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, oh say, for instance, might have, for example, hypothetically, possibly, may have, kinda sorta... 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, a character will describe the situation in third person and then ask for advice in first person. Played for drama, it may be made obvious that both sides are fully aware of the true nature of the situation but only feel comfortable speaking about it in third person.
See Comic Role Play for a similar trope. Also compare to It's for a Book. 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. Compare Mistaken Declaration of Love.
And yes, this trope is definitely Truth in Television. It is probably more common in real life than it will ever be in fiction. If you haven't pulled this trick yourself, you'll most certainly have met someone who did. Or, if you actually are referring to a friend, confront the automatic presumption that you aren't. To experience it instantly, go to a forum with a userbase primarily consisting of teenagers, open some threads about problems of a sexual nature, and it will not take you many minutes to find Real Life examples.
- Commercials for medications that treat embarrassing 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".
- A Keebler commercial where a girl asks the elves some cookies for "a friend".
Girl: [after taking a bite] Thanks, I needed that.
Ernie: You mean, she needed that?
- In ad for CarMax, a guy asks if they will buy a purple van with a wizard painted on it and a unicorn sneezing rainbows. He says he's asking for a friend, except he himself is the only other person there with the said van.
- In Genshiken, Saki tells a story about a "friend" of hers whose otaku boyfriend might have been watching anime during sex.
- 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:
- Harukanaru Toki no Naka de:
- Variation: 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.
- 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.
- Irresponsible Captain Tylor. Empress Azalyn uses this trope because she Cannot Spit It Out that she's in love with Tylor (because their planets are at war and she's an empress, a relationship is impossible) only to lose patience when he doesn't get the hint.
Tylor: Tell me more about this friend.
Azalyn: Well for one thing, the man that she's in love with is extremely dense!
- 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.
- Midori Days 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.
- No Matter How I Look at It, It's You Guys' Fault I'm Not Popular!: Yuu falls back on this after asking Mokocchi what a certain sex act entails.
- Psycho-Pass has the female protagonist doing this in a projected online space but the trope is enforced. People go to this chatroom to ask for advice about the problems of other people and she is warned to phrase the issue as being about a friend.
- 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".
- The Vision of Escaflowne:
- Both Hitomi and Millerna engage in this 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. Millerna, to her credit, catches that Hitomi's basically repeating her earlier discussion, although it takes her a while to catch why that's important. 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.
- Waiting in the Summer: combines I Have This Friend with Two Scenes, One Dialogue as the camera cuts back and forth between Kaito and Ichika discussing (with Tetsuro and Remon, respectively) the budding romantic feelings between "A" and "B" during the same lunch period. This 'hypothetical' scenario is illustrated in their imaginations by sock puppets who obviously represent Kaito and Ichika. As if this weren't transparent enough already, both Tetsuro and Remon realize that Kanna is "C" independently.
- In the Big Finish Doctor Who audio drama The Eye of Horus, Benny has found herself in Ancient Egypt, confronted with both a) Prince Tutmosis, who wants to know his destiny and b) the Doctor, who she just saw die in the future. At one point she rants to Tutmosis about how distressing it is to know someone is going to die, and want to warn them, but they don't pick up on the hints. He takes it as her subtly telling him what his future holds if he doesn't act against Hatshepsut. And she's so wrapped up in her actual dilemma that she doesn't pick up on it.
- 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.
- Then he has to deny responsibility — "Not guilty. Not even a suspect."
- Variation in that it's a fictional character rather than a "friend": in one of the final issues of The Sandman, William Shakespeare is worried that, by making a deal with Morpheus, he's traded away his soul, and talks about damnation and devil's bargains with a priest he knows. The priest wonders why William is asking. He says it's because he's writing The Tempest, and his main character, Prospero, has dabbled in the dark arts, but Will would rather have him not damned by the end of the play.
- 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." Which the heroes have, of course, been doing. Green Arrow is contemptuous of this hypothetical "sob story"... and then walks in on Speedy, his own surrogate son, 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 The Intimates, Punchy suspects that one of his classmates is suicidal, but isn't positive just who it is. So when he tries to tell a guidance counselor about it, he vaguely alludes to someone who is "not me, okay?" The counselor naturally assumes Punchy is talking about himself.
- In Silk issue #1, Cindy mocks a villain called Dragonclaw by saying it sounds like a Pokémon and then asks "Is Pokémon still a thing?... Asking for a friend."
- The Wizard of Id. A woman buys a lurid magazine, claiming "It's not for me, it's for friend". The salesman replies, "Isn't it strange how many customers only have one friend."
- The Homer J. Simpson Twitter account once asked if it's weird to have fantasies about Cleatus the Fox Sports Robot. He adds that it's for a friend, "a friend called Moe".
- In episode 3 of Dragon Ball 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!
- From Death Note: The Abridged Series (kpts4tv):
"What if say, hypothetically, someone could kill another person with a diary..."
- From the twitter account of Dr Dinosaur from Atomic Robo:
WHERE DO YOU CUT A HUMAN TO MAKE IT BLEED TO DEATH THE FASTEST? ASKING FOR A PERFECTLY SANE FRIEND.
- In one Buffy the Vampire Slayer Fan Fic, 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.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfics love this trope.
- I Have This Friend... calls out this trope by name in its title. Twilight asks Celestia for some romantic advice — specifically, about her friend's romantic feelings for another mare. A regal, elegant mare who is well respected in Canterlot society. Twilight's friend doesn't want to cause her any trouble, you see. It doesn't take long for Celestia to cotton on to what's going on, and she encourages Twilight to come clean about her feelings. Inverted at the end; Twilight really was asking for a friend, specifically whether or not Applejack should ask out Rarity. Not that she ever tells Celestia, who is left wondering just what romantic move Twilight is going to make.
- In The Ballad of Twilight Sparkle, Twilight tries this on a librarian at the Manehattan 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 librarian sees right through this, much to Twilight's frustration.
