Inconvenient Itch

When a character suddenly becomes afflicted by an intense itch, and they either can't scratch it for fear of certain consequences, or have no means of scratching it on their own. The intensity of the itch will often scale upwards with their inability to take care of it, especially if they are tied up or busy holding a sensitive package full of Explodium.

Nearly always Played for Laughs, the victim of an Inconvenient Itch will often be left begging for their companions (or even antagonists) to help them out. If the afflicted character is left tied up and alone, the humor of the situation may arise from their attempts at contorting their body in an effort to find relief. Though the Inconvenient Itch can hit any part of the body, the nose is a popular target.

A subtrope of Rule of Funny. Compare Amusing Injuries, Potty Emergency, and Anti-Sneeze Finger. This trope is a typical result of being Bound and Gagged in comedic works.


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    Comic Books 

  • Undead or Alive: Luke's nose starts to itch when he and Elmer are stripped naked and forced to ride on a horse together with their hands bound. Once they are finally untied, Luke spends several moments flailing about with his now-numb hands trying to scratch it.
  • When he first starts working out, Dennis in Run Fatboy Run gets a nasty, itchy rash in his crotch that he absolutely has to scratch... as he is at work as a security guard in a lingerie shop. One can guess what this looks like.
  • Shrek in Shrek the Third is trussed up in some Impossibly Tacky Clothes for a royal appearance, and suddenly develops a horrible itch on his rear. He has some poor servant scratching that itch when the curtains open, giving the waiting crowd a view they really didn't want.
  • Cheech And Chong use this in Nice Dreams. Scene opens with Cheech screaming his lungs out and writhing, clearly in a straitjacket and prison cell. Maybe all those psychelics he took finally fried his brains? Finally he manages to get his wits together to enunciate the problem. MY BALLS ITCH! Enter Chong.
  • In The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, the king of the Moon (Robin Williams) is gleefully happy to be rid of his lower body, leaving his head to roam freely in intellectual pursuits. Then he begins feeling a terrible itch in his non-existent body, and is completely unable to do anything about it.

  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer: This happens to Tom Sawyer when he is trying to hide silently in the dark.
  • Robert A. Heinlein:
    • In Have Space Suit – Will Travel, while trekking across the lunar surface, Kip itches all over but can't scratch because of the space suit he's wearing.
    • Starship Troopers also addresses this as the only major fault in Mobile Infantry power armor.
  • In the murder mystery "The Sibyl in her Grave", one character is writing a letter from her sickbed where she's confined with a broken leg. "I used to think Heaven was just a place where you played the harp and sang hymns all day, and I wasn't particularly bothered about going there, but now I know it's somewhere where you can scratch your ankle any time you want for the rest of eternity, and I really, really want to get in."
  • In The Bible, Job is afflicted with a horrible itch all over his body after his entire possession and all of his offsprings die.

    Live-Action TV 
  • On Supernatural Sam is under a bad-luck curse where things go wrong with no fault of his own. Dean, working on fixing it, leaves him in a hotel with instructions to not move or budge, "Don't even scratch your nose." Cue an itching nose on Sam's part.
  • On How I Met Your Mother, Marshall realizes he has head-lice halfway through a job interview, and starts "discreetly" trying to scratch it. Eventually, it's too much for him and he screams out "I HAVE LICE!". Suffice to say, he did not get the job.
  • On an episode of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, two men must face a magical test to win Sabrina's heart, which involves running through an obstacle course to reach Sabrina, who is sinking into a pit of quicksand. At a point where her hands are submerged, seemingly pinning her arms to her sides, Sabrina says: "Help, someone save me! Or scratch my nose..."
    • On another episode, Libby was placed in the stocks during a school trip. Naturally, her nose started to itch.
  • In one episode of Mash, Margaret is afflicted by a rash on her backside but can't scratch because she doesn't want anyone to learn of her plight.
  • In one episode of NCIS, McGee gets a poison ivy rash. On his crotch. At one point Abby turns around to find him trying to ease the pain by rubbing his groin on the corner of a table.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer - on "Some Assembly Required", Xander is playing around with a model head in the science lab, making it say "Hello - I wanna get a-head!" and "For the love of God, will someone scratch my nose?!"
  • In an episode of Teen Wolf a group of people are taken prisoner and thoroughly tied up. One asks if anyone else has an unbearable itch they can't scratch. One of the others replies that had didn't until she mentioned it but now he does.
  • On Newhart, Bob ends up locked in stocks at a historical town festival. He gets an itch and desperately cries out "Anybody? $5 to scratch my nose!" Cloudcuckoolanders Larry, Darryl, and Darryl show up— and they each scratch Bob's nose and give him $5!

  • "Scrotal Torment" by Psychostick.
    In a crowd
    with no escape
    is when I feel
    my privates wake!

    Got to find
    some privacy
    or they will see
    me scratching me!

    They're itching, I gotta scratch 'em
    My balls are a ball of fire!

    Scrotum itching!
    Leaves me bitching
    Can't endure this!
    Scrotum itching!
    Leaves me bih…

    Newspaper Comics 
  • One Calvin and Hobbes Sunday strip has Calvin trying desperately not to scratch his mosquito bites, because he knows that scratching will just make it feel worse later. Calvin's pain is visualized by showing Calvin being eaten alive by ants, or with his head on fire.

  • In Fiddler on the Roof, there is a scene where one character invokes this:
    "May he get an itch he cannot scratch!"

    Western Animation 
  • In one Danny Phantom episode, Danny and Valerie end up in the Ghost Zone and are forced to team up against Skulker. After a while, they end up trapping him, tying him up, and leaving him on the floor as they exit the zone. At that point Skulker exclaims: "Err...Guys, there is a problem... my nose is itching."
  • In the Wartime Cartoon "Donald Gets Drafted", Donald Duck is instructed by Sergeant Pete to stand still. Unfortunately, he's standing on an anthill.
  • In the Looney Tunes short "An Itch In Time", Elmer's dog tries very hard not to scratch a flea bite lest he get the ultimate penalty: a bath!
  • On Dexter's Laboratory, Dexter gets the chicken pox and is told not to scratch the pox, or he'll turn into a chicken. He tries ways of keeping from scratching, even restraining himself completely, but nothing works and he eventually goes on a scratching spree... after which he indeed turns into a chicken.
  • On Futurama, Lrr has just finished a broadcast warning Earth of its impending doom, when he comments on getting an itch at the worst possible time (and place) and proceeds to scratch it. Then he's informed that they're still broadcasting...
  • In one episode of Detentionaire, Tina's nose gets itchy while she's trapped in crystal and unable to scratch it.

    Real Life 
  • The worst timing for a case of Inconvenient Itch.
  • An Irish-Gaelic curse runs, "May you be afflicted with the itch and have no nails to scratch."
  • A common dilemma for people receiving IV medication or fluids, who don't dare scratch around the cannula even though the tape holding it in place can itch like crazy.
  • It's been said that getting an itch on your nose while being an astronaut out on a long EVA mission is utterly maddening. Thankfully, NASA kindly installed small velcro strips on the inside of spacewalking suit helmets to allow scratching.