The One Where We Compare Sitcom Salaries

The cast members of Friends and The Big Bang Theory were the highest-paid TV actors in history. Just how much were they paid per season?

Sitcom salary hero
Chantel Buchi
Staff Writer, TV & Streaming
Read More
December 09, 2020
3 min read

Have you been missing Friends since they “took a break” from Netflix? Or did you shout "Bazinga!" when you heard The Big Bang Theory was coming to HBO Max?

There’s no denying that we all love the characters of Friends and The Big Bang Theory because they’re funny, lighthearted, full of life, and, most importantly, relatable.

The casts of both of these sitcoms were memorable, but so were their salaries.

Each main actor of both of these sitcoms was paid about one million dollars per episode, making them the highest-paid TV actors in history.

It may not be a shock when you realize Friends fans are still binge-watching this 236-episode TV show 16 years after the finale aired on live television.

And The Big Bang Theory’s final 12 episodes saw record viewership numbers (even bigger than The Game of Thrones, if you can believe it!).

So if one of these shows is your sitcom lobster, your prayers have been answered: both will be exclusively on HBO Max when it launches on May 27.

Until you get your subscription, enjoy these incredible salary stats on your favorite Friends and The Big Bang Theory cast members. We promise it's less than 18 pages long.

Total earnings by season

The one where we talk more crazy sitcom stats

Let’s put these cast salaries into perspective, shall we?

Jim Parsons, the brilliant Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory, earned $1,246,000 per episode in season ten. That’s nearly 20x the median annual American income!

And to break it down, that’s about $56,636 per minute. Sheesh, Jim could buy himself a new car with just one minute’s worth of work. Or Sheldon could buy himself a near mint copy of The Avengers #1.

But check out the most money each actor has received for these excellent TV shows we all love so much.

The highest salaries received by The Big Bang Theory cast
Actor
Per episode
Per minute (runtime)
Per second (runtime)

Jim Parsons

$1,246,000

$56,636

$944

Johnny Galecki

$1,204,000

$54,727

$912

Kaley Cuoco

$1,020,000

$46,364

$773

Kunal Nayyar

$1,142,000

$51,909

$865

Simon Helburg

$1,183,000

$53,773

$896

Mayim Bialik

$425,000

$19,318

$322

Melissa Rauch

$425,000

$19,318

$322

The highest salaries received by the Friends cast
Actor
Per episode
Per minute (runtime)
Per second (runtime)

Jennifer Aniston

$1,000,000

$45,455

$758

Courteney Cox

$1,000,000

$45,455

$758

Lisa Kudrow

$1,000,000

$45,455

$758

Matt LeBlanc

$1,000,000

$45,455

$758

Matthew Perry

$1,000,000

$45,455

$758

David Schwimmer

$1,000,000

$45,455

$758

You could say from these earnings alone that the Friends cast is set for life. Matt LeBlanc made more per episode than Dr. Drake Ramoray, the neurosurgeon Joey played on Days of Our Lives, would make in a year (according to Salary.com) . . . if, you know, he were a real doctor . . . and hadn't fallen down that elevator shaft.

But wait, let's keep going. Pivot! Pivot! Pivot!

Friends remains a highly lucrative sitcom for Warner Bros., raking in $1 billion annually. As part of their contracts, the cast receives 2% of the syndication income, totaling $20 million per cast member each year!

So over the past five years, each of them made $100 million. As Janice would say, "Oh. My. God."

Other stats

  • If a member of the Friends cast devoted their earnings from one episode ($1 million) toward an HBO Max subscription, they could stream for 5,556 years.
  • By the end of the series, The Big Bang Theory cast had earned 40% more than the cast of Friends.
    • If you discount seasons 11 and 12 of The Big Bang Theory, the cast still made 9% more than Friends.
  • The lowest earners on our list, Mayim Bialik and Melissa Rauch, earned $19K per minute (runtime), or 22% more than the annual salary of a minimum-wage worker.

The one where we come to a conclusion

There’s really no question why these two all-time favorite sitcoms have the highest-paid TV actors in history.

Friends and The Big Bang Theory have brought happiness to your life from day one of their show, influencing you to get the Rachel haircut or to watch more scientific documentaries.

Each cast member of these shows made $1 million per episode the last few seasons of their production, and they’re still making $20 million to this day.

You’ll understand why when you watch these hilarious sitcoms.

So catch these much-loved shows on HBO Max when it launches May 27 to enjoy the simpler time with Friends and the nerd culture with The Big Bang Theory.

Methodology

The team at Reviews.org researched various reports and press releases to determine the compensation amounts per episode for each cast member of the TV sitcoms Friends and The Big Bang Theory. Our team determined each cast member's earnings throughout the show based on cast member appearances and compensation per season.

In addition, Reviews.org compared these compensation amounts to the subscription cost of the new streaming service, HBO Max.

Sources

Chantel Buchi
Written by
Chantel Buchi
Chantel is all about finding the best tv or streaming service to watch as many football games as possible to keep her Fantasy Football team in check. Prior to being a TV and Streaming Tech Reporter for Reviews.org, she worked for NFL Network and The Alliance of American Football. Before that, she received a B.A. of Communication at the University of Utah and an M.S. in Sports Journalism at USC. Go Utes and Fight On. Contact her at chantel@reviews.org

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