- The I-really-am-asking-for-a-friend variant happens twice over the course of To Cherilee with Love. In the first case, Sweetie Bell has a crush on Cherilee. After she asks Dinky Doo for help, Dinky asks her mom for help in turn. Unfortunately, Ditzy Doo doesn't realize that Dinky really is asking on behalf of a friend, and thinks that Dinky's confessing to a crush on her teacher. And while she knows that Cherilee would never encourage such a crush, Trixie has been teaching Dinky magic, and Trixie is known to love people's attention and adoration. So she flies out to confront Trixie. The ensuing argument ends with Dinky convinced that Trixie wasn't encouraging Dinky to have a crush on her, but it also ends with Trixie convinced that Dinky has a crush on her. And that's where round two comes in. Trixie goes to ask Lyra for help, but fails to specify exactly who she's talking about, only mentioning that "a unicorn" has a crush on "her teacher". Naturally, Lyra assumes that Trixie's confessing to a crush on the one who taught her—Princess Luna. To make matters worse, Lyra shares this conclusion with the Princess. Hilarity Ensues.
- Inverted in This Nearly Was Mine, when Frederic admits to Octavia that he's in love with a friend, and describes her as a beautiful, talented mare that he lost to somepony else because he was too afraid to speak up. In this case, Octavia is the friend (and she's currently dating Vinyl Scratch), but she never realizes this.
- In Calvin and Hobbes: The Series, Andy uses this to explain a crush of his to the rest of the group. Socrates thinks he's talking about him.
- Inverted in The Stalking Zuko Series, when Katara tries to indirectly tell Suki that she's afraid that her friendnote had unprotected sex. Suki is initially disappointed in Katara and freaks out when the latter mentions that she's afraid that her friend is pregnant.
- In Pretender when Chrom asks how the Shepherds are handling Emmeryn's death, Frederick tells Chrom that morale is at an all-time low, not all Shepherds are handling the events well and should an eye watched out for them.
- Subverted in a Naruto one-shot where Naruto asks Ino's advice for a friend on how to admit you're interested in a girl. Ino naturally assumes Naruto's interested in her and gives him the advice "his friend" needs. She later flips out when she sees him on a date with another woman, only to learn Naruto really did need the advice for a friend, namely Rock Lee. It's then explained that given Naruto having to raise himself, he's not aware of social conventions like this trope.
- Fairy Dance Of Death plays with this. Yoshihara says that a friend of hers used to date Prophet. Asuna thinks this trope is in effect. Kirito thinks she might be telling the truth. They might both be right. While Yoshihara isn't Prophet's former girlfriend, the girl who is, Philia, serves as her body double. It's never outright stated if the Yoshihara they talked to was actually Philia in disguise or not, but it is implied.
- Subverted in Harry Potter: Air Elemental:
Madame Pomfrey: What is the problem with ... a friend of yours?
Harry: Madame Pomfrey, have you fully read the file for Ron, what happened to him and what the healers at St. Mungo's did to help him?
Madame Pomfrey: Oh, this really is about a friend.
- In a sidestory of Pokémon Reset Bloodlines, at one point while talking with Misty and Iris about problematic Pokémon. Ash almost lets slip about his experience with Charizard during his disobedient phase in the previous timeline and how it costed him his first league. He quickly corrects himself and says "a friend's Charizard".
- In the Frozen fic The Alphabet Story, Elsa starts out in denial of her crush on a woman named Kyra. Kyra's brother Kendar was courting Elsa, however he broke it off. At the same time he mentions that his sister had fallen for someone "indecent" and asks Elsa if same-gender relationships are illegal in Arendelle. Later on, Elsa contemplates what happened and believes that Kendar was talking about himself, not Kyra. It, however, turns out he was talking about his sister falling for Elsa herself.
- When Twilight Sparkle in The Royal Sketchbook asks Rarity if she's ever had feelings for a mare, Rarity instantly comes to the conclusion that Twilight either is cheating on her wife or that Luna is fine with a threesome. Even when Twilight corrects her, Rarity still thinks that Twilight's just embarrassed. It turns out that Twilight is asking for Luna's sister Celestia.
- This pops up in the Sonic the Hedgehog fic Fallen Angel. While talking about romance with Amy, Sarah tries to pass it off as her talking about her old friend "Robyn". Amy doesn't buy it.
- Candace attempts this in the oneshot Butterfly Nets when asking her sister about her and Angela's relationship, but it doesn't work on Luna because it's too on-the-nose:
Candace: What if... What if, hypothetically, a girl liked another girl, but would never...say anything about it, and then the other girl who was l-liked kissed the first girl... and the first girl r-ran a-away?
Luna: Candace, you
Candace: T-This isn't about me! This is hypothetically.
Luna: Well, um, the first girl should be happy that the other girl returned her feelings and confess.
Candace: But... they're both girls.
Luna: So? The girl's sister won't care, and that's the only person who's opinion matters.
- Zigzagged in Service with a Smile. Jaune uses it when asking Ruby for advice about how to deal with Cinder. Ruby goes to Oobleck about it, but he naturally doesn't believe that she really is asking for a friend. Then Pyrrha takes it Up to Eleven by asking for saying she "has this friend who has this friend". At one point, Blake tries to do this, but Ruby, fed up with this trope, says "No! No, no, no! No, you don't have a friend who has a problem. You have a problem! [...] I'm sick and tired of all the dancing around. Why can't people just admit they have a problem? I know you have a problem. You know you have a problem. You know that I know that you have a problem. Just. Say. It! Argh!"
- The One to Make It Stay: Marinette uses this in order to talk to her mother about how Chat Noir has been doggedly pursuing her despite her attempts to discourage him.
- White Sheep (RWBY): Ruby asks Jaune's sister Lavender for help with a "friend" who likes Jaune and doesn't know what to do. Ruby assumes that Lavender saw through her little ruse, but Lavender has even less experience with social interaction than Jaune, so she takes it at face value.
- Lost to Dust: Ruby tries to get dating advice from her team by saying her friend "Rudy" has a crush on someone. She gets embarrassed when they say they know she's talking about herself and that she has a crush on Charlemagne.
- In Aladdin, Aladdin credits certain things he's feeling regarding Jasmine and her situation to his monkey, Abu.
