For 10 years in the ‘90s and early aughts, the writers on Friends had their work cut out for them, tasked with providing funny and memorable storylines for Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer. Somehow, they succeeded in not only making lifelong stars out of the show's main six but in creating a universe that included a long manifest of A-plus guest stars and beloved recurring characters. One of the most iconic of those was Ugly Naked Guy. So who exactly was this “unattractive nude man”? What happened to him, and why didn’t we ever see his face?
What’s notable about Ugly Naked Guy is that while he was talked about several times in the first five seasons of Friends, he was actually only seen twice, and both times his face was hidden. So let’s dive into the story behind one of the sitcom’s most enigmatic characters.
Who Played Ugly Naked Guy, And Why Didn’t We Get To See His Face?
First things first, the character of Ugly Naked Guy was the man who lived in the building across from Monica Gellar’s apartment. The gang often watched him through the window, commenting on whatever he was up to — playing the cello, using a Thighmaster, trying out Gravity Boots, etc. The actor, however, was an uncredited extra, and until 2016 — 17 years after his final appearance on Friends — nobody even remembered the actor’s name.
Enter Todd Van Luling of the Huffington Post, who went on a yearlong quest to solve the mystery. He followed the Ugly Naked trail back to Jon Haugen, and all those years later, Haugen explained why his identity remained hidden for so long, saying:
The reason I never came forward was that I was just keeping it mellow because Warner Brothers were keeping it mellow. They wanted everybody to have a guess who I was.
Friends producer Todd Stevens provided even more clarity as to why they kept the character uncredited, including why his face was never seen. Stevens told Van Luling:
We wanted it to fly under the radar because we didn’t want somebody, like, being Ugly Naked Guy.
It’s true that Ugly Naked Guy wasn’t the kindest name the group could have picked, and I can see why there was apprehension to have an actor’s name and face associated with the character and all of his exhibitionist hobbies. But that begs the question …
Was Ugly Naked Guy Really Naked?
Ugly Naked Guy made physical appearances in two episodes: Season 3’s “The One With the Giant Poking Device” and Season 5’s “The One Where Everybody Finds Out.” In that latter episode, the unnamed character was moving out, and as Ross Gellar hoped to snatch up the apartment for himself, he attempted to bond with Ugly Naked Guy by stripping down. The extended version of the episode showed the two disrobed men sitting together and enjoying a basket of mini muffins. As for whether they were really nude or not, Jon Haugen revealed to the Huffington Post:
I was in boxer shorts. At first I was feeling a little shy because I had about 500 people watching me in the audience besides the crew and everything. But after about two minutes went by, I was real comfortable and David Schwimmer was real comfortable. We were just in boxer shorts and they made it look like we were naked.
It makes sense that Jon Haugen and David Schwimmer weren’t actually naked during shooting, but the production made it look realistic enough that the scene was kept off of the original NBC broadcast.
How Was Jon Haugen Cast As Ugly Naked Guy?
When the decision was made to find an extra to play the subject of the group’s voyeurism, there was likely no expectation that the character would become as iconic as he did. So how did Jon Haugen happen upon the opportunity? Executive producer Kevin Bright gave some insight on the casting process, saying on the DVD commentary for “The One Where Everybody Finds Out”:
The casting of Ugly Naked Guy was an interesting process. He doesn’t actually say anything, so it had to be based on somebody who was big and willing to get somewhat naked. … It wasn’t a very long casting session. There were maybe four or five guys that came and I don’t know what they expected, but a lot of them didn’t really understand that they’d have to be standing there in their boxer shorts.
I can imagine that was one of the stranger casting processes anyone on either side of the table ever had to do. With the emphasis being on what the actors looked like in their boxer shorts rather than any actual acting prowess, the actors had to actually audition in their underwear. Even though the job only resulted in two episodes’ worth of work, Jon Haugen at least has lifelong bragging rights.
What Happened To Ugly Naked Guy?
As previously mentioned, the decision was made in Season 5 to have Ugly Naked Guy move, with Ross taking the apartment across from his sister. This served two purposes, the creators said in the episode commentary. For one thing, they felt it was time to move on from the “Ugly Naked” jokes. David Crane said:
No matter how much you love a joke or a bit, there’s a certain point where you feel like OK, we’re just beating this to death. Enough already. We’ve gotten every laugh out of this we possibly can, so it’s time.
Marta Kauffman concurred and added that while Ugly Naked Guy had served them well as a source of humor, having Ross and Monica be able to see into each other’s apartments served as an even-better setup for stories and jokes in the latter half of the series. Ugly Naked Guy may have moved out, but Friends fans will never forget what he contributed to the early seasons. You can see a compilation of “Ugly Naked” jokes below:
Ugly Naked Guy may seem like sort of a thankless role, with only two appearances over 10 years, an objectively unflattering nickname, not having his face shown or his name in the credits. Jon Haugen, however, didn't see it that way. He said he loved the character and had nothing but great memories of the cast and crew, telling the HuffPost:
It was the best time in my life. I was the man.
You can revisit Ugly Naked Guy’s episodes of Friends, or any of your other favorites, as all 10 seasons — and the 2021 reunion special — are available to stream with a Max subscription. Be sure to also check out our 2023 TV schedule to find out about all of the upcoming television and streaming premieres.