BANGKOK — In the late 90s, Ratish Sachathamakul would go to his local Blockbuster and rent VHS tapes of the hit sitcom “Friends,” with each tape containing some five episodes.
He was 13 when he started watching. Now as a 31-year-old, Ratish says he’s watched the series “maybe 150 times,” first on VCDs and then on streaming services.
All this preparation led up to Thursday night, when he and his friends were crowned Thailand’s top “Friends” superfans by winning a “Friends Comedy Game Show” trivia night hosted by the Bangkok Hilarious Comedy Club at Aesop’s Greek restaurant – winning a bottle of wine and ultimately glory.
Small teams were put to the test through 25 questions about the series. First came the basic (what’s the name of Phoebe’s signature song? Smelly Cat). Then came the more obscure (what were the fake names on Ross and Chandler’s college-era fake IDs? Clifford Alvarez and Roland Chang).
Ratish and his “Friendsters” team consisted of Chandan “Chad” Suriya-amrit, 31, and Chad’s cousin, Sifat Khurana, 26. Ratish and Chad are Thai-Indian friends who grew up together in Thailand, while Sifat is visiting from India.
“The comedy’s timeless. It doesn’t matter what generation you’re from, everyone enjoys it,” Ratish said. “Every single episode has some kind of life lesson in it, which is amazing. It teaches you something about yourself and your friends.”
Even a psychologist interviewed by Metro UK in April said that watching “Friends” has helped his patients suffering from anxiety. The Friendsters concurred.
“It’s something I call ‘Friends Therapy,’” Ratish said. “If you’re ever feeling down or just wanna have a good time or anything of the sort, watching ‘Friends’ just does that for you.”
“If you’re depressed, watch friends,” Sifat agreed. “No matter your age, if you’re 10, you’re 20, you’re 40, you’re 50, watch ‘Friends…[On days that are] low, high, easy, tough, anything, it’s Friends.”
Chad says he’s a Joey (he doesn’t share food) and loves the “emotional moments of Joey and Chandler’s brotherly love” most of all. Ratish identifies the most with Chandler (“Could it be anymore ridiculous?”) while it’s definitely Phoebe for Sifat.
“She’s easygoing, she’s crazy. I don’t think I have any words to describe how cute she is. She’s the best,” Sifat said.
The group says the show has bonded them together throughout their lives, and taught them values of friendship and acceptance.
“Even if you don’t have a family, you have a family,” Sifat said. “You have to value different people and what each of them brings to the table. No matter how crazy Phoebe can be, singing ‘Smelly Cat,’ she knows she has people to fall back on.”
By the way, the superfans have reached a consensus over one of the most contentious debates surrounding the show: Ross and Rachel were on a break.