Aladdin: Abu says that—uh—that's not fair.
Abu: [confused squeak]
Jasmine: Oh, did he?
Aladdin: Yeah, of course.
Jasmine: And does Abu have anything else to say?
Aladdin: Well, uh, he wishes there was something he could do to help.
Abu: [annoyed chittering]
Jasmine: Hmm, tell him that's very sweet.
- The Lion King II: Simba's Pride: After Kovu's banishment, Timon and Pumbaa attempt to 'hypothetically' explain to Simba that Kiara ran off alone ... but Simba sees right through it.
Simba: What are you two doing?
Timon: [screams] Good question. Uh, let me ask you one.
Timon: Very hypothetical. There's this guy...
Pumbaa: But he's not a lion!
Timon: No, no, he's not a lion. Yeesh, definitely not a lion. [stammers] And his daughter, say... vanished?
Simba: Kiara's gone?!
- In the Franklin film Back to School With Franklin, Franklin Turtle uses this, telling his parents that Bear has reservations about Miss Koala as the replacement teacher for Mr. Owl. Really the one who isn't so sure about her because she had made him switch seats away from his best friend for goofing off and also took away a decorated pencil case he had brought to school.
- 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 starts 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.
- Subverted in Cabin Fever. Brunette bombshell Marcy is stuck in a remote cabin where some of her friends have caught a fatal flesh-eating disease and describes it hypothetically as "like being on a plane that's about to crash. And all you'd want to do is grab the person sitting next to you and f--k the s--t out of 'em, because you're about to die, anyway." Immediately cut to a shot of her literally grabbing the incredulous guy sitting next to her, throwing him down on the bed, and riding him like there's no tomorrow.
- 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.
- From The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother:
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 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.
- Heartwrenchingly executed in Sleeping with the Enemy after Laura leaves her husband. An older lady strikes up a conversation on the bus; Laura says she was visiting a friend who needed help escaping from abusive husband to explain her trip. After telling the older woman how her "friend" couldn't get the cops to help and finally risked everything to get away, the old woman whispers "How long did you stay with him?" which Laura knows exactly, to the day.
- The Dark Knight Rises:
- In the first half of the movie, whenever Bruce Wayne talks with Selina Kyle, he always refers to his Batman persona as his "powerful friend". When they're dancing at the Masquerade Ball:
Bruce Wayne: Oh, you don't seem very happy to see me.
Selina Kyle: [annoyed] You were supposed to be a shut-in.
Bruce Wayne: I felt like some fresh air.
Selina Kyle: Why didn't you call the police?
Bruce Wayne: I have a powerful friend who deals with things like this.
- And later, when Bruce, as Batman, rescues Selina from Bane's men after the rooftop fight:
Batman: Those weren't street thugs, they were trained killers. I saved your life. In return, I need to know what you did with Bruce Wayne's fingerprints.
Selina Kyle: Wayne wasn't kidding about a 'powerful friend'.
- When Bruce tells Selina he needs to locate Bane's underground lair, he uses the "powerful friend" line again:
Selina Kyle: The rich don't even go broke same as the rest of us, huh?
Bruce Wayne: My powerful friend might hope to change your mind about leaving.
Selina Kyle: And how would he do that?
Bruce Wayne: By giving you what you want [the Clean Slate].
Selina Kyle: It doesn't exist.
Bruce Wayne: He says it does. He wants to meet, tonight.
Selina Kyle: Why?
Bruce Wayne: He needs to find Bane. He says you'd know how.
Selina Kyle: Tell him I'll think about it.
- It works up until Selina betrays Bruce to Bane in exchange for Bane sparing her.
- In the first half of the movie, whenever Bruce Wayne talks with Selina Kyle, he always refers to his Batman persona as his "powerful friend". When they're dancing at the Masquerade Ball:
- Fatal Attraction: Fed up with Alex's crazed behavior, Dan finally goes to the police... on behalf of a "client" who wants an ex to stop harassing him. It's pretty obvious the cops don't believe him.
- In Harry and the Hendersons, George Henderson tries this when he needs some outsider advice on whether he should continue harbouring Harry (a bigfoot). He mentions "his friend, Jack", and the other guy asks him if the story will involve a beanstalk.
- Austenland: While Jane and Nobley watch two other characters kiss in the distance, Jane and he discuss whether the other two are having a short-term fling or starting something more lasting; of course, they are really talking about themselves. Jane reuses one of the exact phrases from this dialogue later in the movie, applied to herself of course.
- The Commuter: Michael's search for Prynne eventually leads to him sitting down with Tony and Jackson and using this to provide an outline of the situation, asking what they'd do partially to test their reactions and partially to see what they'd say.
- Shaggy in Scooby-Doo! Curse of the Lake Monster — he tells Fred and Daphne he has this friend, "Scruffy", who has a crush on a girl etc., etc. Of course, he is talking about himself having a crush on Velma.
- Inverted in Ginger Snaps, where Brigitte tells Sam that she's the one who's turning into a werewolf in order to find out how to treat her sister Ginger's transformation. Sam eventually catches on, however, with it being implied that he knew all along.
- In Bloody Jack, Mary (who is pretending to be a boy) tries this on a prostitute she hires, asking about getting her period on behalf of a "friend who's a girl". The prostitute sees right through it, but finds the whole thing amusing and doesn't tell anyone.
- 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.
- Inverted several times in the novel Doctors. When high schooler Laura learns she's pregnant, best friend Barney suggests that she ask her father, a doctor, for the name of an abortionist on behalf of a "friend" (the book is set pre-Roe vs. Wade). She refuses, knowing that he would instantly realize that she was asking for herself. Determined to help, Barney confides in the pharmacist that he works for, telling him, "a girl I know is in trouble". When the man wrongly assumes that Barney is the one responsible, Barney doesn't bother to correct him. Years later, in medical school, Barney is frightened to realize that one of his classmates is suicidal. When he frantically calls the school counselor for help, the man wastes precious time urging Barney to admit that he's the one in trouble.
- Used in Steven Brust's Dragaera:
- 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 immediately says he doesn't believe her. Unfortunately for everyone, he did believe her.
