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Denise: Dad, I have a friend that wants to talk to you about something important.Cliff: Is this person related to me?
So you have a... problem. Maybe you just wrapped dad's car around a tree, maybe you've been snorting coke, maybe you just opened a dimensional rift that endangers the future of humanity, whatever, but nobody knows about it. Still, you can't resist the urge to find out what would happen to someone who, say, for instance, hypothetically, did something really really really bad. Sometimes your mom/dad/friend/boss/superior officer will catch on right away, sometimes they're going to unwittingly scare you out of telling them what happened until the situation is much, much worse. Either way, hilarity is likely to ensue.
That is, unless it's a Trial Balloon Question, in which case there's more likely to be broken hearts and blood.
In an interesting twist, when you do in fact have a hypothetical situation, or you actually are asking for advice for a friend, 9 times out of 10, whoever you're asking will assume that you're using this trope. Another twist is to slip into first person before you're done describing the situation. Played for laughs, you describe the situation in third person and then ask for advice in first person.
See Comic Role Play for a similar trope. See also And That Little Girl Was Me, for a similar deception regarding someone's backstory. The Confidant can usually be told the non-hypothetical version without freaking out.
- Commercials for medications that treat embarassing health issues, such as incontinence or erectile dysfunction, often show the patients using this trope on their doctors, or at least thinking about it before they come clean about their "problem".
Anime and Manga
- Midori no Hibi has the Class Representative Ayase confess to Seiji this way. After detailing all the ridiculous efforts 'her friend' made to catch 'some guys' attention, Seiji casually remarks that the guy must be an idiot not to notice any of them. She makes it a little more painfully obvious, and then drops the routine entirely at the end.
- In Vision of Escaflowne, both Hitomi and Millerna engage in I Have This Friend conversations with each other that describe their feelings and concerns about Allen. It takes both of them an astonishingly long time to realize just whom they are both, in fact, talking about.
- Which the ditzy Catgirl Merle calls them both on.
- Vision of Escaflowne Abridged spoofs this with them both knowing what the other is talking about right away, and then playing with this in other forms.
- In Genshiken, Saki tells a story about a "friend" of hers whose otaku boyfriend might have been watching anime during sex.
- In Inuyasha, the title character isn't even willing to use the "I have this friend" method - Shippou ends up doing it for him, asking Kaede for relationship advice for "a dog I know," while Inuyasha, present for the whole conversation, denies that it has anything to do with him. Hilarity Ensues, particularly given that Shippou provides visual aids.
- Visual aids he's so proud of that he later shows to the whole village, much to Kagome's embarrassment.
- Naru from Love Hina tells the rest of the girls about a "friend" who has a chance to do their dream job and wants to know what she should do. All the girls obviously know who she's referring to and tell her to try to keep Keitaro from working at an excavation site.
- Variation: in Harukanaru Toki no Naka de - Hachiyou Shou Inori tries to get Akane's opinion on the relationship between his sister Seri and Ikutidaru the Oni by referring to a hypothetical situation without names or details; predictably, Akane's answer doesn't turn out to be something he hoped for (and she figures out right away that Inori is talking about a particular person).
- Inverted to hilarious effect in one of the OAV episodes for the series. Inori believes Eisen to have stolen his good luck charm toy made by his late mother. His attempts to assure Eisen that he is okay with this initially take the form of a general statement so as to not address the quirky issue directly: well, people from powerful rich families may sometimes feel... lonely... so it's all right, Inori doesn't mind. Naturally, Eisen didn't take the toy and therefore fails completely to understand what Inori was talking about.
- Hinagiku does this while watching Maria in Hayate the Combat Butler. Not entirely sure if Maria caught on (Maria can be unbelievably dense sometimes), but her response is dead on.
- Often used by Akko in Girl Friends when she tries to discuss her love woes with her friends, without giving away they are about her and another girl, Mari. The last time she used this is especially hilarious since she placed herself in the boyfriend of the friend role, leading to this exchange:
- In School Rumble, while asking her friends advice on how to tell someone she loves him, she tells them it's for a "friend of a friend".
- Subverted in Robin #58:
Robin: Could I ask you for some non-professional advice?
Oracle: Talk to Doctor Babs, Robin.
Robin: I have this friend...
Oracle: Hold on. This friend isn't you, is it?
Robin: My friend is pregnant.
