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Playing Sick

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"I cannot go to school today,"
Said Little Peggy Ann McKay.
— "Sick," by Shel Silverstein

Sometimes in a fictional story, a character will pretend to be sick (otherwise known as malingering). Most often, this is to avoid something unpleasant at school or work, such as a test, visit from management, or similar inconvenience. Some just do it to get a day off, and some just want attention. This is often accompanied by completely overblown "symptoms", often exaggerated further by the character holding a thermometer up to a light bulb, lamp, flashlight or tea to fake a temperature.

In comedy, this almost never works, with the ruse either being readily discovered or backfiring on the character. A backfire might be whatever they were trying to avoid being moved to a day not covered by their ploy; it's also common for the character to end up missing out on something fun. Another risk is that the character may be compelled to take medicine (which is often Foul Medicine) or otherwise submit to medical treatment, as unpleasant and counterproductive as such things may be for someone who is not in fact sick.


In some cases, the character starts out as genuinely sick, but they become so pampered by the care they receive that when they recover, they pretend to still be sick just so they still receive the special treatment.

When we're talking about sex, normally it's when a married (or otherwise in a long-term relationship) couple doesn't have sex because he's in the mood (and it's almost always a man) but she is not (and it's almost always a woman). Not rarely, this will happen over and over again (because All Men Are Perverts and All Women Are Prudes), and it's also implicit (when not explicit) that she doesn't really love him/isn't attracted to him, or even that she's cheating on him. The woman usually feigns a headache, but any other disease will do. Sometimes, when she's really invested in the excuse, she'll pop up a pill (normally an aspirin, but any other appropriate drug will do) to "treat" her "disease", and will even start foreplay before suddenly dropping off with the headache excuse.


For added irony, it is rather common for someone who's playing sick to actually get sick somewhere along the way. This is often depicted as Laser-Guided Karma.

Doing this in the military, particularly during wartime can get you hauled before a Court Martial for the offense of Malingering. An even more serious version of this is Self Infliction of Wounds to avoid combat. Depending upon the circumstances, malingering can be construed as Misbehavior Toward the Enemy, which can be a capital offense.

See Münchausen Syndrome for the more serious, even pathological version. Also see Sick Captive Scam, for instances where a captive plays sick to get the drop on his captor. See also Getting Sick Deliberately, for instances where a character tries to make themselves sick to get out of something.

Compare Do Well, But Not Perfect, Fake Faint, Hypochondria, Obfuscating Disability, Playing the Victim Card & You Don't Want to Catch This. Contrast Working Through the Cold and Feigning Healthiness. See also Faking Another Person's Illness. Can be a Grossout Fakeout if they fake some icky disease like a stomach bug. Will sometimes overlap with Skipping School if the character fakes illness to avoid a day or two of school.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Girls und Panzer, Miho is distracted in class after hearing that her new school is bringing back tankery, and the student council wants her to participate, so the teacher suggests she go to the nurse's office. As she's leaving, her new friends Saori and Hana lie and say that they're not feeling well so they can follow Miho to the nurse's office and check up on her.
  • Crayon Shin-chan has an Injured Limb Episode where the titular character sprained his ankle and needs to stay at home for at least a week until he recovered. But when Shin's mother, Misae, is out on an errand, Shin realized he had healed, and decided to pretend he's still injured to get a few days off for free.
  • In Himouto! Umaru-chan, Umaru fakes a fever (by rubbing the thermometer against her side rapidly to heat it up via friction) so she can stay home from school and play video games. After seeing how hard her brother Taihei worked to take care of her, she felt guilty and confessed to the trick, earning his ire.
  • In episode 18 of Inazuma Eleven Chrono Stone, Kariya pretends to have a stomach ache to allow Kirino to travel to Medieval France in his place, making it rare selfless example.
  • In Inuyasha, Kagome's absences from school to go time-traveling in Feudal Japan are attributed to increasingly bizarre illnesses that still somehow manage to fool her friends. Maybe she should try for some smarter friends...
  • Meta example in Kaguya-sama: Love Is War where the author feigned illness as an excuse for why volume 5 lacked any jokes on the inside cover.
  • In Lets Start An Inn On The Dungeon Island, a pirate mutiny ploy begins with one of Captain Cecily's crew faking illness. The captain bends down and offers the "sick" crewmember a piggy-back ride to carry her to where she can receive treatment. Said crewmember uses the opportunity to stab Captain Cecily in the back, launching the mutiny. The ringleader calls off pursuit when Cecily manages to escape into the jungle because Cecily is a Cornered Rattlesnake at that point.
  • Konata of Lucky Star often makes up different excuses to skip school, including playing sick. So much so, that when she actually does get sick, she gets hit with accusations of Crying Wolf.
  • Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch had one of these happen in the early episodes, where the main girl's friends ditch her so she could go on a date, and one of them played sick. When suspected after insisting the main character to go, she just said she was just pushing herself.
  • MOON – Subaru Solitude Standing has the titular heroine use pneumonia as an excuse to not go on a dance tour of her troupe. She's suspected of faking, as people see her out shopping. She wasn't faking the pneumonia and has a relapse.
  • No Matter How I Look at It, It's You Guys' Fault I'm Not Popular! has Tomoko think to herself how she will do this to avoid going on the field trip in her second year, beginning by mentioning how she feels unwell three days before the trip, then have a worsening cough... so she can stay at home and just play games. Needless to say, she doesn't go through with it once the trip starts to loom, but she does try to lie about having a doctor's appointment on the day that students pick their groups, just so she can avoid dealing with that. Her homeroom teacher doesn't question this lie at all, but instead suggests she pick her group now. After much awkwardness and embarrassment, Tomoko finally succeeds in having her group picked for her...only to end up assigned as its leader.
  • The plot of an Ouran High School Host Club episode starts off with Kaoru pretending to be sick so that he could set Hikaru up with Haruhi on a date. Hilarity Ensues with Tamaki getting jealous and the rest of the club trying to help the date go well.
  • The series Paranoia Agent is made of this trope. Lil' Slugger is essentially a means of feigning injury in order to shirk personal responsibilities.
  • In Rent-A-Girlfriend, Kazuya is working at his part-time job at the karaoke place when his ex-girlfriend Mami goes into a booth together with Chizuru (the rental girlfriend Kazuya regularly hires). When the two of them leave, Kazuya wants to follow them, so he drinks water and induces vomiting to have an excuse to go home for the day.
  • In a SuperS episode of Sailor Moon, Luna learns from Diana that Neo-Queen Serenity and King Endymion were known to get "sick" the day of very important functions and get well the next day. Luna comments that while she expected this kind of behavior from Usagi, but Mamoru picking up the habit comes from left field.
  • In an episode of the manga of Strawberry Marshmallow, Chika really is sick, and is being cared for by her big sister. Miu pretends to be sick, as well, to gain attention. (Though by the end of the episode, Miu actually gets sick, probably due to prolonged exposure to an airborne illness, and is taken to the doctor.)
  • One episode of Yo-Kai Watch has Nate pretending to be sick so he can stay home to play video games. He gets a youkai to help pretend he has a fever. Duchoo gives Nate an in-depth explanation on how to fake being sick. It fails when Nate is unable to heat the thermometer as his mother is watching. Another yokai named Coughkoff comes around and helps Nate fake a cough, which works. However it works a bit too much and he ends up with a fever. Nate ends up too sick to play video games.

    Asian Animation 
  • Boonie Cubs: In episode 25, as part of his attempts to get his mother away from Olivia so that she doesn't learn of his less-than-ideal behavior at Pine Tree Kindergarten, Briar fakes having a stomach ache. This costs him the opportunity to eat one of the pastries they're having.
  • In Season 3 episode 27 of Happy Heroes, Doctor H. actually does get sick and goes to the hospital to have it taken care of. But then he learns that his Celeb Crush, Miss Peach, works as a nurse at that hospital and fakes being sick even after the actual illness has passed - going as far as to pull the old "heat up the thermometer" trick to make it look like he still has a fever - just to be with her.
  • In Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf: Joys of Seasons episode 81, Paddi pretends to be sick so that he can avoid taking a school exam. Slowy tries to help him with a shot, which only serves to cause him pain.
  • In Pororo the Little Penguin, Eddy does this in "Achoo, I Got a Cold", and Pororo does this in "Is Pororo Sick?".
  • Shining Star: In episode 32, Nara gets a ticket to Friday's concert. However, she has to practice with Melody, and as she's depressed over this, the others think she's sick. This gives Nara the idea to fake being sick so she can go to the concert.

    Comic Books 
  • The Smurfs do this in the comic book story The Reporter Smurf to fool Gargamel into thinking he has contracted a disease from them that turns humans into toads.
  • In Doomsday Clock, Ozymandias pulls this off to Reggie Long (AKA: Rorschach II) just so he could gain the latter's trust.
  • Roger the Doger in The Beano has tried this dodge on numerous occasions. The usual outcomes are either that he really gets sick (possibly with no-one believing him), or he misses out on something good "because he's sick" (with it varying whether this is genuine on his parents' part, or just them playing the dodge back at him).

