Wisdom from the Gutter

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"Accept the truth from whatever source it comes."


A relatively common device is to have valuable advice come from a completely unexpected source. Like, completely unexpected. You don't expect your average homeless person to want to talk, much less have a lesson they're prepared to teach you (that somehow specifically addresses your problem.) Hooker with a Heart of Gold is often a source of this.

Sometimes this is combined with the idea that angels disguise themselves as beggars and homeless people. It even goes back to fairy tales that have fairies disguising themselves as old beggar women, making this one of The Oldest Ones in the Book.

See also Dumbass Has a Point and Jerkass Has a Point. If the source of wisdom isn't just poor, but also oppressed, uneducated, and/or mentally challenged, it may be a Whoopi Epiphany Speech.

Examples of Wisdom from the Gutter include:

Anime and Manga

  • In the Shojo Western Miriam, Douglas gets relationship advice from two men holed up in the local jail for starting a barfight, and is embarrased by how valuable their words are and how they have a much easier time seeing things from Miriam's point of view.
  • Subverted in Full Metal Panic!: The Second Raid when a floozy Kaname-look-alike gives Sousuke some very bad advice (mixed in with a few minuscule truths). Furthermore two episodes later Sousuke is spouting the wisdom of Gauron! Heroic BSOD is not fun.
  • Kimbley from Fullmetal Alchemist gives Roy and crew a nice little lecture during the Ishvalan war on accepting the fact that as a soldier, you are killing people, and there's no way around it, so you'd better remember their faces; they'll never forget yours. Good advice... coming from the Ax Crazy Mad Bomber.


  • In one Batman Gotham Adventures comic, Batman, caring for a lost baby, is educated on how to hold it properly by some thugs whose mugging attempt he had foiled.
  • Batman RIP had an amnesiac Bruce Wayne receive guidance (and a Chekov's Gun) from a homeless man, or quite possibly said homeless man's ghost.
    • He also receives helpful advice from a drug-induced hallucination Bat-Mite.
  • The only person both smart enough and sufficiently uncorrupt to dispense useful advice in Dilbert is The World's Smartest Garbage Man.
    • Not just the world's smartest garbage man, but the world's smartest man. Period. Apparently, those of us who can't figure out why he wants to work as a garbage man just aren't as smart.
  • Deadpool once got a pep talk from Bullseye!


  • In the movie Freejack, Emilio Estevez's character gets a valuable pep talk from a homeless bum, who also gives him some valuable calories in the form of sharing his dinner of barbequed river rat.
  • In Team America: World Police, the main character has an epiphany at the words of a drunken vagrant, and repeats what he said word-for-word at the end of the film to save Team America's reputation.
  • When Brendan Fraiser gets incarcerated in the remake of Bedazzled, his cellmate gives him some advice which ultimately saves his soul. Ever-so-slighty justified because said inmate is actually God.
  • There's also Da Mayor from Do the Right Thing, who is surprisingly lucid for a wino and does a Title Drop when dispensing advice to the main character.
  • Gone Fishin'
  • After the heroes figure out that selenium is the weakness of the alien menace in the film Evolution (through, I might add, a completely arbitrary deductive method) they wonder just where they're going to get enough selenium to save the day. It's the comic relief idiots that reveal the answer (selenium is the active ingredient in Head & Shoulders shampoo). When asked by their disbelieving biology professor how they knew that when their final coursework essay was entitled, "Cells Are Bad", they point out how silky and dandruff-free their hair is.
  • In 24 Hour Party People, Tony Wilson gets a pep-talk from a bum on the street who claims to be the philoshoper Boethius. (Since Boethius is played by Christopher Eccleston, some fans claim that this is actually The Doctor in disguise.)
    • Parodied when Tony later repeats this quote word for word during a broadcast of Wheel of Fortune he's hosting, and the director of the episode (also played by the real Tony Wilson—it's that kind of a film) promptly instructs the editor to cut around that tedious bullshit.
  • Bruce Almighty features this—although justified, as the homeless man providing Bruce with pithy yet wise messages morphs into God at the end.
  • Ferris Buellers Day Off had the delinquent at the police station, whose advice helped Jeanie to entirely change her attitude toward her brother.


  • A similar sort of gag occurs in the Forrest Gump novel. Gump's friend, the somewhat psychotic Curtis, has a car accident that causes him to lose all of the nuts holding one of the wheels onto the car. Forrest, who is clinically retarded, promptly suggests that Curtis take one nut from each of the other wheels and use that to hold the fourth wheel on. Curtis is promptly told "being an idiot don't make me stupid".
  • In the book The Redemption of Althalus by David and Leigh Eddings, Althalus is traveling and gets directions from a homeless man that Althalus assumes to be crazy because he's wandering around muttering to himself. You learn much later in the book that this old man was actually Deiwos, the Creator God, who was there on purpose to point Althalus the right way.

