One day a character decides that he's going to set a world record. Oh, the hijinks
! Unfortunately, something goes horribly wrong, and he or she does not actually achieve the record. Not to worry, though - in the process of trying for World Record A, the character actually set World Record B, without even trying!
A common example is someone trying to set multiple records, fail, and get in the record books for most failed attempts.
Often used to set up an Aesop
like "try your best and you will succeed at something." A subtrope of Guinness Episode
Anime and Manga
- Chapters 21 and 22 of Sket Dance focus on a classroom election for titles such as "Mr. Sportsman" and "Nicest Vocals". An introverted boy wants to remodel himself into the most popular guy in class, but does poorly in tests of athleticism, pop-culture knowledge and everything else. So as a last resort, the heroes persuade their classmates to cheer him up - only to find that everyone already voted him "#1 Mr. Nice-Guy".
- In one The New Archies story, the students at Riverdale Jr. High attempt to make the world's biggest sub sandwich. When the representative from the McKinnes' Book of World Records measures it, however, they're a half-inch short... but Jughead inadvertently salvages the situation by eating the whole thing himself in world record time.
- There was a Daffy Duck comic where he attempts numerous world records and fails spectacularly every time, until he finally breaks the previous world record for "Largest Number of Serious Injuries Suffered During World Record Attempts".
- In the musical Flying High, it's not clear what, if any, aviation record airplane mechanic "Rusty" Krause (played by Bert Lahr) was trying to set when he climbed into the pilot's seat, but because he didn't know how to land the plane, the one he ended up setting was for longest time up in the air.
- Subverted in one episode of Lizzie McGuire where her brother and his friend try to get in the Guiness book of World Records. His parents say he won the world record for most world record attempts. When they open the book though they quickly close it in front of him. As it turns out someone already had that record, poking fun at how cliché this trope is.
- Herman's Head: After a man dies suddenly in their office building, Herman and his friends decide to do something to "make their mark" while they can. Herman sets out to set a world record for continuous working at one sitting. His colleague Louise is planning to sing at a night club, and if he leaves work to watch her, it would preclude him breaking the record. He goes to watch her anyway. The next day, the record book authorities come in, and Herman wonders why. Turns out that he broke a record after all: eating the most sunflower seeds in one sitting! He'd been eating them the entire time. When they ask his name for the book, he gives them the name of the poor fellow who'd died.
- In an episode of Sanford and Son, Fred attempted to set the record for longest time staying awake. He missed the mark by less than a minute, yet Bubba and Roger (the son of Lamont's girlfriend) each set their own records in their efforts to help Fred along (Bubba for most repetitions of one song, Roger for marathon basketball bouncing). Note how the man from Guiness took Roger and Bubba's word for how long they'd been at their particular tasks, but wouldn't give Fred the benefit of the doubt for a minute's worth of consciousness.
- The Brady Bunch:
- Bobby and Cindy failed to break the record for consecutive hours on a seesaw, but they set a record for consecutive hours by children on a seesaw. Plus they were in the newspaper.
- In a downplayed version, Bobby gets upset because he's the only Brady kid without a trophy so he tries to win one several times and fails. The other Bradys pool their money and buy him a trophy for being "The Best Bobby Brady There Is." Somehow this act of pity mollifies him.
- iCarly had a variation. After failing to break the record for longest continuous webcast, the Records Books official noted that Spencer had broken the record for most moving parts on a sculpture. He then invites Carly, Freddie, and Sam to help him "finish" the sculpture (by adding extra pieces) so they can receive co-artist credit.
- M*A*S*H. Klinger decides to sit up a pole in protest about his not being allowed to leave the Army. When the others realise he's close to breaking a world pole-sitting record, Colonel Potter orders him to stay up there, even though he's decided to come down. "It's either that or swallowing 24 goldfish!" note Klinger breaks the record, and is allowed leave in Tokyo instead.
- The short-lined USA Network sitcom Campus Cops featured this plot point. In it one of the main characters was trying to set a World Record for "Most Sexual Thoughts" in a 24 hour period. However with the record in sight, his machine malfunctions, and he is horrible electrocuted. While recuperating, he learns he has in fact set a new record for Most Electricity withstood by a human being.
- On Homestar Runner, the Strong Bad Email "record book", Strong Bad inadvertently earns the record for "Longest Bull Honkey" after objecting at length to The Cheat's suggestion of "most rectangular mouth".
- It's not shown, but what could be more of a consolation than "Most Macaroni Nailed To A Paper Towel Tube ...By Strong Mad"? Strong Mad wins it with a record of one.
- Spongebob Squarepants: Throughout the episode "Big Pink Loser", Patrick is trying to win an award, since he is jealous of the closetful of awards that Spongebob has. In the end, he finally gets one for... "Doing absolutely nothing, longer than anyone else". Spongebob asks him if he wants to try and win another one now, but Patrick tells him "No, I've got to protect my title!" and goes back to lying under his rock.