    Comic Strips 
  • Calvin and Hobbes:
    • Subverted in a strip. Calvin won't get up because he's too sick. His mother mentions that it's Saturday and he won't miss school, but Calvin's only response is to curl up further in his blankets and mutter "I know". Cue final scene of his frantic mother dashing to the phone to call a doctor.
    • Played straight on other occasions. Once Calvin even got himself sick on purpose (by sticking his head out the window) in order to delay turning in an assignment.
    • Calvin tried to pull this off in one strip, but he made the ailments sound so severe, his mom decided to go call the doctor. Suddenly, Calvin was feeling better.
  • Crabgrass: Miles pretends to be sick in this comic to get out of a history quiz at school, complete with using the lamp next to his bed to warm the thermometer. His mom is about to see through his lie, but goes along with it so she herself has an excuse to stay home with Miles and not having to go to several appointments with her husband.
  • Dilbert:
    • This is done in a strip where Dogbert describes sick days as "Vacation days with sound effects", and depicts Dilbert with a makeshift slingshot made out of kitchen furniture loaded with a chicken calling his boss and saying "Don't be surprised if I cough and you hear my lungs hit the refrigerator".
    • Parodied when Dilbert calls in sick and pretends to have a cough. He then admits that he doesn't have a cold, but he does have a headache, and he doesn't know how to make a headache sound over the phone.
    • Inverted in another strip, where the Alice (who still looks rather sick) comes to work after taking a sick day, and the PHB tells her he was suspicious of her taking it on a Monday. She then turns to him and coughs up what appears to be a lung and a spleen. In the last panel, she tells Dilbert and Wally, "It was a good thing I had some extra organs."
  • In The Family Circus, Billy claims to be too sick for school, only to say he's felling better when he sees the school bus drive off. Unfortunately for him, his mother seemingly had anticipated this, and already had the car warmed up and ready so he wouldn't be late for school.
  • In For Better or for Worse, Michael catches a real virus and misses a few days of school. When Elly tells him that he's recovered enough to go back to school, he starts coughing loudly and groans about being in terrible pain. Cut to Michael walking to school with Lawrence and saying, "I guess I over-acted."
  • Inverted in FoxTrot, Jason attempts to fake being well in order to go to school and at the very least take a math test despite clearly being sick. The teacher doesn't buy it and tells him to go home.
  • Bob in Knights of the Dinner Table habitually claimed to be sick to avoid going to work when it would interfere with his gaming. After getting caught at it once too often, he was fired and thrown out by his angry and disappointed father.

    Fan Works 
  • The Bolt Chronicles: Mittens claims to be ill (saying she has "Tom Jones Tremens" or "Snu") as an excuse to avoid dancing with Rhino in "The Funkmeister."
  • The Child of Love: In chapter 6 Asuka does not want that Rei spends time with Shinji while they walk to the base, so she pretends to faint and fall sick again, hoping that Shinji stays at home with her.
  • In The Second Try, Asuka plays sick right after returning to the past. Shinji and she are not ready to go to school and face their classmates, so Shinji tells Misato that Asuka shouldn't go to the school because she isn’t feeling well, and he wants to stay home to take care of Asuka. Misato buys it.
  • The True Love Loophole: To explain away why she looks like she was crying, Raven tells Apple she has allergies.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The title character in Billy Madison tries this when not wanting to go to school while in third grade. Billy's maid offers to let him shave her armpits while he's home sick, which forces him to get up and go to school.
  • The Black Hole. Captain Holland has ordered that If I Do Not Return, Lt. Pizer is to leave in the Palomino before the Cygnus flies into the black hole. Holland and the others then get pinned down by the Security androids and can't make it to their spacecraft. Pizer runs to help them, but Booth pretends to have broken his leg so he can stay behind and escape in the spacecraft.
  • In Bored of Education, a short film featuring The Little Rascals, Alfalfa fakes a toothache, complete with a balloon mimicking a swollen jaw, to get out of school. The teacher's on to him, though.
  • This gag began earlier in the 1925 silent short film Circus Fever when Joe and his friends faked being sick by putting paint on their faces.
  • In Drive a Crooked Road, Steve tells Eddie to fake a toothache at work during the afternoon to give him an excuse not to come to work the next day they plan to pull the Bank Robbery.
  • In Dr. Gillespie's New Assistant, the 12th film in the Dr. Kildare series, the Patient of the Week is a newlywed woman with a sudden and inexplicable case of total amnesia. Turns out she's faking it to get out of her marriage.
  • Eraser. Johnny Casteleone has to pretend to be sick for a plot-related reason, so chews a mouthful of alka seltzer so he'll start frothing at the mouth. Unfortunately he then yanks out the cords on the paramedic's heart monitor, causing it to flatline. Hilarity Ensues.
  • In the movie E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial Elliott very convincingly pretends to be sick (even warming the thermometer using a light bulb) so he can be alone with his new alien friend. Taken from Steven Spielberg's own childhood; he sometimes faked being sick to stay home from school.
    • A bonus scene in the 20th Anniversary Edition has him also very convincingly pretending to throw up on the phone to make his mother let him get back to taking care of E.T. after she calls to check on him.
  • This is, of course, the entire impetus to the plot of Ferris Bueller's Day Off. He even explains how to do it.
    "The key to faking out the parents is the clammy hands. It's a good non-specific symptom, and I'm a big believer in it. A lot of people will tell you that a good phony fever is a dead lock, but, ah... you get a nervous mother, and you could end up in the doctor's office, and that's worse than school. You fake a stomach cramp, and while you're bent over moaning and wailing, you lick your palms. It's a little childish and stupid, but then again, so's high school."
  • Get Married If You Can: Gustavo Senior pretends to be terminally ill in an attempt to speed up his son’s presumed wedding.
  • The film A Gift For Heidi has her friend Clara faking she still has her stomach ache from yesterday (after eating too much ice cream). However, she's doing it so that her chaperone has someone he can care for, for once in his life.
  • Paulie Gatto does this in The Godfather, calling in sick one day - which just happened to be the day Don Corleone got shot. Paulie's shown still playing sick a few days later to uphold the ruse, but Sonny knows he was faking and orders Clemenza to kill him.
  • In Gooby, Gooby starts making a lot of noise when he first arrives at Willy's house and Willy's parents get suspicious, so Willy plays sick by choking and feeling unwell afterwards. Unknowingly helped by Gooby, who ate two boxes of cookies and led the parents into thinking he got sick from eating them.
  • In Judas Kiss, Detective Grimes fakes having a broken foot to avoid having to investigate Becky Hornbeck's murder. This tells Detective Friedman that Grimes knew that Becky was going to murdered before the fact, as he had enough time to fake his injury.
  • Thirteen Days: During the Cuban Missile Crisis, Press Secretary Pierre Salinger, who is Locked Out of the Loop, is told that the next day the president's going to have a cold. He isn't told anything else, except how bad it is is up to him. The reason is that Kennedy needs to get back to Washington so he can deal with the crisis without letting on what's going on.
  • In Wonderwall, Oscar's obsession with Penny causes him to behave in a distracted manner at work, causing his coworker Perkins to ask if he's feeling well. Oscar seizes the opportunity to take the next few weeks off so he can spend all his time spying on Penny.
  • In You and Your Stupid Mate, Jeffrey and Philip tell the unemployment office they're sick, when they're really attending a protest to stop Jeffrey's favorite Sons and Surf character from being killed off. Rossiter sees through their story and follows them to the protest.
  • Youth (2017): Xiaoping plays sick to try and get out of performing. When she's given a thermometer, she swaps it for another one to simulate a fever.

