The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Their favorite hobby is vegetating.

We are The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything.
We just stay at home and lie around.
And if you ask us to do anything,
We'll just tell you,
"We don't do anything!"

They don't pillage. They don't plunder. They certainly don't rape. They don't invade Port Towns, kidnap beautiful maidens, battle the Royal Navy on the high seas, broadcast without a license, or swap files on the intertubes... and they've never been to Boston in the fall. The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything, in fact, seem to mostly just drift aimlessly on the high seas, drinking rum and possibly singing sea chanteys. If you ask them, they'll probably just tell you they like the way it looks on their resume. Or maybe they'll just tell you, "We don't do anything."

In general, a member of The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything is any character who, despite having a certain canonical job, is rarely seen engaging in that job. They might indeed be a pirate who rarely goes out and steals treasure and raids ships—but they might just as easily be mobsters who don't steal or smuggle, students who don't go to class, office workers who never seem to do more than hang out in bars, or ninjas who just didn't get the memo about that whole "stealthy assassin" thing.

This may be because writers and fans are in love with the romanticism implied in a life of adventure and crime, but don't want to actually show the characters doing any of the myriad of things that makes thieves, assassins, mercenaries, bounty hunters, and other unsavory types pariahs in Real Life. This can result in a strange dissonance where the friendly, messianic nature of the characters is at odds with the openly predatory nature of the professions they claim to engage in. May bring A Million Is a Statistic into play.

It could also be a bit of an attempt to dodge the tedium of portraying someone working a day-to-day job, especially if the writer doesn't know how that job really works. This wouldn't really pass in a Slice of Life type work, however (unless, of course, the character is suffering from a long-term illness and can't go to work).

A subtrope of Informed Ability. See also One-Hour Work Week and What Exactly Is His Job?. Contrast (in every possible way) Royals Who Actually Do Something. Also contrast (in a different way) with The Main Characters Do Everything, where characters actually go implausibly far beyond what is required or indeed allowed by their job description. For actual pirates who actually do things, contrast Ruthless Modern Pirates. A Transplanted Character Fic usually turns the cast into these.

The trope name comes from one of the "Silly Songs with Larry" from Veggie Tales (later covered by Relient K) which is about - well, pirates who don't do anything. It later provided the title and theme music for a Veggie Tales movie.

Examples of The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything include:

Anime and Manga

  • In Beyblade, absolutely no one goes to school. The only ones who have legitimate explanations for this are the Blitzkrieg Boys (they're from Russia, beyblading = life) and the Majestics, who have tutors, even though they're all so obscenely rich they don't need an education anyway. A small part of season 2 shows Tyson and Kai going to school. While a case of Tyson keeping at it off-screen could be implied, Kai pretty much drops out of his private boarding school when he decides to come out of retirement.
  • Despite being sent to school in the second episode, as well as numerous arcs that center around school characters or are set in the school, the students of Ranma ½ don't seem to be doing that much... schoolwork. Sure they are shown sitting down in class and standing outside in the hallway, but it seems they spend way more time with extracurricular activities (like sports) and martial arts than they actually do learning which is common of most stories involving schools.
    • Speaking of school, how about that Tendo "dojo"? 36 volumes, 0 students.
    • Tatewaki Kuno, for all his "Blue Thunder" bluster, does not participate in a single kendo match or anything remotely close to it. This is especially glaring when you consider that nearly every weirdo martial art mentioned in Ranma 1/2 is used in at least one major battle, but an actual martial art is unrepresented.
      • The closest it gets is that at the beginning of the anime's opening song a few frames of Tai Chi are performed. It really is actual Tai Chi, too.
  • The Straw Hat Pirates from One Piece don't pillage or plunder. The crew's illegal activities are more in the nature of battling with various corrupt governmental ruling forces. But if any other pirates try to test their crew...
    • The only time they act like pirates is when they loot Skypeia's gold. However, the Skypeians don't value gold, and in gratitude would have given the Straw Hats more than they stole, so that barely counts.
    • In fact, the series seems to make the point that pirates who do act like pirates are at best Jerkasses and at worst Complete Monsters. Just like in real life.
    • In the manga, it's been explained in Romance Dawn, Version 1 that in One Piece, there are two types of pirates: Morgania, who pillage and plunder, and Peace Main, who hunt the Morgania. Luffy resembles a Peace Main and not one who does nothing at that. The distinction is briefly touched upon near the end of the Kuro arc, in which Luffy complains that Kuro and his men weren't "real" pirates. Nami responds that most pirates are like them, an opinion he is unwilling to accept.
    • The Straw Hats' plan during the Marine Rookie Arc - infiltrate a Marine base to steal their supplies - does seem like a plan actual pirates would use, but given their much smaller numbers they rely more on stealth than outright fighting. Not that it doesn't lead to a LOT of fighting, of course.
  • The Vongola family from Katekyo Hitman Reborn have yet to do anything terribly illegal despite being The Mafia. Even Reborn, the teeny-tiny assassin, never manages to kill anyone with his array of magic bullets. They do engage in mob wars (mostly in self-defense) later on. This is mainly due to Tsuna being a pacifist and not wanting anyone to die. In the past the Vongola were known to be fiercer and much more violent. Xanxus and the Varia live up to this.
  • In the Love Hina manga, Kitsune claims to be a freelance writer; there's exactly zero evidence to support this. Though it's more socially acceptable to list "writer" instead of "Con Artist" as your occupation.
  • Kochikame revolves around police officers who are rarely seen doing any police work.
  • The vast majority of Shinigami in Bleach never seem to do any Shinigami duties like hunting hollows or cleansing souls; instead, they hang around the Seiretei all day and pop up whenever Ichigo is in need of reluctant allies or enemies. Apparently, making officer rank means you get delegated to a desk job... much like in most real-life armies, except that these don't run on Authority Equals Asskicking like the afterlife does. (But when they do do something, it counts.)
  • The main cast of Cromartie High School are "The World's Best Behaved Japanese Delinquents". They constantly talk about how tough they are, but the only fighting between school is Maeda constantly being kidnapped. They don't smoke and never do anything illegal on purpose.
  • Space Pirate Captain Harlock. He once robbed a ship and threw the valuables into space. He has claimed that pirates who steal are dishonoring the name of pirates. Lampshaded in Captain Harlock: Endless Odyssey, when Tadashi Daiba lambasts the good Captain for his reluctance to give orders and keep discipline onboard the Arcadia. Cosmo Warrior Zero, however, does portray him as a legitimate and somewhat bloodthirsty villain—who is still opposing a Vichy Earth. This is the only show that portrays him as such, though: most of the other shows, especially My Youth in Arcadia imply that The Powers That Be labeled him a pirate, because they were afraid that he would inspire them to rise up against the Vichy Earth.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh!, the main characters are all supposed to be in school, but they sometimes spend days or weeks at a time out of school to participate in card tournaments - even the characters who don't duel. Even when they're at school, they are never shown doing work. Most of the time, they sit around playing Duel Monsters or developing the plot in non-school-related ways.
    • It's not as bad as it looks, though, as far as the tournaments go. The Duelist Kingdom took place in the span of three days, which is basically a weekend plus one day of school-skipping. The Battle City took two days, then Noa kidnaps them on the morning of the third day, and they seem to get to Alcatraz by that evening (though how exactly Kaiba's zeppelin reached an island outside of Japan in such a short time is anyone's guess). The Memory World arc is a little harder to justify, since it involves traveling to Egypt and all, but it could've happened while they were on school break. Not counting fillers here, what with they traveling to America and all, but all in all, school could be handwaved with a "it takes place offscreen" excuse.
    • Lampshaded in the Abridged Series, several times.
  • The thieves of Mount Reikaku in Fushigi Yuugi make a few nominal stabs at banditry when they first appear, but mostly seem to hang out, drink and squabble. Tasuki himself, despite having been appointed their leader, is almost never seen actually stealing things or even expressing a particular desire to do so. In fact, he's one of the more gullible characters in the series.
    • Not to mention, they later show up as The Cavalry, even pledging their loyalty to the Emperor in the war against enemy kingdom Kutou.
  • In the OVA version of Tenchi Muyo!, Ryoko is referred to as having been a Space Pirate, but her actual duties involved raiding ancient abandoned ruins for her Mad Scientist master (also supposedly a space pirate; apparently anybody who steals things and has a spaceship is given that designation) and blowing up planets. The TV version of Ryoko, however, is a real Space Pirate, actually raiding spaceships to steal cargo.
  • The only thing Sayonara, Zetsubou-sensei's Nozomu Itoshiki ever actually taught his class was that potato starch turns purple if you add iodine. No, rants on society don't count...
  • Kuryugumi's Sandaime in Tokyo Crazy Paradise forbids the Yakuza to take part in drug trafficking, human trafficking or underground fights. What they do take part in is never made clear.
    • The only other options are extortion, blackmail, loansharking, money laundering, credit cards scams, arms smuggling, and robbery—which all translate on paper to a small yet highly profitable vending machines company.
  • All of San and Lunar's families in Seto no Hanayome are technically Yakuza, but the only "work" related thing we see any of them do is run a home shopping channel for mermaids.
  • In K-On!!, despite all of the main characters being part of the light music club, they don't really play much and spend most of their time screwing around in the clubroom and eating cake.
  • Kyouko in Working!! never really does her job as restaurant manager other than eating, and other characters notice this.
  • The Akina Speed Stars of Initial D. Koichiro—the leader—has had a grand total of one battle, against a couple of pathetic loudmouths (and he lost!). Itsuki has never done anything other than haphazard practice runs, and even that's more than we've ever seen from Kenji (whose single moment in the spotlight was not battling Keisuke). The other members are so meaningless, we don't even know what their cars are. This isn't a street racing team, this is a bunch of aimless kids who happen to live in the same area.
  • Though it happens occasionally, it's pretty rare to see the SOS Brigade actually hunt down any supernatural entities.
  • The "Space Pirate" theme is roughly Deconstructed in Eureka Seven. Renton, a little boy with a with for adventure and to get out of his boring town, is accepted to the famous battleship that fights against the government and has its own media franchise telling the world how cool they are and "exposing the truth". He expects all kind of cool things there, but discovered most of the crew is lazy and have no qualms in taunting and using a little boy to do all their job without thanking him, the ship is almost naked on the inside and they have little money and have to do odd jobs (usually amoral at best) to keep things going. To top it off, the captain is an Abusive Parent figure who turned slacker and scaredy-cat (to feelings at least) himself.
  • For most of Tail of the Moon, Usagi falls squarely into the aforementioned category of "ninja in name only". After the destruction of Iga and Hanzo's disappearance, she gets better.
  • Great Teacher Onizuka spends very little time doing any proper teaching, though he does go out of his way to teach his students many important life lessons not found in a typical school curriculum.
    • The manga shows a few of his classes and even a couple of his lesson plans, and all of them serve to demonstrate that he has absolutely no idea what he's doing. One class involves his dressing up as Devilman to teach a lesson about sociology, only to give up halfway through and show the kids how to shoot bottle rockets out of their homeroom window instead.
  • Misaki from Misaki Number One also is never seen teaching anything else but life lessons to her students.
  • Inverted with Golgo 13, who will not take a job not involving assassination (with the rare exceptions when he agrees to lead military assaults). This means that his clients have to get creative with their requests; when the Freemasons wanted to hire him to retrieve the kidnapped John Paul II, Golgo refused since he doesn't do rescues... at which point his client restated the request as, "Find the men who kidnapped the Pope and kill them, then find the men who are holding the Pope captive and kill them", a job Golgo agreed to.
  • The Crossbone Vanguard in Crossbone Gundam are typically called space pirates despite being a guerilla warfare group trying to take down the Jupiter Empire. That said, they do play up the image of being pirates, since it makes a nice cover for their real activities. They do engage in raiding Imperial supply ships, but that's about the only "piratey" thing they do: they release any prisoners they capture unharmed, they don't attack civilians, and they spend their time sabotaging the Jupiter Empire's military rather than looting and plundering.
  • The new captain of the Bentenmaru ship in Mouretsu Pirates thinks she can wait until finishing high school before "traveling through space", but it's then averted in that pirates, in order to renew their 50-day pirating license, must commit piracy at least once during the licensing period.
  • We're told that the major camps in Ikki Tousen are all schools, and indeed the characters are all of the age where they certainly ought to be in school. However, all any of them do all day is fight, indulge their perversities and generally engage in mobster-like behaviour. The whole 'school' thing may as well just be a decorative theme; not once is a teacher so much as seen at all, never mind seen teaching.
  • For someone who was appointed Spirit Detective, Yusuke does next to nothing that has anything to do with finding clues and solving crimes.

