Robin Williams

The True Story Behind Robin Williams’ Friends Cameo

Robin Williams was one of the biggest guest stars on Friends. Here's how he and Billy Crystal randomly ended up doing a cameo for the sitcom.

Robin Williams’ Friends cameo remains one of the most pleasant surprises on the series but the story behind how it happened makes it even better. Beloved actor and comedian Robin Williams appeared as a guest star in an episode of Friends in 1997. Robin Williams’ Friends character was named Tomas and appeared in the season 3 episode, “The One With The Ultimate Fighting Champion” alongside his friend and frequent collaborator Billy Crystal. Considering how big of an actor Williams already was at the time, starring in the comedy series was a huge deal.

The fact that Williams would appear on the sitcom is not a huge surprise as many big-name actors guest starred on Friends over the years. Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, Christina Applegate, and Bruce Willis were just a handful of figures who had memorable roles. The Robin Williams Friends appearance was short considering it ended before the opening credits rolled, but it involved an interesting backstory. It turned out that Williams and Crystal were at the right place at the right time – on a nearby set – because their cameos weren’t even planned.

Robin Williams’ Cameo On Friends, Explained

Robin Williams and Billy Crystal sitting in Central Perk during their guest appearance on Friends

At the start of the episode, Monica was about to tell her friends a story at Central Perk but was interrupted by Tomas and his friend Tim, a character played by Billy Crystal. Joining the core cast on their signature sofa, Tomas broke into tears claiming that his wife was sleeping with another man. He believed the other man was her gynecologist but it turned out that Tim was the “other man.” After this was revealed, Tomas ended his friendship with Tim and the two men stormed out of the coffee shop, leaving Monica having completely forgotten the story she was originally planning to tell.

Robin Williams’ Cameo In Friends Wasn’t In The Original Script


While the episode was being shot, Williams and Crystal happened to wander onto the Friends Central Perk set from their own, and the writers asked them if they’d be up for a quick cameo. They agreed and were thrown into the opening scene on the spot. It’s rare to acquire a role and shoot the scene within the same day, but Williams and Crystal did great. They ad-libbed their entire scene, inventing the story about Tomas and his wife. The improv must have rubbed off on the cast because Matt LeBlanc even ad-libbed his interruption of the men’s private conversation and Courtney Cox personally added the line about forgetting her original story.

The Billy Crystal and Robin Williams Friends cameo may have been an accident, but it made for great TV. It also coincidentally gave the actors an extra amount of publicity at the right time. A day after the Friends episode aired with their cameos, the pair’s movie, Father’s Day, hit theaters. The cameo from Williams has become even more special following the actor’s tragic death in 2014.

Robin Williams Was A Sitcom Icon Long Before His First Movie

Robin Williams as Mork in Happy Days Mork and Mindy crossover with the Fonz

Before appearing on Friends, Robin Williams’s movie career had already made him a star and had perviously made numerous sitcom and television appearances over the years. The most memorable of these is probably his time playing Mork in the Happy Days spinoff Mork & Mindy from 1978 to 1982. Robin Williams also appeared as himself in many comedic TV roles over the years, from The Larry Sanders Show to Louie to Sesame Street. Williams also spent time on Saturday Night Live and headlined the iconic Comic Relief program with Billy Crystal and Whoopi Goldberg. In all of his TV and film appearances, Robin Williams brought the perfect blend of comedy, heart, and incredible acting skill, all of which is beautifully on display in his Friends cameo.

Robin Williams Cameo Wasn’t The Only Unscripted Friends Moment

The cast of Friends in the series finale

Given the actor’s well-known talents for improvisation, it is not surprising that Robin Williams’ Friends cameo was off-the-cuff. However, that is not the only time the sitcom pulled off a wonderful unscripted moment. As funny and well-written as the scripts for each Friends episode were, happy accidents or ideas in the moment led to some unexpected improvements.

Some of the best improvised moments on Friends include Matthew Perry slipping up his line when Chandler was trying to poke fun at Joey resulting in him becoming the butt of the joke instead. Some physical comedy moments that weren’t scripted include Matt LeBlanc tripping over a chair and falling as Joey makes a mad dash for the phone. Most impressively, the final line ever in Friends was not scripted as the gang heads out to get coffee one last time and Perry adlibbed “Where?” These unplanned moments added to the hilarity and charm of Friends.

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