Beggar with a Signboard
"These are hard times, even for Super Sentai"

A trope that is frequently seen with people who are homeless, jobless, or both. They spend their time sitting or walking around on the streets, holding an often handwritten cardboard sign to indicate that they are poor and need help.

This trope can come in several variations, for example the beggar uses his signboard to quickly inform people of his situation and to ask them for help. A well-known example is: "homeless, please help". Another variation is demonstrated by the page image, and often used for a quick joke or Cutaway Gag. Instead of traditional begging for some change, the beggar uses his signboard to try to offer some sort of services in exchange for (most often) food or money. The most common (and serious) of them is "will work for food", but this trope can easily be Played for Laughs by making the task promised, or the good asked for by the beggar, something absurd. Some variations may include the beggar making a threat ("Give me money, or else!").

Compare: The End Is Nigh. Such a character, if played seriously, is at a high risk of turning out to be a Disposable Vagrant. Sadly Truth in Television.


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    Comic Books 
  • A Daffy Duck comic has Daffy using the sign, then seeing an open mic night at a comedy club. He goes and meets with absolute failure, moving on to insult the audience (all rabbits) who respond by pelting him with produce. The final panel has him back on the street with the sign changed to "Will be funny for food".

    Comic Strips 
  • Brevity:
    • One strip has a homeless man holding out a sign and cup for money. Right next to him is a puppy with an overflowing cash cup, wearing a sign reading: "Give Me Money, I'm Cute."
    • The next day's strip has the homeless man take advantage of the pup, by now wearing a sign reading: "Give Me Money or I Eat the Dog." His money cup is overflowing.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • In Wreck-It Ralph Q*bert and his fellow characters sit around in Game Central Station after their game is unplugged, holding both a sign that says "Game Unplugged, please help" and a sign that says "Will NPC in FPS for food".
  • In A Bug's Life there's a cricket begging in the city with a sign that reads "Kid pulled my wings off".
  • In Robots, a robot in Robot City's station has a sign simply saying 'Got Screwed'. The giant screw in his head turns out to be fake.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Dredd, Dredd and Anderson encounter a beggar holding a sign saying "Will debase self for money."
  • In Grand Canyon, Dee notices a man with a cardboard sign that reads "Will Work For Food" as she drives to work.
  • Basn O Ludziach Stad has a gag with a bunch of those for the beggars to pick out of.

  • Two immigrants compare how much money begging gets them. The first says he doesn't have any success with the usual "I'm hungry please help" sign, the other tells him he's raking in the cash with a sign that says "I need 500$ to go back to my country".
  • A hobo with a sign reading "I don't drink, smoke, do drugs or chase women... and now look at me".

  • In Discworld this is used by some of the beggars of the Ankh-Morpork Beggar's Guild. Coffin' Henry of the Canting Crew likes to use a sign reading "FOR SUM MUNY I WONT FOLLOW YOU HOME. KOFF KOFF"

    Live-Action TV 
  • In a Saturday Night Live short film, Norm MacDonald plays a homeless man holding a "will work for food" sign. A distinguished looking gentleman picks him up and takes him to his home, where he has the homeless man do various secretarial/data entry work: rubber stamping, stapling, calculating, etc. At the end of the day the distinguished man gives the homeless man a hot dog on a bun and returns him to where he picked him up. The homeless man then gives the hot dog to his Heterosexual Life Partner-in-homelessness, who is worse off than he is.
  • In an episode of Castle dealing with an Occupy Wall Street type of protest, a background character is shown holding one of these signs, but the word "work" has been crossed out and replaced with "protest".
  • Game of Thrones. Aimee Richardson's reaction to Princess Myrcella being recast.
  • Scrubs: J.D. has one of these in an Imagine Spot early in the series. When he's about to kiss Elliot, he imagines two likely consequences: either she reciprocates, leading to a steamy romance, eventual marriage, and a threesome with another girl, or she takes it the wrong way and slaps him, he's thrown out the hospital on his ass for sexual harassment, and he ends up wearing a filthy scrub holding a sign saying he'll diagnose for food.

    Music Videos 
  • Seen in the music video of the Van Halen song "Right Now", is a guy holding a sign saying "I will wrestle you for food" with the caption "Right now somebody's got the wrong idea."
  • Done in hide's PV for the song "Misery", where hide holds a cardboard sign with the words "Stay Free My Misery" in English.

    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 
  • In Pepsiman, the sidewalk beggars are holding up "Give Me PEPSI" signs.
  • In the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater games, Ollie the Magic Bum is a fictional playable character, and one of his special moves involves spinning in the air while sitting and holding out a sign that says "Will Skate For Food."

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Fairly OddParents used this trope at least twice:
    • In the episode, "The Big Problem", Timmy says that one advantage of being an adult is not needing a babysitter. In his Imagine Spot, Vicky is on the street corner, holding up a cup and a sign that says, "Will babysit for food". The handsome adult Timmy stops by and puts a coin in the cup, then pulls it away, as the coin is attached to a string. As he does this, he says, "Psyche!" to Vicky and drives away.
    • In the episode "Timmy TV", after his own show, "Leave It to Binky", is cancelled, Binky ends up on the streets holding a sign that reads "Will act for food".
  • The Simpsons: In "Krusty Gets Kanceled", Bart and Lisa encounter a homeless Krusty on a street corner holding a sign saying "Will drop pants for food". Unfortunately for Krusty, the Old Jewish Man is just down the block "doing it for free" (on top of dancing and singing "The Old Gray Mare").
  • A Cutaway Gag on Family Guy highlights the dangers of encountering a moose on the highway. Here, a driver encounters a moose holding a sign reading "Will do moose stuff for money", and he inquires what "moose stuff" is.
    Moose: Whatever you want it to be. I could have sex with you, or I could just stand over there and drink from the lake, and everything in between.
    Driver: (beat) Get in.
    • When Peter found Brian when he was a stray, he was holding a sign reading "Will sit for food".

    Real Life 
  • Vet James Herriot recalls graduating from university into the recession of the early 1930s. The professional magazine, The Veterinary Record, had at the time decided to refuse advertisements from newly qualified vets along the lines of "Will work for board and lodging", on the grounds that this was bad for the image of the profession. Herriot himself was lucky — he anticipated unemployment awaited him. Instead he met established vet Seigfreid Farnon.