  • In Arthur Conan Doyle's The Adventure of the Dying Detective, Dr. Watson discovers that Sherlock Holmes is bedridden with an exotic foreign disease. Holmes is faking it in order to tease a confession out of the evil genius who tried to infect him with said exotic foreign disease. He made a very thorough job of it, though: he starved himself for three days.
  • A deleted chapter from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory involves this. Willy Wonka shows the tour group a room in which Spotty Powder, which you put over your cereal in the morning like sugar. You then eat the powder and get spots on your face, so that when your mother sees you across the table, she'll think you're ill and send you to bed. Perfect for the day you have exams (as Charlie declares). Deleted characters Miranda Mary Piker (a school-obsessed, snobby girl) and her father (a headmaster) are both appalled by this and try to destroy the machine. They walk into the room where the machine that makes the powder is being made and are last heard laughing their heads off for some unknown reason.
  • Discussed in The Day of the Jackal; when an assassin disguises himself as an elderly veteran, the Master Forger who forged his documents tells him to swallow some cordite, as it gives whoever does so a grey pallor that makes them look sick. The forger mentioned that this was done in the army as a way of getting out of fatigue duty.
  • In Diane Duane's Deep Wizardry, Dairine does this for her sister's benefit.
  • In Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Greg states that he has faked being sick to get out of going to school before but it never worked because his mom Susan always checked his temperature.
  • Dirty Bertie:
    • In "Pants!", Bertie loses a bet and has to go to school in his underwear. To get out of it, Bertie pretends he has "Germy Measles" and the spots are invisible, but his mother doesn't buy it and sends him to school anyway.
    • In "Worms!", Bertie considers faking a disease to get out of going to Angela's birthday party, but opts for Faking Amnesia instead.
    • In "Crackers!", Bertie doesn't want his cranky great-aunt Morag to stay, so he tells his mother to say they're sick, but she disapproves.
      Mrs. Burns: "We're not sick, are we?"
  • One story from the Doctor Who 2007 Storybook has a boy putting his head next to a radiator to fake that he has a fever so that he can get sent to bed early and later sneak out to help the Doctor.
  • In one of the Founding of the Commonwealth novels, a thranx claims he'd been ill in the bathroom to explain his absence when he sneaked into the human compound. He then deliberately prepares a meal of spoiled vegetables and eats it all, so he can report to the infirmary with a genuine illness and back up his deception.
  • From the Harry Potter books:
    • In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Fred and George Weasley's "Skiving Snackboxes". Eating one half of the candy will make you graphically ill; upon being excused from your class, you eat the other half, which restores you to perfect health. There are different varieties that make you throw up, faint, have a nosebleed, or come down with a fever and break out in massive, pus-filled boils.
    • In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Ron intends to explain why he isn't returning to Hogwarts by claiming to be ill with spattergroit (a highly contagious fungal disease), and has a ghoul impersonate him in bed with the condition. He does this with his family's assistance, since they're really all in danger.
  • Hulliam d'Averc from Michael Moorcock's Hawkmoon series constantly claims to be suffering from unnumbered, crippling maladies...but lives the life of a lusty action hero, showing that his health is as good as anyone's. The stories never say outright whether he knows he's faking, though it seems likely.
  • In a story from the Andy Griffith book Just Crazy, Andy doesn't want to be in a play so he does this. It doesn't work so he tries to actually get sick.
  • In the Little Princess book I Feel Sick, the Princess pretends she's sick by painting her face green in order to get out of doing things she doesn't want.
  • Papillon makes this into an art form. Hospitals have less security then the Penal Colony and a hospital stay can buy time to make better arrangements for labor assignments or plan escapes. They find many ways to feign illness; for example planting lice, eating spoiled food, or intentionally causing injuries. If that fails, bribe a doctor.
  • Lucky Jim: Catchpole argues that Margaret's suicide attempt and general demeanor of mental illness are not genuine and are just a ploy for attention. After hearing this Jim decides not to worry about her anymore.
  • Mary Musgrove of Persuasion suffers frequent "nervous ailments" that confine her to the couch, until her family members start giving her the level of attention that she's looking for.
  • In Emerald Green of The Ruby Red Trilogy, Charlotte and Gwen both play sick. Charlotte does it so she can search Gwen's room while Gwen is in school. Gwen pretends she is ill so she can stay home as well and foil Charlotte's plan, however, her mother makes her go to school. It works for Gwen later when she wants to avoid going to the ball in the 18th century.
  • In the Sesame Street picture book "Nobody Cares About Me!" Big Bird pretends to be sick because he's jealous that all his friends are paying more attention to Ernie, who has a cold. Unfortunately, he wakes up the next morning to find he's caught Ernie's cold for real.
  • The Shel Silverstein poem "Sick" consists of Peggy Ann McKay listing symptoms of her illness — from a sliver to a 108 degree fever to a shrunken brain — keeping her from going to school until she realizes it's Saturday, when she miraculously recovers.
  • In The Worst Thing About My Sister, Marty doesn't want to go to Alicia's birthday party, so she puts her head under her toy whale to fake a fever and draws on her face with red crayon.
  • In Miracle Creek, Elizabeth fakes an illness to avoid undergoing a hyperbaric oxygen treatment with her son Henry. One of the oxygen tanks explodes, killing Henry and one other person, and Elizabeth is the prime suspect partly because she had never missed a treatment before.
  • Chris from Eye Contact pretends to have an injured ankle so he can get out of PE.
  • Sunny from Call Me Sunflower fakes a terrible stomachache so she can get out of school and attend an animal rights protest instead.
  • In Edgedancer, parents who can no longer take care of their children due to injury give them to The Stump, who accuses them of faking their infirmity for free food and bed. She seems like a jerkass at first, but Lift notices that lots of children walk out of the orphanage seemingly miraculously recovered, and suspects that she gets conned a lot. None of the children were faking. The Stump is a latent Truthwatcher who was healing the children without realizing it.
  • What to Say Next: When Kit leaves class to investigate her father's car accident, she tells Mr. Schmidt, "I'm going to the nurse." David follows her a few minutes later by saying, "I need to empty my bowels."
  • Bat: In A Boy Called Bat, Bat's mom brings home a baby skunk that they will care for for the next month, to his delight. Unfortunately, the next day is an Every-Other Friday, when he and his sister go to spend the weekend with their divorced dad, away from the skunk. Bat tells his mom he has a sore throat and achy ears so he can at least spend the day with the skunk, but his mom sees right through it.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Our Miss Brooks:
    • In "Babysitting for Three", an early radio episode, Miss Brooks phones Mr. Conklin to say she won't be in today as she's sick. In reality, she was roped into babysitting for three children while their mother is in the hospital.
    • In "Blue Goldfish", Walter Denton and Miss Brooks play sick in order to convince Mr. Conklin to raise the temperature in the school. They are convinced that if Mr. Conklin thinks he's causing an epidemic, he'll spend more money on coal for the furnace. A Sound-to-Screen Adaptation of "Not Enough Coal At Madison High".
    • In "Trial by Jury", Miss Brooks has to appear in traffic court and does not want Mr. Conklin to hear about it. She decides to play sick. Unfortunately, Walter Denton, Bones Snodgrass and Mr. Boynton each try to help. They each play sick and ask for Mr. Conklin to have Miss Brooks escort them home. Mr. Conklin is less than convinced; the four of had come to his office feigning illness at almost the exact same time. A Sound-to-Screen Adaptation of the radio episode "Traffic Court".
  • In an episode of 3rd Rock from the Sun, the aliens get the idea of calling in sick. As usual, they think they are total geniuses and that no human has ever thought of this:
    Sally: Taking a sick day when you're not really sick? It sounds like a crime to me.
    Dick: It's not a crime... it's the crime of the century!
  • In an episode of The Addams Family entitled "Cat Addams", the Addamses hire a vet to look at Kitty Cat the lion, but the vet is too scared to. In order to make him braver, Morticia and Gomez have Fester, Thing, and Cousin Itt play sick so the vet can treat them and they can pretend to get better so he'd think he was amazing.
  • The Adventures of Pete & Pete: In the season 2 finale "Sick Day" (the one where Little Pete sticks President Martin Van Buren up his nose), Little Pete fakes food poisoning by tapioca pudding to get out of school for a day, and breaks cardinal rule number one, "Don't leave the house".
  • Katie pulls off an interesting variant of this in Big Time Rush. When her mother laments that nether Katie nor her brother need her much anymore, Katie acts as if she was sick to make her mother feel needed. Katie has to admit to pretending after her mother goes from caring to nearly suffocating.
  • The Big Bang Theory:
    • In one episode, Amy falls ill with the flu and Sheldon takes care of her, rubbing Vicks on her chest and helping her bathe. Amy enjoys the attention so much that she pretends to be still sick once she's gotten better.
    • In another episode:
      Sheldon: I can't go in today. I'm sick.
      Leonard: You're not sick. You just don't want to face Kripke.
      Sheldon: No, look. [hands Leonard thermometer]
      Leonard: 128?
      Sheldon: See?
      Leonard: What did you do, put this in your tea?
      Sheldon: Oh, dear. Now I'm not even smarter than you.
    • In "The Contractual Obligation Implementation", Amy gives an account of how she strategically tricked her manager into believing she was sick, in order to skip work and join Penny and Bernadette in their trip to Disneyland note :
      Amy: I did it in stages. At 7 last night, I called him about a problem at the lab and casually mentioned I was going out for seafood. At 9:30, I called him and told him that one of my scallops tasted weird. At 11:30, I called him and told him I was throwing up like a fire-hose! At 12:45, I called him and made nothing but dry-heaving sounds. And now I'm going to Disneyland!
  • On The Brady Bunch, When Bobby pretends to know Joe Namath Cindy tries to help out by writing him a letter, claiming Bobby is terminally ill in the hope that Namath will give him his autograph. However, when Broadway Joe decides to visit the house and comfort him, Bobby has to fake it.
    • Peter also does it in one episode, to try to avoid going to a party where a girl with a big crush on him will be.
    • In "Today I Am a Freshman," Marcia uses it on the first day of high school; she's incredibly nervous about going to a school where she doesn't know anybody.
  • On Breaking Bad, Walt needs an excuse for disappearing for two days after he was kidnapped due to his meth-making. So he walks into a supermarket and calmly strips off all his clothes, giving the impression that he had a mental break due to his cancer.
  • In the Broad City episode "Working Girls," Abbi calls in sick so she can sign for a package her crush Jeremy is expecting.
  • In one episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Santiago realizes she's booked her romantic weekend away on the same day she promised to help Captain Holt with some community out-reach. Not wanting to give up her weekend nor disappoint her idol, she pretends that she has broken a tooth, is in horrible pain, and has to go to the dentist that weekend. It all backfires magnificently when the concerned Holt immediately books her in with a family friend, who's the best dentist in the city, for free. When Santiago tries to get out of it, citing a broken car, Holt insists on driving her there in his. The dentist almost immediately realizes that she has no broken teeth, and she gets called out. However, turns out that her overly aggressive brushing technique rubbed away all her teeth's enamel, and her whole mouth is filled with cavities.
    Holt: For the record, you deserve this.
  • On the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "The Killer in Me", Kennedy fakes being sick to get out of going on a vision quest with the other slayers, giving her a chance to take Willow out on a date.
  • In one episode in El Chavo del ocho, a character played this, and used her (supposed) very contagious illness to scare all her neighbors. It ended with all the cast sick... except for El Chavo, who wanted most to get the illness so he could enjoy of hospital attention and regular income of food.
  • In Clarissa Explains It All, in the episode "Sick Days," Clarissa tries to pretend to be sick to get out of playing a pillar in the Ancient Greece Day pageant at school, but her parents don't buy it. She ends up getting legitimately sick just a day or two later however... and finding out that Queen Latifah will be performing at the pageant, so she doesn't want to miss it after all.
  • Combined with Crying Wolf on an episode of Community. Leonard's comrade Richard continually says, "Where am I? What year is this?" and the rest of the seniors laugh at this genius ploy of getting out of trouble. This leads to a Tear Jerker moment towards the end when Pierce and the others discover Richard is actually suffering from dementia, and may or may not have been previously faking.
    • Jeff does this to get out of helping Annie move, telling the group that he's at the hospital when he's actually shopping for clothes at the mall. The saleslady, without being prompted, asks for his insurance card and the name of his primary care physician to help the ruse.
    • It is implied in several episodes that Pierce is constantly faking heart attacks to get out of trouble, appeal to sympathy or dodge awkward situations.
      Abed: Last week, he did it to get out of lending me a stick of gum.
  • In one episode of CSI: NY, most of the police officers of New York City call in sick. They're striking due to not being paid.
    • The "Blue Flu", a tactic used by police unions because police officers are not legally allowed to go on strike, appears in several television series, including CSI: NY, Barney Miller, and Babylon 5 (in the third case, involving underpaid-and-overworked space station dockworkers bound by a no-strike contract).
    • A similar incident happened an an episode of ER. Nurses are also not legally allowed to go on strike, but after Carol rearranged their work schedule which resulted in them working more hours for less money (she was trying to avoid having to fire two of them, which was what the hospital wanted to do), they staged a sick-out, leaving Carol the only nurse on duty.
  • Another show that combined this with Crying Wolf was the BBC drama Dangerfield. An elderly thief knows that the police have to interview her within 24 hours before they can charge her. So to avoid being questioned, she first complains of a bad back, gets examined and given some painkillers. A few hours later she then complains of having a sore throat, and it examined again, and is recommended to take some throat lozenges, however since they can’t be prescribed on the NHS, a police officer has to go out and buy them for her. Later she then complains about feeling dizzy. By this point everyone knows that’s she’s having them on, but she gets examined again, and is told to rest. When the police do eventually get into a interview room, she then starts to show symptoms of having a heart attack. This time it’s genuine, however the 24 hours are up, and since they can’t question her anymore, and therefore have no legal responsibility or duty of care towards her, the annoyed police officers tell she has to make her own way to the hospital.
  • Dark Desire: Alma pretends she's unconscious when Esteban is holding her captive, and then escapes when he unshackles her to check on what's wrong.
  • On Doogie Howser, M.D. 's Christmas Episode, Doogie fakes an illness while at the hospital (where he’s worked for 36 hours straight), to go home on Christmas Eve and attend a party with his girlfriend, Wanda. Being a teenage kid, as well as a doctor, he was able to get away with this quite well…but he later feels guilty and decides to return to work.
  • The Dukes of Hazzard had an episode where a guy got arrested, then showed signs of having the plague (in reality, he was allergic to poison ivy, which gave him the skin rashes, and he just faked the other symptoms). This was done as a gambit to get the local doctor to quarantine the Hazzard court house (with both of Hazzard's police officers inside) so his friends could rob the bank.
  • The Eternal Love: Xiao Tan pretends to be sick after the falling-off-a-cliff incident. Lian Cheng gets a doctor to play along and tell everyone she's seriously ill.
  • A French Village: Hélène is counseled to fake meningitis and so escape from the makeshift prison for Jews. Later, Lucienne also fakes some problem with her baby so Gestapo agents leave the house. However, it doesn't fool them entirely—they hang around to nab Hélène after she leaves the house.
  • Rachel has done this a couple of times on Friends, for example when she had kissed her co-worker and thought it would be awkward to see him.
  • DJ did this in an early episode of Full House in an attempt to get Stacey Q's autograph. It almost worked, but Joey and baby sister Michelle just happened to show up at the mall as DJ and Kimmy were leaving. Of course, Michelle discovered them and led Joey over, thus blowing DJ's cover and embarrassing her at the same time.
  • In the Get Some In! episode "Medical", Teddy boy Jakey Smith tries to fail his medical exam in order to be disqualified from National Service by pretending to be hard of hearing. The Medical Officer asks him to repeat what he says, then whispers, "Six pounds of lettuce." Jakey simply replies, "When you're ready, Sir!" The MO then tells him to sit down, and he happily complies... giving himself away in the process. His backup plan of swallowing cotton wool before having his chest X-ray taken so that it looks like he has shadows on his lungs is also seen through immediately.
  • The Ghost and Mrs. Muir: After slipping a disc out at Gull Cottage in "A Pain in the Neck", Claymore continues to malinger after his back is better so he can take advantage of Mrs. Muir's sympathy and hospitality.
  • In one episode of The Golden Girls, Sophia really is injured and must stay in a wheelchair, so Dorothy hires a nurse to look after her mother. The nurse takes excellent care of Sophia but makes life miserable for the other three housemates, who want to fire her. Sophia fakes being injured long after she recovers in order to go on being pampered by the nurse, noting that the way she treats the other three characters is 'just a bonus'.
  • On House, the title character once pretended to have terminal cancer so he could get a pleasure drug injected directly into his brain. Even for House, this was considered despicable.
  • In the I Love Lucy episode "Lucy Fakes Illness", Ricky discovers Lucy is faking a nervous breakdown, and hires an actor playing as a doctor to diagnose Lucy with "the go-bloots", a rare and lethal tropical disease. As the doctor says she has minutes to live, Lucy fakes her impending death until Ricky's orchestra starts playing the upbeat song, "I'll Be Glad When You're Dead, You Rascal You".
  • Intergalactic: Genevieve pretends she's ill so the guards will come to check on her, then attacks them with her hair tendrils when they get close.
  • Carrie from The King of Queens actually gets the flu and Holly makes soup for her. After discovering that Holly is a great cook, she decides to pretend to be sick when she isn't anymore to get Holly to continue bringing her food, even when Holly gets sick.
  • In an episode of Lizzie McGuire, Matt tries to pull this, but his mom sees through the act from the start. Rather than send him off to school anyway, she cheerfully proceeds to make Matt miserable by feeding him borscht and sweating out his "fever" by swaddling him in a wool blanket with the heater on. Ironically, this and Matt's further attempts to fake sick did end up making him genuinely sick by the end of the episode.
  • In the TV Documentary Menudo: Forever Young a former member, Angelo, was accused of this when he complained of stomach pains before a concert. In a subversion, in the middle of performing, he ran backstage and started throwing up blood, later needing appendectomy.
  • In "Valentine's Day III" on The Middle, Axl, stumped for an assignment where he has to give a speech about a life-changing moment, makes a video where Brick fakes being terminally ill.
  • Mimpi Metropolitan: After a minor motorbike accident with Alan in episode 24, Wawan pretends to be injured so that Alan will have to pay the hospital bills and compensation for the broken motorbike. Also, hospital rooms are very nice to stay in. Alan can tell Wawan is faking it, but Wawan and the doctor insists on going through an expensive medical test "just to be sure". Eventually, the test proves that Wawan is just faking it and Wawan is the one who is forced to pay compensation for the test bills.
  • In the Modern Family episode "Virgin Territory", Cameron fakes an injury while at brunch in the Dunphys' house so, when everyone's out, he can search it for a Tupperware bowl Claire insists she's returned to him.
  • On Orphan Black, Sarah pretends to be her clone Beth, and unwittingly ends up in the middle of a hearing to determine whether or not Beth is fit to resume duty as a police officer. She promptly goes into a nearby bathroom and chugs the contents of the soap dispenser, so that she can visibly throw up before she has to testify and buy herself a few more days to figure out what's going on.
  • The Professionals
    • In "Long Shot", as part of a plan to infiltrate a high security area a terrorist takes pills that give him the symptoms of a heart attack. He gets caught but CI5 is forced to put him on an airliner out of the country to avoid further terrorist acts to free him. Another passenger however is a CI5 agent who takes the same pills, causing the plane to divert to the nearest airport, which happens to be in a country whose ruler believes in shooting terrorists on sight.
    • In "Hijack", Doyle is about to get into bed with his Girl of the Week when he gets a call telling him to take over a surveillance job because Bodie is off sick. The next day shows Doyle looking tired, cold, unshaven and out of coffee when Bodie struts in with a smug look on his face.
      Doyle: I thought you were ill.
      Bodie: I tell you, Ray, you wouldn't believe it. I was so bad, I couldn't even get into bed.
      Doyle: Whose?
  • The flashback portion of one episode of Psych had Henry catching a young Shawn pretending to be sick so that he wouldn't have to have dinner with their neighbors. Shawn then explained that he didn't want to go over to the neighbors' house for dinner because they were vegans—at which point, Henry decides he's going to play sick.
  • From Reba, two of the title character's kids each try to use this trick once. They both fail.
  • The Rise of Phoenixes: The emperor pretends to be sick to avoid dealing with the case of Lady Wang framing Ya Le.
  • ROY does this in one episode when he finds all of his friends have come down with an illness, but he can't because he is a cartoon (although he does get ill later in the episode). He then discovers his sister Becky isn't ill either and uses that as blackmail against her.
  • Budnick and Michael pretend to get sick in an episode of Salute Your Shorts in order to get out of instructional swim class. Budnick had a recipe for convincing looking fake vomit, and Ug wouldn't let them out of class unless they were blowing chunks. They quickly regret this when they realize that Ug was taking the class to the beach as a surprise.
  • Played with by Sándor and Tamas on Schloss Einstein: Alexander figures out pretty quickly that Tamas isn't really sick, but lets him skip class anyway; and whenever anyone comes into the room, one of them has to hide depending on who it is (either someone from the Schloss Einstein staff who thinks Tamas is Sándor, or Sándor's father, who knows that Sándor is Sándor).
    • Somewhat hilariously, they are found out in the very next episode, when Sándor's father shows up unexpectedly and sees Tamas being called "Sándor" by everyone.
  • Subverted in The Secret World of Alex Mack: the titular heroine uses her powers to raise the level of mercury in the thermometer — but accidentally takes it too far, breaking the thermometer, gets scolded by her mother, and is sent to school.
  • In the Seinfeld episode "The Scofflaw", Jerry learns that his friend Gary Fogel (played by Jon Lovitz) had only pretended to have cancer in order to, according to Jerry, "get some free hair" (Jerry had bought him a hair club membership).
    • This comes back to bite him, in a later episode Jerry mentions he crashed his car and killed himself while adjusting the hair piece in the rear view mirror.
    • In an inversion of this trope, George spends the week on vacation, but keeps his car in the parking lot. After Kramer and Jerry have to clean it from bird droppings, they crash it on the way back, but still park it back in the same space. George has to come back pretending to be seriously injured after the crash to keep from being fired. It still bites him in the butt when he doesn't get the raise he was hoping for as they thought he was seriously inured or dead and had to fill the position.
  • Sirens (UK) had a mother call 999 because he had a slight cough. Stuart was less than impressed and immediately singled out the cause of his cough was a dislike of Rugby. Oh, and then he insinuated that the 12-year-old was gay.
  • Junior in The Sopranos feigns dementia to avoid criminal prosecution. Invoked and then twisted as Junior is really going senile.
  • Star Trek: Picard: In "Broken Pieces", Narissa suspects that Ramdha is somehow faking her coma.
    Narissa: Dr. Kabath says there's no medical reason for this, Auntie. I do believe you're malingering.
  • An episode of That's So Raven, after Raven's principal breaks his back and it looks like he'll be leaving, she faking sick to avoid putting up with him for one more day. However, the principal's back healed, meaning that he's staying. And to add insult to injury, he took the school on a field trip to a water park to celebrate his recovery.
  • In Unnatural History, Henry does this to get out of the school when it is under lockdown due to a mysterious disease to get the cure from the medical repository.
  • In Wolf Hall, Anne Boleyn accuses Thomas Cromwell of faking because he didn't want to carry out her command of arranging a French marriage for her daughter Elizabeth. Cromwell was ill and says so, having ended the previous episode with a delirious fever so bad that Henry went so far as to actually visit him (albeit in cut scenes, but in the book he's noted to have a dread of contagion). Anne just replies that Cromwell wouldn't be ill unless he wanted to be.

