Giftedly Bad

"He was so giftedly bad that he backed unwittingly into genius."
Stephen Pile on William McGonagall

Someone who is Giftedly Bad is someone, typically an artist, who plies his trade with intense passion, infinite drive, supreme self-confidence, and absolutely no talent whatsoever. If they are actors, they might be melodramatic hams; if they are singers, they might warble and screech; if they are poets, they might be masters of the Painful Rhyme. In general, their work will have what one person associated with the Museum of Bad Art (an exhibition of this trope in visual media) has called the "'Oh my God' factor": as in, "Oh my God, what do they think they're doing?" They are convinced that they're the best at whatever it is they do, but nobody else agrees. Sometimes they'll think this because their friends compliment them to avoid hurting their feelings, but just as often, they'll be constantly decried by the critics. Their response is inevitably to bury their head in the sand, tell themselves they'll be Vindicated by History, maybe fire off a Take That, Critics! or two, and keep on making trash. One possible variation is for them to be people who were once actually good, but became Fallen Creators and haven't quite figured it out yet.

But there's an upside! The Giftedly Bad are so inept that very often, their works will end up being So Bad, It's Good. If, in real life, an artist retains a cult following that considers their work So Bad, It's Good—not just one slip up, but their entire oeuvre—they're almost certainly Giftedly Bad. But this is never an intended effect, since anyone Giftedly Bad always considers themself a true artist. Accordingly, the Giftedly Bad artist's work may often be a case of Muse Abuse, which rarely helps him/her/them/it reconcile with the abused muse in question.

To be Giftedly Bad, one must be universally criticized. The key element separating the bad from the Giftedly Bad is Selective Obliviousness. While being So Bad, It's Good is a bonus, and usually what makes someone famous enough to get on this page, someone who is just plain terrible can still be Giftedly Bad, and this is more common in fiction, since fictional characters don't have to rely on their own talents (or untalents) to become famous.

This trope, while appearing fairly often in fiction, seems to be even more common in Real Life (there's even a name for it: the Dunning–Kruger effect).

So Unfunny, It's Funny is a Sub-Trope. Compare Small Name, Big Ego, whose overestimation of himself extends to everything he does. For the same concept applied to inventors, see Bungling Inventor. Also compare Bile Fascination.

A few important notes: do not post an example just because the character is bad. They must be not only bad, but deluded, as demonstrated by either comments they've made or their sheer persistence. Also, do not post examples because you think they are bad. They must be acknowledged as such in-universe by a clear majority.


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  • A recent Subaru commercial involves a 30-ish man being given an easel as a birthday present by his wife. Cue trips in the Subaru to various beautiful vistas, the ocean, and more. The man punishes himself to get the best views, but all the artwork he enthusiastically produces looks more like a 5-year-old's drawings. Even his wife can't tell top from bottom on her "favorite" painting.

    Anime & Manga 
  • CLANNAD: Kotomi is completely oblivious to the fact that her violin playing is so atrocious that it shatters glass and leaves everyone who hears it lying on the ground in a fetal position clutching their ears in pain, although she played the violin pretty well when she was younger.
  • In Onidere Saya is completely oblivious that the food she cooks is probably the most lethal thing to have ever existed.
  • In Takama-ga-Hara, Yamato loves drawing manga more than anything else in the world and hopes to win a Tezuka Award one day. His latest attempted entry is so bad that it inflicts physical pain on anyone who tries to read it, injuring his brothers, who are accomplished fighters, and nearly killing his classmates, who aren't.
  • In Ranma ½ Akane Tendō is bad at cooking. While she does realize her food isn't good, she is offended by criticism. Furthermore, in spite of her inability to cook she always tries to "improve" the recipes. Her relatives treat her cooking as some sort of disease or a curse. And when she does manage to get it right (which the men at the Tendō household — namely Sōun plus Genma and Ranma — don't find out until after she's left), she gets called to the woods to get rid of a beast, and everyone thinks she ran away from home because she grew tired of the treatment.
  • Izumi Sena the protagonist of Love Stage!! aims to be a mangaka one day, not seeing that there's anything wrong with what he produces. Everyone in his class thinks his drawings are terrible. Even the family manager, Rei Sagara calls him out on this, telling him his drawings suck.
  • In Nichijou: Yukko cannot tell a joke to save her life; no matter how much she believes she can.
  • Nagi in Hayate the Combat Butler is convinced that she's an amazing manga writer even though only one other person can even understand her bizarre over the top storylines, let alone appreciate them. However, eventually she sees an actual professional's manuscript and realizes just how bad she really is, which is absolutely devastating for her. She isn't special at all and doesn't know how to do anything, even the one thing she really thought she had a talent for.
  • Naga from Slayers qualifies all across the board. From her fashion sense to her magic, she views everything she makes or selects as a thing of elegant beauty, even though everyone else sees it as a source of absolute horror. She once creates a dragon golem that destroys most of a town simply trying to keep its poorly-balanced body upright, and her only response is that some people have no appreciation for art.
  • Sousuke of Classicaloid is a budding musician of the desktop music variety, but his music has caused glass to crack and objects to fall (even when it's not particularly loud). When he tries to sing, it causes people to collapse.