Comic Books

  • Tintin is apparently a reporter. It's clearer in the early books, as his first adventures start when he's sent to distant lands to report on them; but see Old Shame. For readers who start with Recap, the last vestiges of his career are brief scenes at the start of Recap The Broken Ear and Recap.
    • Tintin's reporter credentials are sometimes used as a plot device to get an adventure moving, but always without him having to report on anything. For example, in Recap, he is chosen as a member of a scientific ocean voyage as the on-board reporter. Not only does he do zero reporting during the adventure, several times other journalists report on his activities.
    • Subverted by the recent film, which made sure to include a typewriter in both the opening and in clear view during one scene in his apartment, along with stories framed on the wall of his exploits. Every story he's featured in is apparently supposed to be his report of the events, but this isn't made explicitly clear.
    • The audiobooks of the Tintin stories explicitly stated they were Tintin writing up the article on them - it always started with Tintin stating his name and credentials, then setting the scene, and from there moves on strictly to dialogue.
    • The Other Wiki notes that Tintin stopped being an investigative reporter about the time the Nazis occupied Belgium.
    • Hilariously, one story mentioned Tintin being a reporter — when another reporter snooped on his conversation and wrote an article about what "our intrepid reporter" Tintin and friends planned to get involved in next.
  • Viz used to have a strip called "Captain Morgan and his Hammond Organ" about a pirate who sails around playing songs on his Hammond organ - and not much else. This is part of the reason why the character was eventually scrapped (along with threatened legal action from the copyright holders of some of the music.)
  • The Anarchists from Persepolis certainly don't act very anarchist. (Actually, often Truth in Television. But better than if they had started to throw random bombs like the first anarchists did.)


  • The protagonist of the B-Movie Werewolf identifies himself as a news writer, but we don't see him writing at all. The Mystery Science Theater 3000 crew, writers themselves, do not let him off easy for this.
    • Mystery Science Theater 3000 also has a myriad of scientists shown doing absolutely no science, spies who do no spying, delinquents who still tuck in their shirts, and cops who spend more time giving the local kids a hard time than investigating the rash of murders in the area.
  • The various pirates in Pirates of the Caribbean are generally implied to be a bunch of murderous thieving scum, but we don't see a whole lot of "honest pirating" going on after the raid on Port Royal in the first film by the Black Pearl crew under Barbossa. And we certainly never see Jack's crew attacking any merchant vessels or raiding any settlements, which is, you know, what pirates do. This is brought up in the beginning of the second movie: Gibbs tells Sparrow of the crew's annoyance that they hadn't been doing anything to get any money in the year since the first film, and were completely broke as a result. At least in the first movie, this was something of an intentional joke. Part of the writer's concept of the script was to do a pirate movie in reverse: a band of murderous rogues sailing about and collecting treasure so that it can be returned to its rightful owners.
    • In the fourth movie, the only (non-privateer and non-Jack Sparrow) pirates we spend much time with are the crew of Queen Anne's Revenge, who aren't pirating because Blackbeard is too busy looking for the Fountain of Youth to stave off his prophesied death. Considering raids where whole crews were killed are mentioned, though, Blackbeard has definitely been pirating recently, and probably intended to take it up again after securing immortality.
  • The Dread Pirate Roberts in The Princess Bride. Who doesn't raid and plunder other ships. Or spend much time on ships. Or seem to have any crew whatsoever. Or do anything all that dreadful. And isn't even named Roberts. However, there is the strong implication that he did a good deal of pirating off-screen.
  • In the Spy Kids universe, the definition of the word "spy" seems to be "person who dresses sharp, has cool gadgets and kicks butt". Actual espionage never seems to be depicted. Not even the martini-flavored kind.
  • The film version of Road to Perdition (not the comic) rarely shows "ruthless gangster" Tom Hanks actually kill anybody onscreen, until the last fifteen minutes of the movie.
    • There is the scene in the first act where his Obviously Evil boss's son kills a man and Tom immediately guns down the man's bodyguards, and only then starts arguing with the son.
  • From Hell: While the rest of the prostitutes "unfortunates" of Whitechapel go about the oldest profession right onscreen, Abberline's love interest Mary Kelly just seems to hang out, looking vulnerable and doomed.
  • Likewise in Serenity, where Inara's profession is so glossed over that you wouldn't have any idea that her she's basically a courtesan/escort for hire unless you're familiar with the series. Only one easily missed line about seeing clients "in this very bed" give a hint.
  • For being a movie about a man's rise to power in a mafia-like organization, there is little crime shown being done by anybody in Johnny Dangerously, even by the various villains. Johnny is aiming for a kinder, gentler sort of criminal family, after all.
  • The entire genre of Westerns is a frequent offender: many "cowboy" flicks never show so much as a token steer standing off in the distance, never mind actual scenes of cattle husbandry in action.
  • Even Captain Blood, regarded as one of the greatest pirate movies of all time suffers from this. Blood is the greatest pirate in the world, but the only people he ever kills on screen are members of foreign armies and one perverted French captain. He's also never shown stealing or sinking other ships unless it's against enemies of England, and the other members of his crew are all rough, rougish, and jovial rather than a bunch of cutthroats. Even when the main villain, who abused them as slaves, is in their grasp, they happily just comically throw him overboard rather than kill him. The movie only barely glosses over his life as a pirate and thief, and it comes off as rather jarring when the love interest refuses to be with him because he's committed crimes we've never seen.
  • In Stardust Robert De Niro portrays a pirate with a fearsome reputation... and nothing else. It is a fairly significant plot point that his reputation is really all he has, and he goes to such great length to maintain it that hilarity ensues.
    • Captain Shakespeare's pirates are a counterexample in that they're simply misnamed. Indeed ship and crew do plenty of poaching lightning and selling it on the black market, but lightning pirates sounds so much cooler.[1]
  • The eponymous bunny from Santa and The Ice Cream Bunny doesn't seem to have any ice cream with him.
  • The Grapes of Wrath does not depict any peach picking.
  • Steve the Pirate from Dodgeball is a pirate without a ship or crew who doesn't take part in any pirating activities. In fact, all he really does is dress and talk like a pirate. He's more like a comic book geek who dresses up as a superhero, except that it's a pirate instead of a superhero.
  • In Pleasantville, the fire department's sole duty is getting down cats who are stuck in trees. This is justified, as there are no fires in Pleasantville.

Fire! Fire!! FIRE!!!! ...(Beat) Cat?

  • Justified (weakly) in 8 Heads in a Duffel Bag. The protagonist of the film claims that his fiancee is a race-car driver, and shows another character a photo of her sitting in a racer to prove his point. But we never see her do anything remotely connected to racing (which, yes, makes her something of a Faux Action Girl as well). We do see her in a fast-moving van toward the end of the movie, but she's not the one doing the driving (she and her family have been taken hostage by a mobster). It is easily explained by the context of the movie, since the young woman is on a vacation in Mexico almost the entire time. But if his fiancee's job wasn't going to be pertinent to the story, why did the hero bother telling us about it?
  • Similarly the Reese Witherspoon film How Do You Know has a professional softball player as the heroine but five minutes into the movie she is dropped from Team USA and never so much as picks up a bat again. Roger Ebert even drew attention to the fact in his review:

The one thing we don't see Reese Witherspoon doing in "How Do You Know" is playing softball. Considering that she portrays a softball player, this seems strange.