  • "Weird Al" Yankovic:
    • He once did a song about this, titled Calling in Sick.
      I think I'll call my boss and I'm
      Gonna hack and cough and wheeze
      Swear I've got some strange disease
      What's that little twerp gonna say?
    • He also admits to this in "Confessions Part III":
    Oh, by the way, I wasn't really sick last week. I just didn't want to go to your stupid office picnic.
  • Optimus Rhyme 's Sick Day has Wheelie (Well, in his human guise) call out sick from his job to hang out with the band instead.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • A common set-up for a wrestling feud. One such execution will have a face wrestler scheduled to take on a heel, but the scheduled heel is a "no show" because he claims to be ill. So one of the heel's underlings will take his place. The good guy will beat on the underling heel for a few minutes, until the supposedly sick wrestler runs into the ring to mastermind a severe beatdown of his foe.
  • Zig-zagged on an 1986 edition of Saturday Nights Main Event in a match between Hulk Hogan and Don Muraco. Instead of Muraco, his manager, Mr. Fuji, was the one who was allegedly sick, and instead had Bobby Heenan accompany him to ringside. Late in the match, one of Heenan's men, King Kong Bundy, attacked Hogan, which led to their match at WrestleMania 2.
  • At SummerSlam 1993, Bret Hart was slated to face Jerry Lawler, who had been incessantly making jokes about Bret's family. The day of the match, Lawler came to the ring on crutches, claiming to have been in a car accident, and had Doink the Clown take his place. When Bret had Doink locked in the Sharpshooter, Lawler tried to attack him with one of the crutches. Doink was disqualified for the interference, but because it proved Lawler was fine, the ref forced Lawler to face Bret right then and there.

