Potty Emergency

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Hopefully she managed to fit a change of clothes into that purse.

A comedy routine which involves a character really having to go to the bathroom, and being prevented from doing so by various plot contrivances. This often climaxes in a frenetic scene where the character darts desperately from location to location, clutching his/her groin, searching for someplace, anyplace where he/she can empty his/her bladder. The search will usually prove unfruitful—and the visited places progressively more embarrassing—as the routine wears on.

For example: the routine may start with the character darting behind a nearby tree to relieve himself, only to find it occupied by a child playing hide-and-seek. The character then runs off and ducks into an side street, only to find a young, cardigan sweater-wearing couple strolling down it. The character quickly high-tails it out of there and hides behind a nearby school bus. No sooner has he started unfurling his pants, than he looks up and notices that the bus is filled with a group of gawking nuns who are staring slack-jawed down at him. After a few more abortive attempts at hiding and peeing, the character finally ducks into a building, runs down a dark corridor and into a room filled with rows of folding chairs, a podium, and a waste-paper basket. Sighing happily, the character unzips his trousers and starts relieving himself into the waste-paper basket—at which point, the lights go on and a large group of burly police officers start filing into the room. Only now does the character notice the huge sign hanging on the wall at the back of the room which reads: "International Order Of Burly Police Officers Training Seminar #27: How to Spot And Subdue A Sexual Predator." As the scene fades to black, we hear the sound of a hundred nightsticks hitting the cranium of our hapless potty-goer.

Sometimes a Potty Emergency won't end like this, but instead, end with the character fainting or just giving up and going in some random place, damn the consequences. Or, even more humiliatingly, it will end when the character just can't hold it any longer, resulting in Potty Failure. Very rarely does it end with him/her finding a suitable bathroom in the nick of time.

A person trapped in a Potty Emergency can expect to be sadistically subjected to all sorts of "watery" imagery — flowing water, spraying water, splashing water, kids running through sprinklers, water fountains, and worst of all, lemonade. All of which will remind him of the one thing he so desperately wants to do, but can't. Relatedly, a character who has to go to the bathroom while asleep will have dreams of such watery imagery. Sometimes this is punctuated with the character engaging in a little Calling Your Bathroom Breaks.

Sometimes a variant has the character(s) looking for a place to perform some non-potty-related but similarly private activity such as changing clothes, making out, or whatever.

Compare with Anti-Sneeze Finger and Inconvenient Itch.

No real life examples, please; we don't care, because it doesn't matter from a storytelling point of view.

Examples of Potty Emergency include:


  • A drug commercial for the bladder-control medication Detrol has a Junior High teacher trying to teach while desperately holding it in and waiting for the bell. What she can't hold in is the fact that she needs to go... to the great amusement of her students.
    • Many of the Detrol TV spots feature similar situations. In another one, a traffic cop struggles to hold her bladder during rush hour. When a nearby fire hydrant erupts, she can't stand it any longer and literally stops traffic while she runs to the rest room.
  • A series of print ads for Fresh Step cat litter depicts felines undergoing these due to their inability to find the "odor-free" product.