- In Death: The High Cost of Living, the protagonist Sexton meets a girl in a nightclub who tells him the story of a friend who was sexually abused and tried to kill herself by slashing her wrists. It's implied that she's talking about herself (she's wearing Opera Gloves), but Sexton doesn't seem to notice either way.
- Julie's stories about "Megan" in the later part of The Maxx may or may not be this. On the one hand, Megan does look like Julie & they both spent some time living with their grandparents. On the other, Megan is a lesbian while Julie slept with scads of men.
- In one Green Lantern / Green Arrow story, Speedy responds to Green Lantern wondering why anyone would use drugs by giving the hypothetical example of a young man whose father figure neglects him to go "[chasing] around the country." Green Arrow is contemptuous of this hypothetical "sob story"... and then walks in on Speedy shooting up.
Green Arrow: Oh, dear God! You are on drugs! You're really a junkie?
Speedy: Who else did you think I was talking about?
- In Young Justice, Secret lays out the situation involving a (male) friend whose mother is about to be executed for murder to all her friends to get their opinions on whether it would be wrong to break her out of jail. Robin understands right away that she's talking about her own father, and so does (surprisingly) Slobo.
- In one Buffy the Vampire Slayer Fanfic, a relatively nice vampire decides to perform a spell to make people like her friend more. When she asks Giles for help at the Magic Box, he assumes that his customer is invoking this trope and feels very sorry for her.
- In Hunting the Unicorn, this is Played for Drama in "The Butterfly" (chapter thirteen). David goes to a counselor, claiming that a friend of his might be in trouble. He literally does have a friend in trouble. It's Blaine, who has no idea that he has a stalker.
- In Summer Days and Evening Flames, Gilda (a griffin) is confused about her relationship with Captain Iron Bulwark (a pony), so writes to her friend Rainbow Dash for advice. Rainbow is just as inexperienced in romance as her, so goes to Applejack, using the classic device to explain Gilda's situation. It's vauge enough that Applejack assumes she is asking her about their relationship. Hilarity Ensues.
- In All You Need Is Love, Light calls an informal meeting with L and Naomi Misora to tell them that Kira texted him for advice in the case of say he might have uh, "misplaced" a Death Note... so what should we do about it?
L: Light-kun, it's already obvious that you're Kira.
Light: No, I'm not Kira... And you look like a meth addict so no one will ever believe you.
- In the My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic fanfic The Ballad of Twilight Sparkle, Twilight tries this on a librarian at the Manehatten Public Library when asking for advice on romance regarding the Great and Powerful Trixie, or as Twilight puts it "this annoying and adamantly arrogant magical mare that somepony I know may or may not have more-than-friendly feelings for." The libarian sees right through this, much to Twilight's frustration.
- Used to some extent in Spider-Man 2 to his doctor. Who is most certainly not a psychiatrist, or for that matter a psychologist. What's worse, Peter started out talking about his actual experiences as, "I've had these dreams where I'm Spider-Man". And then says that it was actually his friend's dream. The doctor clearly catches on that the "friend" is really Peter (though he doesn't say anything), but mistakes the reason for why he's doing the routine. Peter is trying to hide the fact that he is Spider-Man; the doctor thinks he's embarrassed about the dreams.
- Parodied in Analyze This, where Paul Vitti attempts to use this to describe his problem to Dr. Ben Sobel, who immediately sees through this. When he calls Paul out, Paul is impressed thinking that it showed that he was a skilled psychologist, and not that he was paper transparent.
- Used in If These Walls Could Talk, where Demi Moore's pregnant 1950s widow asks a neighbor and a coworker where "a friend" could get a safe abortion.
- Used in 50 First Dates:
Doug: Listen, doctor, this...friend of mine's been experimenting a little with steroids. He's been having a lot of wet dreams. Could there be a connection between them?
Dr. Keats: Douglas, get off the juice. As for the nocturnal emissions, why don't you take a swim, buy a shirt with no holes, find a wahine and take her to dinner?
Doug: I'll tell my friend you said so.
Sigerson: Now then, precisely what is it that you want of me?
Jenny: Well, I have this friend--
Jenny: I'm being blackmailed.
- Kevin Kline's character in the movie In & Out goes to a confessional booth:
Father Tim: Are you Catholic?
Howard: I have a friend who is...but he's very busy.
