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Drew Carey: "Bad Choices to Make When Your Genie Grants You Three Wishes"

Colin Mochrie: Uh, I'll have two Cokes and some chips.

A comedy trope where, quite simply, a character is given an opportunity to Make a Wish or three, and completely wastes them on something stupid and/or frivolous. Sandwiches seem to be a particular favorite.

A lot of times, this will be used to circumvent Jackass Genies or Literal Genies, since with a smaller reward from a wish, possible negative consequences from the reward will also generally be smaller. If this works and the person who wished for something small ends up happier than the one who wished for ten bajillion dollars and a mansion full of Playboy models, then expect An Aesop on greed and being satisfied with simpler pleasures in life.

Even wasted, these wishes can be subject to Be Careful What You Wish For.

Also see Mundane Wish, when the wish is intentionally mundane because the wisher doesn't need or want anything grandiose.

Examples of Wasteful Wishing include:


  • In an Australian advertisement for Arnott's "Tim-Tams" chocolate biscuits, a guy and girl stumble upon a magic lamp, releasing a genie who grants them three wishes. The girl wishes for a packet of Tim-Tams that never runs out. The genie informs them they have two wishes left, to which the guy responds, "Then we'll have two more of those."
  • In an M&M's commercial, Red and Yellow are transported to a small deserted island where a guy is getting his three wishes granted by a genie where he already used the first two on a sports car and a group of cheerleaders. Red lampshades this at the end wondering why the guy didn't just wish for a boat.

Anime & Manga

  • In Puella Magi Madoka Magica, girls are able to have one wish granted in exchange for being made into Magical Girls. Mami suggests that they could even wish for something silly like cake. Played straight in the first timeline, in which Madoka became a Magical Girl in order to save the life of a cat - to be specific, the cat in the OP.
    • According to supplemental materials, Charlotte actually did wish for one last cake to share with her dying mother. Upon realizing that she could have used this wish to heal her mother, she rocketed past the Despair Event Horizon and immediately became a Witch.
  • Seen in Hayate the Combat Butler, where Nagi's mother is telling a young Nagi about wishing on a shooting star.... and she proceeds to wish on one for manju buns. Nagi chastises her.
  • In Ah! My Goddess, when Tamiya unintentionally summons the demon Mara, who offers him a wish, he thinks she's an ordinary human who sneaked in and tells her to "get the heck out". She tells him that's an uninspired choice for a wish and then vanishes.
  • A chapter of Nagasarete Airantou nets youngest character Yuki three wishes. She uses the first to make herself bigger, the second to go back to normal after the genie in question makes her taller without actually changing her figure, then uses the third wish to age herself up properly. She learns after the last that wishes put on people only last until sundown, so the second wish to restore her back to normal was wasted. Everyone else who got wishes at the time either wasted them on treats or went the Mundane Wish route.

Comic Books

  • When various villains from DC were offered anything for their souls by the demon Neron, The Joker wished for a box of cigars. It's up for debate as to whether this was wasted or not, as there is no doubt that Joker was going to hell anyway, and he makes it clear that they're good cigars.


  • In the original Bedazzled, Stanley is using the seven wishes he's traded his soul to the Devil for to win the girl of his dreams. After a few wishes haven't panned out, he wonders how she's doing, absently sighs "I wish I was a fly on the wall" and before he can take it back...
    • In the remake Elliot wishes for a Big Mac and a Coke as "a test". The Devil simply takes him to a McDonalds and makes him pay for the meal because "there's no such thing as a free lunch". This eventually becomes a minor plot point.
  • In Zathura, there is a card called Shooting Star, which grants a wish. When Walter got one of these cards and had to come up with a wish fast, he panicked and wished for a signed football.
    • Which, admittedly, was a better use of his wish than the alternative: it turns out that the astronaut is Walter's future self, from a timeline where he had used the Shooting Star wish to erase his brother from existence.
  • In The Neverending Story II, Bastian uses wishes on all sorts of stupid things like the ability to juggle. Even more wasteful, at one point he wishes for a staircase, then finds it only goes up so far, so he wishes for the rest of the staircase one step at a time.