    Puppet Shows 
  • Tutter on Bear in the Big Blue House does this once to try to avoid going to Mouse School.
  • In one episode of Eureeka's Castle, when Bogge catches the flu, Batley gets jealous of the special care he's receiving and pretends to be sick too.
  • In the Lamb Chop's Play-Along episode "Too Sick to Go to the Circus," Lamb Chop has a cold, which inspires Charlie Horse and Hush Puppy to pretend to be sick too to get out of school. Shari sees straight through it but pretends to be fooled, gives them Foul Medicine, and then keeps them home from their class's field trip to the circus, even though they're instantly "cured" when they learn about it.
  • Wimzie's House:
    • In the episode "I Want My Mommy!" Graziella has a day off from work and promises to spend it playing with Wimzie, but then Bo gets sick, so she has to spend her time taking care of him instead. Wimzie pretends to be sick to get attention too. She eventually comes clean when she sees how overwhelmed her mother is taking care of two sick kids, and when Yaya (who sees through her trick) tries to "cure" her with a mustard and broccoli concoction.
    • In the episode "Jonas the Actor," when the kids plan to perform a play for the neighbors, Jonas has Stage Fright, so he pretends to have a broken tonsil and a sore big toe.

  • In 2nd Samuel chapter 13, King David's son Amnon did this in order to lure his half-sister Tamar into a private encounter where he could sleep with her. When Tamar resisted, Amnon forced himself upon her and raped her, thus forever defiling Tamar and making him a target for his half-brother Absalom, who avenged the rape by killing him in a private party.


    Tabletop Games 
  • Vampire: The Masquerade has "Schere's Disease". It was created to mimic vampire symptoms and to be used as a cover-story, explaining why someone burns in sunlight and needs to drink blood from a medical perspective. The Schere Foundation was simultaneously created to give out false information about the disorder and provide medical credentials for individual vampires who might need them.


    Video Games 
  • In Chrono Trigger, the crew can either sneak out of their cell using the airduct system or use this trope to lure the guard into a trap and knock them out. It Only Works Once; should you be captured after that breakout but before you get your equipment back, the guard will not fall for it again, forcing you to use the ducts.
  • In Fallout 3, claiming to be sick is one of the dialogue options before taking the G.O.A.T. exam. However, your father is the Vault doctor, too and very quickly shuts down the attempt with a light mocking. If you chose this dialogue option, another character comments on you trying the old "I'm sick" routine. Mocked by Liam Neeson, and check one more off the list.
  • Fire Emblem:
    • Makalov in Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance and Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn exemplifies this trope, frequently making excuses and trying to got out of battles and debts by feigning illness. After the game's lord, Ike, overhears him planning this, Makalov is told that the company payed off his debts, that he would be working for free for a while, and not to even think about being sick.
    • In Fire Emblem: Awakening, in a support conversation, Yarne was feigning illnesses to avoid marching. Laurent, who notices, didn't buy it one bit.
  • In Fleeing the Complex, Henry can try to do this to escape his cell. It gets him tranquilized and moved to the Quarantine cell, complete with cellmate whose arm just fell off.
  • In last day of spring, Haru tells Erika that she's fallen sick to avoid having the spa day Erika was planning for her birthday because she was too anxious about the thought of exposing her (biologically male) body around Manami, her childhood friend and longtime crush.
  • The Sims can sometimes call in sick to get a day off, with fake coughing and chuckling when they think the person on the other end can't hear them.

