Who Inspired this Hilarious HBO Character?

On HBO's The Comeback, '90s sitcom star Lisa Kudrow plays '90s sitcom It Girl Valerie Cherish, who's just trying to make a, well, comeback in Hollywood. While you might think the former Friends star is playing a version of herself, you would be wrong — even if the show is a meta series within a fake reality show (got it?) Kudrow played the free-spirited, "Smelly Cat"-singing Phoebe Buffay on NBC's Friends from 1994 until 2004, so the Emmy-winning actress never had a chance to get so-called washed up and fade from the public eye when she and Sex and the City's Michael Patrick King created Michael Patrick King created The Comeback, which debuted in 2005 and returns for a second season on Sunday night. But there are several other sitcom actresses who could be the inspiration for the uptight and eccentric Valerie Cherish.

Plenty of actresses could fit the Cherish mold, but Kudrow and King have stayed mum about who exactly serves as the basis for the character. And they've even decided to take the meta up another level in Season 2, by having Cherish get the role of a fictional washed-up sitcom actress Mallory Church, who is clearly based on her, on an HBO sitcom called Seeing Red, created by Cherish's Season 1 nemesis, Paulie G. But still, who is the inspiration for Cherish, who is the inspration for Mallory? Here are some possibilities that have been discussed.

Lisa Kudrow's Improv Impression

Not quite Kudrow herself, but she has mentioned that she came up with the character while performing with improv troupe The Groundlings during her pre-Friends days, in a skit she and King used to call, "Your Favorite Actress on a Talk Show."

"I played her as an actress who was so desperate for attention she’d go on chat shows talking about her 'favorite charity,' which she clearly knew nothing about," Kudrow told Metro in 2009.

Shelley Long

With that hair and that uptight attitude, it's been speculated a ton that the former Cheers and Brady Bunch Movies star is the real-life Valerie Cherish. Once again, Kudrow and King will neither confirm nor deny the rumors, but King did work with Long on the '90s sitcom Good Advice. The CBS series was a post-Cheers hit for the actress, but she suffered "a mental collapse in the middle of the series," King told BuzzFeed.

Kathy Griffin

Let's see: Cherish and Griffin both have red hair, a hit '90s sitcom under their belts (Griffin's was the Brooke Shields vehicle Suddenly Susan), and a hit comeback reality show (For Griffin, it was My Life on the D-List). Griffin and Kudrow also performed improv together at The Groundlings. So naturally, LA Weekly posed the question to her in 2005— could Griffin be the inspiration Valerie Cherish?

"She isn’t me, because I really enjoy all those D-list moments, and I’m having a blast, and I actually have an awesome, fun life," she told the Los Angeles-based publication. "Whereas it seems Valerie Cherish hates it, doesn’t like her life. Also, Valerie gets shit on every minute of every day. I get shit on every so often, but I fight back, or deal with it in my act. So I can’t figure out that part about The Comeback. I’m not sure why Valerie gets shit on. She seems like a nice person."

No matter who the Cherish is based on, she's a character that's won our hearts and is quite an inspiration herself, coming back from cancellation — in the show and real life.

Images: TheComebackHBO/Facebook; Giphy (4)