Lisa Diane Marie Kudrow (born July 30, 1963) is an Emmy Award- and SAG-winning American actress, best known for her roles as Phoebe Buffay in the popular television sitcom Friends
and as Valerie Cherish in the HBO series The Comeback, which she co-created and produced.
Kudrow originally intended to follow in her father's footsteps - researching headaches. However, she was 'discovered' and began her career as an actress. Kudrow began her comedic career as a member of The Groundlings, joining the ranks of those such as Will Ferrell
and Janeane Garofalo. Briefly, Lisa joined with Conan O'Brien and director Tim Hillman in the short-lived improv troupe Unexpected Company. She was also the only regular female member of The Transformers Comedy Troupe, a group directed by Stan Wells that currently plays at the Empty Stage Comedy Theatre. She played a role in an episode of Cheers
opposite Woody Boyd. She tried out for Saturday Night Live
in 1990, but the show chose Julia Sweeney instead. She had a recurring role in Bob, Bob Newhart's third CBS outing, but her character was eliminated at the end of the first season. She was hired to play the role of Roz in Frasier
, but the part was re-cast during the filming of the pilot episode because producers didn't think she was right for the part. However, one of the people working on Frasier
also worked on Friends
and suggested Lisa audition for the show. Her first major television role was Ursula Buffay, the eccentric waitress on Mad About You (this character would later appear in 'Friends
' as Phoebe's twin sister). She is also the oldest of all the "friends"
Despite the previous lack of success, this role led to her starring role on Friends
as Phoebe Buffay, a role for which she won the 1998 Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series. She played the character from 1994 until the show ended in 2004. The program was hugely successful and Kudrow, along with her co-stars, gained wide renown among television viewers. She was the most Emmy-nominated cast member of the show, totaling six nominations. Kudrow received a salary of one million dollars per episode for the last two seasons of Friends. According to the Guinness World Book of Records (2005), Kudrow (along with her female co-stars) became the highest paid TV actress of all time with her $1 million-per-episode paycheck for the tenth season of Friends
Her film credits include comedic roles in Romy and Michele's High School Reunion, Hanging Up, Marci X, Analyze This and its sequel Analyze That. However, Kudrow has also starred in dramatic roles including the biopic Wonderland about the late porn star John Holmes. She has garnered critical acclaim in mostly dramatic roles for writer-director Don Roos in the films The Opposite of Sex and Happy Endings. After 'Friends
', Kudrow portrayed Valerie Cherish, the main character on the HBO original series The Comeback. The series premiered on HBO on June 5, 2005. She also served as co-creator, writer, and executive producer. The show, about a has-been sitcom star trying for a comeback, was not renewed for a second season. Kudrow received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for her work on The Comeback, making her the first Friends
cast member to receive a major award nomination since Friends
She has also lent her voice to a number of animated series, including Hercules, as Aphrodite and during a cameo on The Simpsons
as Ashley. Her most recent work is in the movie adaptation of the bestselling novel, PS, I Love You alongside Hilary Swank, in which she plays a supporting role as Denise. Also, she was the voice of the female grizzly bear 'Ava' in the 2001 film sequel Dr. Dolittle 2, starring alongside Steve Zahn (voice) and Eddie Murphy
Kudrow is also in the upcoming movie Rock On, co-starring alongside Gaelan Connell, Vanessa Hudgens and others. She will be playing the role of Karen Burton, Will's mother. Shooting has started in Austin, Texas.