Anime and Manga

  • Iba from Bleach has this problem in an omake where he's running frantically through a marketplace searching for a restroom, and is directed to one by the canine Captain Komamura. When he goes where Komamura pointed, Iba only finds a dog peeing on a phone pole, much to his horror. We hear a gross noise just as a couple of other shinigami across from him peer out of the mens' room and wonder what Iba is doing.
  • El-Hazard: The Magnificent World: A desperate Makoto engages in a mad search for the palace bathroom, which he eventually finds, but can't make use of, since it's the size of a football field and lined with dozens of female palace servants. (Makoto at this point is impersonating the Princess Fatora, and were he to relieve himself in the traditional male fashion, the jig would soon be up.)
  • In Naruto, the non-canon short "Konoha Sports Festival" has Naruto trying to go to the bathroom between track and field events that motivates him to go much faster to be done quicker. This backfires as he ends up winning everything, and is surrounded by crowds congratulating him. He can no longer hold it at this point, and we see him go to his 'happy place' as the voices of the crowd are heard exclaiming about the smell.
    • There's also a scene in the second episode where he has to break off from fighting Sasuke to go relieve himself. Unfortunately, all his clones feel the need too, and they're too stubborn/dumb to disappear and stop fighting each other to get in the bathroom door.
  • Removing an angel's halo in Bludgeoning Angel Dokuro-chan triggers an automatic Potty Emergency.
  • Let us not forget Lost Universe, an entire episode revolved around the 2 main characters desperately running around the spaceship looking for the only bathroom. To make things worse a space creature blob completely remapped the spaceship (The bathroom is next to the kitchen...)
  • A chapter of the Love Hina manga (taking place between Spring Special and O.V.A., so it doesn't show up in the anime) shows Naru with diarrhea trying to get away from the rest of the gang and use the toilet without anyone knowing what her plight is. Naturally Keitaro wants to know what's wrong, and Hilarity Ensues.
  • Mahou Sensei Negima has a brief version. In chapter 31, the Big Bad of the arc kidnaps Konoka from a bathroom, and leaves a talking charm behind to make everyone think she's still in there. It takes Negi and Co. a good chunk of time to figure it out; all the while, poor Yue (who really needs to go to the bathroom) is forced to wait outside. They finally discover what happened when Yue can't hold it any longer and kicks the door in.
    • Offhand comments by other characters imply that Yue has to run to the bathroom like this a lot. Must be all the weird juice she drinks.
  • In the Ranma ½ episode "Tatewaki Kuno, Substitute Principal", Gosunkugi tries to prevent Ranma from using the bathroom during a potty emergency, but seeing as it is Ranma he's dealing with things don't go so well for him.
  • A case of Detective Conan's featured Conan, Detective Takagi, and the kids trying to prove the innocence of a man who was handcuffed with Sato in an abandoned building. When the case is solved and Sato freed, the first thing she does upon free is desperately ask for a toilet. The irony of the situation is Sato and her suspect were cuffed to a (non-functioning) toilet the entire time.
  • Kanata spends most of So Ra No Wo To's eighth episode waiting by the phone in case it rings. Even when she has to go to the bathroom. She lasts almost the entire episode. Almost. Had it not been for Noel sleeping in the bathroom.
  • Becky on Pani Poni Dash! has an extreme emergency in the episode Even a Thoroughbred has its Habits.
  • In a chapter of the Gunsmith Cats manga, Rally Vincent finds herself in this situation while stowed away in Bean Bandit's car. She even considers allowing a Potty Failure,despite the fact that it'll give her away. Luckily, Bean stops at a diner, allowing Rally to visit the ladie's room.
  • An episode of Those Who Hunt Elves has a variation on this, as Junpei refuses to go #2 until he finds some toilet paper. The animators threw in a stress meter to show just how bad the situation was getting.
  • In a filler episode of Dragon Ball, Goku volunteers to fight the leader of a rival school since the teacher was nice enough to feed him. His son became angry because he was not chosen to fight in his father's place so he put medicine in Goku's soup that would make him go to the bathroom and force him to withdraw from the match. This backfires, however, because Goku did not become sick until the match started, making Goku ask for the match to be stop so he could go the restroom. His opponent ignores his plea and beat him up, causing a little to come out, which pissed Goku off. Goku quickly beats him and then disappears to run to the nearest restroom.
  • Let's just say you should never be in the way when Mihoshi really really has to pee.
  • Death Note has a scene involving Misa tied up for investigation, but wants to use the bathroom. She accuses L of being a pervert when he refuses her request.
  • Played for laughs in Macross Frontier where Ranka and Alto crash onto a jungle planet. She asks him to wait a second but doesn't say why. When Alto says that he doesn't know what might be living in the jungle so he's going with her, she understandably roars "DAMEEEE ZETTAI!!! Baka!!!" then runs off. He then grumbles that if she wanted to go to the toilet, she should've said so. Subverted immediately afterwards as the bad guys take advantage of them being separate to kidnap Ranka.
  • In Neon Genesis Evangelion, when Misato gets trapped in a lift during a power cut, she starts to need to use the bathroom. She's just short of wetting herself when the power comes back online.
  • High's whole part in a certain segment of Dotto! Koni-chan is a 7-minute-long potty emergency, where he runs around in Koni's seriously weird house while desperately searching for the bathroom... and he simply can't find it.
  • In episode 13 of Nichijou the Professor has a light night Potty Emergency and is too scared to go alone due to stormy weather. She doesn't have very much trouble holding it, but ultimately fails due to a sudden bolt of lightning spooking her.
  • Subverted in the manga of Captain Tsubasa, where Tsubasa's dad Koudai actually got out of the bathroom when Tsubasa scored a goal and his match was being televised.
  • In episode 67 of Fairy Tail, the heroes get trapped in a forcefield. Ichiya begs their captors to let him relieve himself, but they won't.

Ichiya: Please! It's gonna leak out!
Lucy: Don't you dare!


  • A joke: Two guys are going to the theater (that sort with the stage, not with the flicks). Shortly before the play begins, one of the guys feels he has to pee, so he starts looking for the bathroom, but can't find it and gets more and more desperate. Finally, behind a door he finds an empty, badly-lit room, pees into a vase and goes back to his seat. Being arrived there, he asks his friend: "Did I miss something?" The friend answers...

1. "Seems to be one of these modern art pieces - some guy enters, pees into a vase, and exits."
2. "Hey, you should know. You were at the stage after all."

  • A joke book title: 1000 Yards To The Outhouse, by Willie Makeit. The actual distance may vary, but isn't really the point of the joke. (It may also be edited or illustrated by Betty Dont, with an introduction by Doris Locked.)
    • This eventually spawned a tractor puller to name his tractor after the joke.

Comic Books

  • A Meanwhile strip in an issue of Johnny the Homicidal Maniac had a guy on a date with Devi desperately trying to hold back an attack of diarrhea. His final line, "Somebody put s*** in my pants!", has since become synonymous with the series.
    • In the Squee! spinoff series, the titular character had been holding it in for two days. He manages to find a bathroom, but the violent, spasmodic diarrhea from the next stall cut him short.
  • Brittany Diggers undergoes one of these while in a submarine in the first issue of the full color version of Gold Digger. She spots her sister's favorite thermos, and stares at it as her sister and Ryan unknowingly make more and more innuendos involving needing to pee. The joke is shortly dropped in rather anticlimactic fashion, though since it's heavily implied that, yes, exactly what you would expect did happen, maybe it's best that they didn't show the obvious "hilarity ensuing" of that.
  • Poor Mace in Dreamkeepers has a mild case when running waters reminds him that he needs to go. When he seeks seclusion, he is prevented from relieving himself by the Nightmare that was following the group. He even had his pants down, flashing the Nightmare and Wisp.