- In Heart In Hand, Darryl uses a variant to talk about his relationship with Alex, a rival hockey player, to his friend — he doesn't hide that it's his own problems, but he frames it as "girl trouble".
- In P. G. Wodehouse's Jeeves and Wooster 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, saying she has a friend who feels obligated to marry a man with whom she had a dalliance years earlier but who was not entirely sure his wife was dead at the time, but since receiving word that the man's wife really is dead and they are now free to marry, she has met another man and fallen in love with him. Liz sees through it but doesn't know who the other parties are (respectively her stepfather, Michael Henchard, and the object of her own crush, Donald Farfrae) till later.
- In the Miss Marple short story collection The Thirteen Problems, the actress Jane Heiler tells Miss Marple and a number of other guests at a dinner party about a strange thing that had happened to a "friend" of hers. Everyone at the party immediately assumes this trope, figuring that it was something that had happened to Jane herself. They were half-right. Jane was the actress in the story, but it wasn't about something that had happened to her, but something she was going to do. She was planning to commit the crime described, and her story was a Trial Balloon Question to see if Miss Marple could figure it out.
- In The Monk, Rosario tells Ambrosio a story of how his sister Matilda fell in love with an unattainable man and died of a broken heart after he rejected her affections. When Ambrosio says that the man was far too cruel to Matilda, it emboldens Rosario to confess that he is actually Matilda and Ambrosio is her object of affections.
- 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 & 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".
- 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 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).
- Funnily inverted in Simpleton by Sergey Lukyanenko. Trix asks a tailor if he has any off-the-shelf clothes for a friend about his size. The tailor wrongly assumes that Trix needs them for himself, but is mystified by possible reasons to pretend. Trix doesn't want to confess that the clothes are for a princess running away from a political Arranged Marriage, so he plays along.
- In one book in the Skulduggery Pleasant series, Scapegrace, a zombie goes to a funeral parlour to order an embalming for his "brother".
- In Small Steps, the protagonist (nicknamed Armpit) is dragged through a convoluted, barely-illegal get-rich-quick scheme by his friend, X-Ray, which through a lucky turn manages to win him a girlfriend who is also a famous pop singer, Kaira De Leon. However, a man Armpit and X-Ray angered earlier shows up and demands Armpit to sell him a love letter his celebrity girlfriend wrote him, or else he'll reveal Armpit and X-ray's whole operation, potentially landing the two in jail. Later, as he and his girlfriend have coffee together, Armpit reveals the whole situation to her, but he unfortunately phrases the whole thing as this trope, and Kaira dumps him, as she thinks their whole relationship was all about hustling her out of her money.
- Subverted in A Tale of Two Cities when Mr. Lorry consults Dr. Manette about the case of a friends mental shock. The case is not about Mr. Lorry; it is about Dr. Manette himself, who has experienced a Heroic BSoD and is on the verge of 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."
- In Orson Scott Card's The Tales of Alvin Maker, Alvin is a major Weirdness Magnet; unfortunately, an evil force hanging around him has a habit of trying to make Alvin's father kill him (while the father has no idea what's putting all these terrible compulsions in his head). When Taleswapper arrives, Alvin's father asks him for advice and trots out this line, describing a fictional Swede with a son who has white-blond hair. But he can't even keep the pronouns straight. Taleswapper kindly plays along, and suggests the "Swedish friend" apprentice his boy somewhere else for safety.
- In one of the Girls Of Many Lands books, the protagonist learns that foreign men are looking for girls to take to the Ottoman Empire as wives for rich men, and that they're willing to offer money to the families (it's actually a cover for the slave trade, but she doesn't recognize that). She approaches them and asks what they would pay for a girl similar to her, as she has a friend much like herself who is interested. The men agree to give her the money to pass along to her "friend", understanding that she is actually referring to herself.
- In one of the A Day in the Limelight "Interlude" episodes of Worm, we see a forum thread on the in-universe website Parahumans Online in which a longtime fan of Bitch/Hellhound/Rachel asks how one might "hypothetically" become a minion. Said fan posts later in the thread to say it turned out "Harder than I thought but all good."
- Inverted in an episode of Blossom. Worried about Six, Blossom confides in a counselor, who of course, laughs and says,, "Why is it always "a friend"?", before Blossom reassures him that it is a friend she's concerned about.
- In Breaking Bad, Marie sees through Skyler's "I'm writing this stoner character" and assumes she's talking about Walter Jr., who must be experimenting with marijuana, when she's actually speaking about Walter Sr. Marie even lampshades this trope when talking to Hank about their exchange.
Hank: Skyler told you that?
Marie: She inferred it.
Hank: She inferred it, huh?
Marie: She strongly inferred it. Like, 'doctor, 'my friend' suffers from erectile dysfunction.' Please, come on already.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Willow uses this to ask Xander's advice about her relationship problems. Xander interrupts with, "Will, I've deciphered your ingenious code" and Willow just drops the pretense.
- In an episode of Cheers, Frasier does this with Sam regarding Diane saying Sam's name in bed. Since he's a psychiatrist, he claims that it is a patient rather than a friend, and names himself Thor.
- Chicago P.D.. Ruzek approaches a lawyer he knows on behalf of "a friend" who covered up his sister's DUI. The lawyer tells him that his "friend" is looking at five years in prison. It's not clear if the lawyer believes him or knows that he's avoiding naming himself so that she herself can't turn him in, as she would be obligated to do.
- On Corner Gas, Hank feels guilty over egging a cable van and getting away with it, and needs guidance. Being Hank, he calls a local access TV show, Peggy's Pets.
Hank: Yeah, I got this friend who egged a cable van...
Peggy: We only take questions about pets.
Hank: I have this pet who egged a cable van...
- The Cosby Show used this with Denise asking Cliff if he could examine "a friend" for a possible STD. 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.
- 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!
- In Season 5 of Engrenages, Captain Berthaud plays it completely straight when asking the coroner for advice about the possibility of having an abortion after the legal deadline.