  • A sinister example appears in Bastard where it's the parent who forces the child to play sick. After murdering a woman at the park, Jin's Serial Killer father forces him to stick a heating pad up his shirt so that when they're pulled over for a random search due to the large number of murders in the area at the time, he can get out of it quickly by claiming that his son has a bad fever. As a result, the police officers miss the bloodstain on the trunk of the car.
  • In Dragalia Life, #23 has Emile tries to get out of training with Leif by pretending to be sick. Problem is, Leif happens to be a Lethal Chef who gives him medicine made with a blend of 200 animals, plants and fish. The next panel has Emile in bed like death warmed over him, played for laughs.
  • Izabell Carrol from Forestdale goes above and beyond in her attempts to pull this off. She doesn't merely fake an illness, she tries to fake her own death! Even assembling an arraignment of flowers fitting for a funeral on her bed, complete with flower wreath, while posing as a corpse; of course her parents aren't buying it in the slightest.
  • A story arc in PreTeena has Teena Keene, normally an A student, panicked into faking illness to escape a test she hasn't prepared for. Older sister Jeri, a veteran of escaping tests and homework by similar ploys, congratulates her for coming over to the dark side, but Teena's conscience gets the better of her and she shamefacedly confesses and apologises.
  • Two Lumps: During a flashback sequence, kitten-Eben gets sick shortly after he and kitten-Snooch are adopted. note  Once Snooch finds out that his brother is being given pureed chicken to encourage him to eat, he immediately fakes the same symptoms.
  • This Wapsi Square comic has Dietzel recommending that Monica do this.

    Web Animation 
  • Most GoAnimate Grounded videos involve a grounded character faking an illness, most likely in order to skip school whenever they have to take a big test.

    Web Original 
  • Arthéon from Noob frequently does this for the double benefit of not having to go to class and getting his overprotective mother to leave him alone "so he can rest".
  • In Part 4 of SuperMarioLogan's "Bowser Junior's Summer School" story arc, Junior pretends to be sick so he doesn't have to go to summer school. Karma soon catches up with Junior, as on this particular day, the teacher, Jackie Chu, decides to give out cupcakes and cookies for the class, along with no homework that night. Meanwhile, Junior gets a beating from his father when he's caught playing Minecraft when he should have been in bed.
  • Both Momo and Lulu have done this in Cream Heroes. Momo faked heavy breathing to get out of his daily exercise but tests at the vet showed he was actually in very good condition. While Lulu had put some strain on his legs, his lack of limping at the cat hospital shows he was exaggerating the pain for extra treats and sympathy.