  • Several of the nobles and royalty of Discworld are trained as assassins (although many are not, since the assassin final exam is lethally off-putting), but that's more for the quality of the general education offered by the Assassins' Guild. They rarely kill anyone (largely because not many people can afford their services, and they never kill for free, except in self-defense). Of course, in the world of the nobility, knowledge of how assassins think is also a valuable life skill for anyone wanting to live past twenty.
    • Vetinari in particular has never been known to actually kill anyone by any of the characters in the books.[2] The fact that no one knows for sure that he hasn't killed anyone only serves to increase his mystique as a dangerous man to deal with, especially because he's rumored to have specialized in poisons at school.
    • Later books tend to suggest that the Guild's killings are mostly of (unnamed) venal nobles by other unnamed venal nobles, probably to skirt round the moral dissonance they'd otherwise bring to Watch books.
    • The faculty at the Unseen University seem to avoid their students whenever possible, and are at one point described as running the other way or hiding behind doors whenever they see them. In fact, the only person in the entire place that seems to do any work at all is Ponder Stibbons (which has actually been Lampshaded in story.)
    • It is mentioned that the chief job of wizards is NOT doing magic. Not failing to turn somebody into a frog, but refraining to do so when you know how easy it is. There are monuments to places where wizards were not as smart as that, and in some of them the grass would never grow again.
  • Most of the professors in Gormenghast are like this, PARTICULARLY the headmaster, Bellgrove. They spend most of their time in their nasty private chambers, and sleep their way through classes they're supposed to be teaching.
    • This trope is somewhat Lampshaded by the idiot sisters, Cora and Clarice, who are the highest ranking Groans after Sepulchrave, who do absolutely nothing at all except spend their time plotting revenge for losing "power" that they never actually had. When they are essentially kidnapped by Steerpike, nobody notices.
    • The Countess Gertrude starts the story as an indolent weirdo who does nothing but tend her pets (she doesn't even talk to her own children except for a once-a-year ceremonial visit). She eventually becomes a force to be reckoned with, but not after an entire decade of plot has gone by.
  • The Thieves' Guild in Jennifer Fallon's Demon Child and Hythrun Chronicles series is practically an official branch of the government, with high-ranking officials—even sympathetic ones—constantly looking the other way regarding their activities and frequently enlisting their help. Mostly justified, as the God of Thieves, Dacendaren, is a recurring character who enjoys taking an active hand in human affairs, and the Hythrun people quite reasonably want to avoid annoying him.
  • Tom and Joe decide to become this type of pirate in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, because stealing is a sin. Huck isn't troubled, since he calls it "borrowing".
  • Many of the officers in Catch-22 don't actually perform their jobs. Major Major Major Major (not a typo) actually structured his entire day around avoiding people.
    • Yossarian is trying very hard to be The Bombardier Who Doesn't Do Anything.
  • The pirates in Gideon Defoe's The Pirates! series are a perfect example. In An Adventure With Whaling, they actually realize this—one of the money-making activities they try is "actual pirating". Alas, they find it's just not in character for them.
  • The characters of The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas are rarely, if ever, actually depicted as using muskets. Though they do use muskets on the one occasion at which it would be appropriate to, when there's a war on. Using muskets when they're just wandering around Paris causing trouble would be unsporting. Plus the novels are set in the mid-1600s. At that point, muskets were still fairly clumsy, unreliable, inaccurate weapons that were painfully slow to reload; for close combat a sword and/or a brace of pistols were just better than long guns.
    • Muskets are good mainly for war and (because their smooth bores will take birdshot) fowling. Also it was not uncommon for officers of a regiment to carry weapons appropriate to that of ordinary gentry; in fact there were those that argued that it was counterproductive for officers to carry muskets and distract them from command duties. Thus a unit called "musketeers" need not have its officers carrying muskets anymore then everybody in an artillery battery crewed a field piece personally or everyone on a ship of the line either man the sails or the guns. If the officers in the King's Musketeers did carry muskets they would not necessarily take the clumsy things into town on leave.
  • Robert A. Heinlein's Time Enough for Love features Single-Minded Twins Lapis Lazuli Long and Lorelei Lee Long, who are Opposite Gender Clones of the story's protagonist Lazarus Long. As they are unrepentant hellions and true inheritors of their brother's roguish nature, they decide at one point to grow up to become Space Pirates. In the quasi-sequel The Number of the Beast, they are introduced in that capacity and share a rotating captaincy of their vessel, with summary authority over "mutineers". However, at no point are they shown to perform any actual piracy, and happily defer to Lazarus in matters of his authority. Toward the end of that novel and into The Cat Who Walks Through Walls, they meet up with a second set of redheaded twins, male, who join them and reputedly do inspire them to embark on actual piracy, but again, this takes place entirely offpage and Lazarus appears more or less resigned to whatever fate they bestow upon themselves.
  • In pastoral poetry and romances from antiquity to the Renaissance, shepherds and shepherdesses tend to just sit around looking pretty and having Love Dodecahedrons, mysteriously free from all the hard work (and variable weather conditions) attendant on outdoor animal husbandry. The genre was parodied and criticized for this at least as early as the 17th century.
  • The pirates in Peter Pan don't get up to any actual piracy within the story, they just seem to spend all their time trying to kill the Lost Boys and the Indians.
    • In the Disney animated adaption, Hook's crew spend their first minutes on screen complaining on how Hook's feud with Peter Pan keeps them from normal pirating.
  • Lampshaded in the mystery novel Grizzly, where the Japanese investors who visit a dude ranch are noted as being the only cowboy-obsessed "dudes" it'd ever hosted, who actually expressed an interest in cattle. And that's only because beef sells for a fortune in Tokyo.
  • In Joan Hess's Maggody mysteries, the ladies' Missionary Society claim to be a charitable organization working to promote Christian values by sending Bibles abroad. In practice, their most typical achievements are to hold local potlucks and stroke Mrs. Jim Bob's ego.
  • In Markus Zusak's The Book Thief, the narrator (Death) seems to mention the fact that Liesel is a 'book thief' every page or so. She picks up one discarded book. Then, she takes a couple of books from an elderly woman (who was in on it anyway.) For a 600 or so-page book, WHY is this a major plot point?
  • This is Played for Drama in the Honor Harrington novel On Basilisk Station, where the previous representative of the RMN to Basilisk, Pavel Young, was not doing his duty. Honor and crew have to fix that.
  • The title character of Sebastian by Anne Bishop is an incubus. Apparently. He does have incubus powers, apparently, and is called a demon multiple times, but the way he's written, he's a normal guy.

Live-Action TV

  • The friends in Friends, despite most of them having full-time jobs, always seem to be able to find time to get together for coffee - every single day.
    • Since the show is a Long Runner, it eventually gets Lampshaded when the Friends wonder why their bosses don't like them, and Joey (astutely) observes that maybe it's because they're all sitting around in a coffee house at 11.30am on a Wednesday.
  • Daphne on Frasier is ostensibly Martin's full-time, live-in physical therapist, but at most her only real duties seem to entail leading Martin through brief exercise sessions once in a while. As the series progresses, she begins to perform some maid-like duties for the Cranes as well, though is often shown resenting this, weirdly, since she was hardly over-worked with her "real" job.
  • See the Monty Python's Flying Circus sketch Non-Illegal Robbery.
  • Many Soap Operas include business executives who spend most of their time on the job planning man-hunting schemes or ways to character-assassinate their boss and take his place, and rarely do any actual work. This also applies to police officer characters on soaps who seem able to drop everything and take three-month tropical vacations once a year. Conversely, medical doctors on soaps are frequently seen doing their jobs, perhaps even being overworked, as the main doctor characters will be involved in any sickness or injury whether the patient is a child, gunshot victim, cancer patient, or heart attack patient.
  • House although house's team work pretty hard during cases it's easy to forget those are weeks apart sometimes, his team are presumably doing what exactly in the mean time?
  • Green Wing deliberately uses this: though set in a hospital, there are no medical storylines. Guy, Caroline and Mac do perform surgery from time to time but, naturally, the whole thing is played for laughs. On one occasion Dr. Statham burst in, had an argument with Mac about a parking space and attempted to eat the patient's gall bladder.
  • In The IT Crowd besides the "Have You Tried Turning It Off And On Again?" Running Gag moss and Roy seem to do very little else
  • In Roots, slaves seem to have an awful lot of free time. Much is made of major outrages (rape, children being sold away, mutilation of runaways) but little emphasis on the horror of performing agricultural work 70 hours a week for no pay from age six till death.
  • In Edgemont, a show based around teenagers in high school, the students are never shown actually in class (and rarely studying or doing homework). Of course, showing a scene in class would clash with the fact that There Are No Adults.
  • Once on The West Wing, the president is bedridden and watches a daytime soap opera. He asks, "Do any of these people have jobs?" His bodyman answers, "One of them's a surgeon... I... think."
    • The show itself is guilty of a partial version of this. While the main cast always looks very busy and we see them do all sorts of important stuff (like advising the President and negotiating with other politicians), it can be a little vague and unclear what each individual character's job title and responsibilities actually are. For example, one can watch several episodes in a row without realizing that Toby Ziegler is supposed to be a speechwriter. He seems more like the show's paid pessimist. The two biggest exceptions are President Bartlett (obvious) and Press Secretary CJ Cregg who is regularly seen addressing reporters in press conferences.
  • Captain Feathersword, Sixth Ranger of The Wiggles, sings pirate songs and causes mischief with his crew but doesn't actually do anything very piratey. Which is just as well, what with his... feather sword.
  • The Royal Family on The Kingdom Of Paramithi do little other than reward citizens, read stories and watch plays.
  • The title character of Angel claims to be a private detective/in private security. When actual detective work is required, he has at least once hired a real private detective to do it for him. It's not like he has any interest in being a detective, he just tells people that because it's easier to explain than "I go around protecting people from monsters", which he does quite successfully.
  • On that note, Giles from Buffy the Vampire Slayer often fell into this - he was the school librarian and in charge of a very large and nice-looking library that nobody ever seemed to use for non-occult reasons.
    • Lampshaded when the occasional clueless kid wanders in looking for something decidedly library-related, and the Scooby gang stares in shock and confusion.
  • Susan Meyer from Desperate Housewives is meant to be a children's book illustrator. Five seasons in, the episodes actually featuring her on the job are still in the single digits.
  • In Father Ted, Fathers Dougal and Jack are, respectively, an idiotic Man Child and a lazy, violent alcoholic, both of whom are completely incapable of doing any work that might reasonably be expected of a priest. Ted himself seems to have a One-Hour Work Week. Justified in the case of Jack, who seems to be retired and being nursed supplied with alcohol by the other two priests. As for Dougal, the one time he attempts to perform his priestly duties at a funeral, they somehow end up with more corpses than they started with. You'd make sure he didn't do anything either. Additional justification may be that the Craggy Island parish is something of a dumping ground for the church's immoral and incompetent priests.
  • Pirate Percy, from Candle Cove, is too cowardly to do much of anything.
  • Eldin Bernicky was Murphy Brown's painter and was around for nearly the entire series.
  • In Mission: Impossible, Cinnamon Carter was supposedly a famous cover model for various magazines, but only one episode ("The Photographer," where the villain was a fashion photographer-cum-spy) ever made use of her modeling expertise or reputation. True, she was implicitly a few years past her glory days, yet aside from that episode, no one ever recognized her as a famous model even on occasions when she used her real name on missions within the United States.
  • In theory, The A-Team are a band of mercenaries who lease their skills out for cash so they can stay on the run. However, they never seem to ever participate in a job that's even slightly shady and they rarely seem to get paid for whatever they do.
  • The Janitor in Scrubs rarely, if ever, does his job. Normally, he only cleans if he really doesn't have anything better to do. This is an acknowledged fact in-universe.

Janitor: I'm sorry Carla, I can't help you, I have work to do.
(entire room bursts out laughing)
Janitor: Ah, that one always kills.