- ER. When Kerry and Mark suspect that Carter has become addicted to painkillers, Kerry calls the Chief Of Staff and addresses the situation on hypotheticals to find out what protocol to follow. Unusually, this only reveals that a staff member has a drug problem, not the name of the person in question.
- 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.
- 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".
- 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.
- The title character uses this several times.
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.
- Niles isn't immune to it either.
Niles: A funny thing happened the other day. One of my patients had a rather amusing Freudian Slip. He was having dinner with his wife and he meant to say 'Pass the salt,' but instead he said 'You've ruined my life, you blood-sucking shrew.'
- Played with in one instance when Frasier does this to a woman he's chatting up. He's trying to do it for Niles, who's been having no luck talking to any of the women at a party, but the woman Frasier's talking to assumes it's this, and tells him she'd be delighted to go out with his "friend".
- The title character uses this several times.
- 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.
- Friends: Regarding the Ross, Rachel and Julie's love triangle.
"He must decide / He must decide / Even though I made him up, he must decide!"
- On Fringe, Peter says he's planning on going fishing, but doesn't want to go alone. When Walter asks who he's going with, Peter tells him a story about a man who, as a boy, always wanted to go fishing with his father, who never had time for him. Walter assumes that Peter is going fishing with his friend from the story, and asks if he can come along too.
- In an episode of Good Luck Charlie, Gabe tells Amy that he has a "friend" named No...rman from No...rweigh who likes a girl. However, Amy is fully aware that Gabe is using this trope to disclose about his first crush from school.
- In one episode of Happy Days, Ritchie asks Al for advice for his friend. Al thinks that Ritchie is secretly talking about himself, in spite of the fact that the problem his friend is having is that he's black and having difficulty fitting into their mostly-white neighborhood.
- 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.
- The Hogan Family. Concerned that Mark and his girlfriend are sexually active, Sandy asks friend/neighbor Mrs. Poole if she can ask her "a hypothetical question". Mrs. Poole promptly lampshades this trope by replying, "I love it when people ask hypothetical questions, because I know they're really talking about themselves."
- Subverted in an episode of How I Met Your Mother. When trying to figure out why Robin doesn't like going to malls, one of the theories was that she was married before at a mall. The idea is lent credence by realizing Robin constantly talked about a friend of hers who got married way too young, believing it to be this trope. When Ted confronted her about it she even "admitted" it was true and she was married before. The reality is that she lied about that because she was embarrassed over the real reason she doesn't go to malls, she was a Canadian pop star with one hit "Let's Go To The Mall" and had to sing it in dozens of malls across Canada. It turns out that it was her former best friend and singing partner who got married young which caused them to grow apart and ended their partnership and friendship.
- How to Be Indie: In "How to be Mehta", Indie gets an F in gym. She uses this phrase when she tries to ask her siblings how she should break the news to their parents. They are not fooled for a second.
- The no-really-it's-not-me-it's-this-other-guy version happens repeatedly to Bertie in Jeeves and Wooster.
- 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.
- Knowing Me, Knowing You with Alan Partridge has a Playboy advice columnist as a guest on the second episode. Alan Partridge asks for advice for a hypothetical couple who've been married 15-16 years and have a waning love life. He very quickly blurts out things that make it obvious it's about his own life.
- 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.
- 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.
- In Little Lunch, Atticus has a fear of thunderstorms, although he continually denies it. His attempts to tell stories about 'this kid I know who is afraid of thunderstorms' are usually interrupted by Rory going "That's you!".
- In one episode, 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.
- Subverted in another episode when Father Mulcahy drops in on visiting psychiatrist Sidney Freedman and mentions he's worried about a friend, saying "Things aren't going so well for him and he's feeling a little low." When Sidney asks who the friend is, Mulcahy says it's him, Sidney...who has, in fact, been stewing over an unsuccessful therapy case.
- In an episode of Men Behaving Badly, Tony needs to buy glasses but is embarrassed 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".
- My Babysitters a Vampire: The little girl from the vampire councils asks Dirk for an autograph and then sheepishly says it's "for a friend".
- Benny: (in a high-pitched voice) Vampire awkward!!!!
- In My So-Called Life, Angela goes to Mr. Katimski and asks what to do about someone "who's really smart but not doing well in English", and while Mr. Katimski assumes Angela is referring to herself — and shows her the bulletin board to sign up for a tutor — she's actually talking about Jordan.
- 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.
- 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.
- The Office:
- In Season Four, 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.
- Subverted on an episode of Once and Again. Grace is asking her aunt Judy about a friend she knows who might be anorexic. Judy, of course, immediately assumes Grace is asking about herself, but it's actually Jessie she's asking about.
- 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 smart enough to not open with "I have this friend who's thinking of dropping out of school..."
- 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.
- The Partridge Family: In "Where Do Mermaids Go?" a cop asks for Shirley's autograph for his son, who he says listens to the Partridge Family all the time. When Shirley asks what the son's name is, the cop says, "Officer Bodie."
- 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."
- Saturday Night Live:
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.
- A variant occurred on the Weekend Update's Really!?! segment:
Amy: Really. That really happened to Seth's 'friend'.
Melania: Hello, Michael, its Melania.
- In the Undercover Boss parody with Adam Driver appearing as Kylo Ren of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, who is disguised as "Matt," a radar technician, Matt tells a group of stormtroopers that he has a friend who saw Kylo Ren in the shower and that he had an 8-pack and was shredded. Things do not go well when one of them casts aspersions on the veracity of "Matt"'s friend's claim.
- Melania Trump (Cecily Strong) employs this trope to ask Michael Cohen (Ben Stiller) if a woman can testify against her husband:
Michael: Oh, hey, Melania. I was just talking to Donald about, uh
Melania: Oh, huh, yeah. Eh, listen, I have a completely hypothetical question for a friend of mine, okay? If her husband is accused of crime, would she have to testify against him?
Melania: But could she? If she wanted?
Michael: I guess she could.
Melania: Oh, my friend will be so happy. Thank you, Michael!
- 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...
- One episode of Scrubs did the Tale of Two Cities inversion: While Turk is insisting there's nothing wrong with him, Molly asks him to diagnose one of her patients, listing the same symptoms he's been displaying. Turk instantly realises the "patient" has diabetes.