    Western Animation 
  • 101 Dalmatians: The Series: In "Easy On The Lies", Rolly pretends to be injured to keep from having to hear one of the Colonol's boring stories, and end up going to extreme lengths to get to the watering hole without being seen by the Colonol and ruining the lie.
  • The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius: Jimmy Neutron gives his friends special patches that mimicks illness, allowing them to skip school. Unfortunately, the patches got absorbed and makes them sick for real, forcing Jimmy to pull a "Fantastic Voyage" Plot to develop a cure (hence the episode's title, "Journey to the Center of Carl").
  • An episode of Amphibia revolves around Anne trying this to get out of some outdoor chores on a stormy day. Taking advantage of the fact that nobody in Amphibia knows anything about human biology, she claims to have a debilitating disease called the "mocha lattes".
  • The Angry Beavers: In "Fakin' It", Norbert fakes sick to get out of re-twigging the dam on a wet day, going so far as to feign "the Beaver Gargle of Ache". Dagget runs himself ragged trying to care for Norbert, and when he gets sick too Norbert feels bad and tries to care for Dagget. Then it turns out Dagget was also faking sick to get back at Norb.
  • Used in several Arthur episodes:
    • In "Arthur's Chicken Pox", younger sister D.W. pretends to have come down with the titular sickness, since she's jealous of all the special treatment Arthur is getting from Grandma Thora due to his chicken pox. It works until the fake spots she drew on with marker wash off in the bath.
    • "For Whom The Bell Tolls" has D.W. faking she has lost her voice (or, rather, keeps pretending to have lost it after it returns) so that everyone spoils her. Arthur overhears her talking and has to get help from his friends to make her admit the truth.
    • In "April Ninth", there's a fire at Lakewood Elementary burns down and Arthur pretends to have a sore throat because he fears his father will be in a fire if he goes to deliver a cake to another school and he knows that his dad wouldn't leave if Arthur had a sore throat as then he'd think he was sick and given him a special kind of chicken soup that only he can make. However, Mr Read sees through the ruse and reassures him that schools are usually safe places and the fire at Lakewood was a one-off.
    • In "Arthur Goes Crosswire", Arthur finds Muffy's boat boring as he didn't see animals and Buster suggests he play sick to avoid doing it again the next day and he thinks it's a good idea, until Prunella and Sue Ellen want to join in to see if it's fancy, Buster says that Arthur is sick, but Arthur states he "got better".
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender a city's entire resistance force pretend that they were sick with Pentapox in order to let the citizens flee the occupied city. This mysterious disease was actually just hickies from a Purple Pentapus.
    • Katara also fed Appa a bunch of bright purple berries to make it seem like he was sick, so they would have to stay for longer so that she could be the Painted Lady.
  • In the Bad Dog episode "Nurse Barky", Penelope and some of her friends pretend to be sick to get out of school to go to The Hair Scrunchie Barn at the mall. However, Little Vic and Berkeley believe Penelope really IS sick, and try every remedy they can think of to cure her, which ultimately results in Berkeley infecting her with poison ivy.
  • Bugs Bunny's many "death scenes" to pull one over on Elmer Fudd always work. Most notably in "The Wabbit Who Came To Supper" where Bugs—having been locked out of Elmer's house—says he'll catch "p-neumonia!"
  • One Care Bears cartoon has Hugs and Tugs drawing spots onto themselves to fake that they have some kind of pox. However, when they wash the spots off and declare they're better, the parent figures declare that the illness is getting worse! They end up going on a dangerous Find the Cure! mission for nothing.
  • In Central Park, Season 1 "Garbage Ballet", when a sick Paige plans on killing any rats they might be inside their home, Cole pretends to be sick so he can stay home and stop her from killing any. He eventually catches his mom's cold and is sick for real.
  • An episode of ChalkZone has Rudy faking sick to get out a test he forgot to study for. However, the test turned out to be the next week and instead he was to have gone on a field trip to a dinosaur-themed amusement park, so Rudy makes a portal to ChalkZone to go to the park without getting caught.
  • Happens with Dale on the Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers episode "Kiwi's Big Adventure"; he pretends that his foot is injured just to get closer to Gadget. Chip is well aware of this, however, and gets Gadget, Monty, and Zipper to see him walk perfectly okay by himself when they leave him alone. Dale would end up breaking his foot for real near the end, though.
  • Code Lyoko does this in countless episodes. "Mrs. Hertz? I don't feel good, I have to go to the infirmary." "Me too!" "And I'll escort them!" Cue running off to Lyoko. With three or four students doing this all at the same time, and it's the same ones every time, you wonder why the teachers don't see through it.
    • The teachers and principal start getting fed up with this in the last Season and aren't fooled as often, so it becomes harder for the heroes to pretend being sick.
    • Keep in mind that most of these visits never happened.
  • Cow and Chicken: In "Playing Hookie", Chicken pretends to be sick so he won't have to take a test he didn't study for. When he finally convinces his parents, they call a Doctor who happens to be the Red Guy. After deeming Red's treatments scarier than the test, Chicken admits to be playing sick, prompting the Red Guy to confess he was just playing doctor.
  • The Cramp Twins:
    • In "Sick Daze", Wayne pretends to have a cold during class so he could be sent home after one of his classmates gets sent home for this reason. Miss Hissy sees immediately through this act, so after classes, he tries to purposefully make himself sick to escape school, which works.
    • In another episode, he draws red spots with permanent marker on his face to mimic chicken pox. It could have worked had he tried to hide the marker from his mother.
  • Doug has the titular character try to feign an illness to get out of School Picture Day in "Doug's Big Nose", but the school nurse doesn't fall for his act.
  • The Ed, Edd n Eddy episode "Cry Ed", although Eddy is pretending to be severely injured instead of sick, and trying to get attention and pity from the other kids rather than out of school.
  • In an episode of The Emperor's New School, Kuzco did it after learning that the Royal Treasury would provide funds to look after him (in luxury) if he was ill. Kuzco did this because he missed living in his palace, and all the comforts of it. Then in a twist of irony, he actually does get sick because of one of Yzma's schemes.
  • Peter goes to the extreme in the Family Guy episode "Mr. Griffin Goes to Washington", where instead of calling out sick, he tells his boss that he got into a freak plane accident where his family was killed and he's not a vegetable so he can go to a baseball game. When he goes to the game, naturally, Peter's scheme blows up in his face when he happens to have a seat next to his boss. Mr. Weed is not amused by the lies and notes that Peter made a "full recovery", thus he is well enough to see him in his office tomorrow morning. Peter manages to avoid getting fired due to his company being bought out and merged with another company the next day.
  • In one episode of The Flintstones, Fred and Barney tried to call in sick to go to a baseball game. Fred's boss believed him, but Barney's wanted him to check with the company nurse. He did, and when she took his temperature, Fred tried to fake a fever for him using his cigarette lighter. Unfortunately that made it register way too high, and the nurse panicked and called an ambulance, and suffice to say, it only got worse from there.
  • Goof Troop did this twice, once played very sympathetically and once played very unsympathetically.
    • The sympathetic example is when PJ plays sick (at Max's coaxing) to get in one last day of freedom before being Grounded Forever for failing his math test, which he thinks he did. Pete is very strict about what counts as "sick enough" to stay home, so Max makes PJ look very sick, which results in him being taken to the hospital and Pete very briefly realizing that he's a bad parent. Unfortunately, PJ didn't even need to play sick in the first place because he didn't fail the test.
    • The unsympathetic example is when Pete pretends to be sick so that he can take the day off fishing. This wouldn't be so bad by itself, especially considering Pete is his own boss, but he tells PJ he's sick and dying and that PJ has to take over his job. He goes so far to make him feel guilty by saying that Peg, Pistol, and Chainsaw will be stuck doing terrible jobs if he doesn't succeed. This starts to backfire when Max and Goofy give PJ the idea to use Pete in some stunts (since he's dying anyway), and backfires even further when PJ tearfully presents the proceeds to Peg and tells her what Pete said.
  • Two instances in The Hair Bear Bunch:
    • In "Rare Bear Bungle," Bubi feigns an illness so Peevly will tend to him while Hair and Square disguise Bananas the Gorilla as Rare Bear (a critter that costs the city $50,000 and was tricked by the bears into going into town).
    • "The Bear Who Came To Dinner" has Square Bear faking an injury after slipping on a banana peel Peevly dropped. Hair threatens Peevly with an animal negligence suit if Square isn't cared for.
  • In Holly Hobbie and Friends: Christmas Wishes, Holly is said to have lost her voice due to a "freak scarf accident" and this is the reason why she has to give up her solo to the widow Kelly Deegan. In reality, it's just a scheme to try to restore happiness to this Broken Bird, and it works.
  • Hey Arnold!: In "Oskar Gets a Job", Oskar gets a job as a paper boy to pay off a debt. This job requires him to wake up early, and Arnold wakes up early as well to make sure that Oskar actually does the job. On the first day, Oskar tells Arnold that he has the Chinese Stomach Flu, and on the second, Oskar tells Arnold that he hurt his back, both times resulting in Arnold having to do Oskar's job for him. Arnold soon discovers that Oskar was faking when he sees him eating pancakes on the first day and dancing on the second. After covering for Oskar on the second day, Arnold outright asks him what his next excuse will be since he's not going to cover for him anymore. On the third day, Oskar ends up doing his job anyway after overhearing Mr. Hyunh and Ernie, and Arnold and Suzie, talk about his tactics of trying to avoid doing the job.
  • Jelly Jamm: Inverted. In "Musical Aurora", Goomo comes down with a case of jelly measles on the night of the Musical Aurora, and he pretends to be healthy so that he can still join his friends in seeing it. Everyone else isn't fooled and Goomo is forced to stay home and drink bitter medicine to help him get better.
  • Kaeloo: Stumpy does this in Episode 138 in order to avoid cleaning his incredibly messy room. Kaeloo immediately sees through the ruse, but Stumpy refuses to admit he's faking. Kaeloo ends up using the fact that Stumpy is Afraid of Needles against him by saying that if he's sick, he must need injections, and she brings in a tray full of them. Stumpy claims to have gotten better and cleans the whole room within seconds.
  • King of the Hill: When Bobby becomes allergic to dogs, he continues feigning his allergies even after his medication takes effect so that he can get his parents' sympathy.
  • A positive example happens in the Llan-ar-goll-en episode, "Dirgelwch y Llythyr Coll". It's Prys' birthday and yet nobody seems to have remembered it. Ceri appears to come down with a cold, so she tells him that she can't help solve the mystery of Prys' lost letter, but she still tags along with him anyway. Near the end, it's revealed that Ceri was faking her sickness and stole Prys' letter, much to the surprise of everyone in the room. The reason she did so is that she could help Prys solve the mystery of the day for once, and it worked. He finally figured out the mystery of the day by himself, and the letter was revealed to be a sweet birthday card for him from Ceri, thanking Prys for being the best detective in Llan-ar-goll-en.
  • Little Princess:
    • In "I Don't Want to Kiss Great Aunty", the Princess draws green spots on her face so that the adults would think she was carrying "warble dots" and she wouldn't have to kiss her great-aunt. She gives up when the doctor claims that the cure tastes like sweaty old socks.
    • Played with in "I Want My Voice Back". The Princess does lose her voice (albeit probably not due to illness as she seemed fine otherwise), but when she gets it back, she pretends it's still gone as she likes communicating with a bell and pictures.
  • The Loud House:
    • In "Head Poet's Anxiety", Lucy is set to be first kid to perform at the Royal Woods Theatre, something that Luan has been trying and failing to be for years. After learning about this, a guilty Lucy decides to fake an illness so she won't have to steal Luan's dream.
    • In "A Bug's Strife", Lynn Sr. fakes being sick to avoid visiting Aunt Ruth.
  • In the 2007 revival series of The Magic Roundabout, Dougal does this in "A Very Dodgy Exercise" to avoid attending Solider Sam's exercise class.
  • One episode of The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack has Flapjack pretending to be struck dumb by a curse to guilt Captain K'nuckles into taking him to a carnival.
  • In The Mask, Lonnie the Shark's henchman Pete is prone of making excuses to get sick to avoid doing work.
  • Milo: In "Milo's Sore Tummy", Milo pretends to have a stomachache, but he soon finds being treated as sick boring and admits he was faking.
  • Dragon does it in "The Bug Flu" on Miss Spider's Sunny Patch Friends after seeing Spiderus do the same thing.
  • The My Little Pony Tales episode "Too Sick to Notice" - Bon Bon feels ignored by her family when her youngest brother gets sick, so she decides to pretend she's sick too. At first she enjoys it, then regrets it when she is forced to stay in bed all day while her friends have fun outside and her family gets more and more stressed by her ever increasing demands. Wracked with guilt, she confesses. Her family seems to forgive her, but then they all claim that they are sick and force her to care for them.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Attempted in "Family Appreciation Day" by Apple Bloom (as shown in the page image above). It doesn't work. Granny Smith, having raised first her own children as well as Apple Bloom's older siblings before her, sees right through it.
    • Fluttershy does it in "Hurricane Fluttershy" to avoid tornado duty, painting spots on her face and making rather obviously fake sneezes. Rainbow Dash isn't fooled, dumping water on her and washing away the spots.
    • "Three's A Crowd": Discord does this by claiming to have the "Blue Flu" and having Twilight and her visiting sister-in-law Cadance tend to him. Naturally he's doing this for his own amusement in the hopes it'll spoil the visit (though he claims it's also a Secret Test of Character for Twilight to see if she really does care for him). It winds up backfiring since Cadance didn't mind it since it gave her some much needed excitement from her princess duties. Plus, he catches a real disease in the process.
    • In "It Ain't Easy Being Breezies", Fluttershy looks after a flock of Breezies (tiny winged creatures who fly on the breeze), and their leader Seabreeze wants them to get home, but the others want to stick around so they pretend to have colds.
  • Pepper Ann had an episode where she fakes she has a fever (by putting the thermometer in a cup of coffee) so that she can have a day off school.
  • Popeye:
    • An old cartoon has him and Bluto feigning illness to get into a hospital and be treated by nurse Olive. As they try to outdo each other and start fighting, Olive sees through their ruse.
    • A later WWII cartoon has the two in the US Navy; Bluto fakes illness to get out of working. Popeye sees through it and proceeds to teach him a lesson.
    • In one cartoon, Popeye, feeling ignored by Olive, pretends to be sick to see if she still loves him. She immediately rushes him to the hospital, where he even manages to fool the doctors. In the end when it seems that the doctors can't do anything and Popeye is dead, Olive sobs over him, and that's when he gets up and reveals the truth. She is pissed.
  • Private Snafu: In "The Goldbrick", Snafu fakes being sick so he can get of drill in the rain, and spends the day cosied up in bed being tended to by a Hospital Hottie. However, avoiding training leaves him unprepared when his unit goes into action in the South Pacific.
  • In the Ready Jet Go! episode "Mindy Pet-Sits", Sean, Jet, Sydney, and Carrot fly out to space in order to look for the Northern Lights. Since Mindy is too young, she cannot go, and she is sad that she cannot go to see the Northern Lights. Sunspot, feeling sorry for her, fakes an injury so he gets to stay with Mindy, and make Mindy her own Northern Lights show in the backyard. All of the other characters are aware of this.
  • One episode of Recess had the main characters pretend to be sick in order to be sent home from a boring school day (every other student is out with a real illness). Unfortunately, Gretchen mixes up the symptoms, so instead of an illness that would mandate being sent home, the nurse thinks that they've contracted some horrible disease that leads to them being quarantined by public health officials.
  • The Rotten Ralph episode "Ralph's Royal Treatment" has Ralph trick his owner Sarah and her parents into spoiling him by pretending that he is afflicted with a fatal illness and only has a few weeks left to live. Ralph's cousin Percy helps Sarah and her parents find out the truth and the four get back at Ralph by pretending that they still believe he's a goner even as Ralph is pressured into confessing that he's not really dying.
  • One episode of Rugrats has Angelica faking having a broken leg so she can more easily boss the adults around. It works when there is a mix up with the X-Rays at the hospital.
    • Angelica does this again in the spin-off All Grown Up! in which she starts quoting lines of a deranged character from a soap opera so she can stay in the hospital longer.
  • Sheriff Callie's Wild West uses this trope to provide An Aesop of "Playing sick as a means of getting attention is not good, and makes you less trustworthy when you actually are sick. In the episode "Toby's Untrue Achoo", Toby the cactus fakes having a cold having seen how protagonist Callie, a calico cat, got attention and care due to having a sneeze, and he did get it, but the consequences weren't that great for him - he was constantly told to rest, and (almost) missed out on a dance contest, which, by the end of the episode, exposed his deception. It was Played for Drama in that most of the townsfolk Funny Animal characters were angry with him for being a de facto freeloader. However, unlike some examples of this trope, there was no Aesop Amnesia that sometimes happens in this show (or with this trope in general), and Toby seems to have learnt his lesson. But this is a show where Status Quo Is God (usually), so this is one example where that trope did stick.
  • The Silly Symphony "The Wise Little Hen" is a straightforward telling of The Little Red Hen, whose attempts at getting help growing her corn are met with feigned sickness by a pig and his cohort, Donald Duck, in his debut.
  • In The Simpsons Bart does this a few times, in one case pretending to have Tourette's Syndrome (later changed to rabies via Executive Meddling) and various other symptoms while Grandpa warns him against playing the "boy who cried wolf". Eventually he's attacked by an actual wolf that's escaped from Krusty's show and isn't believed.
    • In another episode, Bart eats a jagged O from a box of Krusty-Os and develops agonizing stomach pains. No one believes him except Lisa (although it's also likely that the teachers not believing him was also simply due to callousness on their part rather than previous faking sick attempts, as Krabappel once mentioned that she also won't be held accountable if one of her students [Milhouse in this case] was eaten by the pet snake), though he is eventually taken to the hospital.
    • Ms. Hoover also was speculated to have faked sick by some of the students when she revealed that her Lyme Disease was actually psychosomatic in one episode, to which she confirms it both faking sick and being crazy.
    • Even Lisa got in on the act to get out of a bad birthday party when a lot of the kids get sick from eating raw oysters (which Lisa, being a vegetarian, would have never eaten in the first place).
    • In another episode, Lisa really does got sick and can't go to school. She starts playing a video game and becomes hooked to the point where after getting better she fakes being sick to continue playing it. She succeeds the first time, but Marge is not fooled the second time, and sends her back to school, where she has to take an important test that she forgot to study for.
  • Jokey Smurf does it at least twice in The Smurfs: once in "Jokey's Funny Bone" in order to get attention, and another time in "Calling Doctor Smurf" in order to make Dabbler feel useful as a doctor. Although in the latter case, Jokey actually became sick when it turned out that he was allergic to the pink paint he used to make himself and several other Smurfs look like they came down with a sickness.
  • Sofia the First: In "Lord of the Rink", Prince Hugo pretended to be sick in front of his friends to get out of hockey practice after Sofia reminded him that the hockey team meets at the same time as their ice-dancing class. Later, Hugo told his friends to tell his father, who is the new assistant hockey coach, that his son is sick and has to miss practice. Hugo was never shown fooling his father that way.
  • South Park: Stan and Kyle give one another ludicrously overblown maladies (date rape psychosis and cancer, respectively) in Towelie, telling their mothers that they're too busy nursing one another to bother with baseball practice or school.
  • Done the Space Ghost Coast to Coast episode, Terminal, where Space Ghost pretends he's about to die. In classic Space Ghost style, everyone can already tell from the beginning. Space Ghost himself is shown in his thoughts to genuinely believe he's somehow dying, though, even though he refuses to specify how and gets incredibly nervous once a doctor shows up. He actually does die at the end... sorta.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: In "Suds", after SpongeBob gets a rather relaxing treatment at the doctor's office and gets a giant lollipop out of it, a jealous Patrick briefly pretends to be sick in the hopes of getting the same prize. It doesn't work, ending with him getting SpongeBob's treatment in a harsh manner after lying to him and Sandy about the doctor earlier in the episode.
    Patrick: "Hey, Doc, I got the suds, too!"
    Physician Fish: (Sarcastically) "Oh, yes, Dr. Patrick, we have a special treatment for you!"
    (Hans takes the guffawing Patrick into the back for his treatment)
    Patrick: (Hans washes him in the sink and painfully stretches out his limbs) "Hey, wait!" (then rubs him on a cactus) "Ouch! Oh, that hurts!" (then uses him to clean a toilet) "WAIT! HEY, THIS DOESN'T SEEM RIGHT...!"
    • Squidward does this for the purpose of getting out of work twice. First, in "Squiditis", he tries to fake an illness known as "Squid's Disease", but SpongeBob really believes he has the illness and has infected him as a result, and both are sent home early. Then, in "Squidward's Sick Daze", he has a nightmare about what he will likely face for his upcoming workday, which eventually comes true the next day, and decides to feign illess in an effort to get out of work for the day, but Mr. Krabs isn't fooled and sends SpongeBob to annoy and torture him until he decides to come back to work.
  • In one episode of Strawberry Shortcake, Strawberry finds a fairy with a hurt wing and offers to take care of her until her wing heals. The fairy takes advantage of Strawberry's hospitality and all the attention her friends dote on her, pretending she can't fly even after her wing has healed.
    • Ginger Snap does it in "Ginger Snap's No Light Night of Fright" to try to get out of going on a camp-out because she's scared of the dark, but it doesn't work.
  • Thomas & Friends: Two early episodes use this premise. In "Trust Thomas," Gordon advises James to tell Thomas he's sick so Thomas will take his quarry trucks. The trucks take out their frustration with James on Thomas and cause an accident. "Trucks," a later episode (based more closely on the source material) sees Gordon give similar advice to Sir Handel. While repairmen examine him, Peter Sam goes to pick up trucks from the slate mine - and the loaded trucks, thinking he's Sir Handel, break free down the incline and slam into him.
  • Tom and Jerry did a variation in which Jerry painted spots on Tom to make him believe he had measles. Tom eventually finds out and goes after Jerry, only to find that now Jerry had the measles for real. Prior to all of this, Tom was pretending to be sick to keep Mammy Two-Shoes from sending him outside in the rain.