- "Little Miss" Amanda tells Andrew this in Bicentennial Man, when she reveals that while she's been proposed to by a wealthy man, she would like to marry her friend, hiding that the friend is Andrew himself. While Andrew casually suggests she marry "her friend", the fact that she framed her question like this leaves out her main misgiving: that the reason she's hesitant is because he's a robot.
- Used in Steven Brust's Dragaera, when main character Vlad Taltos tells a person in need of "problem-solving", that he is no longer in the business but that he has a "friend" who might be interested in the job. It's implied that such conversations are common when it comes to hiring people for "problem-solving".
- In Orca, this standard circumlocution backfires on Keira. She's helping Vlad try to untangle the debts of a dead noble; when another Jhereg asks her why, she truthfully starts telling him it's for a friend, and he doesn't believe her.
- From the first novel in Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga, Shards of Honor, both Cordelia Naismith and Aral Vorkosigan use this device very early on in their acquaintance, when the topic of prior romantic relationships has somehow unaccountably come up. Although neither character is openly Genre Savvy (yet, anyway), they each know the other person is actually talking about their own experiences, not those of "a friend".
He paused for a long time. Cordelia waited, barely breathing, uncertain whether to encourage him to go on or not. He continued eventually, but his voice went flatter and he spoke in a rush.
"The first was another pigheaded young aristocrat like himself, and he played out the game by the rules. He knew the use of the two swords, fought with flair, and almost killed m -- my friend. The last thing he said was that he'd always wanted to be killed by a jealous husband, only at age eighty."
By this time, the little slip was no surprise to Cordelia, and she wondered if her story had been as transparent to him. It certainly seemed so.
- In Arthur Conan Doyle's short stories, Sherlock Holmes fails to be fooled by a couple of these.
- In "A Scandal in Bohemia", the masked "Count von Kramm" tries to hire Sherlock Holmes as an agent for the King of Bohemia. Holmes, however, sees through this immediately, and the King discards the mask accordingly.
- In "The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire", Robert Ferguson sends Holmes a letter supposedly on behalf of a friend, to ask him to study the friend's wife's inexplicable vampiric behaviour. Holmes reads it, and immediately instructs Dr. Watson to take down a wire: "Will examine your case with pleasure" (emphasis added).
- In The Three Musketeers Athos (already a pseudonym!) describes his marriage as that of "a friend of mine". Then the hundred fifty-odd bottles of wine he drank over the last two weeks catch up with him and he slips into the first-person at the end.
- Tom Holt's Falling Sideways (which can seem aptly named on the first read-through) features an ancient cosmic being who tries to narrate an important bit of history in this style, before getting fed up with it and just blabbing it straight.
- In PG Wodehouse's books, Bertie Wooster is often assumed to be doing this when he in fact isn't. He'll tell, for example, Honoria Glossop, that he has this friend who's madly in love with her. He really does; he's referring to, in this case, Bingo Little. In fact, the idea of marrying Honoria repels Bertie. But she assumes he's talking about himself. And he's far too preux chevalier to correct her.
- In The Mayor Of Casterbridge, Lucetta describes her love problem to Elizabeth-Jane this way, Liz sees through it but doesn't know who the other parties are till later.
- Similarly to the Wodehouse books, Point of Honour by Madeleine Robins begins when the heroine is hired by a nobleman to find a fan, on behalf of his friend. She assumes that he's invoking the trope; in reality, he's telling the truth.
- In Rumo and His Miraculous Adventures, the protagonist asks The Mentor what his friend Urs is supposed to do after falling in love with a girl. He's a Bad Liar and sometimes says "I" instead of "Urs".
- Subverted in A Tale of Two Cities when Mr. Lorry consults Dr. Mannete about the case of a friend’s mental shock. The case is not about Mr. Lorry; it is about Dr. Manette himself, who has experimented a Heroic BSOD and in the verge of a Sanity Slippage that only has been avoided by the use of his Companion Cube.
"Doctor Manette," said Mr. Lorry, touching him affectionately on the arm, "the case is the case of a particularly dear friend of mine. Pray give your mind to it, and advise me well for his sake -- and above all, for his daughter's -- his daughter's, my dear Manette."
"If I understand," said the Doctor, in a subdued tone, "some mental shock -- ?"
"Be explicit," said the Doctor. "Spare no detail."
- Subverted in one of the Diary of a Teenage Girl books by Melody Carlson. Current main character Kim is fishing for advice to give her best friend who's having boyfriend troubles; Kim's distraught father thinks she is the one sleeping with her boyfriend in a desperate attempt to stay with him, until her best friend turns up pregnant.
