If Penn State Was The Sitcom ‘Friends’

Whether you were a fanatic die-hard fan since the show’s release in the ’90s, or you quickly became a new fan due to its recent release on Netflix, you’ve probably seen the classic sitcom “Friends.” Six 20-something-year-old friends having hilarious misadventures and experiences in New York City, what’s not to love?!

As a college student in the middle of rural State College, your life may seem nothing like this come, but you’re wrong! Penn State and “Friends” have a lot more in common than you think.

Old Main’s Lawn as Central Park 

Friends Central Park

Just like the gorgeous sprawling park of greenery and wild life in the middle of the busy and urban New York City, Old Main is nestled perfectly in the middle of University Park. Through the craziness of students trying to get to class on time, one can relax on Old Main’s green grass just like a lazy New Yorker on his/her lunch break. Perhaps the inhabitants of New York City are a bit more, er, fashion-forward — but Penn Staters and New Yorkers have a major thing in common: places to go, people to see, and things to do!

 Irving’s Cafe as Central Perk

Friends Central Perk

With the infamous Central Park comes the notorious and charming coffee shop, Central Perk. The cast of “Friends” are frequently seen relaxing and catching up in this convenient meeting spot after work. Located near all six friends’ apartments, Central Perk was the perfect ‘chill spot’. Irving’s cafe is conveniently located in the middle of downtown State College, with a perfect view of Old Main lawn Central Park. Just like the famous coffee shop in “Friends,” Irving’s is adored by Penn State students and staff.

Christian Hackenberg as Joey Tribbiani 

Friends, Joey

How you doin’?

Just like the lovable lady’s man in “Friends,” Christian Hackenberg is a Penn State heart throb. Like Hackenberg, Joey is confident and driven in what he does. Just like the way Hackenberg strives to win each football game, Joey auditions for every casting call available and flirts with everything in sight. Both of these lads are lovable and crucial characters.

James Franklin as Ross Geller 

Friends, Ross

James Franklin is fairly new to coaching Penn State football, so one could easily call him a rookie. However, similar to Ross’s knowledge of paleontology facts and dinosaur trivia, Franklin knows football. Both men are easygoing and generally very well-liked and admired by friends, families, and fans. Unfortunately, both characters often find themselves in some sticky situations. Whether it be Ross ‘accidentally’ marrying Rachel in Las Vegas, or Franklin dealing with a tough loss from an opposing team, they both have had their share of drama. In the end, you can’t help but love them because you know they both have good intentions.

The Willard Preacher as Chandler Bing

Friends, Chandler

“I say more dumb things before 9 a.m. than most people say all day

Chandler is known for his sarcastic banter and comments. He often finds himself speaking either too much, or saying something that sparks a bit of a stir within the group. Like Chandler, the Willard Preacher never gets sick of expressing his views and opinions. Chandler and the Willard Preacher are both a little skeptical and pessimistic regarding society, but nevertheless, they continue to stick to their viewpoints. One can say both of these men are stubborn, but in the end, they are ultimately harmless.

 Squirrel Girl as Phoebe Buffay 

Friends, Phoebe1

“I can’t shake the feeling that this cat is my mother…”

Phoebe. The ultimate source of comic relief for the show. Phoebe is eccentric, quirky, and has tons of odd interests and hobbies. She is a proud animal-lover, just like Penn State’s squirrel girl. In fact, both of these ladies love animals so much, they even talk to them and treat them like humans. Neither show an ounce of insecurity when expressing their interests, which is exactly what we love about them! Whether it’s Squirrel Girl sprawled out on Old Main’s lawn trying to herd in a friendly critter, or Phoebe convincing herself her cat is her reincarnated mother, both of these characters are irreplaceable and delightfully strange.