- Sisters: A doctor approaches the titular characters on behalf of a patient who is in need of a bone marrow transplant. When asked why they would be a match for this woman, she reveals that the woman is their half-sister (the child their father had with his long-time mistress). She initially refuses to identify her, citing patient confidentiality, but when they continue pressing her, finally admits that she is the woman in question.
- Parodied and subverted on The Sketch Show, when Lee tells a psychiatrist that his friend is a woman (Pauline) trapped in a man's body — and that that woman has a man (Alan) trapped in her's, who in turn has a woman in his (Jackie, who apparently doesn't get on with Pauline). Ronni 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.
- Chloe finds out about Clark. Funnily enough, Lois does in fact assume she's talking about herself.
- Clark and Lex do about the same thing in an earlier episode as well.
Clark: My friend got mixed up with the wrong crowd, and now they're making him pay for it.
Lex: Is this the old proverbial friend who happens to be you?
- Clark (truthfully) tells him it's Pete Ross in the very next line.
- In the Sonny with a Chance episode "Sonny With A Chance of Dating", Tawni is jealous of Sonny dating a Mackenzie Falls co-star and claims that her best friend once dated him and ended up wearing poliester pants. Sonny correctly deduces that Tawni is that her "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 discreet 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.
- Star Trek: The Original Series did the subverted version:
Spock: We have a crew member aboard who's showing signs of stress and fatigue, reaction time down 9-12%, associational reading Norm Minus 3.
Kirk: That's much too low a rating.
Spock: He's becoming irritable and quarrelsome, yet he refuses to take rest and rehabilitation.
Spock: Now, he has that right, but we've found...
Kirk: A crewman's right ends where the safety of the ship begins. Now, that man will go ashore on my orders. What's his name?
Spock: James Kirk.
[Kirk makes a "You Have Got to Be Kidding Me!" face]
Spock: [looking as smug as possible for a Vulcan] Enjoy yourself, Captain.
- Used again in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, possibly as a reference to the conversation between Kirk and Spock (though Picard caught on a lot sooner):
Crusher: Sir, it's been brought to my attention one of the crew has been neglecting his health again.
Picard: How so?
Crusher: "It's a classic case of stress-related ailments brought on by overwork. Exhaustion, irritability, muscle spasms. Yet he insists on ignoring them.
Picard: Doesn't sound too serious.
Crusher: And I plan to keep it that way.
Picard: What's the treatment.
Crusher: A week's shore leave.
Crusher: Jean-Luc, I could make that an order.
Picard: But you won't. Beverly, you know I loathe vacations.
- Dr. Phlox uses a variation in Star Trek: Enterprise — when T'Pol comes down with Pa'nar Syndrome (the Vulcan equivalent of AIDS), Phlox asks several Vulcan doctors for information about the disease, under the guise of helping a colleague study a similar condition. As he predicts, the doctors are reticent to help, as Pa'nar Syndrome afflicts those who lead a lifestyle considered unacceptable by Vulcan society. He does not, however, predict that the doctors would figure out that T'Pol has the disease.
- This is played with on Suits. Harvey goes to Louis with some documents given to him by "a friend at another law firm" that seem to be showing evidence of embezzlement. Louis falls for this completely and is delightful in digging through another firm's dirty laundry. He does not realize that the documents not only belong to his own firm but that they seem to show that Louis is the one doing the embezzling. He then inverts things by pointing out that the apparent embezzler is just "a shmuck" and is being set up to take the fall for the real thief. He saves himself without even realizing that all along he was talking about himself.
- That '70s Show:
- Fez asks Kitty, a registered nurse and the entire cast's mom, advice on behalf of his friend Johnny Table about what to do about his and Big Rhonda's first time. Kitty of course gets it and says "Johnny" should be respectful and use a condom.
- 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.
- 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.
- 3rd Rock from the Sun:
Dick: I have this friend... whose brother Harry is a much better artist than he is.
Mary: Ah, so this is about you and Harry.
Dick: Am I that transparent?
- In another episode, Don stole one of Sally's panties while she was doing laundry. He tried using this trope:
Don: It's, uh, it's another case. A robbery.
Sally: What'd the guy steal, Don?
Don: Um, money — money from a beautiful bank teller — not you. She was folding this stack of bills because she's a teller, see?
Sally: Yeah, I got it, she's a teller.
Don: And so when she turned her back from the bills, he just... had to touch them.
Sally: Why'd he do that, Don?
Don: Because he wanted to be near her. Vicariously, you know. And when she came back, he was so ashamed that he just shoved the underwear in his pocket! [beat] The money! The money! He shoved the money in his underwear. IN HIS POCKET!
- 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.
- On Tyler Perry's House of Payne, Malik's friend Kevin actually did contract syphilis 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.
- The West Wing demonstrates the inherent limits of this trope when President Bartlet has to deal with a US submarine that the military has lost contact with off the North Korean coast and he has to inform an abrasive curmudgeon from the State Department:
Bartlet: I've gotta tell him I lost a submarine. Can I make something up, like 'say a friend of mine hypothetically...'
- Will & 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!
- 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]
- Without a Trace. A suspect in the Victim of the Week's disappearance claims that she was hounding the woman for money to buy medication for her sick mother. The agent questioning her rolls his eyes, shows her his NA sobriety chip (he developed a painkiller addiction after being shot) and tells her, "Quit lying to me. I know a junkie when I see one."
- Schitt's Creek: Roland tells Johnny he has a friend who needs some work and will be helpful around the motel. By the time they are waiting in Roland's living room for "the friend" Johnny has long since figured out the friend is Roland.
- 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 but are too Twice Shy to admit it.
- Chris LeDoux's "Silence on the Line" is about a cowboy who calls his wife after his last rodeo. He says he's got this friend whose rodeo career left him unable to walk, and would like to bring him home with him, but the wife says no. The cowboy, crippled himself, goes to Mexico instead.
- In the folktale that gave rise to Corpse Bride, the groom-to-be has an extremely specific hypothetical question.