- In Orson Scott Card's The Tales of Alvin Maker, Alvin is a major Weirdness Magnet; unfortunately, one of the things attracted has a habit of trying to make Alvin's father kill him while Alvin is growing up. When the father finds someone with a grasp of the supernatural, he can't even keep the pronouns straight. The other person is kind and suggests that the friend should apprentice his son somewhere else.
Live Action TV
- Noel from Felicity gives it something of a twist: he's a dormitory RA and talks to the other RAs about his problems as if they're the problems of one of the students in his building, who's been asking him for help. The others aren't fooled for a second, but let him think they are.
- Played with in an episode of Friday Night Lights where a student tries to report an attempted rape to his school counselor. She assumes he's the victim and ashamed, but in this case it's actually another person.
- Subverted in Lizzie McGuire where Lizzie actually is talking about a friend, and her mother keeps trying to comfort her as if she is talking about herself.
- In Season Four of The Office, after a particularly ugly night at a club, a clearly wasted Ryan tells Michael that "his friend Troy" might have a drug problem. Michael doesn't get the hint, and tells Ryan that he should put a wire on Troy so they can bring down whoever's been selling him the drugs.
- Angela talks to Pam about her friend "Noelle," whose boyfriend went to corporate to cover for her. Pam seems to see through it, though.
- Parker Lewis Can't Lose: Parker Lewis tried to get advice from his parents about how to convince his best friend Mikey to not drop out of high school. They jumped to the predictable conclusion; then again, he should have been Genre Savvy enough to not open with "I have this friend who's thinking of dropping out of school..."
- In a JAG episode a pilot friend of Admiral Chegwidden's confides in him about taking Viagra and was concerned about it's effects on his eyesight. So Chegwidden consults a doctor about it and gives the 'I have a friend' line. Naturally the doctor thinks he's referring to himself and Chegwidden is quite quick to correct that error.
- In the Torchwood episode "Something Borrowed", Ianto has to get Gwen a new wedding dress because she's been impregnated with an alien baby. He says the dress is for a friend, but the salesman clearly doesn't believe him.
Ianto: I'm looking for a wedding dress for my friend.
Salesman: Ah, of course you are Sir. You'd be surprised, we're quite used to men buying for their... friends.
- The Cosby Show used this with Denise asking Cliff if he could examine "a friend" for a possible STD (it provides one of the above page quotes). Turns out there really was a friend (who only had a minor urinary tract infection)
- In CSI:NY Lindsay is concerned about the impact of the lab chemicals on her unborn baby. So she does this with Stella, the lab's unpaid safety officer (one of her tasks). It's a rather silly scene as the entire audience can tell she's pregnant just by looking at her.
- Apparently Fez from That 70s Show has a friend named... Johnny Table.
- They also used the stock subversion when Donna was trying to get advice from her mother about Jackie's pregnancy only for her mother to repeatedly and insistently assume she was talking about herself.
Donna: So Jackie...I mean, my friend--
Donna's Mom: It is you, isn't it??
- Played with in one episode when Bob and Midge thought Kitty was having an affair with Hyde (she was really teaching him how to dance). Midge went to talk with Kitty and said she had a friend that was a married mother who was thinking about leaving her family because she was in love with a much younger man. Kitty at first thought it was a neighbor but after Midge denied it she assumed it was really Midge going to her for advice. She told her to stick with her husband and not think about the other man, and they both agreed that the friend would do that not realizing that they thought the other was having an affair.
- Cleverly subverted in an episode of Randall and Hopkirk Deceased. Marty Hopkirk (a ghost) is suffering from unexplained feelings of nausea and fading. Unable to work out what this could be, his still-living partner Jeff Randall goes to the doctor and describes Marty's symptoms as if they were his own. The doctor then says, "These aren't your symptoms, Mr. Randall, are they? They're of a friend." Jeff congratulates him on his deduction, only for the doctor to follow up with "Tell your friend that she's pregnant."
- A variant occurred on Saturday Night Live Weekend Update's Really!?! segment:
Seth: When people are burned, they become vigilant. Really! My friend once brought a girl home who turned out to be a dude, so every time he meets a girl, you can bet he checks for an Adam's apple.
Amy: Really. That really happened to Seth's "friend."