  • In The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Vivian averts this for the first season because she is a teacher and is signed on to teach Will and Carlton's black history class, however her job is at best almost never mentioned after the first season.
  • Derek, Burger and Ash from I'm in The Band are in Iron Weasel. But in most episodes, they usually slack off in Tripp's apartment and don't do much, despite Tripp suggesting them do some rehearsing. Tripp puts emphasis on this in the season 2 opener "I'm Out of the Band".
  • The Disciples, a biker gang featured on Intelligence, are the only biker gang in history that prefer four-door sedans to, you know, bikes.
  • 75% aversion on the American version of The Office: We see people doing their jobs (particularly the sales and warehouse staff) in almost every episode. It's not a complete aversion because Michael's antics often eat up a large part of his day, and they often drag at least a couple of the other characters along. Jim and Pam's pranks seem to take up a significant amount of time also.
  • Karen and Davis from Corner Gas are cops who rarely do police work unless either Oscar or the Mayor tell them to, and they're usually reluctant to. In one episode, Karen ends up getting a week off from work. When she goes back, they both immediately take a nap in the police cruiser.
  • While the students in Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide do in fact go to class, Gordy The Janitor never seems to do any janitor-related. Like everything in this show, this get's lampshaded by "I'll get the night guy to do it!"
  • Henry, Eureka's auto mechanic (and resident Omnidisciplinary Scientist), never seems to work on an actual car, after the first episode. Carter lampshades this at one point; Henry says he does, occasionally, "when it gets slow".
  • Ralph Kramden in The Honeymooners is a bus driver, but never actually shown driving.
    • We never got to see Norton working either, but then, he works in the sewer, so who'd want to?
  • Played intentionally in Unhappily Ever After - Jack is firmly established as a used car salesman who frequently skips work and rarely sells a car when he does come in. In the finale, he finally starts taking the job seriously and makes enough commission in a week to fund Tiffany's entire Harvard tuition - then he goes back to being a slacker to save Mr. Floppy's life.
  • Sarah Jane Smith of The Sarah Jane Adventures is supposedly a reporter, but we never see her doing any actual reporting. She spends most of her time battling evil aliens, something she has explicitly vowed to not report on.
    • Lampshaded in that Sarah's standard excuse when she dashes off somewhere is "I have to go file a story!" This is never what she's actually going to do.
  • Nathan Petrelli of Heroes is appointed to the U.S. Senate in Season 3. He is never shown voting on any motions, amendments, or bills, attending any committee meetings, meeting with any constituents, or doing anything else that a U.S. Senator's job entails. He is instead able to focus all his time and efforts on running his own personal Government Conspiracy.
  • Will from Glee is a Spanish teacher who seems to spend very little time teaching Spanish. (Also, the few times he is seen speaking Spanish, his accent is very poor.) It becomes kind of ridiculous in the first episode of season three, when Sue announces her intention of making sure all the high school arts programs are removed. Will becomes very upset, not only because he believes it's a mistake to take away the arts from the kids, but because his livelihood is at stake... conveniently forgetting that coaching the glee club is something he volunteered to do, and that he is first and foremost a Spanish teacher. Thhis is finally addressed in the "duende" episode, where Will admits that he took the Spanish job because it was the only one available. At the end of the episode he takes a different job in the history department (another field he knows nothing about) and gives his old job to Ricky Martin. In real life this would prove a disastrous move because few schools would certify an instructor to teach Puerto Rican Spanish, a dialect even native speakers have difficulty following.
  • Wife Swap has the Baur family, who took this partially literally. On the other hand, they actually do compensate the Fines for saving them from a last-second power cut.
  • Completely averted in Profit where the plot revolves almost entirely around the eponymous character doing his job, albeit in a rather creative fashion.
  • On Burn Notice Fiona is an awfully nice person, given that she is, kind of, you know, an Arms Dealer. What kind of people does she sell to anyway? Really nice street thugs?


  • One of the key beliefs in Pastafarianism is that Pirates are chosen people not unlike saints, and their main activity in the Golden Age of Piracy was peaceful exploration and delivering candy to children. Later they were slandered by rival faiths until their public image became as we know it today. So in a way, their position is that The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything is what actually happened...

Newspaper Comics

  • Chip Dunham's Overboard is quite literally about a group of these.
  • Wally from Dilbert does absolutely nothing at his office, to the point of being referred to as "the Wally" by those outside the organization. He claims he only comes to work because he doesn't know how to make coffee (and doesn't want to pay for Internet access, according to the animated series).
    • The character of Wally started out as a plot (Based on a True Story) about a competent worker who was deliberately trying to get himself fired by acting lazy and abusive because the severance package was so good. However, he's long since been Flanderized into being lazy and incompetent. A few strips have shown that he has made so much money by investing in the competition whenever the company enters a new market that his net worth is higher than that of the company itself.
  • Der Inspektor from The Katzenjammer Kids, arguably the world's first comic strip. Although he was known only by his title as School Inspector, he never really did that job. This might by partly due to the fact that he was initially representing Imperial Prussia, a power which no longer exists, and partly because he realized that getting Hans and Fritz (i.e. the Katzenjammer kids) to stay in school is next to impossible.
  • Beetle Bailey and his fellow soldiers have been in the Army during three major foreign wars (Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan/Iraq), plus numerous small-scale interventions (Grenada, Somalia, Panama, Lebanon, Kuwait), yet they never actually seem to deploy out of Camp Swampy.
    • As The Comic Strip Doctor put it, "He is a soldier who never kills, in an army which never fights, for a country which never calls on him."
    • The general consensus seems to be that Camp Swampy is one of the Army's dumping grounds for its failures. Given the general level of competence displayed up and down the chain of command, that theory appears to be very sound.
    • This also might explain why they're still wearing and using 1950s-era equipment.
  • Jon Arbuckle from Garfield is a cartoonist, but the only time he is actually shown working on a cartoon is in the first strip. His job proceeded to be mentioned only two times later in the strip, the first being when he went away to a cartoonist's convention in 1984, then twenty-six years later in 2010, Liz informs her parents over the phone about Jon's cartoonist job. He is frequently seen working in the Garfield and Friends and The Garfield Show animated series, though.
  • Andy from FoxTrot is employed as a newspaper writer, but she's not seen as doing much actual writing - granted this is mostly in the mid-recent years of the comic strip. In the early years, she's seen writing columns and a couple stories have been centered around her writing a column or trying to get around to writing columns.

Professional Wrestling

  • Many wrestlers are accompanied at all times by colorful, charismatic "managers" - but we hardly ever see these so-called managers negotiating contracts, and we never see them handling their clients' financial assets.
  • Anytime a wrestler takes a Gimmick from the Wrestling Doesn't Pay playbook, as it is unlikely that they have ever worked in their Kayfabe vocation.
    • Note that there are some aversions, such as Paul Bearer actually working in a funeral home.
  • Melina Perez, Johnny Nitro, and Joey Mercury ("MNM") entered WWE in 2005 claiming to be Hollywood stars, but even in Kayfabe none of the movies or TV shows they'd supposedly appeared in were ever mentioned. (It was later explained that MNM weren't actors themselves, but hobnobbed with actors in their quest to become "famous.")


  • The Pirates of Penzance. At best, it's mentioned that they attack other ships, but they have rules about only attacking bigger ships than themselves, and to let orphans go unharmed, with obvious results. What we actually get to see them do is drink, sing about poetry, attempt burglary, and try to get married! When they capture the General's daughters to force the last, they succeed in overcoming the still more ineffectual police, but instantly surrender in face of an appeal to their loyalty to Queen Victoria.
  • The bandits in Two Gentlemen of Verona don't ever actually succeed at banditry. The closest they come is on their meet main character Valentine, when it takes about a minute for them to go from "Give us all your money!" to "We like the look of your face. Be our leader!"
  • Cyrano De Bergerac: Invoked by Cyrano's improvised poem The bold Cadets of Gascony at Act II Scene VII. Cyrano describes the life of a Gascon Cadet as nothing more than brawling, swaggering, hiding they are poor, getting badass sobriquets, chasing married women and intimidating their husbands. Of course, then comes Act IV and this trope is dangerously inverted because the cadets starve, kill and confront a Last Stand.
  • Antonio in Twelfth Night is supposedly a pirate, and gets in trouble for crimes he's committed in the past, but onstage we don't see him do anything but be nice to Sebastian. A non-pirate example is Viola, who got her job with Orsino with the intention of becoming part of his musical entertainment (she can sing); lots of music gets played for Orsino, and Feste (who doesn't even work for Orsino) sings for him, but Viola seems to prefer sitting by Orsino's side while they both comment on how pretty the music is.
  • Older Than Feudalism: In a lot of ancient Greek plays, the Greek Chorus usually was supposed to represent the townspeople or the household help or whatever a crowd in the play's given setting would naturally tend to be. While these people do help the audience understand what's going on with their songs (thus doing their job as a chorus), there's nothing in the script to suggest that they actually do anything related to the trades of the bit characters they supposedly represent. Moreover, they are generally notoriously useless for any situation at hand that calls for physical assistance of any kind.
    • In the first play of the Oresteia trilogy, for instance, while Agamemnon is screaming about how he's being murdered, the chorus of townspeople can't do anything but wander around the stage saying things like "What do we do? What do we do!?" Nobody there actually dares to go check it out for himself or even to report a domestic disturbance to the local law enforcement.

Video Games

  • The MMORPG EverQuest features gnome pirates who have to constantly remind each other to talk "piratey." They're bad at following through on the details, but they like the idea of being pirates.
  • Although Samus Aran from Metroid is described as being a Bounty Hunter, she's usually never seen hunting bounties. She seems more like a kind of mercenary than anything. It's possible the definition has changed in the future, though; all of her jobs are given to her by the government.
    • Not to mention her nemeses the Space Pirates, who seemingly exist only to antagonize her; then again, Samus keeps breaking into their bases. The Prime subseries manages to deal with this in a decent way - the Pirate Logs throughout the games establish that the Space Pirates do have a life outside of trying to kill "the Hunter" (their little nickname for her gives you a guess what Samus does during her down time).
    • In a few issues of Nintendo Power there was a tie-in comic series to Super Metroid. A new character - a male bounty hunter - was added in as a sort of rival and irritant to Samus. While she continued blasting her way through the underground tunnels, he would stop to pick up the space pirates' "ears" or claws or whatever alien body part they were. After he started going on about how rich he was going to be after turning these body parts in for the bounties, Samus actually expressed disgust at his mercenary ways.
  • Captain Falcon from F-Zero falls into a similar rut, although the focus of his series is mainly on his side-business, racing. All of his Bounty Hunting is literally All There in the Manual.
  • The Super Mario Bros.. are allegedly plumbers. However, the only thing they ever seem to do involving plumbing is their habit of traveling via pipe -- which real plumbers are not noted to do either, but never mind...
    • In the live-action movie and Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, they do use their plumbing skills to stop an attempted sabotage/flooding at a dig site and then in a castle basement. Likewise, the animated series would occasionally show them using their plumbing skills and equipment, either for actual plumbing or for dire situations.
    • Referenced in Banjo-Tooie, when Loggo the toilet complains of being clogged:

Kazooie: Then call a plumber. I think Mario's free at the moment.
Loggo: I don't think he actually does that kind of work anymore...