  • In Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Greg goes into his brother Rodrick's room; when Rodrick finds Greg, he chases him to his bedroom. While locked in his room Greg says "Rodrick, time out—I really gotta go!" to which Rodrick replies "No time outs—only death." We then see Greg waiting forever until finally, he tries to try to run through Rodrick. He opens the door, only to find that Rodrick has left his shoes there to fool him. Greg rushes to the bathroom and tells Manny to get off the toilet, and he starts reliving himself, but... Rodrick jumps out of the shower and Greg turns to face him—at which point his parents come in. This all adds up to a hilarious scene.
  • One scene in Are We There Yet?? features Ice Cube's attempts to find a bathroom for one of the children he's babysitting. They find a bathroom, but the toilets are so filthy that the child resorts to peeing in the wastebasket. That's when a woman shrieks in horror and Ice Cube, who's holding the boy, turns around to face her...
  • The 1968 comedy The Party has a long sequence involving this. The hero (Peter Sellers) cannot find a single unoccupied bathroom on the ground floor of the mansion where the titular soiree is being held. Then the young starlet he has a crush on is to perform a song for the other guests, and out of politeness and interest, he puts his search on hold for several minutes as she sings - literally painful though it is for him to do so. Once she's done he sneaks upstairs and uses the fancy bathroom there, and with that taken care of, soon he's facing a whole different set of problems...
  • Buffalo '66 begins with Billy getting out of prison and asking the guards to let him back in so he can use the bathroom. They refuse. The next twenty minutes or so revolve around his attempts to find somewhere to pee, during which time he also kidnaps Layla and persuades her to pose as his wife in front of his parents.
  • American Pie uses it in a cruel prank where Finch, who has indicated that he never uses public bathrooms for fear of germs, gets his drink spiked with laxatives at school. Cue the boy's bathroom being down for repairs, no toilet seat covers, etc.
  • In Two Weeks Notice, Sandra Bullock and Hugh Grant leave a tennis game (in white uniforms, natch) and find themselves stuck in a traffic jam — just as the chili dogs Sandra has eaten start "barking." Fortunately, they manage to locate an RV in the line of traffic.
  • In the first Mr. Bean movie, the titular character sneaks into an art museum to swap paintings of "Whistler's Mother". To keep the security guard busy, he pours laxative onto the man's coffee and swaps the bathroom keys. The guard makes a desperate attempt to use the bathroom.
  • In Trainspotting, Renton has a sudden case of the runs, and ends up having to use "The Worst Toilet In Scotland".
  • In Young Guns 2, an elderly reporter has to go but is stuck on a horse. In case the viewer had any doubts, said character loudly and desperately announces that "I have to have a movement" repeatedly. He manages to dismount, onto a cycad. It is not known whether or not he made it in time.
  • Played straight in Magnolia when Stanley has to pee during the taping of the game show.
  • The 1970s Disney movie The Apple Dumpling Gang has a Running Gag of the girl announcing that she has "to go."
  • At one point in the Korean film She's on Duty, a scientist on the run from criminals meets with his high-school student daughter in the girl's bathroom. While they're in there, the door's locked, and a line of increasingly aggravated girls gather in front of it. Eventually, the door slams open into them, causing Potty Failure... though by that point their response is more along the lines of "Oh, heaven..."
  • Happens to Forrest Gump, simply saying "I gotta pee!" as he meets President Kennedy. Drinking a dozen Dr. Peppers will do that to you.
  • In the Matthew Broderick movie Biloxi Blues; a soldier in ranks has to pee, and the Drill Sergeant Nasty views his discomfort and makes him do two hundred pushups before letting him go to the bathroom.


  • Xanth:
    • The novel Isle of View by Piers Anthony has a rare inversion of this trope. A character thinks another character is trying to find a suitable place to pee because she said she felt like she was "ready to burst." She actually said it because she has to wait until important business is resolved before she can tell everybody all about her adventures.
    • The Xanth novels feature another aversion/inversion in the form of the Centaurs, who are not the least bit embarrassed by such bodily functions (such being, after all, only natural). They will thus not hesitate to make their business out in the open in front of everyone, which sometimes mortifies those around them.
  • If you can believe it, Don Quixote features one such joke as this.
  • In the Arthur book Arthur Lost In The Museum, Arthur has to go to the bathroom while on a class trip to the museum, and has a hard time finding the bathroom, but finds the bathroom near the end of the book.
  • Peter in Superfudge briefly has one of these when his kid brother Fudge is taking his time on the only available toilet. Peter's tempted to lift the little boy off the can, but has been told to encourage the imperfectly toilet-trained Fudge to use it, so doesn't dare; he gets so desperate that he considers weeing on a large potted houseplant. Luckily, Fudge finishes in time, and is duly impressed by how copiously his big brother can urinate.
    • In Blubber, two girls caught TP-ing a neighbor's yard are punished by having to rake his huge backyard. Both badly need to pee before they're finished, and both opt to water the man's trees rather than humiliate themselves by begging permission to use his bathroom.
  • Busting, the first story of Just Stupid! has this as the plot. Andy is running around the shopping mall trying to find somewhere to pee, and being stopped by idiots, authority figures, cleaning signs and a deadly escalator. He finally manages to find somewhere to pee - a huge fire overtaking the shopping mall (which Andy himself started, getting his untied shoelaces caught in the escalator). Only it turns out he was dreaming, and has now just wet the bed.
  • Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister: Clara has to desperately pee while ice skating with Iris. She is finally able to in an abandoned windmill, and this is accompanied by a descriptive sentence:

Clara lifts her skirt to pee. The piss steams over an ancient pile of bird shit.