- On Saved by the Bell, Zack wants to go on a skiing trip, but is failing his classes. He tells his father that a friend of his is in a similar dilemma, and his father says that if he were the friend's father, he'd ground the friend for life. Cue Zack going off on some tangentially related daydream regarding the latter...
- Smallville uses this when Chloe finds out about Clark. Funnily enough, Lois does in fact assume she's talking about herself.
- An interesting variation occurs in Wings, wherein the person being addressed assumes that they are the friend in question.
Brian: (after finding out that his new mechanic, Budd, is hiding something about his past) Hey, Roy, let me ask you something. If you knew somebody who had some sort of incident in their past, what would you-
Roy: (becoming nervous) What are you looking at me like that for? What did you find out? Damn it, those records were supposed to be sealed! Don't you believe in a fresh start? (walks away, leaving Brian dumbfounded)
- The no-really-it's-not-me-it's-this-other-guy version happens repeatedly to Bertie in Jeeves and Wooster.
- Frasier uses this several times, such as the following example:
Frasier: A man from my building approached me with a very intriguing problem. Seems he's been having a recurring dream.
Niles: Oh, please. That little gambit didn't work when we were in knee-socks. What was your dream, Frasier?
Frasier: Oh all right.
- The Listener: Oz is trying to figure out what's going on with Toby, but not wanting to bring Toby's name into it, he tells his supervisor that he has a friend who's been acting strangely, getting distracted on the job, etc. The supervisor at first thinks Oz is talking about himself, but later, when Oz mentions that it's as if his friend can tell what he's thinking, the supervisor jumps to the conclusion that Oz is talking about him.
- The Famous Jett Jackson doubled up on this, with both of Jett's boy and girl friends being asked by a boy and a girl, respectively, for advice about their feelings for the other advice seeker. When Jett's friends go to him for help, he, naturally assumes his friends are talking about each other, but keeps up the "charade".
- In an episode of Men Behaving Badly, Tony needs to buy glasses but is embarassed to tell the optician, so he claims they're for a friend in prison. When she points out that the eye tests she does on him wont be very useful for his friend's eyes, he says that his friend "only wants to see quite well".
- In an episode of New Tricks, Brian is attempting to time the distance between a suspect's place of work and a murder scene to determine whether the suspect could have killed the victim. Having reached an inconclusive result after running the course, he corners a nearby policeman and hypothetically asks whether he thinks it'd be possible to leave the workplace, beat someone to death, dump their body in a BMW and leave it in the carpark where the body was originally found. Unfortunately for Brian, he looks a bit crazy at the best of times, and the policeman notices that there happens to be a BMW parked nearby... and Jack is thus forced to call the arresting officer and inform him that while he acknowledges that Brian is a bit weird, he probably wasn't actually planning on killing someone in this fashion.
- Drop the Dead Donkey: Helen, planning to come out to her parents, asks around the office for a purely hypothetical way to admit a personal secret to a close relative. No-one is fooled:
Henry: See them face to face, just spit it out. Say "I'm a lesbian."
Helen: Henry, I-I'm talking in general...terms.
Henry: Say "Mum and Dad, I'm a muff-muncher. I, er, I like shagging other women! So damn the lot of you!"
Helen: Oh for God's sake!
- Taub in House explains that he's so adamantly against suicide because he knew a guy in college who almost threw his life away and hurt the people he loved. By the end of the episode, he's accused of using this trope, but it isn't clear either way.
- The Muppet Show:
Miss Piggy: I have this friend, who is absolutely devastating. But she has this itty-bitty weight problem...
- In one episode of MASH, Klinger tries to invoke this trope to describe a potential problem in the unit, very badly, to Colonel Potter (Who starts seeing through the story when Klinger mentions that the other MASH unit the alleged friend is at is in Cleveland). Potter just tells him to spit it out and Klinger admits that he found the newest nurse in the unit passed-out drunk in the mess the night before.
- "Will and Grace": Karen does this to Grace when she's pretending to be a maid to woo a hot maintenance man (of course, Karen's grip on reality is tenuous at best anyway):
Karen: Listen. I have this friend who lives at The Palace Hotel. And she and her maid Ro--Mosario...switched places so that my friend could pose as a poor, but honest chambermaid to woo a hunky maintenance man. Now my friend's fallen in love with him, and she's afraid that if she tells him the truth, he'll leave her. (Grace reaches to steal mints from Karen's chambermaid cart) Hey, hands off my friend's cart!
Grace: So, you're afraid...that a poor janitor might not love you because you're rich?