    • Also referenced in There Will Be Brawl, where Mario claims to have done a lot of things, but denies being a plumber.
    • In the original Donkey Kong he was working on a skyscraper as a carpenter
    • The "plumber" thing is from the original Mario Bros. thing was, his business wasn't just plumbing even then, but rather unusual sewer pest control (both the pests and the method of control). Which is really not much different from what he's done ever since. Personally, I'm perfectly fine with the fact that his skills are a lot more specialized than your average drain unclogger. You wouldn't hire the Ghostbusters to rescue a stray dog, would you?
    • In contrast to most of the Mario universe, the Nintendo Comics System's Super Mario Bros. comics from the early 1990s feature a surprising amount of plumber-related content. The brothers built an impromptu network of water pipes to cool down a volcano, and saved the day when Bowser's poorly-thought-out plan to destroy the sewer resulted in a flood. There was also a running gag about Mario's obsession with a comic book series about a plunger-wielding plumber superhero. The shorter comic strips in between the stories included Luigi taking the reader on a tour of a plumbing museum, and Mario and Luigi's childhood trip to plumbing camp.
    • Princess Peach for that matter doesn't do many royal duties either despite being the ruler of the Mushroom Kingdom. She usually just stands around and look pretty whenever she isn't kidnapped or playing games with her friends (and enemies). Sure, Peach does go on adventures herself and protect her kingdom in Super Princess Peach and the various RPG games, but she never does anything involving ruling her kingdom. The royal guards never do their job either, practically handing Peach over to the villains with next to no resistance. Bowser, on the other hand, actively rules his kingdom in many of the games. He commands his army and orders the construction of new settlements, among other things. Considering how much respect Bowser's minions have toward him despite his evil deeds (as seen in Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story, where they serve him out of admiration instead of fear), Bowser might very well be a better ruler than Peach.
    • Daisy would probably count as well. Her home kingdom was only mentioned in her debut game, Super Mario Land, where Mario had to save her after she's been kidnapped by aliens, and is often seen with Peach in every spinoff game beginning with Mario Tennis except for Super Smash Bros., not counting the trophies (Melee's trophy for some reason has a third eye) and stickers.
  • Isabela in Dragon Age 2 stands around in a bar for a decade, drinking. Bonus points for her claiming to be a pirate, too.
  • Blue Rogues in Skies of Arcadia are more in the nature of random do-gooders and adventurers, and look down on pirates who actually engage in, y'know, piracy. Some exposition reveals that Blue Rogues are in it for the challenge; any ship that can defend itself is technically a valid target. Vyse's little group still kill people and take their stuff, as per the genre standard... they're just very selective of who they do the "killing" part to. As they do spend a lot of time messing up the navy of the not-Spanish-really Empire, one could think of them as English privateers without an actual England to endorse them, at least until the end of the game when they essentially start their own England.
    • Similarly, early on in the game, you might find you're getting less money than you could be for discoveries because a treasure hunter is discovering them first. You'll eventually meet him, in a restaurant run by a pirate you trounced earlier. He'll join you if you've discovered thirty discoveries, but if not he'll just hang around in the restaurant, not hunting much of anything, until you have.
  • In Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time/Darkness, there's an exploration team composed of a Slakoth and a Slowpoke who call themselves "Team Slackers, the zero-motivation exploration team". Each time they appear, they point out the fact that they don't really do anything besides just laying around, and they wonder why they even formed an exploration team in the first place.
  • In Monkey Island, pirates who actually do anything pirate-related are about as frequent as chicken's teeth. Even the protagonist, self-proclaimed "mighty pirate" that he is, never does anything more nefarious than your average Kleptomaniac Hero. The first game lampoons the idea with Guybrush's crew (who he has travelled all over Melee Island to find) flat out refusing to help him and instead sunbathing on the deck, treating the journey to Monkey Island like it's a cruise holiday. He does get the opportunity to sink the ship later in the game, instead travelling back with the Island's hermit, Herman Toothrot, who has his own ship. It turns out in the fourth game that this is canon and his former crew are pissed off with him because they had to find their way back to Melee without a ship (ie, had to make some effort).
    • Justified in the first game because the pirates are afraid to sail because there's an evil ghost ship on the loose, and in the second game because the Largo Embargo does not allow them to sail (and Largo's enough of a Badass to enforce it). Also lampshaded all the time by the responses Guybrush gets when he claims he's a mighty pirate ("you look more like a flooring inspector!").
    • Let's look at the list. The murder of G.P. LeChuck (and several hench ghosts). The use of witchcraft on the person of Largo LaGrande. Graverobbing. Trespassing. Larceny without a permit. Premature entombment of a non-dead individual. Use of falsefied-identification for the purchase of alcohol. Mixing drinks without a license. Two counts of unauthorized exiting from a penal institution. Impersonating a female to escape the law. Impersonating a federal mail boat. Re-animation within city limits. Necromancy. About a zillion counts of theft, and wanted for questioning regarding the disappearance of prescription eye wear.
    • And then all that gets tossed out the window in the third game. You even get defenseless tourists to prey on if you want. And listen to them beg and plead for mercy. I made a save point there called 'Piracy at last!'.
    • The fourth game ramps this trope up to 11, to the extent that it lessens the blow of the pirates getting overrun by tourists. For instance, compare the SCUMM Bar from the first game, where pirates are downing grog, swinging on chandeliers and passing out on tables, to the one in the fourth game, which has about two or three people sitting around and playing darts. And we're supposed to care that this place gets turned into a sushi restaurant?
    • The rather dynamic opening of the Tales of Monkey Island's first episode is one large callback to series traditions. Guybrush faces LeChuck once more, complete with mystical voodoo artifact - assembled through yet another long-winded quest - a ship, lots of alleged treasure and a lazy crew sleeping in the hold.
    • Then you finally see some proper pirates besides LeChuck in The Seige of Spinner Cay (the second chapter of the fifth sixth game). You do not fuck with McGillicutty.
    • In the fourth episode of the Tales of Monkey Island series, it's revealed that the Pox of LeChuck that's been driving the conflict only affects real pirates, proving that while Guybrush may not be much of a pirate, he is a pirate.
  • Though the "pirates" from The Legend of Zelda the Wind Waker love to boast about being the terror of the seas, they mostly just act as roughneck ferrymen for Link and the many people he rescues or works with over the course of the game. They're even ruled by a little girl whose mother was the previous pirate leader. They do eventually engage in about one and a half acts of actual piracy, but they don't seem particularly cutthroat in either case.
    • They hold the hostages they just saved for a ransom (though they did let at least one go for free because their father couldn't pay), steal an entire shop of bombs and don't seem very upset over the total destruction of Greatfish Isle. Pirate may not be exactly accurate, but they do do some fairly unpleasant things for money.
      • However, Tetra does express her feelings toward Greatfish Isle's destruction, and worries about what might happen to Outset Island, since this is where Jabun fled to. Naturally, the other pirates are confused by this.
    • It gets worse in Phantom Hourglass, where Tetra seems to have gone crusader of the seas and wants to scold the owners of the "Ghost Ship" for kidnapping people. - Which should be common business for pirates.
    • In Oracle of Seasons, the skeletal pirates eventually stop being stranded and set sail on the open seas, only to immediately become seasick, dock their ship and proceed to stand around on a beach for the rest of the game.
  • For all the effort that Kay Faraday puts into building her entire identity around being a "Great Thief" and a "modern day Robin Hood" in Ace Attorney Investigations (going so far as to give herself a motto), she never steals anything more valuable than people's catchphrases, Gumshoe's role as sidekick, and the contents of Edgeworth's pockets, even when it would be very useful for her to do so. Partly justified because she is a 'Thief of Truth' whose main goal is to steal and expose evidence of corrupt doings, but she never makes any efforts towards that end either. Even more egregious as Investigations does not use Kleptomaniac Hero, with Edgeworth relying on notes/pictures/ect.
  • Dungeons & Dragons-based video games (such as Neverwinter Nights or Stormreach) tend to feature an inordinate number of career adventurers sitting around in taverns or campsites, practically begging you to delve into loot-filled dungeons in their stead, as well as a bunch of adventurers who are just waiting for someone with actual work ethic to turn up and talk them into seeking fortune and glory (i.e. the main character).
    • Particularly glaring in NWN', because the Pirate Who Doesn't Do Anything is a paladin. After the first day or so of "pay that malevolent, Chaotic Evil Black Mage wannabe to hunt reagents for me"... well, Aribeth, there's this thing called "falling". It happens to paladins who act like you do. Yes, it happened eventually, but that was an actual choice motivated by vengeance and grief, rather than a logical conclusion to using hired sociopaths as guided missiles.
    • In Neverwinter Nights 2, you become a squire... which explicitly, as your knight tells you, doesn't require you to clean his stables and polish his armor, or really do anything at all expected of a squire. You don't even see him again are are perfectly free to continue adventuring with your own Ragtag Bunch of Misfits. This is justified, though, in that the sole reason for your promotion to squire was a legal technicality to let you face your court trial in Neverwinter rather than the Kangaroo Court of Luskan.
  • The Baldur's Gate series at least tries to justify the latter as much as it can manage (mostly that said adventurers have come into a situation they couldn't handle alone and need a group to help them with), but still lets in a few Fridge Logic NPCs here and there.
    • Subverted in the expansion, Throne Of Baal. You find some adventurers in a dungeon, and they ARE actually on an adventure. They start pestering you to give them a quest, but you are so far above their level that you give them busywork to get them out of your hair.
  • The town of Rogueport in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door is a parody of the Grand Theft Auto Vice City-style setting, and as such has several examples of rogues, bandits, and roughnecks who are rarely, if ever, seen stealing or doing other unsavory things. Goombella even remarks of one character: "At least he's supposed to be a thief, but I've never seen him steal anything."
    • The explorer in Flipside in Super Paper Mario never actually goes out and explores anything, but he might say a few things about places Mario and company have already been to as the game progresses.
  • The "great adventurer" Toma in Chrono Trigger spends pretty much the entire game drinking in a bar and talking big. In the game's present day, you learn that he did find what he was looking for, at least.
  • Gordon Freeman of the Half Life series is a scientist who is never really seen doing any science. Even in the beginning of the first game, briefly depicting him working with the other Anomalous Materials Team members, his entire contribution to the experiment is pressing a button and pushing a cart. General consensus is that all the other scientists were better qualified (at least had seniority), given they all had access past biometric scanners where Freeman did not. On the other hand, Barney's comment Looks like you're in the barrel today indicates Gordon just drew the short straw for this particular anomalous materials assignment, and would otherwise be reading gauges and writing equations on chalkboards with the other labcoats.
    • Lampshaded in the sequel, after Gordon has thrown a switch as part of a lab experiment:

Barney: Good job Gordon, throwing that switch and all. I can see your MIT education really pays for itself.