  • Played for drama in Stephen King's IT; Bev has to go but can't because she's trapped in the Losers' clubhouse with Henry Bowers on the loose.
  • In Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus, the title character goes through this during the climax when she tries to open several bathroom doors at school, only to find them locked. Thus, she rushes to the nurse's office and calls 911 on the phone. When she finally runs out the school exit, a green fire truck, white police car and red ambulance drive up to the parking lot on purpose. Then the janitor[1] stops her when this happens, but Junie B. convinces him that she's having an emergency, so he unlocks a girls' bathroom door for her.

Live-Action TV

  • When Beakman's World talked about toilets, Lester really needed to go to the bathroom...but is holds it in until he finds out whether toilets can explode like in the olden days. Then, when he finds out they're safe...someone else is in the can already!
  • Happened on three different occasions to Hannah Spearritt, in Miami7 (During the episode "The Blue Chevy"), La7 (During the episode "Into the Unknown") and Viva S Club (During the episode "24 Minutes Till Doomsday") . Surprisingly, it remained funny.
  • An episode of Sabrina the Teenage Witch has a Potty Emergency with no resolution. Sabrina is shrunk to the size of a Barbie and trapped in a dollhouse. The dollhouse has no bathroom, and she makes a big deal about having to use one (doing a Potty Dance and the whole bit). Only a couple scenes later she stops mentioning this or acting like she has this desperate need, and once she's restored to normal size she doesn't seem in any hurry to get to a bathroom. It's a Headscratchers, okay?
  • A rare non-potty version of this trope occurs in a sketch from Monty Python's Flying Circus, in which a beachgoer, played by Terry Jones, is desperately trying to find a private place to change into his bathing suit. He ends up finding such a place... behind a soon-to-be-raised curtain at a burlesque theater...
    • That particular variant is Older Than Television; the silent Laurel and Hardy short Liberty has escaped convicts Stan and Ollie putting on each other's pants by mistake, and spending much of the film trying to find a suitable place to exchange them. They're repeatedly exposed just as they're dropping their pants together, leading to the onlooker(s) getting the wrong idea.
    • Another non-potty version comes in the feature-film version of the '60s Batman: "Some days you just can't get rid of a bomb!"
    • And the first episode of Being Human (UK) sees George dashing through the woods desperately seeking a place to transform into a werewolf and encountering civilian after civilian. He ends up going back home instead.
  • Happens to Hyde, Kelso, Fez, and Jackie from That '70s Show after Donna and Eric put laxatives into a batch of brownies they fixed for them.
  • When Joey gets an audition with a famous Broadway actor/director in Friends, he goes along having just had a drink and needing to pee. This, evidently, makes him a better actor (since he plays a nervous man with lines like "I could go right now!") He has an even worse potty emergency when he goes for the call back, due to trying to need to pee for the audition. This unfortunate circumstance leads to him having Potty Failure whilst said famous director is hugging him...
  • Happens to Major Winchester in the Mash finale. The latrine is literally destroyed by a tank. When he resorts to going out to the woods he ends up 'capturing' a group of Chinese soldier-musicians when they won't stop following him around.
    • In "Germ Warfare", Hawkeye and Trapper use this as a tactic to obtain a "sample" from Frank so they can test him for hepatitis.
  • In an episode of The Love Boat, flooding necessitates the male crew sharing a cabin, causing Isaac much anguish (and jumping around) when person after person manages to get into the bathroom just ahead of him. When he finally gets the facilities to himself, there is a few moments of silence behind the closed door before a glum Isaac comes back out, saying "Now I don't have to anymore."
  • In an episode of Seinfeld, Kramer cannot find a place to go number 2, and ends up constipated.
    • In an even more famous example, Jerry, and later (and to a somewhat lesser extent, though with the same result) George both experience this trope while trying to find their car in a labyrinth parking garage. Kramer's advice to both is to urinate behind on a wall behind a parked car. Despite Jerry's early protests that he's actually proud to hold it in because it "builds character," he eventually loses his will to resist and takes Kramer's advice. Later, George is less difficult to convince. Both are quickly caught by the same security guard who keeps them in his office until they agree to pay a fine. This takes a while, as both are intent on finding an excuse that he'll accept. Jerry claims he suffers from "ural mysotisos poisoning", an imaginary, deadly disease which he further claims earned him a government pass which allows him to urinate anywhere penalty-free due to the fatal nature of his condition. He later claims he is urgently trying to reach his parents for their anniversary, made all the more special because his father supposedly was just released from decades in a Red Chinese prison. George later tells the guard the same story with slight variations before realizing Jerry is being held in the office too. The guard later appears as a witness in the trial in the finale episode, using this incident as testimony against their moral character.
    • Another Seinfeld scene (in The Barber) has Newman pretending to have to use Jerry's facilities as a ruse to steal a lock of Jerry's hair.
  • A Running Gag in Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide involves Ned accidentally going into the girls' bathroom.
  • At one point in an NCIS episode "Family" , Abby hastily excuses herself to the bathroom. This likely shut up a lot of the fans who wondered how she can manage to drink so many large cups during the day without need to go to the restroom.