Rabbi, I have a very important question to ask you. If by some chance you're walking in the woods and you happen to see a stick that looks like a long bony finger coming out of the ground and you happen to put a golden wedding ring on the finger and do the wedding dance and pronounce the wedding vows, is this indeed a real marriage?
- Nathan Ausubel's A Treasury of Jewish Folklore:
Once there was a young sinner whose conscience bothered him, but because he was vain he found it hard to confess his sins to his rabbi. So he fell on a stratagem. He went to the rabbi and pretended that a friend had sent him to beg for the remission of his sins. He therefore recited all the misdoings of his "friend" who he said was too ashamed to appear and plead for himself.
Now the rabbi penetrated his pretense, so he said to him, "What a fool your friend must be! Couldn't he come himself? After all, he could have said just what you have told me—that he had come in the interest of a friend. In that way he would have spared himself any embarrassment."
- The Muppet Show:
Miss Piggy: "I have this friend, who is absolutely devastating. But she has this itty-bitty weight problem..."
- Bleak Expectations: When an evilised Harry Biscuit is about to be exorcised, his wife Pippa asks, just as a hypothetical, what might happen if someone was not evil, but just happened to be pretending to be evil in order to stay with her husband. She doesn't like the answer (it would destroy them utterly).
- Bridget Christie on The Now Show: "Now I have this close personal friend, who is very similar to me in many ways. We're the same age, we both have size six feet, that sort of thing. But she is absolutely not me. So what happened to this other woman was..."
- An advice column round on I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue
Jack: How can I be tested for sexual diseases without anyone knowing?
Graeme: Say you're being tested for a friend.
- 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.
- La Grande Duchesse de Gerolstein combines this with Oblivious to Love: the Grand Duchess is in love with Fritz, but tries to convince him that her declarations of love are from a friend of hers. Fritz takes it at face value, but is confused by the multiple allusions the Duchess uses, so in the end she thinks he's gotten the message and is now aware of her feelings for him (he isn't).
- In She Loves Me, Georg talks about "Dear Friend" as a chance acquaintance of his when consoling Amalia after the Cafe Imperiale fiasco.
- In Dog In A Manger by Lope de Vega the two main characters (a countess and her secretary) exchange letters supposedly meant for the countess' friend to express their feelings for each other.
- In The Little Foxes, Oscar tells Ben that, while Horace might ultimately be unwilling to put up his share of the money, "Leo's got a friend" with bonds worth $88,000 that he'd kindly lend until he needs to look at them again in about five months. Oscar has to discreetly warn Leo about not letting out that these bonds are actually Horace's and will be lifted straight out of his safe-deposit box.
- In Shin Megami Tensei IV, after procuring the relics the Monastery wants, you can drop in to chat with Abbot Hugo, who tells you of this... acquaintance... he has, who happens to be a Henpecked Husband. He begs you to discreetly acquire a bottle of wine for "his" problem. Hugo, however, is considerably less than adept at concealing this.
- 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...
- 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 Sexbot, 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. For the customers of course!
- In Super Danganronpa 2, Byakuya Togami, in his final Free Time Event, tells of a certain person who could only live by lying to himself and the entire world, which, for him, essentially is admitting to being the Ultimate Imposter, and not the real Byakuya Togami. Hajime suspects that Byakuya is talking about himself, but tells him that it's up to him whether he wants to tell him the entire story.
- In Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII, one of the side quests involves a man named Armand who tells Lightning of a friend of his who was a journalist whose stories of corruption drove an innocent victim to suicide, as he had been wrong, and in fact the individual in question was not corrupt. Lightning has to visit him over three days and on the final day he admits the truth: he was the journalist who did this.
Armand: I apologize. I've been lying to you this entire time. I had no such friend. The reporter, the one who killed the innocent woman... That was me.
Lightning: I had a feeling. The way you've been telling the story...seems to be hitting a little too close to home.
- In Crush Crush, when you become Awkward Besties with Bonnibel, she asks you a rather awkward question that makes it clear that she's developing feelings for you:
Bonnibel: Oh dear. See, I've got this... friend who's got a problem. She's super attracted to a friend of hers. Do you think there's a chance they like her back?
Peanut: So, say there was a girl. Let's call her... Jam. Jam is thinking of cutting her hair short. Or growing it longer. Or... leaving it exactly the same. What sort of input would you give Jam on that kind of life choice?
- One of Peanut's possible dialogue lines at her Awkward Besties stage fits this trope too:
- In Overwatch, one of the pre-battle lines between Reinhardt, a warrior in heavy armor, and D.Va, a professional gamer, has the former asking the latter for an autograph totally not because he wants one.
Reinhardt: I was wondering if you'd sign something for me? It's, ahem, it's for a friend.
D.Va: Of course, here you go! Love, D.Va.
- Ikemen Sengoku has a variant in Hideyoshi's route where the main character doesn't try to hide from Mitsuhide that she's the one who needs advice but she does try to hide from him that it's Hideyoshi who's the source of her love-related problems. Mitsuhide isn't fooled for a moment.
MC: So there's this guy...
Mitsuhide: I can't possibly imagine who that might be.
- 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. This is 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."
- Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal features a very embarrassing example. 
- In Sinfest, Squigley asks God about porn -- for a friend.
- Housepets!: In this strip Fox asks his cousin Bailey about a hypothetical dog with a romance problem, but she in turn cuts straight to the chase and tells him to just go ahead and hook up with the object of his newly discovered affections.
- Dumbing of Age:
- Joyce tries to explain to Dorothy how "her best friend" has been dating a gay guy to "help" him and hide from her own sexuality, only to learn her best friend is a lesbian.
Dorothy: Your best friend's best friend is a lesbian.
Joyce: Yeah. NO OKAY I HEAR IT NOW LET'S START OVER.
- Joyce does this again when she accompanies Ethan to his group meet for people who are questioning their sexuality to be supportive. She asks the group leader for information she can take home to Becky, then immediately realises how this sounds and starts Digging Herself Deeper by insisting that no, really, she does have this friend...
- Joyce tries to explain to Dorothy how "her best friend" has been dating a gay guy to "help" him and hide from her own sexuality, only to learn her best friend is a lesbian.
