You've got someone on your tail. Could be a cop, the local bully
, or a very persistent loan shark
. You could try to slow them down by shoving a banana (or potato, or similar sized object) in the tailpipe or muffler of their car. That way, you could give yourself time to escape and have a good laugh at the victim's expense as their car sputters and churns and fails to go anywhere. If the script calls for it, the car might even explode
If only it worked like that in real life
. A banana or a single potato jammed into the tailpipe will probably be ejected at high speed. Completely blocking the tailpipe of a car with something that can't simply be blown out (which can be as simple as more
smother the engine, but will not set the car on fire.
A subtrope of Vehicular Sabotage
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Anime and Manga
- There was an episode of the Little Lulu anime where Wilbur's butler was replaced by a stricter butler who anticipated all of the tricks that Lulu and the others were going to pull on him. Finally, they come up with a plan to work together to get rid of the mean butler. One of the tricks involved Tubby stuffing a handkerchief in the tailpipe of the limosine, and when the mean butler checked the tailpipe, the handkerchief came loose and he wound up with a face full of smoke and soot from the tailpipe.
- Messed with in one of the early issues of the comic Spy Boy, where Bombshell stops a (moving) car of bad guys by tossing what appears to be a lit cigarette into the tailpipe. The car blows up several blocks later. Considering that Bombshell is an explosives expert, however, it's not quite as far-fetched.
- Billy the Cat uses it too.
- The Trope Namer here is the film Beverly Hills Cop, where Eddie Murphy's character used this technique to foil a group of bumbling police officers. Famous for a notorious editing screwup: the banana he holds is curved, but the one in the tailpipe is straight - they couldn't fit the bent one in the tailpipe.
- Parodied in the "Trial of the Century" episode of Clerks: The Animated Series. Judge Reinhold (the actor, acting as the courtroom judge) is lured away from Dante's trial by Axel Foley, who "needs (his) help!" - and they spend the evening stuffing bananas in people's tailpipes and watching them stall, but the fun ends when the local grocer reveals that he's ran out of bananas. Then Judge Reinhold wakes up ("No! Axel! Come back!"). "I had that dream again!"
- In the live-action version of 101 Dalmatians, raccoons put a large nut in the tailpipe of the bad guys' truck. The pressure does shoot the nut out eventually - when the bad guy is examining the tail pipe.
- In the movie Hollywood Knights, the titular gang shoves a potato into the tailpipe of the squad car of two bumbling cops at the local drive-in diner...with hilariously loud results!
- This happened in The Three Stooges a couple times.
- Terra does this to Cherry in Pep Squad, which leads to the funny image (seen in the trailer) of Cherry holding up a banana and angrily growling "Who did this to me?"
- In Soviet comedy Dog Paced a Piano a high school girl and her preteen sister sabotage one of engines of a cropdusting Hoodlum helicopter with a beet. Because the older sister loves the pilot and doesn't want him to leave. The beet does not shoot from the pipe, but the exhaust goes to the cabin instead. The pilot lands the machine immediately after the takeoff and feels dizzy for a few minutes after. Then the girl's Unlucky Childhood Friend surrenders himself to the police as the perpetrator, fearing that this accident may qualify as a murder attempt. The pilot pities him and insists that a helicopter cannot be harmed by beet and nothing happened.note
- Spud, a 2005 teen comedy novel by South African writer John van de Ruit, includes a moment where the headmaster's car is "sodomized" by a banana, and the engine explodes as a result. The boy accused of the crime, Guy Emberton, is named after a friend of the author's; he actually said in the acknowledgments that the real Emberton "isn't really a banana vandal," thus spoiling this scene slightly.
- There is an interview with Terry Pratchett where he imagines the Discworld subversion of this: someone on stakeout on horseback, and someone else (the Librarian?) sneaking up behind them with a banana. Something similar actually happens in Night Watch. Except instead of a horse, it's an ox. And instead of a banana, it's a handful of fresh ginger. And instead of making the animal stop moving...
Live Action TV
- Columbo did this with a potato.
- A variation was used in Pushing Daisies: the murderer shoved a potato into the tailpipe of Ned's car to fill the car with exhaust and knock out Ned and Emerson during a stakeout.
- Such a thing could only happen if the exhaust system already had a leak up near the passenger compartment, which they would have noticed when the car suddenly became louder because the muffler was being bypassed.
- The same was used much earlier in an episode of Ironside.
- Also subverted in Minder, in which a potato was used in this manner to shoot out and smash the window of another car.
- This trope also occurred in an episode of Diagnosis: Murder, this time with a wad of cash.
- When the MythBusters tried this, everything they stuffed up the tailpipe shot out immediately when Jamie started the engine.
- Happened in Eastenders, with a potato. A man put it in his enemy's car's tailpipe and sniggered as the car sputtered. He stopped laughing when the pressure ejected the potato into his shop window.
- In one episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Will mentions that some students at his old school once keyed a teacher's car and stuck a potato in the tailpipe. His cousin Hilary hears this and is later caught rubbing a potato on her rival's car and leaving her keys in the tailpipe.
- Used in an episode of Psych to stop a car thief from reaching 200 mph in a stolen car and thus getting away with murder.
- Averted in favour of the more realistic option in, of all things, Glee, when Mercedes stuffs tater tots up the exhaust pipe of Sue Sylvester's Le Car and does several thousand dollars' worth of damage.
- Happened in Tee Off, Mr. Bean when the eponymous character hits a golf ball into a car's tailpipe, causing it to churn and sputter for several seconds before shooting the ball out at high speed.
- MacGyver: In "A Prisoner of Conscience", Mac stalls the car of the secret police who are tailing him by sticking a potato in the exhaust pipe.