    • In another episode, Tony and Ziva get locked in a dockyard shipping container for most of a day. When they're set free, Ziva's first action is to head directly for the ladies' room, an intention she explains in tones that promise mayhem for anyone who gets in her way.
  • In a sketch on Chappelle's Show, Dave Chappelle plays a laborer who desegregated a factory's "Whites Only" bathroom, because he dashed in there with explosive diarrhea.
  • A self-inflicted Potty Emergency is implied on Britcom The Good Life, when the couple decide that they've gotten too hung up on money. The husband demonstrates his renewed commitment to anti-materialism by symbolically discarding their last penny ... only to be asked for said penny by his wife, who needs to use the streetside pay toilet.
  • Roz on Frasier has a case of this in the beginning of the episode "Room Service" she holds up a sign asking Frasier to go to the bathroom but tells her to wait a moment, but she simply can't considering how Frasier's guest is talking about water.
    • In the 11th Season episode "Crock Tales", Frasier and a blind date become stuck to one another with superglue, and the date is on a liquid diet which catches up with her at that moment.
  • Jennifer Ellison has a case of this on Hotel Babylon (Episode 13).
  • C.C. has a brief case of this in The Nanny during the episode "Schlepped Away" in which she desperately holds it in. She finally relives herself when she gets to Fran's parents house.
  • A scene in Married... with Children (Field of Screams) where Al chains himself to his old high school football goal to prevent the stadium from being torn down, and is just about to give up since he has to pee, he tells Kelly to unlock him from the chains so he can take a leak but learns that the key doesn't fit and decides to take a leak while being chained up.
  • During an episode of According to Jim (The Thin Green Line) in which Cheryl arrives at a bar to use the bathroom after drinking a few cups of green tea but the bouncer tells her to to just take a leak in the alley, she eventually does but gets arrested for public urination.
  • During an episode of Monk in which Julie is dying to go to the bathroom however she eventually uses the bathroom in the band Korn's bus.
  • In the Psych episode Ferry Tale, Gus badly needs to use the restroom (to vomit) but when Shawn takes him to the bathroom, they are forced to wait while it's used by a large group of work release prisoners, and one little boy.
  • In the show iCarly in the episode iCarly Web Awards:After Carly and Sam present a web award, Sam announces "And now since I drank five sodas before this thing started tonight, I must go pee" Carly then groans exasperatedly "Sam!" to which Sam retorts "You want my bladder to explode live on the internet?" Carly gets disgusted and says "Ew, no!"
  • During the episode "Doll House" of Wizards of Waverly Place in which Alex shrinks herself to play in her dollhouse and gets a mild potty emergency.
  • Kisha and Jen were eliminated from Season 14 of The Amazing Race when, after reaching the location of the pit stop, Jen insisted on taking an urgently needed bathroom break. Jaime and Cara passed them and reached the pit stop first while Jen was in the port-a-potty.
  • In one Royal Canadian Air Farce sketch, Mike from Canmore (John Morgan) walks into a MENSA membership office while trying to find a bathroom. The interviewer (Roger Abbott) proceeds to give him a water-related quiz. And it's raining outside. And the roof leaks.
  • In an episode of Hiccups, Millie rushes into Joyce's office, mentioning she has to "pee like a race truck." When she is held back, she starts doing a Potty Dance and the whole bit.
  • Subverted in the opening of a CSI New York episode, in which a woman is seen desperately rushing from one downtown store to another, doing the Potty Dance each time she finds one is closed or only permits customers to use its facilities. The scene's comic tone is derailed when she gratefully comes across an automatic pay toilet ... only to be washed off her feet when the door opens, as it's full of water and a drowned corpse.
  • The Big Bang Theory: At the beginning of "The Agreement Dissection", Sheldon runs to the bathroom, but finds Leonard and Priya in the shower together, and so has to run across the hall to Penny's apartment.
  • How I Met Your Mother: In one episode, Marshall and Lily hide in the bathroom because they don't want to "spoil the mood" of Ted's date in the other room, and Lily needs to pee, while at the same time being uncomfortable with the idea of peeing in front of Marshall.
  • In Episode 6 of the South Korean TV show The City Hall, the extremely cute but thoroughly obnoxious councilwoman Min Joo-hwa suffers this, culminating in Potty Failure. While visiting protagonist Shin Mi-rae's bar with several journalists, she needs to urinate and asks to use the toilet. Shin Mi-Rae takes the opportunity to get back at her, holding the key to the toilet out of reach and gloating about how good it is to abuse power. After making her squirm and Potty Dance for a while, she gives her the key...and then smacks her on the bottom, causing her to wet her skirt in front of the journalists with a squeal of distress.
  • In Veep, Vice President Selina Meyer suffers this at the end of "Frozen Yoghurt". Suffering from diarrhoea, she visits a frozen yoghurt shop for publicity. The owner's elderly mother is using the toilet when the inevitable event happens, resulting in Selina taking a massive dump in her dress in the car. One of her colleagues, understandably, chooses to walk instead.
  • In episode 2 of the Thai TV show Kom Payabaht, attractive student Pia becomes desperate to poo and seeks relief in a shop toilet. Unfortunately for her, the shop owner barges in in front of her, leaving her unable to wait any longer and forced to dump in her skirt with a cry of despair.