    • Perhaps also referenced in Gordon's meetings with the GMan, who alternately refers to Gordon as "Mister Freeman" and "Doctor Freeman", with audible sarcasm quotes around the latter.
    • Less obvious is that he is a theoretical physicist, in reality theoretical physicist don't really conduct many experiments, they basically sit around think about really complicated math problems, then again having Freeman ride the tram to work, put on a big hazmat suit... and then sit down at a table with a pen and paper wouldn't be very exciting.
  • In the MMORPG City of Villains, you play a supervillain. Strangely, most of your missions seem to be either hits against other villains, or battling even worse villains. Occasionally, you actually rob a bank or battle The Statesman.
    • The Westin Phipps missions are a good example of why it's like this: A game where one plays 50 levels of making sure poor children don't get school books would most likely have dismal sales.
  • In Final Fantasy XII Vaan wants to escape the poverty and oppression of Archadian occupation to become a sky pirate. Fran and Balthier are notorious sky pirates. And Reddas is a former sky pirate who runs a whole smuggler's port full of sky pirates. Don't expect to see any actual piracy in the skies though (or on the high seas or anywhere else for that matter), or even an explanation of what sky pirates actually do with the massive amount of free time they seem to have.
    • It's mentioned in-game that the moniker "sky pirate" has drifted from "person who robs airships" to a generalized sort of adventurer-type who probably spends more time hunting monsters and raiding ruins.
    • We do get to see plenty of sky pirates in action in Revenant Wings. Aside from the player characters it seems to involve theft, murder, slavery, and the odd bit of genocide. The player characters prefer to beat up other sky pirates and take their money, which is only somewhat less reprehensible.
    • Duodecim lampshades this, as the name for the mannikin version of Vaan is "Idle Sky Pirate."
    • Final Fantasy V has a band of pirates stuck in an inland sea where there is little to no sea travel due to the Torna Canal being closed. Pillaging seems to be beyond their understanding; if you do sail into town, they'll just head for the inn and get drunk, forcing you to actually pay the undefended townsfolk for any goods you need.
      • Averted by their leader Faris, who's first reaction to find out she has a princess in her custody is to hold her for ransom.
  • Seth and Sed of Lost Odyssey are both pirates, but we never actually see them participating in piracy, despite Sed, having a ship (though no crew).
  • Mother 3 has Wess and Duster, practitioners of the Thief Arts. One of the conversations with the townsfolk involves a girl calling you "a thief that doesn't steal anything." They do sneaky things, yes, but not in a criminal way. They are considered to be somewhat odd by the other villagers, though.
    • It does bear mentioning that, pre-Time Skip, Tazmily was an idealistic paradise that didn't have or need any form of currency, and everyone was happy to help one another out; there WAS nothing to steal (the Hummingbird Egg aside, but Wess was the one who'd put it where it was, anyway).
  • No More Heroes falls under the category of "not false, but not accurate" with its "assassins." Though Travis does have the option to kill people for money, this seems to be more of a means to an end for him, and completely irrelevant to the other assassins. Hell, most the supposed assassins amount to psychopaths with weapons, but that doesn't stop Travis and everyone else from insisting on using the term assassin at every possible moment.
    • At one point, though, Travis is so disgusted with Bad Girl that he points out that she's "no assassin, just a perverted killing maniac," which indicates that they have standards, or at least some sense of self-respect.
  • Similar to other Pirate examples; the pirate crew in Fire Emblem Rekka No Ken doesn't seem to be, well, that piratey. They seem to be more Mercenaries/hirable ferry. However; they are a bit of an aversion of the pirate tropes - Lyn is very distrustful of them merely because pirates actually do pillage and plunder because her parents and the rest of her tribesmates WERE killed by bandits...
  • Remember all those mighty heroes of the first three Warcraft games? Well those who survived long enough to appear in World of Warcraft apparently earned the privilege of sitting around getting other people to do all the heroing for them.
    • Even lowly NPCs will order you around while doing nothing. They typically won't even do anything with the quest items you bring them (blacksmiths don't make weapons to defend the settlement, etc). Wrath of the Lich King has taken steps to advert this. For instance one quest requires you to retrieve some weapons for peasants who are being attacked by the Undead. Turning in the quest causes them to run and use the weapons for a short time.
      • Other NPCs require you to do things like gather Berries before they'll open their shop for your use, where they sell items related to what you got for them. Others will sometimes have tasks you have to do to access the flight path and the Phasing system sometimes requires a chain of quests to be done before an area is filled with friendly NPCs (or have them leave instead).
      • In Shamus Plays, this is often the reason why his heroes give up their attempts at being heroes or, in the World of Warcraft example, trigger his Face Heel Turn. The NPCs that order him to do their job or perform meaningless tasks before they'll perform their jobs, coupled with the lack of common sense to some of the quest goals causes the Warlock Norman Deathbringerr who was trying to go the Dark Is Not Evil route to be talked into going into full fledged villany by his imp.
    • This is sometimes averted, as your NPC quest givers may fight alongside you in a quest, or justified in that the NPCs' hands are tied (Drakuru is stuck in a cage after the player captures him, so while he knows what to do, he needs the player to do the legwork). Or even more if they maintain the base camp or ask you as a recon/private assassination team as they hold the fort outside.
    • Largely changed in the Cataclysm patch, now each zone has a story and goal you're working towards (and generally a theme, like a murder mystery or an extended Rambo parody).
  • In The Elder Scrolls series, the player can become the head of several guilds and factions. Fortunately, nobody expects you to do things like run the organizations, participate in politics, debate religious doctrine, etc. After all, that would interfere with your actual job of delving into caves and fighting bandits and monsters.
    • Averted with the Imperial Cult in Morrowind and that one faction alone. You can only advance so far due to not being a full time priest, even after the local leadership has noticed you have met all of their gods.
    • House Telvanni in the same game modifies it - their outlook on things means it actually makes sense that most of the actual running or details are left to someone else once you become a Master or the Archmagister. It is, instead, the mid-level ranks where the player doesn't have to do any of the stuff that is supposed to come with the rank.
    • Slightly limited in Daggerfall, in that it is established that you aren't actually head of the various guilds (not even of the regional guild, as in Morrowind), just amongst the most high-ranking members.
    • Most people recognize that the protagonist is sufficiently badass that their time is better spent battling world-threatening events than doing paperwork. For instance, in Morrowind you end up appointed "Hortator" by the three Houses, supposedly making you a joint warchief. Rather than being put in charge of any armies, though, you are officially recognized as a one-person army. They even tell you that your new duty is to venture into dark and dangerous places where no one else would dare to enter. In addition, many organisations have established procedures with middle-management people running things smoothly (and possibly dipping into the till) without the important people at the top having to bother. The Winterhold academy in Skyrim ran itself pretty smoothly, while the guild arch-mage in Morrowind was somewhat insane and didn't actually run anything outside of his imagination.
  • Dr Z in Dinosaur King (the DS version) wants to realise his dream of riding on the backs of dinosaurs. He does nothing (aside from his initial act of acquiring a Dinoshot to summon dinosaurs) towards that aim during the entire game, instead getting his minions to go around, menace the local populations, and infest areas with robots.
  • Faith of Mirror's Edge is a Runner, carrying important data across one of the few remaining unmonitored channels left in the City. Or at least, that's what we're told. She only actually gets one message to deliver, and passes it off to Celeste before the end of the first chapter. Later events reveal it probably never got there. There are some Kent Brockman News reports paranoid about those employing the Runners suggesting a good portion of the population has hired one before, but there isn't much reason to actually believe them. Most of the other Runners seem to be more interested in political assassination or selling out friends.
    • This is also a case of What Could Have Been: Unlockable content reveals that the bags played a larger role in early drafts of the plot.
    • Justified, since Faith spends the rest of the game being hunted by the government after they interrupted her first delivery of the game.
  • The nominally "mercenary" Star FOX team aren't very mercenary-ish in their business plans. Despite turning General Pepper's offer to join the army down cold in Star FOX 64, Peppy replaces him and leads the army in Star Fox Command. The ending to Star Fox 64 shows that Pepper paid the team quite a bit (depending on the score), but the aparoid thing was apparently a freebie. Star Fox Adventures actually begins with the team in a financial crisis from their lack of mercenary activity.
    • The (non-canonical) comics and a good deal of fanfiction on the other hand deal with the mercenary aspect of the team a bit more.
    • The rival Star Wolf team seem to get it wrong too, since they are considered criminals. Granted, realistically mercenaries are always a bit shady, but just living out the "whoever pays"-style doesn't warrant bounties.
  • For bandits, we really don't see much banditing from Moses Sandor and his band in Tales of Legendia Even when they move their base into town after being forced to leave their former base, the townspeople come to consider them to be pretty friendly people. Though their former does appear to show that they may have done plenty in past based on Moses room and all the gold they had.
  • Reimu from the Touhou series is a Miko in charge of maintaining the Great Hakurei barrier. From what everyone's seen, that consists of drinking tea, sweeping, and more tea.
    • Reimu doesn't do anything because there isn't anything for her to do if there isn't a crisis: maintaining the Barrier is (at least for her) really only concerned with maintaining the shrine, and no-one visits it. Well, no-one human, anyway, and they tend to mooch off of her, annoy her and/or scare away any humans that would have otherwise visited, so it isn't as if she has a lot of options.
    • Averted in Silent Sinner in Blue. Not only does Reimu spend the early part of the manga practicing to call upon the powers of Sumiyoshi, her opening battle with Yukari Yakumo involves her calling upon Ama no Iwata Wake no Mikoto. So she isn't so lazy that she never practiced channeling deities.
    • Reimu's counterpart and rival Marisa pretty much averts this. She's not evil, but with many of her adventures being centered around her stealing magical artifacts just for the kicks of it, beating up people in the process, and her stealing of Patchouli's books, she is really somewhat of a Wicked Witch. Also, she's an earnest hard worker unlike Reimu.
    • The official title of Patchouli Knowledge is librarian and tutor of the Scarlet Mansion, however no-one but her actually uses her library (with the exception of Marisa's regular bouts of kleptomania) and it seems unlikely Remilia values a good education. Granted, researching new magics might be what Remilia hired her for, this being an instance of "do what you love doing".
  • Magi in Tsukihime are described as people who research and study magic intently far away from other people all by themselves their entire lives. Then they made the next game, Fate Stay Night and based it on magi. And what do you know, not a single character is like that, and the prequel and supplementary materials illustrate quite clearly that it's actually kinda rare for a magus to actually do this, and not always voluntary. May simply be a retcon, though.
    • You would seem to be overlooking that Kara no Kyoukai was written before Tsukihime and it involves magi actually doing things. Such as killing and enslaving the residents of entire apartment buildings for the sake of magic experiments.
  • Dupre in Ultima was apparently the mayor of Trinsic in Ultima IV. He joins the Avatar's party in the local tavern, where he's mostly busy drinking. And nobody ever brought his job up in the following parts of the series. But being a mayor was easy in Ultima IV, when characters didn't have daily schedules implemented yet, anyway!
  • Most of the pirates in Alundra 2, only time we see proper pirates is in the protagonist's flashback. Protagonist himself, a pirate hunter, doesn't really do any pirate hunting.
  • Maple Story assassins seem to follow this trope. None of that 'professional murder' business in this child-friendly MMO. Even if they are supposed to be ninjas instead (orange Naruto gear ahoy), they don't fare terribly well at this either, being in no way stealth-driven and generally picked by the most look-at-me showoffish players in the game. Pirates fare no better, since any running away from these so-called ravening hordes is generally down to the reputation pirate players tend to have on Maple Story forums, rather than any notion of actual piracy.
  • Adventure Quest: There's vampires who never drink blood, rogues who never do anything particularly rogue-like, a treasure hunter that's almost never seen hunting treasure, a water elf who spends disturbing amounts of time on dry land well away from water, and a farmer who'd rather be a dread necromancer... among other things.
  • Johnny from Guilty Gear is ostensibly a pirate captain, but all we really see him doing is flying around on his airship and hitting on the various female cast members. He also seems to be friends with Ky, who is head of the world police force.
  • Lampshaded/Spoofed in Nehrim if you listen to the drunken ramblings of a "pirate" captain (who even wears a Jolly Rodger eye patch) you pay for passage during the main quest, he will admit he isn't really a pirate, just a looter (He finds things on an abandoned island that you need to get to) but "pirate" sounds cooler.
  • Deus Ex Human Revolution: Adam Jensen is supposed to be the chief of security to Sarif Industries, but after the opening scenes he doesn't spend two minutes doing his actual job, instead being turned into a spy/hitman/all around problem solver for his boss. The job description of a security chief should rarely involve crawling around ventilation ducts and disposing terrorists personally.
    • Most of said "problems" involve investigating who was behind the horrific attack on Sarif Industries and eventually rescuing their scientists which technically fall within the "security" umbrella. Nevertheless there is the implication that Sarif took advantage of Adam's injuries to turn him into his personal Terminator.
    • Somewhat lampshaded if your gaming instincts take over and you start looting your coworkers' offices: eventually you'll get emails asking Jensen to investigate a series of petty thefts in his capacity as chief of security.
  • The player character in Fallout 3 never does any marriage counselling or pedicuring or whatever the GOAT selected for them. Justified in that it was supposed to be your job in the Vault... which you end up having to flee from the very day you turn of age.
    • And in Fallout: New Vegas, the Courier can claim not to be a "delivery boy" during a quest. However, there are plenty of chances to actually courier things.
  • Averted in League of Legends: the actual pirate champion, Captain Gangplank, used to be treated as one of the comic relief characters, with his stereotypical pirate slang and his cannonballs and his ability to eat oranges to "cure his scurvy" and break out of curses and stuns in the process. He is, however, the only champion who was willing to shoot his own men to give others a "morale boost" (now removed for balance reasons). As more lore was released, it became clear that behind the child-friendly model is one of the worst bastards in the League.