Karen: Not me, my friend!
- On Neighbours Stingray talks to his doctor about his friend who was given a "present" by another friend that he doesn't want. It takes Karl only a few seconds to figure out he's a)talking about himself and b) talking about a suspected STD. It doesn't help that Stingray's friend's name keeps changing. It turns out that his problem was just caused by nylon underpants.
- Parodied and subverted on The Sketch Show, when a man tells his doctor that his friend is a woman trapped in a man's body - and that that woman has a man trapped in her's. The doctor asks if he's talking about himself. He denies it, saying that it's his flatmate. Further subverted when she asks him to bring his friend to see her. He then pulls out a Babushka doll and opens it up.
- An episode of Hetty Wainthropp Investigates had Geoffrey Shawcross worried about offending the Wainthropps if he moved out to live with his girlfriend. He tries to gauge their reactions indirectly by making up a story about a mate of his, living with his rather conservative aunt and uncle, who wanted advice on how to handle moving out. Richard catches on quickly and tells Geoffrey that the guy's uncle would probably be okay with it, but he should ask the aunt... Continued when he clues in Hetty by asking if Geoffrey had told her about his mate, and when she gave her approval by saying that she thought the guy's aunt wouldn't mind if he moved.
- In an episode of That's So Raven, Cory asked Raven for his friend who wanted to gain the attraction of a girl. She automatically assumed and not so subtly made some suggestions for his "friend". The audience knew, but she didn't, that a rather scary kid at school was forcing him to help him - he really was asking for a friend.
- One episode of Sons of Anarchy has Tara going to her boss to ask if she knew a place where a friend could get a discrete abortion and pay cash. The boss responds by giving Tara the name of a clinic, clearing Tara's schedule for the next day, and assuring her that she thought Tara's "friend" was making the right choice. This is both a subversion and a straight example: Tara really was asking for a friend (the stripper girlfriend of one of the Sons), but Tara was also pregnant, and her boss's response was one of the factors in convincing her to make an appointment at the abortion clinic as well.
- Inverted in an episode of Just Shoot Me: Finch asks Jack for advice on a guy called Kyle who is making moves on Adrienne. Before Finch can finish his first sentence, Jack jumps to the conclusion that Finch is Kyle, and refuses to believe otherwise.
- Eddie of Family Matters does it when asking his father what one should do if something one just bought turned out to be stolen goods, complete with Suspiciously Specific Denial that it actually happened.
- To quote Parks and Recreation:
Leslie: "Say you had a friend who wanted to do something good but a little risky and she was kind of nervous about it and this friend is me."
- On Tyler Perry's House of Payne, Malik's friend Kevin actually did contract syphyllis but was ashamed/didn't know how to get help, so Malik offers to talk to his own dad, CJ and uses the trope to talk to him about it. Of course, CJ mistakenly believes that Malik is the "friend" and promptly flies off the handle until Kevin confesses that he is the one who actually needs help.
- Played straight in the Prefab Sprout song 'Lions in My Own Garden' which features the lyric 'I've got this friend who thinks he's in love with you/ And it wouldn't sum it up to say he's singing the blues'.
- Clay Walker's "This Woman and This Man". He uses the chorus to try and get through to a lover:
There was this woman and there was this man
And there was this moment they had a chance
To hold on to what they had
How could they be so in love and still never see?
Now nothin' could be sadder than
This woman, this woman and this man
- The Civil Wars' "I've Got This Friend". A man and a woman sing a duet in which each one assures the other they know the perfect "friend" to fix the other person up with. The implication is that both of them are actually talking about themselves.
- In the Gilbert and Sullivan play Ruddigore two characters sing of their unspoken love for each other in third person by asking the other for advice on what their "friend" who is in love ought to do.
- Played both ways in Chekhov's Uncle Vanya, where Sonia, in love with Astrov, asks him "Tell me, doctor, if I had a friend or a younger sister, and if you knew that she, well--loved you, what would you do?", he says he couldn't love her because he doesn't love anyone; later when Yelena tells him outright that Sonia is in love with him, he assumes she's making use of this trope, and confesses how much he loves Yelena.
- In Avenue Q, Rod combines this with the Trial Balloon Question, wondering if it is okay for "his friend" to be gay.
- Twelfth Night has Viola, disguised as a boy named Cesario, talking about love with Orsino, with whom she's fallen in love. Orsino claims that women aren't capable of loving very strongly, and Cesario responds by telling Orsino about his..."sister".