Live Action TV

  • In the late 50s/early 60s there was a So Bad It's Good British police show called Dial 999, which was about a Canadian detective learning British policing techniques. In one episode he's educated in Cockney rhyming slang by a surprisingly polite criminal he's just arrested.
  • A Running Gag on The Armstrong and Miller Show features a Northern window cleaner expounding at some length on, eg. the crisis in the Middle East and presenting a plausible solution - "but what do I know?"
  • An episode of Just Shoot Me had this in a literal gutter: Maya spends a night in a sewer with a creepy informant trying to get evidence of illegal phosphate dumping after meeting her former college roommate and being jealous of her becoming a successful investigative journalist while Maya is stuck working in her father's fashion magazine. Eventually, she questions what she's doing and realizes she actually likes her current occupation. The creepy guy then says "Sometimes on our way to our dreams, we get lost and find a new one". Maya is surprised and impressed until the guy somewhat ruins the moment by saying he read the phrase on the wall of a brothel.
    • This gets later used as a Brick Joke when she repeats the phrase to the rest of the crew and Elliot says "I think I wrote that in a wall somewhere".
  • Subverted in the Firefly episode "Out of Gas." When the ship is damaged and the life support destroyed, it is Jayne, the self-serving mercenary, who scolds Mal and Wash for shouting at each other. They are suitably surprised and chagrined until Jayne reveals that he only spoke up because he was worried that their screaming would use up the air faster.
  • In an episode of The Office, Michael was surprised to receive relationship advice from a stripper, while Benjamin Franklin turned out to be "kind of a sleazebag."
  • In an episode of Doctors, the Patient of the Week's problem was pretty much solved by a boiler repair man. The guy mentioned that people tend not to notice uniformed blue-collar workers, so he gets to experience a lot of human nature.
  • Subverted in the Law and Order episode "The Wages of Sin", where a bum who the cops are currently questioning offers a cryptic-yet-wise statement that foreshadows the hubris the cops and district attorneys, in their quest to bring down a high-ranking mob boss that takes up the next two episodes, will face and which they would do well to pay attention to. However, because he's a bum and because what he's saying has absolutely no connection to what the cops are currently talking to him about (and indeed have not even begun chasing the mobster, thus having no lesson to learn at this point), they just ignore him and wearily ask him to focus on the point at hand.

Video Games

  • A quest in Fallout: New Vegas involves finding out who sold a man's wife into slavery. One of the most useful sources in the quest is the local insane man who tells you exactly who did it. Although he thinks the wife who disappeared was kidnapped by Mole people who wanted to steal her hair, he's still of more use in the quest than any other person in town.
    • Also, there's Rotgut the ghoul in Freeside, a beggar will give you semi-useful information and gossip every time you give him a cap. He'll even give you info that will lead you to a solution to a sidequest.


Web Original

  • In Chapter 6 of the online animated series Broken Saints, aged Shinto priest Kamimura hitches a ride with Cloudcuckoolander egg farmer Masayuki, who relates this story to him: "My father used to say that eggs had all the answers. He used to hold up a hen, and point to its bum. He'd say 'Two things come from here, Masayuki: Eggs... and poop. Two things from the same hole. Remember that.' And I understood. ... Good and bad things come from the same place--inside." This silly little story, told by this silly little character who hardly ever appears again, turns out to tell the most important message of the entire story, and is referenced by Kamimura in the Grand Finale, right before his Heroic Sacrifice.

Western Animation

  • The Boondocks, A Pimp Named Slickback actually gives Riley The Talk (though obviously filtered by his biased and frankly misogynist mouth) and helps him figure out that his pal Gangstalicious is probably gay. All this despite the bad blood between him and the Freemans...
  • There's a parodic version (though not a parody of this) in one episode of Pasila, where a random bum analyses the protagonist's (Kyösti Pöysti's) character within a few seconds of meeting him. If anything, this seems to be a parody of how the series had got into the habit of having him analysed like that. It's not exactly useful advice, either, though it's wise enough, because it just makes him decide (for a moment) to spend the rest of his life as a drunk in the gutter since "if an unknown bum hits the nail in the head so accurately, you might as well give up on life!", although one of the other main characters manages to convince him that the bum was just generalizing and using basic psychology on him and that he's really a much deeper person.
  • The Powerpuff Girls: In the episode Him Diddle Riddle the girls must solve Him's riddles to save the kidnapped Professor. Him's final riddle is ridiculously difficult, but luckily, The Mayor (yes, THAT Mayor) appears and explains the answer with ease. Cue the girls exchanging blank glances.


  • A truck driver comes to a bridge that's slightly too low to let the truck get under. A man standing nearby behind a fence advises him to let some of the air out of his tires, squeeze under the bridge, and fill the tires up again at a gas station on the other side. The man thanks the man for his advice, but notices a sign on the fence indicating that the facility is an insane asylum. The driver asks the man if he's an inmate, and the man admits it. The driver then asks him how he managed to come up with the idea he suggested. The man replies "I'm crazy, not stupid." "Tire Nut"
  • Comedian Eddie Griffin had a joke about an old wino who would dispense valuable advice as long as you bought him some alcohol.
  • The country song "Moments" by Emerson Drive, where the narrator gets life advice from a homeless man.
  • The The Obamadämmerung plays with this by turning the concept just as EPIC as it turns the rest of the 2008 election.

These were not the merely unhomed, or the low and often insane class of vagabond known as bums, but true-born vagrants: descended from that ancient lineage of unfettered hermits known to themselves as the Concealed Order of the Illustrious Chosen Path, and to the rest of the world as Hobos. And though it has been many years since the last Boxcar War and the most recent death of their Eternal King, the vagrants of New York still possessed many of the forgotten secrets of their hobo ancestors. ... When the Word reached their ears, they convened a great Vagrancy, and departed the city by unknown means.

  • Comedian Kat Williams claims he never expected to learn anything from someone wearing a viking helmet and a giant clock pendant with the wrong time on it until Flava Flav said, "Who cares what they say about me [at the roast]? THEY GOT TO PAY ME, BOY-EE!"
  • Rabbi Moshe Leib of Sassov would try to pay to get Jews out of debtors' prisons. One day he could not redeem a certain debtor and gave up, but managed to stop another criminal (who turned out to be a thief) from being flogged. The rabbi commented that he had surely learned his lesson and would not steal again. The thief replied that just because he got caught once didn't mean he might not succeed next time. Realizing this common thief had more persistence for sinning than he did for good, the rabbi went back to try again to get the debtor freed.