  • Terror Island has Ned Q. Sorcerer, DDS, who was bathed with "rays of pure dentistry" in his Backstory, but has never been seen to perform the functions of a dentist, preferring instead to give long tedious speeches about "moonitaurs." However, his superpower is that everyone knows he's a dentist. He isn't actually a dentist.
  • Seem to crop up a lot in Sins Venials. Everyone wants to be a pirate, no one really knows what they do.
  • Vincent from Spiky Haired Dragon Worthless Knight don't take arms and fight, even though he's a knight. Justified by that he has a curse that rendered him unable to take up weapons.
  • Gunnerkrigg Court: Sir James Eglamore is a Dragon Slayer. The closest he's come to slaying a dragon is when he beats a dragon-ish Rogat Orjak into submission in chapter 3. The discrepancy is eventually explained:

Sir Eglamore: Well, that's just an official title. Dragons don't really need slaying so much these days.

    • That said, he is seen to carry out the actual duties of the Dragon Slayer, namely protecting the Court from etheric threats.
  • This is Beriah's most convincing attempt at being a pirate in Men in Hats.
  • The title character of The Adventures of Dr. McNinja has had his job as a physician slowly become like this (To the point where is has been lampshaded - twice.)
  • Schwartz in Space: The Comic may or may not be one. If the sole purpose of a "spaceman" is to live in space, he succeeds with flying colors. Otherwise, not so much.
    • However, most of the characters in Space: The Comic are like this.
  • Zii from Ménage à 3 is becoming one too.
  • Lampshaded and averted in Irregular Webcomic here. Even with a link to the page in the annotation!
  • Despite being described as "hardboiled detectives", Pickle Inspector, Ace Dick and the eponymous character of Problem Sleuth never actually do any detective work. They do solve lots of Weird Puzzle Shit and defeat a demonic manifestation of a local mob boss in an epic boss fight though.
  • The mercenaries in Schlock Mercenary pride themselves on their policy of hurting people and breaking things and only caring about their paycheck. But while they do plenty of mercenary work they usually manage to end up on the right side (or lesser evil side) of a conflict. The times that they didn't was usually in ignorance, preferably when they were actually trying to be the good guys.

Tagon: This isn't moral high ground. This is the artillery range.

Web Original

  • Homestar Runner doesn't seem to be much of a "terrific athlete" anymore...
    • A more obvious example would be Coach Z. The earliest character page said that he wasn't even a coach and he goes by Coach Z because it sound cooler than just "Z". This fact was later scrapped. he still does just as much janitorial work and rapping as coaching these days, though.
    • Despite the fact that Bubs owns several businesses, you can count on one hand the number of sales that he's made. He's given away items for free (or exchanged them for something worthless like play money or pencil shavings) far more often than he's sold them. Nor do we ever see him talking to vendors, taking inventory, counting money, setting prices, etc.
  • Untitled Pirate Movie: the ex-pirate indeed doesn't do anything (anything pirate-related, anyhow), but so desperately wants to.
  • Sean from Mega 64 was initially introduced as someone who delivers Rocko and Derek e-mail from the Big Bad's other Mega64 test subjects, but Rocko and Derek don't answer their e-mail much throughout the series, and Sean spends most of his time instead getting involved with the episode plotlines and plans.
  • The eponymous pirates of Lego Pirate Misadventures tend to get mixed up in things that don't really involve being seaborn raiders, to the point of actually getting fired from being pirates at one point. The fact that anytime they do try, they end up bungling it or just wind up empty handed doesn't help.

Western Animation

  • The Trope Namers in Veggie Tales are a very self-aware example.
  • Didi in Rugrats is supposedly a teacher. Other than the requisite 'taking Tommy to work' episode, we have no indication of her job whatsoever.
    • A few other episodes hint it---in the one with Chuckie's imaginary friend I seem to remember her grading papers, and in another Stu asks why she's home and she reminds him it's summer.
    • Drew lists his occupation as investment banker, but this comes up even less. Likewise Chaz is a beaurecrat, but this is never shown and seldom referred to.
  • Lampshaded in The Simpsons:

Bart: Do you even have a job any more?
Homer: I think it's pretty obvious that I don't.

    • Earlier seasons did focus a lot on Mr. Burns and the Power Plant, but after that well ran dry, they Brother Chucked an entire section of Springfield. This is also true of the school, although less so.
    • Also lampshaded when Homer becomes a police officer. He lists every single one of his previous jobs.
    • The most obvious example is Captain McAllister: "Arrgh! I hate the sea and everythin' in it!"
  • For a literal example of this trope, see the Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers episode "Piratsy Under the Sea". The Rangers encounter the Pi-Rats, rat pirates who like to go treasure hunting. However, the Pi-Rats are stuck inside a sunken pirate ship, so all they can do is hunt the same treasure over and over.
  • The French cartoon The Pirate Family is another literal example.
  • Popeye's a sailor man (toot toot), and certainly engaged in lots of high seas adventure in the comics, but famously had very few encounters with ships or even water in his animated cartoons. An average of one Popeye cartoon per year (out of ten to twelve made) showed the sailor actually doing his job.
    • A big exception was during World War II, where quite a few cartoons portrayed him as having (re)joined the navy.
  • Captain K'nuckles from The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack claims to be an adventurer, yet he seems to actively avoid doing anything that involves leaving the harbor or performing manual labor. If he ever does go on an adventure, it's usually because Flapjack guilts him into it, or else by sheer accident.
  • The Whalers of the Moon in Futurama, who freely admit there aren't any whales on the moon, and even have a song about it. (Of course, their real job is "amusement park robot", but still...)
    • Also Professor Farnsworth, who is only seen teaching in one episode. (He intentionally makes his course titles sound difficult so no one will sign up.)

Professor Farnsworth: I don't know how to teach. I'm a professor.

    • Likewise, this episode is the only one in which Amy, ostensibly an engineering student, is shown attending class. She's also an intern at Planet Express, but never seen to do actual work there.
    • Bender very rarely bends anything as a form of work. He only bends if it's convenient for him for some reason or another.
      • This is actually incorporated in the plot of one episode. Bender's continued bending abstention makes him start sleepbending things which were not meant to be bent, including Professor Farnsworth.
      • One early episode actually has Hermes mention the fact that Bender hadn't done a single act of work since being hired. (Though to be fair, bending was his past job---now his official job seems to be a "delivery boy and Team Lethal Chef").
    • Planet Express itself never seems to do deliveries anymore.
      • Lampshaded in a new episode by Hermes:

Hermes: Didn't we used to be a delivery company?

      • Lampshaded earlier by when 80's Guy took over the company.

Leela: That was terrible! People won't even know what we do.
Bender: I don't even know what we do. Nah, just kidding! What are we, like, a bus or something?

  • The Net Pirates in ReBoot originally did actual piracy, then were talked out of it by Dot to become proper businessmen. Once they quit piracy, they are never seen doing any business, simply standing around and acting pirate-y.
    • In between their first appearance and season 3, they were engaged in offscreen intersystem transport. When we do see them again, they're on the lam from the Guardians, who have made the net into a police state, because they were engaged in intersystem transport.
  • In Spartakus And The Sun Beneath The Sea, pirates are the primary villains of the series and do indeed rob and plunder, but are more interested in performing snappy song and dance numbers about themselves.
  • The title characters of the short-lived Undergrads are not once seen attending class, talking to instructors or even studying. Every university student on the planet wishes post-secondary school offered that much free time.
  • This is pretty much the gist of minor character The Huntsman in Freakazoid!, a superhero who is constantly out of a job and never actually gets around to doing the sort of heroics his intro suggests he does.
  • Dr. Orpheus in The Venture Brothers is by trade A NECROMANCER!, yet is never seen actually raising anyone from the dead (apart from an attempt at resurrecting Hank and Dean). What he actually does appears to be random magic and protecting the fabric of the universe from the forces of chaos. Lampshaded in Season 4, where he mentions that he only chose his title because, unlike terms like "wizard" or "magician", it hasn't been tainted by popular culture.
    • Then there's Billy and Pete:

Billy Whalin: We don't need much room for what we do, and that's why we can't pay you that much. Because we don't do that much.
Pete White: We actually don't do anything.