  • Benny Hill used the joke version (see Other below) in his song "Anna Marie".
  • Weird Al touched upon this trope in his song "Traffic Jam":

Trapped inside my automobile
Cobwebs growin' on the steerin' wheel
Now, I'm no genius but one thing I know
I shouldn't have had that bag of bran muffins
An hour and a half ago

Music Videos

  • A particularly vicious example in the video for "Smile" by Lily Allen—as part of a scheme to get revenge on a cheating ex, Lily takes him out for coffee, then spikes his coffee with laxatives. Meanwhile, some friends of hers are trashing his apartment, and he comes home with impending diarrhea to find not only is his entire place wrecked, but most of his clothes have been stuffed in the toilet.

Newspaper Comics

  • Calvin and Hobbes showed Calvin in one of his fantasy spots drinking one glass of water too many and turning into a puddle. The shift back to the real world shows Calvin in a car telling his mom "I don't think I can make it."
  • Hagar the Horrible:
    • In one strip, Hagar's house is nearly buried in snow (as it often is in winter), and Hagar is shoveling very, very fast towards a tree for his very frantic dog Snert behind him.
    • In the strip seen here, Hagar has to go so bad, his solution to getting past the guard at the door is armed combat!
  • FoxTrot
    • In an early strip, Roger drank a whole pot of coffee before work, saying his boss was holding one of his notoriously boring meetings and that there was "nothing more embarrassing than falling asleep during Pembrose's endless sermons". In the last panel, he's at the meeting, excusing himself for his third bathroom break in the past hour, and clearly looks very embarrassed.
    • In similar strip, Peter drank an entire pot of coffee, claiming he had a killer math test, and thought a whole pot would get his brain functioning like a "super-fast calculation machine". In the last panel, he's in class, sweating heavily, thinking to himself, "If the boy's bathroom is a thousand feet away and I run at a rate of a hundred feet per second..."

Professional Wrestling

  • Eddie Guerrero once gave The Big Show a tainted burrito as revenge for Big Show spitting in Eddie's. Later that night in the middle of a match, Big Show had to flee the ring clutching his butt to find a bathroom backstage, losing the match by a count-out.


  • The radio show Car Talk on NPR refers to this occasionally, usually as a driver in need of "an urgent haircut." They even refer to Urgent Haircut Productions.


  • Kinda the whole basis of Urinetown, a musical about what happens when an entire town, due to drought, is taxed for every toilet flush, and thus caught in a perpetual Potty Emergency.

Video Games

  • Level 5 of Parappa the Rapper, a video game for PlayStation and PSP, has the hero encountering a queue to use the restroom. He engages the other characters in a rap contest so that they will let him jump the queue. Actual lyrics include "In the rain or in the snow, I got the funky flow, but now I really gotta go."
    • Directly afterwards: "The toilet over there, will bring you luck, so give up, I've got no time to spare!" Who knew hobo frogs wanted to pee too. Plus, when you do 'BAD', it starts raining, when you do 'AWFUL', loud claps of thunder that could scare you, and when you fail, he soils himself. A real man like Pa Rappa values his functions over his crush's strange bowel torture fetish.
  • Very early on in Persona 4, when you, Yosuke and Chie enter the TV for the first time, Yosuke gets a case of this.
    • It was very much a Crowning Moment of Funny, and the game has many. Especially since Chie brings it up much later, thinking Yosuke actually peed his pants.
      • In the Hiimdaisy comic: YOU GUYS!! I HAVE TO PEE SO BAD!! I'M GONNA PEE RIGHT HERE!!!.........OKAY NEVER MIND. Chie and Souji were not amused.
  • This happens to Squirps in chapter 4-2 of Super Paper Mario.
  • If one is so inclined, you can inflict this on your Sims and watch as they try to signal for a need of a bathroom. If you don't let them make it in time they wet themselves.
  • One of the sequences in the Bishi Bashi game series involves a man who needs to climb up a lot of ladders to reach a toilet at the top.
  • Early in Inyouchuu Shoku, Sui (the viewpoint character for the scene) needs to use the bathroom, but the line is ridiculously long. The player is given the choice to either stay in line or go to some out-of-the-way tidepools and take care of business there. Choosing the second option leads to tentacle rape and an immediate game over.

Web Comics

  • Erika's New Perfume sees Marie have one of these, directly after being regressed. It comes up another time or two as well, but the most notable is that first one.
  • The Order of the Stick has an example here. Notable in that the use this trope itself is the punchline.

Web Original

  • In the literal video version of Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart", the "Bonnie Tyler" character has to go to the bathroom during the bridge, and one of the gymnasts kicks the door open for her. Only it's not the bathroom; she ends up in a room with a bunch of "blind possessed choir boys".

"Bonnie Tyler": Get outta my way, I gotta pee! Never mind, I just went on the floor! Now I need to find a mop!

  • In the long-lost Homestar Runner cartoon "Jumping Jack Contest" (which can be viewed here), The Cheat makes Homestar drink lots and lots of Melonade so that he will have to pee. He, obviously, has to pee after drinking all that, so then he relieves himself in a jar supplied by the Poopsmith.
    • At the end of the Strong Bad E-mail "Extra Plug", Strong Bad tells everyone not to move, and then Homestar and Strong Sad start singing about how badly they have to pee.
  • Viz Comic did an animated spoof of Doctor Who, aptly titled "Doctor Poo". In this, the TARDIS clearly doesn't have a toilet, and the Doctor travels through space and time looking for somewhere to defecate.