  • An old tale tells of a farmer who gets three wishes. Excitedly, he wishes for a string of sausages and runs home to tell the wife. She gets mad that he wasted one wish and accidentally wishes for the sausages to be attached to the end of his nose. They have to use the last wish to remove them from his nose.
    • Another, much older version has God in mortal disguise ask for food and lodging at a rich man's house and being turned away. He goes next door to a poor man's house and is welcomed with open arms. The next morning He reveals His divinity and says the couple can have three wishes. They make two simple wishes (good health and daily bread, and a guaranteed spot in Heaven) and God asks them if they wouldn't like a nice new house. Soon after, the rich man sees the new mansion and putting two and two together, rides after God and begs Him for three wishes as well. Suprisingly, God agrees, but warns him to be careful. On the way home, the rich man's horse starts to act up. "Stupid nag, I wish you'd break your neck!" Strike one. He then starts to lug the expensive saddle home, thinks of his wife who's probably having tea and cake in the shade, and bitterly wishes that the saddle was stuck to her ass. Strike two. When he gets home, his wife is rather insistent that he use the last wish to get the saddle off her ass. Strike three.
    • Charles Perrault wrote a version of that fairy tale in verse, translated by Christopher Betts as "Three Silly Wishes". In his version, the husband foolishly wishes for a sausage, and when his wife berates him for wasting a wish, he angrily wishes it onto her nose. He leaves the decision about the third wish up to her, and she decides she would rather stay poor and beautiful than be a queen with a sausage-nose for the rest of her life.
  • In the American folktale Wicked John and the Devil the titular Wicked John (whose one redeeming trait is his hospitality) gets three wishes when he puts up an angel for the night, and frivolously wastes them on spiteful things that stop people from messing around on his property. However, the trope is subverted when all three of these things are used to fend off the Devil when he comes to claim his soul...and in fact makes the Devil so scared of him he won't even let him in Hell after he dies! Of course, heaven doesn't want him either...


  • There's a joke where a drunk finds a genie, wishes for a bottle of beer that never empties, then wishes for two more.
  • There is a well-known joke regarding this trope that goes something like this-

  Three friends who have been lost in the desert for days come across a genie's lamp and rub it at the same time. After being freed, the genie promises to grant them all one wish. The first man wishes he lived on a tropical island surrounded by beautiful women. The second man wished he was a successful business man in the big city. The third man says, "I'm lonely, I wish my two friends were here."

    • A variation goes like that: The third guy is the boss of the other two, and wishes "that those guys are back at work after lunch break!" The Aesop: Let the boss talk first.


  • In A Song of Ice and Fire the assassin Jaqen H'ghar offers Arya three very specific "wishes" in order to pay the life debt he owes her for saving him and his two associates. Specifically, she can say three names, and he will kill those people. As is traditional she ends up wasting the first two on a petty tormentor and a soldier who, while vile, was no worse than several of the others. Only after doing so does she realize that she could have said anyone and she should have killed the enemy commanders. Her third wish is evidence of a true Guile Hero at work - She says Jaqen's name, and promises to take it back only if he helps her to release her friends from prison, which will technically involve killing several people. After she does so, he considers his debt paid, but is obviously impressed at her cunning.
  • In one of his poetry books, Shel Silverstein takes the classic Aesop about greed and turns it Up to Eleven. The story goes that a young boy finds an elf in his backyard that grants him one wish. The boy, in his greed, wishes for two wishes, which he gets, surprisingly enough. So with each wish, he wishes for two more wishes, giving him four wishes. And with each of those wishes, he wishes for two more, giving him eight. This goes on for some time, until the boy dies, presumably from old age. All that's left of him is a humongous pile of unused wishes. The narrator of the story then invites the reader to take a few, and warns the reader not to "waste your wishes on wishing."

Live-Action TV

  • The quote above comes from a Whose Line Is It Anyway game of "Scenes From A Hat" where the players had to come up with "Bad Choices to Make When Your Genie Grants You Three Wishes"
  • In an episode of My Hero (TV), George brought in Santa Claus to give his friends one present of their choice. Most of them made serious suggestions despite not believing it was really Santa, but Piers thought the whole thing was ridiculous and sarcastically asked for a jigsaw. Santa then gave everyone exactly what they had asked for, and refused to let Piers change his choice.
  • In an episode of Sabrina the Teenage Witch Sabrina's diminutive Stalker with a Crush Roland gets a new job as a leprechaun. Sabrina grabs him which makes Roland contractually bound to gives her three "Wish Coupons" (instead of the traditional pot of gold, which was apparently phased out). Sabrina immediately uses the first one to make Roland go away, Salem convinces her to use the second to allow him to become human again for a week and she ends up carelessly saying "I wish Roland was here to help" while holding the last coupon when things go badly.

Puppet Shows

  • In a Sesame Street sketch from the 1970s, Cookie Monster meets a genie and is granted three wishes. He asks the genie for progressively larger trucks, hoping for one large enough to fill with a million cookies. By the time he gets a full-size truck, however, he's used his three wishes and can't ask for any cookies.
  • A version of the sausage story under Folklore was done as a skit in Between the Lions (Season 1, Episode 21, aptly named "Sausage Nose"), except that their third wish kept going ("...and a new cottage, and a new stove, and a new..."). It worked, somehow.

Tabletop Games

Video Games

  • In Sam and Max Hit The Road, the duo comes upon a wishing well. Sam throws in a coin, asking, "I wish I knew what Max was thinking." We hear nothing but a pinging noise as the caption reads "... ..... ....... ..... ... .!" to which Sam remarks, "Well, that was a waste of money."