- A newer episode had SpongeBob helping Sandy try to break every record in the "Guinness O'Ripley Book of Curiosities, Oddities, and World Records." In the end, it turned out the book they were using was 30 years out of date, meaning Sandy never broke any records - although SpongeBob set a new record for most injuries sustained while helping a friend.
- In the Hey Arnold! episode "World Records", Arnold and his friends attempt multiple times to set a world record, failing every time - until they get the record for most attempts to get into the Guinness Book of World Records.
- In the The Simpsons episode "Sweets and Sour Marge", Homer and the town of Springfield attempt to build the world's largest human pyramid. This does not go well; however, the town is awarded "Fattest Town".
- One episode of Ned's Newt ended up giving Ned the world record for "worst world record attempt ever".
- In one episode of Wow! Wow! Wubbzy!, Wubbzy attempts to break a record (and get a shiny trophy), but is distracted each time by a townsperson in need of help. In the end, he gets a trophy for doing the most good deeds in a day.
- Not sure if this ever appeared in the cartoon, but there was a book of Muppet Babies stories in which Skeeter tries to set a record, and after multiple failures Kermit declares that she set the record for most attempts to break a record without actually succeeding.
- Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi: "Record Breakers" were the duo attempt to bust world records for a number of ridiculous things. They failed at each miserably, but were eventually awarded "Most Attempts to Break a World Record by a Japanese Singing Group".
- In Yvon Of The Yukon, the entire town tries to break a world record in order to get back on the map (it had been removed due to being a small town with a long name), but their repeated attempts drive the records guy insane until he gives them the world record for "Craziest Town in the World"
- In the Strawberry Shortcake's Berry Bitty Adventures episode "Berry Bitty World Record," the girls attempt to break a record in order to win a vacation for Berrykin Bloom, with Orange Blossom in charge of organizing their attempts. In the end, they don't break any of the records they were aiming for, but the judge (who turned out to be a friend of theirs) tells them that Orange broke the record for "most consecutive hops", since she spent the whole day going from girl to girl on her pogo stick.
- Averted in Phineas and Ferb, where they not only get the World's Most Pointless Record for the world's largest bowling ball and the world's largest pinball game, they also get the WMPR for getting the most WMPR in one day.
- One episode of Goof Troop centered around Goofy trying to win an award for some achievement - any achievement - at his high school reunion, because he thinks his son will be ashamed of him if he doesn't distinguish himself somehow. He gets a father/son award for extreme dedication to each other when Max impersonates Goofy to attempt a ridiculously dangerous skateboarding stunt on his behalf.
- Johnny Test tries to set a record for anything to get into a book of pointlesss records. While he tries, nearly everyone he knows gets into the book, including his dog and his bully, who get consolation records for being in the aftermath of his failed attempts. At the end of the episode, he gets a record for his 23 failed attempts in one day. Instead of dwelling on his commemorated failure, he's happy to be in the book, and tries to decide what he'll do the next year.
- The Get Along Gang had the eponymous gang trying to win the record by completing a team obstacle course. The human gang of bullies decided that they would do the same and proceeded to sabotage every attempt The Get Along Gang tried. Said bullies then found that they couldn't complete the course themselves. Cue the two groups realizing that there was no rule against the opposing teams working together as one team and completing the course in literal record time.
- A similar plot that didn't involve world records appeared in The Addams Family cartoon. Gomez is feeling that everything's too easy for him, so he becomes determined to fail at something. Despite his best efforts, every task he tries ends up going right for him. At the end of the episode, Mortricia snaps him out of his depression by pointing out that he did fail—he failed at failing.
- A motorcyclist who was trying to break the land speed record for motorcycles was awarded the record for the fastest motorcycle crash ever survived: ~200 miles per hour.
- Top Gear has done this on more than one occasion - Richard Hammond's infamous jet-car crash may or may not have set an official British record for land speed (unofficially the run before the crash was fastest, but to eliminate the possibility of a tailwind messing with the speed, the run must be made in two directions directly opposite of each other), but it certainly set a British, if not world, record for fastest land crash (again, probably unofficially)... They also inadvertently set the world indoor speed record with an F1 car. And almost set it with a Chevrolet Lacetti...
- Speed records are the average of two runs, going opposite ways, within one hour of each other. This is to negate the effects of wind in the speed measurement.
- The trio joked that they could've got the official record for fastest crash if Richard had done it in the opposite direction as well.
- May and Clarkson set two records at once a while back; the first to reach the north pole by truck, and the first man ever to reach the north pole, who didn't want to be there.
- They did make a good shot at setting a new record for fastest time to cross the English Channel in an amphibious vehicle (A truck with an outboard motor). If they had attached a prow to the front of the truck and brought a compass they might have made it. It was almost certainly the first time that anyone ever drove a truck from Dover to Calais without using the ferry.
- They also probably set the altitude record for a Reliant Robin, even if they failed explosively at getting it into space.
- In 1964, Craig Breedlove tried to set a new land-speed record, lost control, and laid down six-mile skid marks — the world's longest.
- There have been multiple incidents where an effort to win a world record in some thing or another has gotten the person involved a consolation Darwin Award.