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Break The Motivational Speaker
A comedy trope, usually found in Work Coms. Morale is down so the Pointy-Haired Boss takes drastic action - he hires someone to come and tell the staff that it'll be okay. Unfortunately, his underlings are so cynical, unpleasant or downright insane that, not only are they uninspired, they also drive the speaker nuts. May involve a Comic Role Play.

A form of Acceptable Professional Targets; many offices make attendance of such sessions either mandatory or at least "expected," meaning that many people see them as a waste of time at worst or a break from real work at best, but certainly not something to be taken seriously.

Compare Critical Psychoanalysis Failure.

Examples:

Advertising
  • In Discover Card's Peggy campaign, retired college football coach Lou Holtz tries to motivate Peggy into sending him a replacement card to his hotel quickly without much luck.

Comic Books

Film
  • In the backstory for The Odd Couple, Felix's marriage counselor threw him out of the office and wrote on his chart "Lunatic!".
  • Appears in Donnie Darko, where the self-help speech is constantly interrupted, and eventually cut short by Donnie suggesting common sense is better than psychology for solving people's problems ("Do you want your sister to lose weight? Tell her to get off the couch, stop eating twinkies and maybe go out for field hockey."), eventually telling him "I think you're the fucking Antichrist". Of course, it later turns out Donnie's actions are somewhat justified, as the self-help speaker actually runs a "kiddie porn dungeon".
    • It was not psychology (which takes years and years of study to properly understand and utilize) but cliche self-help nonsense that the motivational speaker was espousing. So Donnie's lashing out is even more justified.

Literature
  • In the book Mindfogger, the protagonist creates a device that can "fog" the minds of everyone around it. People are happy and relaxed but unable to get any serious work done. He places the device at the factory he works at and production plummets. The management brings in a motivational speaker and he's unable to function properly.
  • The Cheerful Fairy in the Discworld novel Hogfather arrives to help the wizards, who are grumpy old misanthropes to a man. They do catch on, and having broken her, the wizards feel a bit guilty, and make a (minimal) effort to be cheerful after all.
    • One of them decides to go all-out for a different kind of cheerful, and seduces her. The plot prompts her to vanish right before they got it on.
  • Turned Up to Eleven in Christopher Brookmyre's A Big Boy Did It and Ran Away.

