The FRIENDS™ Experience
A recreated Central Perk set at the FRIENDS Experience interactive exhibit in D.C. Credit: Kelyn Soong

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Three years ago, my friends asked me to give a reading at their wedding ceremony. When I walked up to the microphone on the big day, I pulled a single sheet of canary yellow legal pad paper out from my suit pocket and began to read.

“We are gathered here today on this joyous occasion to celebrate the special love that Alex and Aleenia share,” I read, pausing for dramatic effect. “It is a love based on giving and receiving, as well as having and sharing. And the love that they give and have is shared and received. And through this having and giving and sharing and receiving, we too can share and love and receive.”

I looked up at the wedding guests to some confused faces, but also plenty of laughs, and eventually applause. Many were in on the joke. This reading wasn’t just something I came up with—but the iconic speech that Joey Tribbiani wanted to give at Monica Geller and Chandler Bing’s wedding from the enormously popular and enduring sitcom, Friends, which ran on NBC from 1994 to 2004. (It’s the first and second result when you search for “Joey’s speech” on YouTube.) My friends had specifically requested this speech; their wedding’s theme was “TV rocks.”

Plenty of people have their own Friends memories. Here at City Paper, I once belonged to a private Slack channel with two former colleagues dedicated solely to Friends memes. The FRIENDS Experience by Superfly X, open in D.C. until June 5, is betting on the same level of fandom and nostalgia for a show that premiered nearly three decades ago. The interactive popup that launched in 2019 in New York City will be in D.C. near Metro Center. As Dwight Schrute from The Office would say, “People underestimate the power of nostalgia. It’s truly one of the great human weaknesses. Second only to the neck.” (Superfly X also launched The Office Experience in Chicago last October and it will end later this month, nearly 17 years after the show first aired on NBC. Feeling old yet?)

Friends has been “a show that’s been a part of our lives for 27 years now, which is crazy to think about,” says Stacy Moscatelli, the co-president and chief strategy officer for Superfly X. “It had that staying power. What I love is when you see grandparents and grandkids come in, and they both love the show a lot and have shared memories over it. So it’s really just a lot of nostalgia and a lot of excitement and enthusiasm.”

A recreation of the “pivot” episode stairwell. Credit: Kelyn Soong

The first thing you hear when you enter the D.C. exhibit is the theme song, which plays on a nonstop loop. You know how it goes: “So no one told you life was gonna be this way (Clap. Clap. Clap. Clap.).” Have your cameras ready, because the creators clearly had Instagram in mind. The orange couch from the Friends intro theme, the stairway and couch from the “Pivot” episode, Joey and Chandler’s apartment with the foosball table, Monica’s meticulously clean kitchen, the stairwell between the two apartments, the Central Perk coffee house—it’s all here, in its recreated glory. Staff members are placed at various locations to take photos for you and your friends. The hallway between the two main apartments has proven to be a popular spot for celebrities and influencers. (See: Washington Mystics star Elena Delle Donne’s Instagram account.)

“One sort of surprise is the hallway,” Moscatelli says. “That was something we did not have at the original pop up in 2019, and when we asked fans what they wanted to see or what they felt like was missing, that came up and that was one that just was not on our radar.”

In addition to the New York and D.C. locations, the interactive event is also open in Phoenix. The popup has traveled to Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Atlanta, and will make its way to Denver, Nashville, Toronto, and San Francisco this year. D.C. is the seventh location, and at every one prior there has been a wedding proposal, Moscatelli says. 

The steep price will likely turn away casual fans. General admission starts at $35, but if you can ace Ross Geller’s trivia quiz or like to play Chandler’s “dumb states game” for fun, go with a group of fellow Friends fans. If nothing else, the power of nostalgia will get you plenty of likes on Instagram.

The FRIENDS Experience runs through June 5 at 1025 F Street NW. $35–$42.