Mathematician shares how Ross could’ve got sofa upstairs in Friends pivot scene


One of the most iconic moments in Friends happens in season five, The One with the Cop, in which Ross purchases a new sofa for his apartment, but struggles to get it upstairs.

He enlists the help of Rachel and Chandler to help him carry the couch, but they find themselves struggling to manoeuvre it around the narrow staircase and bannisters.

This prompts Ross, played by David Schwimmer, to repeatedly yell “PIVOT” at his pals – much to their obvious displeasure.

Ultimately, they fail in their task and the sofa ends up being cut in half to get it up the stairs. Not exactly ideal.

But was it actually possible for them to avoid this and get the sofa into the flat?

Flatshare site SpareRoom have used maths to reveal that, yes, it would have been possible – if only they’d been sure to TILT as well as PIVOT.

By analysing the iconic scene in meticulous detail and estimating the dimensions of the stairs and the couch (which included running a staggering 10,000 simulations based on different measurements) SpareRoom and data science consultant Caroline Zunckel PhD have produced an equation and methodology explaining how Ross could have moved the couch into his flat.

According to the in-depth workings and diagrams, the mathematical solution would have saved Ross hundreds of pounds.

The findings might even come in useful for real-life flatmates in a similar situation to Ross, if they’re mathematically inclined, that is.

So how should it have been done?!

The killer equation Ross needed to get his couch around the corner and up the stairs:

Angle of vertical tilt (T) =44.15064 -11.94274xWS (Width of the Stairwell) + 8.69119xWC (Width of the Couch) + 3.65961xLC (Length of the Couch)

Step 1: First Ross should have measured the width of the stairs ( WS ), and the width ( WC ) and length ( LC ) of the couch.

Step 2: Ross then should have used the equation to find out the minimum angle ( T ) that the couch would need to be tilted upwards to move around the 90-degree corner of the stairwell.

Step 3: After carrying the couch to the corner Ross, Rachel and Chandler reach a point where they can’t move any more. When this happens Ross, Rachel and Chandler should have rested the couch against the corner.

Step 4: Here the friends should have tilted the couch vertically towards the ceiling until the angle between the stairs and the base of the couch was greater than or equal to T . At this point the vertical length of the couch would be smaller than the horizontal length and they should have been able to successfully pivot the couch round the corner without it getting stuck.

Step 5: Once round the corner Ross, Rachel and Chandler should have moved the couch back to its original orientation and the carried it up to the flat.

Caroline Zunckel commented: “By applying Pythagoras’ theorem to the estimated measurements of Ross’s sofa in a vertical position and dimensions of the stairwell, I was able to establish that it would have been possible for Ross to get the sofa up the stairwell and into the flat without resorting to the extreme measure of chopping it in half.

“It’s quite simple really!”

Matt Hutchinson, SpareRoom Director added: “We know moving new furniture into a flat can be challenging. Ross isn’t the only one to end up with his couch stuck in a stairwell or corridor. Although the research contains some headache-inducing maths, the solution for Ross is pretty simple: ‘pivot’ and ‘tilt’ – and take a little time to measure up before you buy any furniture. That, or, hire in the professionals!”