Friends writers reveal what Rachel's 'it IS a big deal' joke was REALLY about
"It's NOT that common, it DOESN'T happen to every guy, and it IS a big deal!"
—RACHEL (JENNIFER ANISTON) ON FRIENDS (NBC, 1997)
"We were on a break!" may be the most famous line in the Ross/Rachel saga, but it was Ms. Green who ultimately had the best burn. This hollow-point bullet of emasculation—which Rachel fired at Ross during their breakup in the season 4 premiere "The One With the Jellyfish"—began with exec producer Greg Malins.
"It was the only time I'd ever written down my [joke] before I pitched," Malins tells EW. "I remember thinking, 'If I don't pitch this exactly right, it's not gonna get in.'" Once Malins delivered his initial joke to the room, other writers jumped in, and exec producer Adam Chase added the "it IS a big deal" kicker. "On Friends, it was so wildly collaborative," says Chase, adding that the writers didn't hold back during the brainstorm: "I remember yelling at each other in the room as the characters."
Now for the real punchline: Rachel's zinger still has Friends fans scratching their heads 23 years later. A quick Google search of the line reveals that some viewers aren't sure how, exactly, Rachel is insulting Ross with this comeback—or why it prompts Chandler to groan, "I knew it!" Others (like myself) assumed the dig was about Ross' inability to, uh, get it up. While that's close, it's not exactly correct. Allow Malins and Chase to clarify, in explicit detail.
"They were insulting each other back and forth," says Malins, "and I had this idea in my head, [Rachel] says, 'Well one time, when you prematurely ejaculated, I told you it was okay and it wasn't.'" And that, adds Chase, was a callback to the season 2 episode "The One Where Ross and Rachel...You Know," specifically "the juice box moment."
Chase remembers that when Malins first pitched the joke in the writers' room, "we all knew exactly what he meant, and we loved that it called back to an iconic moment without ever being explicit." Though he's not surprised that some people still don't get the reference today, Chase says "the studio audience erupted with a clear laughter of recognition the night we shot it."
For more surprising joke origins, check out "30 Perfect Punchlines"
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