- Stand Still, Stay Silent: A certain event causes Tuuri to start experiencing a phenomenon that so far seemed exclusive to the setting's mages. She asks her mage cousin Lalli about it, but pretends to be asking on the behalf of Reynir, the other mage who has known he has powers at all for only about a month at this point. Her lie includes claiming Reynir has just started experiencing the phenomenon. Reynir was shown to experience that particular thing (or at least something close enough) about a week ago in-story, and his reaction indicated it was nothing new to him.
- 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.
- Inverted in Rhett & 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.
- A purported example from real life (debunked by Snopes here, hence the reclassification of this entry from "Real Life") 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.
- In the SuperMarioLogan episode, "The Couch!", Shrek tells Mario about his ogre friend "Hrek" and his not-so-ogre friend "Honkey" to break the news to Mario that he ate expired cheesecake against his wishes and accidentally pooped on the couch.
- The Simpsons:
- In "The Last Temptation of Homer", 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, and runs out in tears when Moe says that it's "the worst name I ever heard". Then Homer admits his problem.
- 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 in "Homer Alone"; whilst Marge is away on vacation, 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 Boys of Bummer", 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 every time something happened and he needed advice, usually from his friend Skeeter. One time is when he assumed Skeeter stole something and Skeeter thought he was asking a math problem (which Doug thought he was playing innocent); another is when he thought the foreign exchange student is in love with Patti and Skeeter tells Doug he should just tell the exchange student how he feels about her.
"Skeeter, I have this friend, well it's not me..."
- In "Doug and the Little Liar", Doug also does this with Mr. Dink for advice about Loretta's lies to Skeeter. Assuming that Doug is talking about him, Mr. Dink immediately bursts into tears and confesses to lying about being captain of his high school football team (he was really the equipment manager). A confused Doug forgives him anyway, and gave him the idea to get Loretta to confess as well.
- 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."
- 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 and assumed aliens used Dale's DNA), at around the same time. 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.
- South Park:
- In "The Passion of the Jew", after Kyle watches The Passion of the Christ, he feels guilty about being Jewish, and asks the Priest for advice regarding his "Jewish Friend".
- Randy attempts this in "Two Guys Naked in a Hot Tub", when trying to discuss whether or not watching another guy masturbate would make you gay. This merely drives the other men in wanting to kick this "friend"'s ass, until Randy mentions he lives in Florida.
- In "Are You There God? It's Me, Jesus", Stan is anxious to get his period because his friends already have. He tells Chef that he has this friend who is upset because everyone already got their period. When Chef asks if he means his sister Shelly or his girlfriend Wendy, Stan says the identity of the person is irrelevant. He then talks to Dr. Mephesto about puberty and asks what happens if someone never went through it. Mephesto wants to know who never went through puberty, so Stan tells him his dad. He explains that's why he's there as his dad is too embarrassed to show up; Dr. Mephesto says he can't blame him.
- This happens in Rocket Power. On 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!" Soon after, Tommy's mom knows about the news and tells Angelica about it. Tommy finds it an amazing coincidence both Angelica and her "friend"'s parents are having a baby.
Angelica: Tommy, you're a dope.
- In Beavis and Butt-Head (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.
Butt-Head: What a dork.
Beavis: Yeah, he's a real dumbass.
- In Futurama, after Zapp Brannigan's girdle breaks under the pressure of gravity: "Let me ask you a serious question, Leela: Does the company that made your bra make a girdle as well? I ask because a friend of mine..."
- Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated: Scooby tries this when asking for love advice.
- In one episode of Dragon Tales, Emmy accidentally breaks Wheezie's trumpet and asks Quetzal about a hypothetical situation in which a mouse with a red ribbon in her hair broke something that belonged to a two-headed turtle. Quetzal isn't fooled for a moment.
- In the Peter Rabbit episode "The Tale of the Mystery Plum Thief", Peter tells his mother that he has a friend who is having trouble stealing a plum from Mr McGregor's garden. She replies that his friend shouldn't be doing anything that dangerous.
- In Buzz Lightyear of Star Command, Booster tries this when asking for advice on love in "Plasma Monster".
- SpongeBob SquarePants episode "The Smoking Peanut'': SpongeBob having thrown a peanut at the oyster at the zoo and making it cry, tries to get some advice from Squidward.
SpongeBob: This is getting a little out of hand. All I did was throw a peanut. I didn't mean to make the oyster cry. I just wanted to see it perform spectacular stunts! Aw, everyone's gonna hate me! I-I need some advice! Now let's see now, who could never hate me no matter what I do? [Cut to SpongeBob knocking on Squidward's door] Squidward? Squidward! Oh, Squidward!
Squidward: SpongeBob! Do you have to knock so loudly?!
SpongeBob: Oh, sorry, neighbor.
Squidward: Oh, that overgrown clam is giving me a headache! I can't even take my afternoon beauty nap!
SpongeBob: Funny thing you should mention that old oyster, because I... uh... was kinda wondering, um... Let's say I know this guy who may have something to do with the oyster.
Squidward: (eagerly) You know the guy who did it?!
Squidward: Oh, this is great! You and I can go turn him in! And then I'll get so much sleep, I'll be gorgeous!
SpongeBob: Um, actually, I-I'm just talking hypothetically.
Squidward: You mean you don't know who did it?
SpongeBob: Well, um... I... uh... no.
(Squidward slams the door in SpongeBob's face)
- Sofia the First: When Sofia tells her Mom that one of her friends is being bullied by a fliegel, Miranda assumes the "friend" is Sofia herself. Sofia explains it's one of her troll friends.
- In the prologue to the short, "A Pigment of His Imagination" from the Tiny Toon Adventures episode, "Ask Mr. Popular", Hamton nervously tells Buster that he has "a friend" who has trouble making other friends, and asks him for advice on how to make friends.
- The Loud House: Subverted in an episode. Lincoln goes to his sister Lori for advice on how to hook up a friend with a girl. Lori thinks that Lincoln has a crush on a girl, but in reality he is really trying to pair up two of his teachers.