Western Animation

  • Perhaps the greatest example ever was from the "Potty Emergency" skit in Animaniacs (from which this trope takes its name). Wakko, who drank too much soda during a movie, was the hapless victim of this routine, which featured just about every twist and turn that you can expect to see in a skit like this. (Except that Wakko already had a toilet on him, thanks to his Bag of Holding—he just needed the privacy to make use of it.)
    • And he actually did find a usable potty. In the movie that he was watching at the beginning of the skit.
      • The cruelest gag? Wakko desperately runs through a park but can't "go" because there are children everywhere - and they're either drinking from water fountains or glasses of lemonade! (And no... not the pink kind.)
  • The Simpsons once featured an episode with Homer being brought to Mr. Burns's mega-mansion to engage in union negotiations. The negotiations were quickly cut short by Homer's overindulgence in coffee and watermelon and his subsequent need to rush to the nearest bathroom. Unfortunately for Homer, the nearest bathroom was about 100 doors away and down a long hallway. (Homer does eventually relieve himself, although it is implied that he didn't quite make it to the bathroom.)
    • A more famous example happens in "The City Of New York Vs. Homer Simpson" (due to not being seen since a certain day in 2001): Homer, standing by his car in order to get it unbooted, overindulges in "crab juice". He rushes to the top of the North Tower of the World Trade Center... and finds that the bathroom is out of order. To his utter dismay, he realizes he now needs to go to the top of the South tower.
      • He does make it there in time. We're treated to a shot outside the tower and hear Homer groaning happily for half a minute. (And coincidentally, the cop he was waiting for shows up as he's relieving himself and tickets the car again, much to his horror.)
    • One episode involves Bart drinking about a dozen glasses of water in order to wake himself up early for Christmas. It works...after he's subjected to a dream involving rivers, garden hoses, various other forms of water imagery, and gigantic letter "P"s.
    • In "22 Short Films About Springfield" Milhouse needs to use the toilet and enters Comic Book Guy's store. However Comic Book Guy won't let the kid use the restroom unless he buys something. Milhouse eventually buys a cheap Hamburglar comic, but then Milhouse's father enters the store and says: "Hey, Milhouse. I thought you needed to go to the toilet and now I find you here, buying comics." Comic Book Guy cruelly tells Milhouse's father that their business is finished, whereupon Kirk drags Milhouse away.
    • In another ep this is the kickoff point for the entire episode, as the family is coming from a vacation destination (from which they invited Grandpa to tag along). Grandpa overdrank, and desperately needs to use the restroom on the drive home. His pleas are ignored by Homer as they drive by one rest stop after another. Eventually, Abe's kidneys burst from the strain of holding it in for so long and he has to get a transplant.
    • Marge has a Potty Emergency at the beginning of "Waverly Hills 9-0-2-1-D’Oh".
    • In "Helter Shelter", when the family are at Moe's, Lisa offhandedly mentions she is suffering a Potty Emergency.
  • A deleted scene from the Futurama episode "I, Roomate" had a dark variation. In the gag where Fry uses the chemical burn shower as one would use a normal shower, Amy runs up to it, clearly in pain and needing to use it for the proper use, nervously and painfully fidgeting while she waits for Fry to finish. Making it even funnier, when she finally uses it, she's upset that Fry used all the hot water.
  • Jimmy Neutron has this as a tactic in his first encounter with Professor Calamitous. Realizing that Calamitous did not install a bathroom in his Humongous Mecha, Jimmy leads him through various water scenarios until he can hold it no longer and has to stop to use the bathroom. Then Jimmy has a cop man the boy's restroom, leading Calamitous to briefly consider the girl's bathroom before taking off for home in defeat.
  • Happens in an episode of Camp Lazlo. Lazlo having unwittingly annoyed Edward (again) by beating him in a lemonade drinking contest soon has to go (bad). Edward takes advantage of this and repeatedly thwarts all of Lazlo's attempts to go (he eventually uses Lazlo's predicament to trick him into wearing a diaper, but it backfires of course). The potty emergency comes to it's peak when in the middle of it, Lazlo relieves himself in the lake, only to be reprimanded by a fish, forcing Lazlo to suck it back into himself. Ouch.
    • The kicker was that the fish actually turned out to be a puppet worn by Edward.
  • One episode of Chowder featured the titular character rushing to the bathroom, only to forget why he came there. When trying to leave, he discovers that he's locked in. Only when Shnitzel and Mung Daal gets locked in does Chowder finally remember why he went to the bathroom in the first place.
  • In an episode of Beavis and Butthead after drinking too much pop at a rock concert the duo soon have to go, they eventually find a port-a-potty but it has a very long line, they try to relieve themselves on a wall but a security guard catches them, eventually they are finally able to use it but as it turns out the concert is over.
    • Inverted in another episode. Both Beavis and Butthead have plenty of access to restrooms throughout the entire episode, but yet they still can't relieve themselves. The reason being they forgot how to perform the biological function of urination.
  • In an episode of The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy Billy wants a cool knight costume that Grim gives him. During the course of events Billy drinks a lot of punch; he tries to relieve himself but he can't take the armor off as it turns out the only way to remove the armor is to win a challenge. He decides to challenge a bunch of people so he can finally pee but he loses every event. Finally, he beats Mandy in a break dance contest and removes the armor. Mandy asks him if he has to use the bathroom and he replies that he doesn't have to go anymore, Mandy sniffs the armor and says "eew!".
    • That would probably count as a Potty Failure since he went in his armor. Also, during the breakdancing part, you can hear splashing sounds.
  • On a King of the Hill episode Hank and the guys rush home to use the bathroom after drinking tainted beer from Mexico and all just make it but Dale has to wait even longer because of the complicated security system he's setup for his bathroom. On another Bill has locked himself out of his house and has to go badly but the other guys won't let him use their bathrooms so he resorts to using the cooler they keep their beer in, it's his after all.
