From driving an amphibious vehicle across the English Channel to summiting Mont Blanc and driving down Fifth Avenue in a tank, British billionaire and world-famous entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson has done some extraordinary things over the course of his life. Yet, when it comes to the fascination over the business magnate’s high-profile reputation, many of the Englishman’s fans are more interested in the finer details.
Richard Branson made a cameo appearance in the hugely popular sitcom ‘Friends’ in Season 4 Episode 23. In the episode, he played the part of a London-born souvenir salesman that sells Joey a novelty hat during the gang’s trip to the UK for Ross’ second wedding.
A big fan of ‘Friends’ during the show’s heyday, Branson clearly found it very difficult not to try and bag his very own guest role on the show when it was revealed that the team was shooting in London. But, although Branson’s scene alongside stars Matt LeBlanc and Matthew Perry is undeniably hilarious, Branson had a few things to say about the show many years later in 2019.
Branson makes his appearance on ‘Friends’ at a point in the London-based episode where characters’ Joey and Chandler are feuding with one another because Joey is embarrassing his best friend. After Branson sells Joey a farcical top hat with a Union Jack embroidered on it, Chandler can’t believe that his friend would dare embarrass him any more than he already has by wearing the hat around the city.
At this point, Branson’s character chimes in saying to Joey: “He’s just jealous, you’ll fit right in. All Londoners wear them.” And when Chandler asks why no one around them is wearing one, Branson’s character quips: “They’re all tourists”.
When Joey ultimately decides to spend the day wearing his hat without Chandler, Branson’s character taps in on the shoulder and tells him he’s made a good choice.
Although Branson’s role in ‘Friends’ is shortlived, his cameo has gone down in history along with all the other cameo appearances from celebrities such as Brad Pitt, Bruce Willis, and Reese Witherspoon. In fact, in the London episodes alone, Branson’s role is complemented by a host of other guest appearances from A-lister Brits such as Hugh Laurie and Jennifer Saunders.
Branson’s unconditional appreciation for Friends wasn’t destined to last forever though. As ‘Friends’ became increasingly targeted by those who believe the show was anti-LGBT and not inclusive enough in its plot-lines, Branson – a big-time equality activist – made his thoughts on the show known, insisting “historical criticism is evitable”.
Speaking to one media site in 2019, Branson said: “I haven’t seen [Friends] since those days. But if you go back in history, you’re going to find lots of examples like that, aren’t you? It’s something Joe Biden is suffering from at the moment. Not to do with gay people, but things he did years ago.
“But people can change. Society can change. And attitudes, generally, change for the positive. Obviously future sitcoms or films must portray things differently.”
Branson – who at the age of 16 is said to have established an advisory center to help young gay people meet one another, a project that allegedly grew to become the London nightclub, Heaven – has always had a lot of support for the globe’s LGBT community.
In 2019, he said: “Us non-gay people have a lot to learn from the gay community, and we need to embrace it”. He also went on to say that, “the most creative, fun, wonderful people in the world are gay” and that he “would be absolutely delighted if one of my grandchildren turned out to be gay”.
Branson’s Campaign Against Anti-LGBTQ Laws
In the past, Branson – the founder of the Virgin Group – has actually taken it upon himself to fight inhumane anti-LGBTQ laws all around the globe. In an article penned by Branson himself in Quartz at Work, the business magnate called on business leaders to join the fight against countries with laws in place such as Brunei, Saudi Arabia, and Iran.
Speaking against such aggressive laws, Branson wrote: “I feel that every opportunity to stand up for what we believe in is a good opportunity to shift the conversation on a global scale.”
Outlining four simple steps to combat unethical laws, Branson also said: “from the perspective of employers and investors, there’s a positive and compelling case to end discrimination and open up.”
While Branson often comes off to the general public as a freewheeling thrill-seeker with more money than many could dream of, it’s also significant to acknowledge the ways in which the British billionaire has used his influence and authority to make the world a more humane place for all.