    Real Life 
  • We've all done this at least once because we didn't feel like going to school or work. Don't lie.
  • China's Wei General Sima Yi pulled this trick (along with his sons, too) so that he could plot a coup in secret without anyone being suspicious. This is also written in the novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms.
    • Cao Cao did this as well. Not to say, they both faked to have some kind of neurological disorder in front of people; Sima pretended to have what we call Alzheimer's now, and Cao pretended he had stroke— when he was a teenager.
    • Lu Meng also used a fake illness to put Guan Yu off his guard.
  • In ancient Rome, an epileptic fit was one of the omens considered dire enough to put an end to any public assembly where a fit was seen. The sufficiently cynical would see this as a useful political ploy.
  • In her childhood, actress Toni Collette once faked a burst appendix so she could miss school. Her acting was so convincing that she ended up having it removed.
  • There's a modern trick called the Munchausen by Internet syndrome, where people lie about their own health, pretending to be seriously/deathly ill to garner sympathy. A list of some infamous cases are here
  • Trying the light bulb thing is an easy way to generate a real-life subversion; choose the light unwisely and the mercury in the thermometer can expand so forcefully it breaks the thermometer.
  • A prisoner in a British jail once attempted to fake jaundice so as to get a transfer to a prison hospital. He chose to industriously apply neon-yellow highlighter pens to his entire body to fake the classic skin discolouration. Medical staff were not deceived as his skin went such a vivid yellow colour that anyone with that degree of jaundice would be dead on the spot. But they gave full marks for creative imagination.
  • The killdeer is a cute little bird that weaponizes this trope. Should a predator approach the mother bird's nest while she's still sitting on it, she will run off, dragging her wing along the ground and calling out in distress. She will keep this up, allowing the predator to chase her until eventually she has lured the predator far enough from the nest that she doesn't have to worry anymore. At that point, she drops the bluff and flies back to the nest.
  • There's a reason why women often (seem to) feign headaches in order not to have sex: pain does diminish sexual excitment for women, but not so much for men. Also, sometimes people can genuinely gain headaches from foreplay or before orgasm. Ironically, however, orgasms can help diminish headache symptoms just as much as drugs.

"Huh? What's that? What's that you say?
You say today is Saturday?
Good-bye! I'm going out to play!"


Video Example(s):



If you knew anything about Ezekiel "Zeke" Palmer, you'd be faking sick to stay away from him too.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / PlayingSick

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