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This is a one-episode medical condition that seems to be prevalent in kids' shows. As such, it is played less for drama, and falls more into the category of Very Special Episode. The basic formula for such an episode is thus:

  1. The character (usually either a kid or someone sufficiently childlike) has a throat problem that turns out to be tonsillitis.
  2. The character angsts about having to have surgery, but is reassured by his/her loved ones and promised -- and this is important -- "All the Ice Cream You Can Eat."
  3. The operation goes off without a hitch. Whether loved ones actually come through with the ice cream is optional.

Sub-Trope of Sick Episode. Something of a Forgotten Trope because since the late 1990s tonsillectomies are done much less frequently than they were in the past, and their effectiveness is debated.


Comic Books

  • Jughead from Archie Comics had one. It got weird.

Film Shorts

  • In The Little Rascals short "Men in Fright", Darla has just had her tonsils taken out, and Alfalfa is tricked by another boy into taking his place. Alfalfa doesn't know that the other boy is scheduled for a tonsillectomy, too.
    • In "No Noise", Mickey gets his tonsils out.


  • A major episode in (the novel, not the movie) Cheaper By the Dozen involves several of the children getting their tonsils taken out. Only the dentist mislabels one of the tonsil X-rays, and so one of the girls who thought she didn't have to get hers out is dragged to the dentist. In a separate, but closely related incident, Dad decides to get his taken out and have it filmed. The operation goes off smoothly, but the cameraman made a mistake and none of it recorded.
  • There's a Russian story about a boy with tonsillitis. The first time he's at the doctor, he bites the doctor instead. The second time, the operation works well, but afterwards he doesn't get the promised ice cream, because he bit the doctor the first time.

Live Action TV

  • As an example of the childlike patient, in an episode of MASH, Radar develops tonsillitis. Near the end of the episode, Hawkeye and BJ trade their precious portable bathtub in exchange for 10 gallons of ice cream for Radar... which then ends up being shared amongst all the personnel at camp.
  • The Brady Bunch: Cindy needs her tonsils out on the same weekend the family is planning on a trip on Mike's employer's boat. Then Carol needs hers out, too.
  • The Munsters: Eddie has his tonsils removed in the episode "Operation: Herman."
  • Even the Fonz caught a case of tonsillitis in the Happy Days episode (with the Incredibly Lame Pun), "Fonsillectomy."
  • The Nanny episode "Deep Throat" has Fran getting her tonsils out. Maxwell and the Sheffield family stay with her through the procedure, much to the horror of C.C. Babcock, who hoped Maxwell would accompany Fran to her reunion.
  • In an episode of Seinfeld, George is told he has to have his tonsils removed again. He laments that despite being promised ice cream the first time, he never got any.
  • Doogie diagnoses Vinnie with tonsillitis in an episode of Doogie Howser, M.D..
  • An episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air had Will waiting to have his tonsils removed. He's so terrified of the surgery that he tries to escape from the hospital.
  • Bob has to have his tonsils out on Christmas Day in an episode of The Bob Newhart Show.
  • Mary Richards has to have hers removed in The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Her friend Rhoda gives her a sexy nightgown to wear in the event she has a hot doctor or orderly.
  • Cory Matthews has to have his tonsils out in a season 4 episode of Boy Meets World. Shawn scares the shit out of him by telling a story about how a guy who went in for a routine tonsillectomy randomly disappeared, causing Cory to think the same fate's going to befall him. It doesn't, and Topanga takes him for soup at the end of the episode.

Newspaper Comics

  • Garfield did a story arc where Jon had to go to hospital for a tonsillectomy. Garfield comes to visit, and inevitably makes a play for the ice cream.

Real Life

  • Happens to kids in Real Life, though some end up disappointed when no ice cream is brought.
    • In the sixties and seventies (according to this troper's mother), it was almost a rite of passage, as almost every problem with the ear or throat was treated with a tonsilectomy.

Stand Up Comedy

  • Bill Cosby had a routine where he was going to have his tonsils taken out, and after seeing a anesthetized kid, he thought the kid had died and "All the ice cream you can eat" was a euphemism for death.

Web Original

Western Animation

  • Played straight in Busytown. I think the patient even got his ice cream, too.
  • Happened in Madeline.
  • Happened in the episode of Hey Arnold!, "Gerald's Tonsils." It was also created around the time his voice actor hit puberty, and rather than replace him with another boy (or a woman), they used tonsillitis to explain the deeper voice.
  • This was also used with Isabella in the Phineas and Ferb episode "I Scream, You Scream".
  • A Rugrats episode had Susie Carmichael suffering from tonsillitis and slipping into an Oz-esque dream world.
  • Little Bill had one of these, as did Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids.
  • May have happened in an episode of Arthur.
  • The South Park episode "Tonsil Trouble" begins with Cartman having his tonsils removed. He gets HIV from the procedure.
  • Dennis the Menace had Dennis in the hospital once for a "tonsil-neck-tummy",
  • An episode of Bobby's World had this happen to the title character his throat is very sore and finds it difficult to talk, he thinks he's going to die, once he gets them removed he's happy to get all the ice cream he wants.
  • King Bob had this in Recess, though it's not the entire focus of the episode. It's actually about Gus filling in for his king duties while he's having an operation for his tonsilitis.
  • Timmy in Fairly Oddparents had an episode dedicated to this. He realized he could just wish the tonsils out, but it takes him the whole episode before he's able to do so, being chased by crazy nurses (Vicky) and almost getting killed in the process.
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