Lisa Kudrow was born on July 30, 1963 in Encino, Los Angeles, California, the daughter of Nedra S. (née Stern), a travel agent, and Dr. Lee N. Kudrow (born 1933), a headache specialist and physician. Her ancestors emigrated from Belarus and lived in the village of Ilya, in the Minsk area, and her great-grandmother was murdered in the Holocaust. Kudrow was raised in a middle-class Jewish family and has an older sister, Helene Marla (born 1960), and an older brother, neurologist David B. Kudrow (born 1957). She is the niece of composer/conductor Harold Farberman. She took guitar lessons as a child and is left-handed. In 1979, at the age of 16, she underwent surgery which reduced the size of her nose.
After attending Portola Middle School in Tarzana, California, she graduated from Taft High School in Woodland Hills, Los Angeles. She received her B.A. in Biology from Vassar College, intending to follow in her father's footsteps and research headaches. Kudrow worked on her father's staff for eight years while breaking into acting, earning a research credit on his study on the comparative likelihood of left-handed individuals developing cluster headaches.
At the urging of her brother's childhood friend, comedian Jon Lovitz, Kudrow began her comedic career as a member of The Groundlings, joining the ranks of those such as Will Ferrell and Janeane Garofalo. Briefly, Kudrow joined with Conan O'Brien and director Tim Hillman in the short-lived improv troupe Unexpected Company. She was also the only regular female member of the Transformers Comedy Troupe. She played a role in an episode of the NBC sitcom Cheers. She tried out for Saturday Night Live in 1990, but the show chose Julia Sweeney instead. She had a recurring role as Kathy Fleisher in three episodes of season one of the Bob Newhart sitcom Bob (CBS, 1992–1993), a role she played after taking part in the memorable series finale of Newhart's previous series Newhart. Prior to Friends, she appeared in at least two produced network pilots: NBC's Just Temporary (also known as Temporarily Yours) in 1989, playing Nicole; and CBS' Close Encounters (also known asMatchmaker) in 1990, playing a Valley girl.
Kudrow was hired to play the role of Roz Doyle in Frasier, but the part was re-cast with Peri Gilpin during the filming of the pilot episode. Kudrow said in 2000 that when rehearsals started, "I knew it wasn't working. I could feel it all slipping away, and I was panicking, which only made things worse".Her first recurring television role was Ursula Buffay, the eccentric waitress on the NBC sitcom Mad About You. Kudrow would reprise the character on the NBC sitcom Friends, in which Kudrow co-starred as massage therapist Phoebe Buffay, Ursula's twin sister. As Kudrow explained in 2009, "I did Mad About You first, and then it was pilot season, and I auditioned for this pilot that turned out to be Friends. And once I got that, the time slot we got was right after Mad About You, so the creative folk thought, 'Well, we can't just pretend like it's not her'".
For her ensemble starring role as Phoebe on Friends (NBC, 1994–2004) Kudrow would win the 1998 Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series; she was the first Friends cast member to win an Emmy, as well as the most frequently nominated of the cast, receiving six nominations. The program was a long-running hit, and Kudrow and her fellow cast-members gained wide renown among television viewers. According to the Guinness Book of World Records (2005), Kudrow and co-stars Jennifer Aniston and Courteney Cox became the highest paid TV actresses of all time, earning $1 million per episode for the ninth and tenth season of Friends.
Her film credits include comedic roles in Romy and Michele's High School Reunion, Hanging Up, Marci X, Analyze This and its sequel Analyze That. However, Kudrow has also starred in dramatic roles including the biographical Wonderland about the late porn star John Holmes. She had dramatic roles for writer-director Don Roos in the films The Opposite of Sex and Happy Endings. In 2008, she acted in Hotel for Dogs alongside Emma Roberts and Jake T. Austin.
She has been a vocal performer on episodes of animated television series, including as Aphrodite on Hercules: The Animated Series, and as Springfield Elementary School student Alexandra Whitney on The Simpsons. She was the voice of the female grizzly bear Ava in the live action movie Dr. Dolittle 2. She also voiced the Ghost of Christmas Past in the American Dad Christmas Special: The Best Christmas Story Never Told. Kudrow starred as protagonist Valerie Cherish on the single-season HBO series The Comeback (premiered June 5, 2005), about a has-been sitcom star trying for a comeback. She also served as co-creator, writer, and executive producer. Kudrow received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for her work on The Comeback, making her the first Friends cast member to receive a major award nomination since Friends ended. She has also appeared, alongside her niece, in a television commercial for Nintendo's Personal Trainer: Cooking, as well as in the Nintendo DS commercial for Professor Layton and the Curious Village with Lynn Brown Kogen.
She also served as the executive producer for the American version of the hit UK television series Who Do You Think You Are? for NBC, in which celebrities trace their family trees. The subjects of the first series included Kudrow herself, Susan Sarandon, and Sarah Jessica Parker. On March 19, 2010 Kudrow’s search for her roots in eastern Europe was broadcast.
Lisa Kudrow co-created an improvised comedy web series, Web Therapy on Lstudio.com. The improve series, which launched online in 2008, has earned several Webby nominations and one Outstanding Comedic Performance Webby for Kudrow, who plays therapist of unspecified credentials Fiona Wallice. She offers her patients three-minute sessions over iChat. In July 2011, a reformatted, half-hour version of the show premiered on Showtime.
Lisa Kudrow and Courteney Cox reunited on Cougar Town in 2009. Kudrow played an accomplished dermatologist whose services become addictive to Jules (Cox), despite the doctor's impatient temperament. Kudrow's episode was aired during November sweeps.
On May 27, 1995, Kudrow became the first "Friend" to marry when she wed Michel Stern, a French advertising executive. They have one son, Julian Murray (born May 7, 1998), and live near Canandaigua, New York. Kudrow's pregnancy was written into Friends [Season-4,5] with her character Phoebe having triplets as a surrogate mother for her brother and his wife because they were not able to have children.