One doesn’t pay Lisa Kudrow a reputed $2.5 million to perform in a Friends reunion special without having her perform “Smelly Cat,” the definitive song of our generation.
Thankfully, the famous sitcom/movie actress had some significant vocal assistance from Lady Gaga, who joined the actor during the HBO Max special, that reunited all six cast members on television for the first time since the iconic comedy ended 17 years ago. “Smelly Cat,” a homage to a particularly stinky feline, was first played in an early episode of the show’s second season and quickly became a pop cultural sensation and a legitimate success for Kudrow, who co-wrote the song’s lyrics and once played the acoustic number on stage with Taylor Swift.
Kudrow was well-prepared to perform a duet with Lady Gaga at “Friends: The Reunion” as the ultimate homage to the ear worm that’s so awful it’s good. Before Lady appears with her guitar in hand, Lisa sits on the sofa of the Central Perk set and performs the first words. Gaga sits next to Kudrow, dressed as Phoebe Buffay, and tells her it’s “one of my favorite songs,” before asking if she can “take ‘Smelly Cat’ for a spin?” Gaga screams out the song, much to Kudrow’s pleasure, who jokes, “That’s not bad.” Gaga says, “You may not be a bed of roses / You’re not a friend to those with noses,” before pointing to her own nose in the style of “A Star Is Born.”
A gospel choir appears to offer some backing vocals and gives the song a little more oomph, before Gaga and Kudrow polish it off with some last flourishes. Lady admits to Lisa how much her character has meant to viewers over the years, and the scene concludes on a touching note. “Do you mind if I say something? Thank you for always being there for us on Friends…” Gaga told Kudrow, “I don’t know if this is the right way to say it, but the different one or the one who was truly herself.” In response, the actor remarked, “Thank you…And thank you for keeping it going.”
Despite having little time to practice, Gaga, who was one of a bevy of notable guests appearing in the show, supposedly “jumped at the chance” to perform alongside Kudrow. “I asked Lisa if she would be willing to sing it.’ Director Ben Winston told Variety, “And she was like, ‘Yeah, that would be fun.” “We went through a few names, and we both agreed that Gaga, if we could get her, would be the ultimate one because she associates with Phoebe in so many ways,” Gaga says on the episode. That was a very lovely moment.”