Actor, writer, producer and - yep, we'll say it - bloody well comedy GENIUS, Lisa Kudrow turns 52 today (July 30). Kudrow's on a deserved career high at the moment, her long-awaited second season of The Comeback earning her rave reviews and an Emmy nomination.
Thought Kudrow was 'just' the ditzy bird off Friends? After a long day at work, we don't want to HEAR that. Without further ado, we count down Kudrow's five finest roles to date (plus one extra for good measure).
Special runner-up: Josephine Marcus (Scandal)
Kudrow's guest role as Congresswoman Josephine Marcus in political soapie Scandal was brief - she appeared in four episodes - but we couldn't leave it off our list, for this incredible two-minute speech alone. In under 120 seconds, and prompted by just one seemingly innocuous question, Josephine eviscerates her interviewer (played by real-life gay BFF and creative partner Dan Bucatinsky) with a perfect summation of the sexism faced by women in politics and beyond.
5. Lucia DeLury (The Opposite of Sex)
Dowdy, shrill, utterly joyless: Kudrow's role in this underrated 1998 dark comedy came at the height of her Friends popularity and showed a whole different side to acting range. Still mourning the loss of her gay older brother to AIDS, Lucia maintains a dysfunctional connection to his bereaved partner. While Christina Ricci was the star of this film as amoral teenage sex kitten Deedee Truitt, Kudrow's was a standout role that hinted at the dramatic depth to come in more recent years.
4. Dr Fiona Wallace (Web Therapy)
Originally a web series before transferring to TV, in Web Therapy Kudrow plays Dr Fiona Wallace, a vain, self-serving, neurotic shrink who 'invents' a new (terrible) form of therapy: short, sharp sessions, taking place entirely over webcam. Wallace is tolerable only in small doses, which makes the brief episode lengths a godsend, but the wealth of guest stars (among them Lily Tomlin, Alan Cumming and several former Friends co-stars) give her ample comic room to play. Best of all: the episodes in which she spars against Meryl Streep, who plays a sex therapist assigned to cure Wallace's husband of his sexual urges. Relaxed, carefree and unashamedly sensual, Streep's character is everything Fiona's not - and Fiona LOATHES her for it.
3. Phoebe Buffay (Friends)
Yep, it's a testament to Kudrow's knack for creating iconic characters that her role in arguably the biggest comedy of the past 20 years is relegated to third place on our list. Phoebe Buffay is quite something: A vague, airy-fairy flower child with a dark past and an unshakeable self-confidence. Best of all was the faint sense for much of the show that, at the end of the day, Phoebe didn't actually like her Central Perk pals too much: she was just killing time with these neurotic bores until she moved on to her next phase in life. With a new name: Regina Falange.
2. Michele Weinberger (Romy & Michele's High School Reunion)
The ditzy sidekick to Mira Sorvino's Romy, it took someone pretty smart to play dumb this convincingly. Romy & Michele is golden from start to finish, but it's Kudrow's delivery of so many of the script's killer lines (Who among us hasn't wanted to write "I hope your babies look like monkeys" when an old high school foe announces their pregnancy on Facebook) that make her the utter standout. Just check out the scene above, in which Michele's attempt to lie about an impressive career at the reunion backfires and she's forced to make up a new story on the spot: That she invented a special kind of glue. #thermosetyourresin
1. Valerie Cherish (The Comeback)
Surely one of the greatest comic characters in TV history, creating Valerie Cherish - from the ground up, with Sex & The City writer Michael Patrick King - is Kudrow's greatest on-screen achievement to date. Vain, demanding and difficult but with a constant, desperate need to be liked, Val is an ageing actress of limited ability who's hitched herself to the reality TV wagon in the hopes of a second shot at fame. Trouble is, she doesn't realise reality TV stars don't get the final say in how they're portrayed.
When the show premiered for one short-lived season in 2005, it was ahead of its time in a pre-Real Housewives world. When it returned for a second season some nine years later, it had already become a cult classic. Even the unused footage from this series is golden - just watch Valerie's brilliant dressing room scene, above, after being booted off Dancing With the Stars.
After that, take 15 minutes and watch this incredible highlights reel of Valerie's best interactions with her best friend and longtime hair stylist, Mickey.
Lisa Kudrow: Happy birthday, babygirl! *Valerie Cherish prayer hands*