Who Is Lisa Kudrow?
Born in Encino, California, in 1963, Lisa Kudrow worked as a medical researcher before pursuing an acting career. She enjoyed early success on the TV comedy Mad About You, before achieving fame as Phoebe Buffay on the wildly popular sitcom Friends. Kudrow went on to appear in such films as Romy and Michele's High School Reunion, The Opposite of Sex and Analyze This. She has also starred on the improvisational web-turned-TV series Web Therapy and the HBO comedy show The Comeback.
Kudrow was born on July 30, 1963, in Encino, California. Her father, Lee, was a physician with a specialty in studying headaches, and her mother, Nedra, was a travel agent. The youngest of three children, she grew up in a middle-class Jewish family. As a teenager, Kudrow excelled at tennis and played on the varsity team at Taft High School in Los Angeles.
After earning a degree in biology from Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York, Kudrow returned to Los Angeles to work with her father and follow a career in research. Her brother's childhood friend, comedian Jon Lovitz, encouraged Lisa to perform, and she tried to break into acting while continuing to work for her father as a medical researcher. Eventually Kudrow became a member of the renowned Los Angeles improv comedy troupe The Groundlings. She honed her comedic skills there and with other improv groups, including Unexpected Company, alongside Conan O'Brien, and the Transformers Comedy Group.
Kudrow's early foray into television comedies was marked by ups and downs. She unsuccessfully auditioned for Saturday Night Live in 1990, but did land the role of Ursula, the spacey waitress on the sitcom Mad About You in 1992. She then appeared on a few episodes of the Bob Newhart show Bob in 1993. However, after being cast that same year for the role of Roz in Frasier, she was replaced during the filming of the pilot episode by Peri Gilpin.
Kudrow's biggest break came when she was cast as Phoebe Buffay, the lovable folk-singing massage therapist, on the sitcom Friends. The show became an instant hit after premiering in 1994, and Kudrow went on to earn an Emmy Award in 1998 and a Screen Actors Guild Award in 2000 for her work on the prime-time comedy. She also reprised her role as Ursula from Mad About You, who appeared on Friends as Phoebe's twin sister. During the ninth and 10th seasons of Friends, Kudrow, along with her female castmates and friends Courteney Cox and Jennifer Aniston, became the highest paid TV actresses of all time, receiving $1 million per episode.
Leveraging the fame from her top-rated TV show, Kudrow transitioned to the big screen in movies such as Romy and Michele's High School Reunion (1997), The Opposite of Sex (1998), Analyze This (1999), Happy Endings (2005) and P.S. I Love You (2007). She also performed as a voice actor, taking on the roles of Aphrodite in Hercules: The Animated Series, student Alexandra Whitney in The Simpsons and Ava the bear in Dr. Dolittle 2 (2001).
In 2005, Kudrow starred in the premiere of The Comeback, an HBO comedy she also co-created and co-wrote with Michael Patrick King, an executive producer of Sex and the City. A satirical look at the entertainment industry, The Comeback featured Kudrow as Valerie Cherish, a washed-up sitcom actress attempting to make her return to the business. The show aired for 13 episodes and was canceled, only to be revived in 2014 for a second season.
In 2008, Kudrow also launched Web Therapy, a successful improvisational web series, in which she starred as a self-centered therapist Fiona Wallice. The show, which featured guest stars such as Jane Lynch, Molly Shannon and Selma Blair, was picked up by Showtime as a TV series in 2011, and aired for four seasons.
Kudrow has also served as an executive producer of Who Do You Think You Are?, a genealogy-themed documentary series in which celebrities trace their family roots. In a 2010 episode, Kudrow explored her own family tree of ancestors who immigrated from Belarus, Germany and Hungary. In an emotional scene, she discovered that her great-grandmother was murdered during the Holocaust.
Kudrow has since appeared on the big screen in the Seth Rogen comedy Neighbors (2014), as well as on the small screen with a recurring role on the popular drama Scandal. Proving she retains the innate ability to make audiences laugh, she earned the 10th Emmy nomination of her career in 2015, for her work on The Comeback.
Kudrow is married to Michel Stern, a French advertising executive. They have one son, Julian, who was born on May 7, 1998.
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