out for years and he documented it all publicly and then in the book, but it’s heart breaking for those of us who loved him and knew him really well personally, we just missed him.
“We just missed him. It’s one of the terrible things about this disease is it just takes away the person you love.
“And professionally as an actor, he was so brilliant.
“I just wish I and the world could have gotten what the rest of his career would have been.”
In 2003, Azaria and Perry had starred in David Mamet’s Sexual Perversity In Chicago at the Comedy Theatre, now the Harold Pinter Theatre, in London’s West End.
Despite his acting credits, Perry had spoken about wanting to be remembered for how he had helped people who were also dealing with addiction recovery.
Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter in 2015, he said: “I’ve had a lot of ups and downs in my life and a lot of wonderful accolades, but the best thing about me is that if an alcoholic comes up to me and says, ‘Will you help me stop drinking?’ I will say, ‘Yes. I know how to do that’.”
Perry set up men’s sober-living facility Perry House in Malibu and in 2013 he debated on BBC’s Newsnight to argue in favour of specialist courts where former addicts sit as lay magistrates dealing with abuse-related crimes.