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Sitcom loses a good "Friend": James Michael Tyler


     “The size of gratitude you brought into the the size of the gratitude I hold for having known you,” said Friends star Courtney Cox after finding out about her co-star James Michael Tyler’s death. He was well-remembered as Gunther, the man who had a huge crush on Jennifer Aniston’s character Rachel. Three years after being diagnosed with prostate cancer, Tyler passed away at the young age of 59 at his Los Angeles home; he was survived by his wife, Jen. 

     After his diagnosis, Tyler became a huge advocate for cancer patients and tried to help as many people as possible, working alongside the Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF) who expressed their sorrow on their website. Friends and fans continue to mourn his loss. Aniston posted her sympathy to her Instagram with the

James Michael Tyler.png

Graphic by Liv Carpenter

caption, “Friends would not have been the same without you. Thank you for the laughter you brought to the show and to all of our lives. You will be so missed #JamesMichaelTyler.” 

     Co-stars Matt Leblanc and Lisa Kudrow gave their condolences as well with Leblanc posting to his Instagram, “We had a lot of laughs, buddy. You will be missed. RIP, my friend.” Warner Brothers has spoken up on Tyler’s passing, stating that their thoughts were with his friends, family, colleagues and fans. 

     Tyler was initially diagnosed in September of 2018 but didn’t come out publicly until June 2021. By the time he got the news, damage had already been done, and his levels reached to stage four. Before his passing, Tyler spoke to Today about how he was recommended to many doctors and researchers. He emphasized how important it was for patients to speak to their doctors about getting a prostate check, even if their appointment is supposed to be a normal check up. 

     According to PCF, men are more at risk of prostate cancer after the age of 40, and Tyler was no exception. It is best to speak with your doctor every check up once you hit this age, it can benefit you greatly. The fact that Tyler spoke up on this while he too was struggling is very inspiring. He was an example of someone who didn’t let his weaknesses get the better of him, especially when it came to helping others; he also enjoyed being involved in a lot of projects.

     This past May, HBO Max hosted a Friends reunion which Tyler joined via Zoom. This is where he told his co-stars the news. He claimed the event was very “lighthearted” and connected. He has said that Friends was the most “memorable” and “special” moment of his life. 

     Even though Gunther was his peak in acting, Tyler was also a part of films, such as Scrubs, Jason’s Big Problem and Motel Blue. Though he mainly played supporting roles, he still made a huge impact on each project. If someone is into adult comedies, then his movies would spike some interest. However, nothing will ever top Friends. The show was so important to him that he never missed an anniversary - he would always visit Central Perk remakes. 

     Tyler first began his acting career in college at Clemson University, but he would later graduate with a degree in geology. Realizing that acting was his passion, he got his master’s in fine arts from the University of Georgia. According to Saul Austerlitz’s book Generation Friends: An Inside Look at the Show That Defined a Television Era, Tyler was given the role of Gunther because he was the only auditioning actor who could use a cappuccino machine, and this was because he was already working as a real-life barista at the Bourgeois Pig coffee shop in Los Angeles. 

     Tyler was an inspiration and friend to many. His work, though minimal, made a huge impact for cancer patients, aspiring actors and co-stars. He brought laughs and good times to many; without him, I feel like Friends wouldn’t be the same. He was such a talent that I rooted for his character to get with Rachel, and even though I never saw the day, he was still a favorite.

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