In faith, they are as true of heart as we.
My father had a daughter loved a man,
As it might be, perhaps, were I a woman,
I should your lordship.
- In Measure for Measure Angelo tries this on Isabel, suggesting that someone who might be able to reverse her brother's death sentence if she gave up her virtue to ... this someone.
- Subverted with Shu, the Tower Social Link from Persona 4, will occasionally talk to the protagonist about a transfer student at his school. As the link progresses it seems increasingly obvious that Shu is talking about himself. Finishing that Social Link though, would reveal that it's a real different person and Shu eventually befriended him.
- In Kingdom of Loathing, in an area that is essentially The Theme Park Version of Mexico, you might run into a pharmacy where the worker informs you that you need a bigger weapon. You take offense at the implication, but...
- This still happens when you're female, But, then, someone of any gender can wield a weapon, right?
- Stocke from Radiant Historia runs into someone asking for advice in this manner. It's Raynie, asking about love issues. Specifically, her love for him. He instantly finds out what's going on, though the details caught him off guard.
- In Fallout: New Vegas, one of the "services" James Garret of the Atomic Wrangler asks you to find is a Sex Bot, which he insists is for those disgusting machine fetishists. When you get him one, his reaction is nothing short of the best day of his life, thinking about the the possibilities and how he'll learn about F.I.S.T.O. via trial and error...
- The Nintendo 3DS advice bird uses this in a way in one of it's pieces of advice on the system's use of 2D and 3D photo formats. "The other day, a friend of mine accidentally deleted an MPO file. The 3D data was lost, so the photo could be viewed only in 2D. He was pretty upset about it. Learn from my...I mean, my friend's...mistake!"
- Nowhere University offers us this strip.
- And 'Tang's Weekly Comic offers up this one, which uses the trope twice.
- Used in this Freefall.
- Queen of Wands subverted this when Kestrel asked her friend Shannon for advice. The commentary track points out that this happens a fair bit.
- A similar scenario played out on That 70s Show when Kelso saw Hyde cheat on Jackie, and went to Donna for advice.
- Draco Malfoy doesn't even get to say what his hypothetical brother's question was before Lucius says he'd kill him in a Simply Potterific strip. What Lucius thought Draco was going to say is unclear, though this strip gives an idea.
- It's actually part of an existing arc where Draco sees Hermione at the Yule Ball and falls for her, as referenced by the author underneath the comic (and can be seen here and here). So the question Draco was going to ask would be 'what if his hypothetical brother fell for a muggleborn girl'. That said, the follow up comic already mentioned could be taken to read either way (of Lucius suspecting Draco of being gay or of being a muggle lover).
- In "Misfile", after waking up in bed with Vashiel, a hangover, and no memories of the previous night, Ash asks her dad (a gynecologist) how one could hypothetically tell if a woman was a virgin. For a "friend" at school who was curious.
- Out There gives us one in the style of:
Ari: I have a hypothetical question for you.
Ari: [Incredibly detailed summary of her most recent character arc.]
- Sherry, knowing everyone who was given a hypothetical persona, figures it out. 
- In one strip of Dinosaur Comics, T-Rex does this retroactively - after saying something embarrassing, he later claims that he was "pretending to be a friend of his" when he said it.
- Max in Scandal Sheet! asks Andrea for advice to give his friend Phil about how to explain his feelings to a girl. Andrea assumes Max meant he wanted to know how he (Max) could explain his feelings to Andrea. He realises this later and is upset:
"And now she thinks I'm in love with her!"
"But you ARE in love with her, Max. You've been trying to tell her for months."
"Oh. Yeah, that does make it seem like a bit less of a disaster."
- Inverted on The Guild. Codex, trying to find out why Zaboo and Vork act the way they do, calls up her therapists and pretends that she's the one with their problems.
- In episode 3 of Dragonball Z Abridged, when Krillin has to inform Chi-Chi of Goku's death and Gohan's kidnapping.
Krillin: So, Chi-Chi, hypothetically: what would you do if you were told that your husband was dead and your son was kidnapped by his worst enemy?
Chi-Chi: I'd castrate the messenger in his sleep with a rusty carving knife!
- Inverted in Rhett and Link's The Surrogate Sharers series, in which they confess having done something themselves on another's behalf.
"If somebody sent you this video, maybe you should sit down."