  • In the Veggie Tales episode "Lyle The Kindly Viking", Sven has one of these, and to top it off, he even sang "I need to go to the bathrooooooooooooooooooooooom!" But it does not show him using the bathroom, despite the fact that this was the end of the episode.
  • The Cow and Chicken episode "Chicken in the Bathroom" revolves entirely around this. Mom tells Chicken that he is not allowed out of the bath tub until he has taken a bath. This soon comes back to haunt her, as she later finds herself in need of the facilities, as do Cow and Dad. Chicken still refuses to take a bath and seems to enjoy making the rest of his family suffer extreme bladder agony (or in Cow's case, udder agony). Almost two-thirds of the episode consists of the three bursting characters pleading for Chicken to vacate the premises, while pointing out what they need to do in increasingly imaginative metaphors. Eventually, poor Cow just can't hold on any longer. The resulting eruption drowns everyone.
  • Dexter's Laboratory briefly makes use of this, although not as a major part of the plot. One episode features the titular boy genius and his sister Dee Dee dueling with label-makers, completely surrendering themselves to the logic that whatever is labeled by each becomes that person's property. Dee Dee is quick to ensure that everything in the fridge is hers, but Dexter spots that she has missed a giant bottle of juice, which he promptly drinks. The juice quickly makes its way to his bladder, and he runs to the bathroom. To his horror, he discovers a toilet covered in Dee Dee labels. In the next scene, Dexter has fully relieved himself. Not until the denouement do we discover his desperate solution.
  • Typically, The Fairly OddParents take this to a new extreme in American animation. The episode "Truth or Cosmoquences" sees Timmy - unusually relegated to a B-story - have to spend an extended amount of time in Fairy World, where he soon discovers that he cannot magically transport himself through the bathroom door (the only way to pass through one) and obtain the relief he needs. With Cosmo and Wanda distracted, Timmy must endure hour after hour of unrelenting Potty Emergency - while serving the drinks at a party that has a giant fountain for a centerpiece.
    • That not the worst of it, the whole them of the reunion was a "celebration to water". So as you can imagine this didn't help matters. He eventually does relieve but tells his godparents "Not to drink the lemonade".
      • Even worse was that Cosmo and Wanda were already drinking lemonade at that point.
    • A Fairly Odd Movie: Grow Up, Timmy Turner! has Timmy wish that Crocker had "the atomic runs" early on.
  • In an early episode of Family Guy, Peter mentions that he "shouldn't have had that prune smoothie" and then drives past a sign for a town dump, a truck emblazoned with the warning "Wide Load", a car whose bumper sticker reads, "I love my Shih Tzu", a sign for a furniture store proclaiming that "All Stools Must Go", a billboard for "Bob's House of Feces", (which he says can't possibly be real) and finally a casino billboard emblazoned with "Craps, Craps, Craps".
  • An episode of Arthur had an episode with the dream variety, when minor character Jenna is at a sleepover and is afraid that everyone will find out she is a bed-wetter. Upon waking, she turns on the TV as a distraction...and finds, among other things, men with Scottish accents talking about "wee lassies" and an episode of Sesame Street brought to you by the letter P.
  • In the Two Stupid Dogs episode "Bathroom Humor" during the middle of the night Big Dog has to pee he searches for a tree but only finds one starting to bud Little Dog stops him before he can go he tells him that "this is [their] home", so they go around looking for a place for Big Dog to relieve himself, they end up in Hollywood's house inside his bathroom but they can't find a tree and Big Dog is getting frustrated and they have a fight, they get inspiration by a photo of a little boy using the toilet so they dress him up like one and Big Dog doesn't feel comfortable so they get inspiration from a little girl on a toilet and dress him in girl's clothes and he still doesn't feel comfortable, finally Little Dog suggests a glass of warm milk while picking up the glass his fingers slip into the milk and he finally relieves himself.
  • The Jimmy Two-Shoes episode "The Big Drip" centers around this, made worse by the fact that Lucius destroys every washroom in Miseryville after Jimmy tries to use his...including his own.
  • Henry goes through one of these at the end of the KaBlam!! episode, "Timeless!"
  • A Nightmare Sequence in Nightmare Ned had Ned being force fed water until he had a Balloon Belly, which invoked this trope.
  • A Running Gag variety on Hey Arnold! - Grandpa generally has to interrupt whatever lesson he's teaching Arnold because he "shouldn't have had" * insert food/drink here* .
  • In the Teen Titans episode "Transformation", Starfire was analyzing her body changes while Beast Boy needed the bathroom. He notices Robin watering the flowers, Cyborg getting a drink, and Raven moving boulders out of the way of a waterfall. He says the alphabet to himself ending with the usual letter and as a plant comes into view, the scene ends with water going down a drain implying he went all over the plant.
  • Wonder Pets: "There's a puppy and he has to pee-pee, but he can't... because he's stuck in the house!"
  • In Dan Vs., Dan falls victim to this in "Traffic." Trying to get home so he can pee, he's blocked by traffic due to a sock and road work, a train crossing, a group of senior citizens, and even a flock of sheep. He doesn't make it, and swears revenge on traffic.
  • One episode of The Mighty B! has Penny suffering one, and it could be foreshadowed as she was seen drink all of Bessie's water from her backpack.
  • In the Last Roundup episode of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Pinkie gets off the train in Dodge Junction quite clearly in need of a toilet. She finds a public toilet and is about to use it until she realises that Applejack, whom they came to Dodge to find, just walked out of it. She runs back after she and the others have caught her.
  • Used in this Cartoon Network City bumper where Ben from Ben 10 has to go while in his Wildmutt form.
  • In the South Park episode "I Should Have Never Gone Ziplining", Cartman experiences severe diarrhea as a result of the various fast food he ate before and the soda he drank during the tour.
  • The trope is the main plot of the controversial Disney Junior series Nina Needs To Go. It's a series designed to teach small kids to tell when they need to go, after all.
  • In Miraculous Ladybug, restrooms (usually public ones) are commonly used by Miraculous-users to recharge when their kwami's power wears off (in order to preserve their identities) and Cat Noir used this as an excuse once to gain access to the bathroom in Chloé's house.

Ahh! Finally found one!

  1. or "the man with the can" as she calls him in the book