Live-Action TV
  • Happened in The Brittas Empire where dealing with Brittas led a man who gave talks about overcoming his addictions to start swallowing every pill and bottle he could get his hands on.
  • Happened again in The IT Crowd with someone brought in to handle office stress.
  • Frontline has a motivational speaker whose idiot suggestions drive the team mad.
  • Happens on Drop the Dead Donkey. Gus brings in a psychologist for a psychiatric evaluation of the news team. Unfortunately, he's a recovering alcoholic and the various traumas of the team drive him back to the bottle. (DTDD likes its Black Comedy.)
  • Both versions of The Office sort of invert this, with the boss being the one that sabotages the presentation.
    • In the US version, the boss, Michael, takes it upon himself very often to give motivational or informatative talks to his employees. One such talk ended in him locking them all in the conference room and refusing to let them out. Another nearly led to him jumping off a building.
  • There's the Chris Farley Saturday Night Live skits about Matt Foley, the motivational speaker that lives in a VAN down by the RIVER! An inverted example, as he shows up broken and stays that way.
    • Usually all that is broken are the other actors' concentration, any of the breakaway furniture (usually a coffee table), or, in one case, David Spade's head. Whatever works.
  • Andy Richter Controls The Universe— a grief counselor is brought in after a worker's suicide, but when uber-loser Byron's session comes up, his life story is so depressing that the counselor is Driven to Suicide.
  • In Just Shoot Me!, Jack brings in a motivational speaker who used to know Maya in high school. Unfortunately Maya finds out that he was the one who ruined her reputation in high school and angrily denounces him, which causes him to get drunk right before his speech.
  • Handled far, far more literally in Deadly Games, the show about villains from an advanced video game who break into the real world. As the hypnotic, fast-talking Motivational Speaker, Dwight Schultz tried to kill a crowd of New Year's revelers with gas-filled lightbulbs, and could only be destroyed by being made to "eat his words" — on cassette tape.
  • The FOX sitcom Titus had Titus being dragged to a motivational seminar around the time that Titus's hot rod shop shut down and he was depressed. Titus and his friends didn't break the motivational speaker, but Ken did by calling everyone "wussies" and giving them advice such as telling a black woman to marry a white guy and take everything he has in the divorce or a fat man to start smoking to lose weight.
  • The Suite Life of Zack and Cody had an episode revolving around this trope.
  • A variation of this trope can be seen in the Brit Com The Thick of It. Stewart, a PR manager and adviser for one of the political parties, speaks in an infuriating combination of PR slogans and buzzwords that are actually meaningless Ice Cream Koans overlaid with a false Granola Girl-style cheerfulness and enthusiasm. Peter, a minister who detests the entire culture of spin but nonetheless has to deal with Stewart regularly, constantly snarks at him and relishes every opportunity to undermine or humiliate him.
  • In NewsRadio, John Ritter plays a therapist who shows up to help the crew through a particularly cranky time. Dave gets upset that they'll talk to this outsider and feel better, when they wouldn't talk to him; but Ritter ends up on Dave's couch in the end.
  • Frasier coming onto Julia Wilcox, who the station execs are convinced is litigious, leads to the whole staff being forced to attend a sexual harassment seminar. Everyone unites in openly ridiculing the speaker and making a mockery of the exercises he gets them to do, and as soon as he finds out Julia isn't interested in suing, Kenny calls the seminar off mid-session. Still, all-in-all he gets off better than most victims of this trope.

Newspaper Comics
  • Crops up a few times in Dilbert. The "motivation fairy" is transformed into the image of Wally, whom she previously thought to be a myth, after attempting to motivate him. In a variation, the PHB introduces a speaker as having been a famous athlete before drugs and alcohol ruined his life. The guy staggers on stage and Alice points out that it's only inspirational when he stops doing those things.

Video Games
  • In Planescape: Torment, a speaker in the Civic Festhall is giving a speech about the wonderful worlds that lie beyond death. You can ask him why he hasn't already killed himself already, if the worlds beyond are so good. The speaker responds that he'll happily do so... but only if the player kills himself first. The player, being immortal, can do just that, and upon getting back up, basically say "your turn." The speaker doesn't uphold his end, and is duly mocked by the crowd.

Web Original
  • The Bastard Operator from Hell refers to these people as "huggy-feely" types, and considers it his sacred mission to prevent them from wreaking havoc in the office. One of his greatest joys is breaking them little by little, when he doesn't outright kill them.

Western Animation
  • Not a motivational speaker per se, but this happens in The Simpsons to "magical nanny" Sherry Bobbins.
  • South Park:
    • In the episode "Tsst!" Eric Cartman breaks the mind of every inspirational nanny from reality TV or otherwise.
      • He ends up being broken by The Dog Whisperer.
    • Stan does this in "The Biggest Douche in the Universe" by calling out the trick behind the trick.
  • Not so much hired as, um, happening to be around, The Feline Philosopher (based on the Old Philosopher) on an episode of Garfield and Friends would motivate a defeated weasel to achieve his goal of chicken theft. The regular cast eventually hits upon the idea of sending him Wade, and they have a little talk which leads to the two swapping personalities (temporarily, at least for Wade).
  • An episode of Beavis And Butthead had the boys break a motivational speaker who had been brought in to teach the students good manners. They break him again when he shows up to get the kids to sell candy.
  • Literally, on Metalocalypse. Famous Last Words: Is everybody ready to die?

Real Life
  • In many Real-Life places, the Motivational Speaker is viewed rather poorly (ranging from naive idiots in ivory towers to pompous windbags with only financial gains in mind), so you will see people try to break these types


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