Perry died by an apparent drowning at his Los Angeles home on Saturday at age 54, sending shockwaves through Hollywood. Azaria, 59, looked back on his friendship with the Friends star in a video shared on Instagram over the weekend, calling Perry a brother and good friend.
"Matthew was the first friend I made in Los Angeles when I moved there. I was 21, he was 16," a somber Azaria shared. "Matthew and I became really good friends and we were really more like brothers for a long time. We drank a lot together, we laughed a lot together, we were there for each other in the early days of our career."
"I really loved him," he continued. "A lot of us who were close to him felt like we lost him to drugs and alcohol a long time ago because — as he documented in his autobiography — there was so much suffering." Of Perry's unflinching memoir Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing released just last year, "I had to pick up and put down that biography, like, 11 times," Azaria said. "It was so painful for me to read."
Perry, who shared intimate details about his past struggles with addiction in his memoir, helped Azaria with his own addiction troubles. "I'm a sober guy for 17 years, and I wanna say that, the night I went into AA [Alcoholics Anonymous], Matthew brought me in," Azaria said. "The whole first year I was sober, we went to meetings together. He was so caring and giving. He totally helped me get sober. And I really wish he could've found it in himself to stay with the silver life more consistently."
Azaria also remembered Perry as a comedic genius. "Most nights you spent with Matthew you were crying laughing by the end," he said. "As an actor, he was so brilliant. I just wish we could have gotten what the rest of his career would've been."
Everett Collection Hank Azaria and Matthew Perry on 'Friends'
Azaria had a recurring role opposite his longtime pal on Friends as David, a love interest of Lisa Kudrow's Phoebe Buffay. Other celebs, including fellow Friends guest stars Paget Brewster, Maggie Wheeler, and Morgan Fairchild, have also paid homage to Perry.