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Matthew Perry speaks at Penn Credit: Yuzhong Qian , Yuzhong Qian

“Hello, my name is Matthew, and I’m an alcoholic.”

In front of a packed audience at Irvine Auditorium last night, actor and comedian Matthew Perry appeared completely in his element onstage for a talk on a very personal subject — his battle with drug and alcohol addiction.

Perry — who gave this talk as part of this semester’s Social Planning and Events Committee Connaissance speaker series — drew an enthusiastic, loyal crowd.

Best known as Chandler Bing from the sitcom “Friends,” he has more recently starred in NBC’s “Go On” and other TV shows and movies. Now he’s traveling to colleges across the country to share his testimony on his recovery from addiction and sponsoring others who struggle with alcoholism.

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“We think addiction on college campuses is a very serious issue that’s not talked about much,” College junior and SPEC Connaissance co-director Jason Fernandes said. “A lot of addictions students have are dismissed as a part of college life.”

Perry used comedy to put his audience at ease and then proceeded with the story of this struggle.

“If I start thinking about having a drink, all other thoughts go away,” he said. “I don’t think about family, loved ones, sports. I just think about that drink.”

But of all his statements about his alcoholism, Perry made one point clear.

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“It’s not shameful,” he said. “That’s a point I really want to drive home.”

Around 1997, after finally deciding he needed help, Perry — who had also become addicted to painkillers and other prescription medications — got a sponsor named Earl who taught him the importance of selflessness.

“I’ve been the lead in movies, on television shows and nominated for Emmy’s,” he said. “But the best thing I can say about me is that people who can’t stop drinking come up to me and say, Can you help me? And I can say, Yes.” After this statement, the audience erupted with applause.

The event then moved into a discussion hosted by a moderator, who at one point asked how the media played an effect on Perry’s rehabilitation. Perry responded that because of media coverage of his addiction, “I could go to a bar and try to get a drink, and everybody would be like, ‘No, you can’t have that.’”

Photos: Past SPEC Connaissance speakers

Perry has since made a complete turnaround. The moderator mentioned that Perry won the Champion of Recovery award, to which Perry remarked, “Thank you for bringing that up. I’m an award-winning alcoholic.”

The event concluded with an open Q&A where audience members lined up at microphones to speak to Perry. One student confessed to a drug problem, and Perry offered to speak to him privately at the end.

“I have no shame or feeling of grief of my past. As far down the scale that I went, it’s that many more people I can help,” Perry said.

Audience members were pleased with the talk.

“I was really happy to see that he’s just like Chandler in real life,” College junior Xiaoyan Tan said. “I think people who are alcoholics will see they’re not alone and reach out.”

“I don’t usually come to speaker events, this is my first one,” College junior Tara Hofbauer said. “My mom said, ‘You missed Bill Clinton, Michelle Obama and Malcolm Gladwell, but of course you come to Matthew Perry.’”

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