Web Original

  • A Rooster Teeth sketch has one of the guys catching a magical wishing fish. He wishes for 2 milkshakes, that the milkshake he knocked over gets restored, and that eating a magical talking, wish-granting fish wasn't against the rules.

Western Animation

  • One of the The Simpsons "Treehouse of Horror" episodes had Homer obtain a monkey's paw and use the last, potentially world-saving wish on a turkey sandwich, which he claims cannot backfire on them or produce any weird surprises. The turkey was dry.
    • Also a variation on the episode where Homer and Apu visit the Kwik-E-Mart home office to attempt to get Apu's job back. The pair are given three questions to ask and Homer accidentally uses up all three to ask if the guy they're visiting is really the head of the Kwik-E-Mart.

 Homer: Well that was a big bust. [to Apu] Is he really the head of the Kwik-E-Mart?

  • The Stinger for one episode of Sheep in The Big City had General Specific doing pretty much the same thing to a "question genie", repeatedly asking him to make sure it didn't matter what question he asked.
  • Lampshaded in The Fairly Odd Parents, when Norm the Genie gets rightfully irritated that the first wish is always for a giant sandwich.
    • In an episode, Crocker teams up with Norm the genie but instead of simply wishing Timmy to Mars (as Norm suggests) or simply wishing to have a fairy in his possession he wastes his wishes on parts for ridiculous traps that backfire on him. Norm allows Crocker to wish for more wishes — which he does by wishing for them three at a time — and continues to waste them.
    • While many of Timmy's wishes seem wasteful, they don't qualify because he has unlimited wishes. In fact, it's actually bad for the fairies if he doesn't constantly wish for things
  • An accidental example occurs in Aladdin and the King of Thieves. The thieves try to steal a staff. Iago flies over to the staff and wonders aloud why they'd be looking for it. An oracle appears, revealing that the holder of the staff will get the answer to any one question they ask. Iago prepares to ask his question... but the oracle reveals that Iago already got his one question when he asked why the thieves wanted the staff.
    • In the animated series, a young peasant girl gets a genie and asks for a sandwich. Fortunately, since the genie in question is benevolent and the girl did not use the word "wish", the genie encourages her to instead make the much-less-wasteful wish to never go hungry again.
  • In a sketch from Robot Chicken, Oprah promises to fulfill everyone's dream and asks a member of her audience, "What can Oprah do for you?" The man is surprised, and asks for a pastrami sandwich. She tells him to look under his chair, and lo and behold, he finds a sandwich. She then tells all the other audience members to check under their chairs, and they all pull out boxes containing keys to brand new cars. The man who got a sandwich is disappointed.
  • In an episode of Paw Paws, Dark Paw does this. For his first wish, he asks the genie to eliminate the totem. For his second wish, he asks that the princess and Brave Paw be eliminated. Finally, he says offhandedly, "I wish I could see the look on their faces!" and the good bears return.
  • Family Guy: Peter goes to the Mafia's Don, since it's the Don's daughter's wedding (and the Don can never refuse a request at his daughter's wedding), intending to ask to have the price taken off his wife's head. Peter then gets distracted, and instead asks for a piece of tiramisu.
  • One My Little Pony episode starts with the discovery of "The Magic Coins", each of which grants one wish. Most of these are quickly used up so that they don't have any easy way to counter it when one of the baby ponies wishes away the rain after a sudden shower spoils their picnic.
  • The SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Shanghaied" had Patrick waste the first wish the Flying Dutchman gave him and Spongebob that he knew about the wishes earlier. In one of the Alternate Endings, Patrick used the third and final wish on a pack of gum.
  • The MTV animated short Genie Junkie was built on this trope. A total couch potato had freed a genie from her bottle, making her his slave and bound to grant his every wish... and his every wish turned out to be for things like a fresh glass of cherry coke, or that she change the channel on the television, or that she do his laundry, or get him a new bag of Cheetos. The only "extravagant" thing he ever asked her for (if you could call it extravagant) was a plate of the shrimp combo advertised in an in-universe seafood restaurant commercial, because man that looked good and he was hungry...
  • In South Park, God appeared at the turn of the millennium and offered to answer exactly one question before returning to heaven. While the adults were brainstorming the best possible question, Stan butted in and demanded to know why he hadn't had his period yet. The adults were not amused.
  • The Tick was at one point allowed to ask one question of his deepest subconscious, which could answer any mystery in life. He asked "How's it going?". He got a thumbs up. His spiritual guide is not amused.
  • In an episode of Adventure Time, Finn and Jake escort some Hot Dog Knights through a dangerous maze, with most of the knights getting killed in amusing ways along the way. When they get to the wish-granting entity who lives at the middle of the maze, the last two surviving knights wish for a box and to "blow up", while a thoroughly exhausted and worn-out Jake wishes for a sandwich.