- Played for comedy in Episode 5 of Manwhores. Randy (drunkenly): "I have this...friend and his name is Ran-Randy and...Well, let's just say Randy has to sleep with 248 men in the past six days so he can get the past six days so he can get the cash to pay his rent and now he's considering shooting himself in the mouth with a gun he found in an alleyway."
- In The Simpsons, Homer realizes that he has a crush on his hot co-worker, Mindy. He brings it up at Moe's by mentioning his fictional "friend", Joey-Joe-Joe-Junior Shabadoo. Of course, the real Joey-Joe-Joe is in the bar at the time.
- In another episode Smithers purchases estrogen tablets saying that "They're for a friend... who's trapped in the body of another friend".
- A variant; whilst Marge is away on vacation, baby Maggie runs away. Marge calls home, and Homer takes the opportunity to find out what her reaction would be if the dog ran away. Marge is upset. Homer finds this discouraging.
- And in the episode where Homer becomes a mattress salesman, Reverend Lovejoy asks his advice on a new mattress because "I have a friend. Well, a friend of a friend." Homer loudly replies "Sex problem, eh?"
- Doug did this pretty much every time something happened and he needed advice.
- Home Movies uses the twist where every time Brendan tries to introduce his friend to the girl he has a crush on, his friend runs away so the girl thinks he's the one with a crush on her. Later, when Brendan tells his mom about what's going on, she again thinks he's talking about himself rather than his friend.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender: During the commentary track for "The Crossroads of Destiny", during the scene in which Iroh and Aang are searching for Zuko and Katara one of the crew comments that he half expects Aang to ask Iroh "I have this friend who's the Avatar..."
- "...and he has this problem..."
"You're talking about yourself, aren't you?"
"No, no it's...my other friend, the Avatar."
- In King of the Hill, Hank discovers he has a condition that basically means he has no butt and has to wear a special prosthetic to keep from injuring himself. After a lawnmower race where he wears the prosthetic, a man walks up to him and asks for some information for a friend who shares his condition. As the man leaves, Hank gets a look at him and declares that he might need to wear one as well.
- In the episode "Three Men and a Bastard", Dale discovers that Bill's girlfriend's daughter has the same paternal DNA as his son Joseph, meaning they were both fathered by The Casanova John Redcorn (something Dale doesn't know). When his wife Nancy finds out, she angrily confronts Redcorn while Dale is in the room, and they end up having a fight about it where they use Dale's name in place of Redcorn's, with lines such as "Dale would never cheat on you...and even if he did he would use protection!" Dale just stands off to the side, getting increasingly confused.
- In South Park, after Kyle watches The Passion of the Christ, he feels guilty about being Jewish, and asks the Priest for advice regarding his "Jewish Friend".
- This happens in Rocket Power. In one occasion Reggie uses this on Tito, who thinks she's talking about somebody he knows, keeps asking about her and tells Reggie to give his regards.
- On The Penguins of Madagascar, the chimps Mason and Phil get a female named Lulu staying in her habitat. Phil falls in love with her and asks Mason to speak on his behalf. Lulu thinks Mason is speaking of himself when he talks about his "friend", and the rest of the episode is spent trying to get her to fall in love with Phil instead, with disastrous results.
- In one episode of Rugrats, Angelica does this with Tommy after her parents tell her they'll be having another baby, causing her to worry that she won't get as much attention. Tommy's reply: "Well, at least it's happening to your friend and not to you!"
- In Beavis and Butthead (Pregnant Pause), Beavis thinks he's pregnant and tells Butthead he knows this guy who wants to know what it's like to have babies.
- A purported example from real life (debunked by Snopes here) is a soldier telling his parents about his crippling injuries as if they happened to "a friend" he wants to bring home with him. When his parents say they can't possibly care for this friend, he commits suicide. Somehow, this is supposed to make the soldier look noble, even though he didn't reveal the whole truth about his condition.
- While it's still very broken, the idea seems to be that if he'd told them the truth they'd have felt obliged to look after him, so he uses the "friend" story to find out what they really think. Which doesn't work, for the reasons Snopes gives.
- Your Mileage May Vary. The soldier isn't necessarily portrayed as noble, but perhaps as simply bitter and disappointed.
- While it's still very broken, the idea seems to be that if he'd told them the truth they'd have felt obliged to look after him, so he uses the "friend" story to find out what they really think. Which doesn't work, for the reasons Snopes gives.