 Jason O from “My Hero Zero,” also as Phoebe Buffay 

Friends, Phoebe 2

“This little number is called Smelly Cat”

Not to be mistaken with normal Phoebe, this is Phoebe the moment she picks up a guitar. She writes her own funny songs and tunes and has a great time doing it, just like our favorite Penn State boy band leading man, Jason O. Like Phoebe, Jason is free-spirited, friendly, and always adds an entertaining presence to any venue. Jason sings his heart out in the bars downtown, like Cafe and The Phyrst, just like Phoebe serenades Central Perk with her unforgettable songs about cats that smell. Imagine a duo with these two rock stars?! Their album would hit the charts in no time.

Joe Paterno as Richard Burke

Friends, Richard

Joe Paterno is famous, wise, experienced, and easy to love just like Richard. Monica’s love interest for a few episodes, Richard is easygoing and extremely patient. He often knows right from wrong and consistently strives to make things better, just like Joe. Though both of these characters are much older than their colleagues and friends, they maintain optimism and energy even when things get tough.

Your Freshman Year RA as Gunther 

Friends, Gunther

Just like the group of friends in this sitcom sitting in Central Perk, you and your pals freshman year probably caused a bit of a ruckus in the dorms. The Friends are often seen bickering, laughing, and loudly discussing problems and situations in Central Perk. This often takes a toll on the cafe’s owner, Gunther. He is the coffee shop’s manager and constantly puts up with the loud and obvious presence of the friend group, even when things got a bit obnoxious or irritable. Your RA down the hall is (hopefully) just like Gunther, because they patiently dealt with any noise or partying you and your buddies may have taken part in.

 That-One-Random-Foreign-Exchange-Kid-You-Know as Paolo Fusco

Friends, Paolo

Penn State’s campus is filled with diversity, just like New York City. Students from all over the world and country come to study here, and odds are you know at least one student from outside the United States. Considering this student is probably new to the culture of America, you may think he’s rather strange at times. Like Paolo, though, this friend of yours is a real European ladies man. He is somehow able to charm woman with a suave sense of ease that you and your American buddies simply can not grasp. Just like Paolo hitting on both Rachel and Phoebe, however, make sure you keep an eye out for this flirtatious fella. He may seem aloof and innocent, but can cause serious friend drama.

Mike Waite as Ross & Monica’s Father, Jack Geller

Friends, Monica's Dad

Known for his blunt email sent out to the entire Penn State campus, Mike Waite is not exactly an adored figure. Waite was simply disinterested in receiving sexual assault warnings and openly asked if he could unsubscribe to them. This action is similar to commentary Jack Geller would often take part in — frank and not remotely sugar-coated. Jack is often depicted criticizing Ross, Monica, and their life decisions, hardly holding anything back.

Charles Schwab and Andrew Carnegie as Rachel Green and Monica Geller

rachel and monica

There’s a classic Penn State legend about how the campus got two of its oldest buildings: Schwab Auditorium and the Carnegie Building. Charles Schwab and Andrew Carnegie were big businessmen from Pittsburgh, each a professional in the steel industry. However, their relationship was not strictly business as they grew to be best buds. Just like Rachel and Monica, the two founders were believed to have vacationed together and spent many hours teaching each other and developing an inseparable bond. This classic bromance can only be compared to the relationship between best friends and roomies, Monica and Rachel. Though Schwab and Carnegie were technically rivals in their industries, in the end they always ended up friendly. Just like these two men, Rachel and Monica are often seen bickering and having petty fights, but they always end up by each other’s sides.


There you have it! Your favorite Penn State figures paired with your favorite Friends! Next time you’re on a binge watching spree on Netflix, try to shake off the image of Hackenberg’s face on Joey’s body.

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About the Author

Carolyn Popescu

Current senior studying Advertising and Visual Arts, Carolyn has a passion for entertainment and music. She also loves photography, film, graphic design, social media, and all things in between. She's the current Sony Music Marketing Representative for State College, so be sure to reach out to her with any local music scene questions, ideas, proposals, or if you just need someone to geek out about music with.

(Contact her through [email protected] or [email protected])

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