    • An early episode also had literal pirates who were stranded in a forest of sargassum kelp and, aside from using (fake) Ghost Pirate tactics to commandeer passing cargo ships (which there don't seem to be many of in the Bermuda Triangle) they really don't do much of anything at all. This is appended when they foolishly try to hijack Doctor Venture's X-2 hydrofoil, and Brock burns down their ship.
  • The Amoeba Boys in The Powerpuff Girls, an ostensibly criminal gang that spent an amazing amount of time standing around trying to figure out what to do. One time they had the blueprints for a sinister trap literally fall into their hands, and hours passed before they even bothered to LOOK AT IT. They managed to pull off one crime, and via an ability they learned through pure dumb luck.
    • A running joke in the series is that the Amoeba Boys desperately want to be seen as villains but are so inept that the girls don't take them seriously at all. In the aforementioned blueprint episode, the girls actually help them build the freaking thing (granted they thought it was a scavenger hunt, but still...) In one episode, the brothers actually do pose a threat by inadvertently infecting the town with the virus. They only agree to help find the cure if the girls fight them and then arrest them. While the girls do put up a rather lame fight (all three were very sick), they all refuse to arrest the Amoeba Boys on the grounds that their crime was undone and there was no lasting damage. The brothers were all very disappointed.
  • The pirates in SpongeBob SquarePants.
  • Quagmire in Family Guy was said to be a pilot in early episodes. It wasn't until "Dammit Janet!" that we see him in his uniform, and in "Airport '07" that we actually got to see him do his job. (although he was seen returning from a flight in "The Thin White Line.")
    • It turns out Quagmire isn't just a pilot, he's also your stereotypical pilot too.
    • On that note, just how often did you see Cleveland at the deli that he owned?
  • In How to Train Your Dragon, the human characters are all Vikings. No raiding of other societies is mentioned - in fact, the Vikings are the ones getting raided, by dragons. Presumably, these Vikings could have settled in Newfoundland or thereabouts, but...
  • The hero of the cartoon Night Hood. It's ostensibly a 1930's version Arsène Lupin. He's hunted by police in every country in the world. Other criminals try to pin their crimes on him. Does he ever actually steal anything or commit a crime more serious than lightly taunting police forces? No.
  • Velma seems to be the only character on Scooby Doo who actually does anything school-related, even though they're allegedly all meddling kids. And even she's more likely to have a winning display at a science fair than to actually do something as routine as, say, attend a lecture.
  • Jake and the Never Land Pirates. They call themselves pirates, but they're just kids who want to have a good time.
  • In My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic, we do see everyone doing their jobs...although Pinkie Pie appears to have a lot more free time than the other characters. This does make some sense: Applejack and Rarity are business owners, Fluttershy has an independent practice, Twilight is a full-time student of sorts, and Rainbow's job is one her entire sub-species shares. Pinkie, by comparison, is just an employee of a local business.


  • Many Renaissance Festival village ensemble stock characters are like this. There's a ratcatcher who's almost never seen actually catching any rats, the highwayman who almost never robs anybody, and of course pirates and privateers who are there on shore leave and don't actually loot or plunder (though of course they may sing about such things).
    • Darkly amusingly averted in one Onion story, about people being drawn and quartered at a Renaissance Festival.
  • Larry the so-called Cable Guy.
  • According to Sax and Violins, the band Talking Heads are "criminals that never broke no laws".
  • Hot Scientists are usually Pirates Who Don't Do Anything; they just look hot in glasses. This is because scriptwriters don't actually have the first clue how to think like a scientist. A good example is Denise Richard's Dr. Christmas Jones, in the James Bond movie The World Is Not Enough.
  • Douglas Adams wrote a radio sketch about The Kamikaze Pilot Who Doesn't Crash Into Ships. Initially it seems like the guy is coming up with excuses (couldn't find target, vertigo, got lost) because he's unwilling to die, but he's actually confused about the difference between a kamikaze attack and seppuku, and can't seem to fly close enough to cut out his stomach and drop it on the target ship's deck.
    • That's in the original version Adams wrote for the stage whilst at university. In the version broadcast on radio, it's because "the war ended thirty-two years ago, sir!"
  • So-called "famous for being famous" celebrities.
  • In older fiction involving air travel, airline stewardesses are often shown panicking and/or fulfilling a Damsel in Distress role in a crisis, presumably because the writers had taken their "beaming glorified cocktail waitress" get-ups at face value. In fact, flight attendants were always trained, clear-headed professionals, who would immediately take action to maximize air passengers' safety during an emergency. Hiring pretty young ladies and having them serve coffee and flirt with businessmen was just the early airlines' way of making their presence less alarming to travelers, who might otherwise be scared off by speeches about what to do in the event of a crash.
  • Sadly, the MythBusters have drifted into being Pirates Who Don't Do Anything in real life. Jamie Hyneman's actual business is M5 Studios, and he and his crew worked for years as very successful special-effects artists and product modelers. Jamie has since admitted in interviews that M5's activity has been declining since MythBusters hit it big, because companies that would have hired them don't want their products taking a backseat to the show's schedule, which as the show chugs on through ever larger projects is exactly what has happened.
  • In summer of 2010, 10 Russian spies were caught in America. However these aren't your badass Cold War Russians, as these spies were hanging around in Hoboken and raising families in suburbia. Though the spies were doing all sorts of James Bondian things, like bag switch offs and burying messages, there isn't any evidence that any of their information was of actual value. Most embarrassing are the photos of the spies. The first of these were posted of facebook.
  • On several video game sites, it's often joked that so many so-called "gamers" spend more time discussing and arguing about games online than actually playing them.
  • The popular stereotype of the "artist" who just sits in the coffee shop "waiting for inspiration" and complains about how hard it is to be an artist. It happens sometimes, but bonus points go for wearing turtlenecks and/or berets.
    • G. K. Chesterton considered the "artistic temperament" to actually be the side-effect of the stress produced by the inability to produce any art—his evidence for this being that many really prolific artists, like Shakespeare or his own friend, George Bernard Shaw, were such normal, non-temperamental people that scholars could come up with conspiracy theories about other people writing Shakespeare's plays.
  • At the time Spain was a great empire going from the Iberic peninsula to America and Phillipines you could be a pirate if you were french, english or just not spanish aproved and went to one of the ports of New Spain to sell... shirts and scissors... you didn't have to kill, rape or steal anything, just defying spain commercial monopoly was enough. Sure there were the people that made their living raiding cargo from spanish ships, but those didn't pass everyday.
  • The instruction manual for Blood Bowl mentions the Dragon Princes, a team composed entirely of high-ranking elven nobility. They were so haughty that they refused to take on any team that wasn't of equal standing. Of course, none of the other teams measured up to their standards, and they quietly disbanded after five seasons without playing a single game.

Real Life

  • As companies grow larger and labor becomes more divided and bureaucratized, new positions and titles begin to emerge that often don't seem to indicate, what, if anything, their office holders are responsible for. Examples include obtusely titled positions like "assistant deputy senior vice president of internal affairs" or, conversely, positions where titles are so short they could mean just about anything, i.e., "consultant."
    • Case in point CEOs and executives of companies specializing in a certain niche, such as video games. Strauss Zelnick of Take-Two Interactive for one was accused of being a mere corporate suit without any video game experience at all, especially in light of the recent controversies surrounding Grand Theft Auto‍'‍s presumed decline in quality and series direction.
  • "Do-nothing Congress" is a common phrase in American politics, usually used by Presidents, presidential candidates or the minority party in Congress; the charge was most famously levied by Harry S. Truman at the 80th Congress in 1948 and by the Democrats against the 109th Congress in 2006. Often it's an empty talking point that means "This Congress has done nothing I asked them to do," but occasionally it's used accurately. When the U.S. Senate or House of Representatives is closely divided between parties (and sometimes even when it's not), it's entirely possible that very few substantial bills will get passed. Likewise, when one political party strongly dominates the presidency and one house of Congress, the remaining house will very rarely get anything done, and even that only grudgingly.
    • This might not technically count, since it's actually a design feature of the U.S. system.
  • Presidents often receive a similar rap, as in Michael Moore's allegation that George W. Bush spent most of his first term on vacation or Republicans' criticism of Barack Obama's golfing, vacations and parties during the Deep Horizon oil spill crisis. Dwight Eisenhower was similarly portrayed as a golfer-in-chief.
  • Heck, vice-presidents (or any political leader with the prefix vice-) e.g. in the United States and the Philippines get a similar rep as they are, at least on paper, only there to wait for that moment where the president or leader gets incapacitated or is unable to fulfill his/her duties. Though as a gesture of courtesy, veeps in the Philippines do get appointed into Cabinet-level positions, though in practice this depends on the President and the vice's party affiliations given the highly egocentric and partisan nature of Philippine politics: if the veep is from the same political party or is lucky enough to have a more benevolent president, he/she would be given a post at a more prominent department e.g. the Interior or Foreign Affairs; however as in the case of Rodrigo Duterte and his vice-president Leni Robredo (whom Duterte doesn't exactly have a glowing opinion of, especially being from a rival party), Leni ended up getting a rather paltry role in the Cabinet though she was later appointed an anti-narcotics czar presumably out of spite.
  • According to Stephen Fry, rules at Oxford and Cambridge were so lax thirty years ago that students could (and many did) get away with going to almost no lectures or tutorials their entire four years there.
    • Not just the students, either: professors were at least rumored to get away with this.
  • There are a long list of people who have become famous for no real reason (actor, singer, musician, writer, model, etc., although they might dabble in these after the fact.) They become famous for any number of reasons (reality shows, marrying a celebrity, sex tapes, churning out babies, etc.) who are able to get by on "appearance fees" for club appearances and the like.
  • Truth in Television: radio presenters do this frequently. But this is because many of them are "swing" jocks (cover presenters) or have other jobs (Trope Codifier: Sharon Komrska at Rutland Radio in Stamford, England).
  • Certain artists who seem to take an extremely long break between albums can be accused of this. With the Development Hell and the Artist Disillusionment and all.
  • A German chapter of the Mongols Motorcycle Club is at best nominally an "outlaw motorcycle club", as it is more of a crime syndicate that cashed in on the United States-based biker gang's notoriety rather than a typical band of marauding bikers. Mongols MC Bremen members drive around in cars, and in an ironic twist, the gang's former president accidentally killed himself whilst trying to ride a motorcycle in an attempt to further live up to their designation.
  • The practice of "start-and-park" in certain segments of auto racing especially NASCAR, where some teams nominally participate in a race for a few laps then pull over shortly after just so they can get the prize money as even back-of-the-pack finishes still yield high payouts and that fielding an entry even for single race can get costly due to maintenance and spare parts expenses.
  • You're embodying this trope if you're browsing this very wiki especially if you're supposed to be working right now.
  1. There is a convention of naming poachers as pirates when the market is friendly to them, such as during the oyster monopoly along the US west coast in the late nineteenth century. Legitimate oysters were expensive, but the presence of oyster pirates provided a cheap but quality alternative.
  2. In fact he was a practicing Assassin in his younger days, as Night Watch reveals; his was even the hand that took out the mad Lord Winder, which made room for the not-yet-mad Lord Snapcase, who he would eventually succeed.