- In an episode of Burn Noticenote , Fiona stuffs a folded woven belt (clearly shown as porous and not something that could cause a complete blockage) into the exhaust pipe of an SUV. It doesn't cause the car to blow up or even keep it from being driven, but causes sufficient damage that the bad guys have to limp to the nearest service station...which was the point of the exercise, as the good guys needed to hide tools in the SUV for the next step of their plan.
- In the first episode of Dad's Army, while having a discussion of how to take on a tank with improvised weapons, Jones suggests plugging the exhaust with spuds (potatoes). Mainwarrign points out that it wouldn't work because tanks have long, thin exhaust pipes. Jones asks why they can't use long, thin spuds.
- In Season 19 Episode 2 of Top Gear, Jeremy and James did this trope to Richard's Dodge Viper.note But since the alleged car had enormous tailpipes (two of them, in fact), they were forced to resort to bigger fruits to clog it down.
- In the fictional town of Lake Wobegon (as heard on A Prairie Home Companion), everyone buys either Fords or Chevys, depending on religion. This is mandatory. In one case, someone who bought foreign couldn't get his car started the next day 'cause someone had stuck a potato up the tailpipe.
- In Tree From My Youth, Salsa is able to destroy a Pig Mask tank by shoving what is implied to be his own feces in the tailpipe.
- There have been advertisements in the past for locking caps that fit over tailpipes to disable them.
- Try stretching an ordinary latex balloon across the pipe. Since it expands, it won't rocket off instantly, giving it time to smother the engine. Then, if you've done everything right, it will pop, making a loud noise and spooking your victim without actually causing damage to the car.
- Works very well on two-stroke engines. Good luck finding a car with one, though.
- According to General Romeo Dallaire's memoir Shake Hands With the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda, some Bangladeshi UN peacekeepers sabotaged their own armored personnel carriers by sticking rags in the tailpipe so that they could avoid being sent on rescue missions in Kigali once the genocide had started.
- The second case of Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney featured a car being disabled by - wait for it - a pair of panties. MAGICAL panties.
- To the relief of one and all, the person who they were stolen from (yes, stolen from) doesn't wear them; they're part of a Bag of Holding-type act. But that doesn't make the choice of prop any less disturbing...
- Earlier in the case, Klavier Gavin has trouble with his motorcycle; the tailpipe is clogged due to him using the wrong kind of oil. Naturally, this is important at the end.
- In Space Quest 5: The Next Mutation, the hero, Roger Wilco, is being stalked by a gynoid that's out to kill him for alleged mail fraud. How does Roger Wilco save himself? By hiding in a log, then, when the gynoid lands on top of said log, sticking a banana-like fruit in the exhaust pipe of her jet pack, causing it to explode.
- In the Spider-Man game for Playstation, you have to close several smokestacks with covers, to cause an effect "like a banana in a tailpipe". In the sillier What If? mode, the tops of the covers actually have bananas on them.
- Not in the game itself, but in a Diddy Kong Racing promo video from Nintendo Power, at one point, the host mentions someone stuffed a bag of acorns into the tailpipe of Krunch's plane, with Conker being the primary suspect.
- In Jet Fighters II on iPhone, there's an unlockable Taunt called Banana Plug. It depicts the exhaust of a jet filled with bananas.
- In the Futurama episode "The Honking", Leela plans to kill the were-car by shoving a silver potato in its tailpipe. Unfortunately, it doesn't have one, "thanks to Ed Begley Jr.'s electric motor, the most evil propulsion system ever conceived!"
- Again, in "Into the Wild Green Yonder", when the Feministas sabotage a sweeper by pouring sugar in the fuel tank and shoving an organic potato in the tailpipe.
- In Arthur, the family car was disabled by a rattle (the toy) in the tailpipe. The family only figured it out after Arthur called Car Talk.
- A clear Shout Out in the super-short-lived Clerks the Animated series: one episode revolved around spoofing courtroom dramas and featured actor Judge Reinhold as...well, an actual judge: the Honorable Judge Reinhold. The episode became a crazy patchwork of dream sequences, usually ending in a Catapult Nightmare for the character having the dream. In Reinhold's dream, his final verdict is interrupted by Detective Axel Foley, the lead character of the Beverly Hills Cop series, bursting into the courtroom and telling "Billy" he needed his help. (Judge Reinhold played Detective William Rosewood in the Beverly Hills Cop films). Reinhold eagerly drops his black robe and rushes to Axel's aid. The two spend many happy hours stuffing bananas in tailpipes and laughing as cars malfunction...until the fruit vendor runs out of bananas, at which point it's Reinhold's turn to catapult awake.
- In Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego?, Zack disables Carmen's flying machine by shooting an arrow into the exhaust port.
- In the Family Guy episode "Viewer Mail No. 2 (Point of Stew)", Stewie attempts to stuff a Twinkie in Brian's tailpipe, only to have it shot back to his face and ends up on an unexpected ride with Brian.
- In American Dad!, Hayley's attempts to stop industrialists from bulldozing a forest include shoving a banana in the exhaust pipe of a bulldozer, but she's interrupted by a group of eco-terrorists who ask her to join them.
- Appeared in the short-lived Ace Ventura: Pet Detective series.
- In Transformers Prime, Jack and Smokescreen return from a mission together laughing their heads off. Smokescreen asks what Jack put in his boss's exhaust pipe, and Jack responds with "Pizza". They specifically dump fast food on people's cars as a way of circumventing the fact that they shouldn't be violently hurting people for petty reasons. Arcee is less than impressed.
- In an episode of Goof Troop, Max and PJ lie to their fathers about joining the baseball team, so they try various methods to keep them from going to the games and finding out the truth. One of those methods is filling Pete's exhaust pipe with cement.
And stop snickering