    Comic Books 
  • Cacofonix the bard from Astérix. He thinks himself a great musician, but his singing and harp-playing scares off small animals and has been known to cause rainstorms. He has to be restrained about Once an Episode from performing, usually by Fulliautomatix the blacksmith.
  • Gaston Lagaffe
    • Gaston uses this trope a lot with music, inventions and cooking. Notably, Gaston (and his Love Interest Miss Jeanne) thinks the music he plays on his gaffophone is great even though it causes plants to commit suicide.
    • His scientific skill fits the bill as well. His perennial chemical science project of a wax-that-shines-without-slipping is edging ever closer to an absolute zero-friction material with every new iteration, while his hair growth formula has been known to eat through skin in seconds.
  • In the G.I. Joe comic, Major Bludd has a rather (deservedly) dismal reputation as a poet. People tend to not bring it up to his face because he's a cold blooded killer, so he believes himself to be a peerless poetic genius.
  • The Smurfs has Harmony Smurf, the village musician. Has a wide collection of instruments, but can't play a single one of them, and tends to blow off the others' complaints as jealousy. He's so bad that it verges on the surnatural, as he can make a music box play awfully bad simply by holding it.
  • Destruction from The Sandman spends his days making new recipes, paintings, and sculptures, all of which are mediocre at best. Of course, he is the Anthropomorphic Personification of destruction.

    Comic Strips 

  • The Poetic Fiend in the GrailQuest series, encountered once a book. He's a horrifically bad poet, yet convinced of being the best of the best. However, it is in the interest of the player to always praise his work, since the Fiend is also a nigh-unstoppable vampire who can kill an adult Tyrannosaurus rex with one bite. As such he may also have useful items for you; in the last book he teaches you a cringingly bad poem that will neutralise instant-death powers used on you.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Paul in Arizona Dream. Despite raving about acting throughout the movie and giving impromptu renditions along with whatever he's watching on TV, the only two times we actually see him perform are bombs. Once when he hops on stage at the cinema and starts acting along with the characters in front of the screen and gets boos and popcorn, and once at a talent show where he attempts Cary Grant's cornfield scene from North by Northwest... all the judges rate him a '1'.
  • William McGonagall in The Great McGonagall, again based on real life.
  • Ed Wood, of course, in the movie of the same name.
  • Roger de Bris from The Producers.
    • Not to mention Nazi playwright Franz Liebkind, whose play was already terrible before de Bris got his hands on it, and in the original film, LSD, a "performance artist" of the worst kind.
    • And Max Bialystock, one of the title producers. He used to have the magic touch, but now blames unappreciative audiences for his downfall, rather than the fact that he started producing crap.
      Max: Every play I touch I doom!
  • Withnail of Withnail & I. The character is an out-of-work Large Ham who genuinely has no idea why he never seems to win any parts:
    "Bastards! You'll all suffer! I'll show the lot of you! I'm gonna be a STAAAAAAAAAAARRRRR!"
    • By contrast, his infinitely more modest flatmate Marwood is the one who auditions for a minor role in a play... and gets offered the lead. Withnail's passionate delivery of the Hamlet monologue indicates that he has talent; the reason he never gets any parts is probably his constant drinking, drug abuse, unreliability and overbearing attitude. He doesn't have the time for anyone who doesn't recognise his genius already: "No, I don't want to understudy Constantine. Why can't I play the part?"
  • Edward Lionheart (played by Vincent Price) in Theatre of Blood.
  • The Cobra Dance in Bride and Prejudice.
  • Randy Watson and his group Sexual Chocolate in Coming to America.
  • In Amadeus, Antonio Salieri is portrayed as this.
    Salieri: Did you my work please you?
    Mozart: [hesitantly] I never knew that music like that was possible!
    Salieri: [not fooled] You flatter me.
    Mozart: [insincerely] No, no! One hears such sounds, and what can one say but... Salieri!

  • The Imperial Security (ImpSec) HQ in the Vorkosigan Saga was designed by an insane architect (a relative of Mad Emperor Yuri) who created a building so uncomfortable to be in as either prisoner or actual staff of ImpSec that it verged on Alien Geometries — to a point Simon Illyan once offhandedly remarked that he was never so close to emigrating as when he saw the beautiful glass tower that housed Escobar's Investigatif Federale.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
    • The entire Vogon race in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is literally deadly bad at poetry, but that sure doesn't stop them writing it. In fact the whole thing's gone very meta; they've realized how Giftedly Bad they are, but rather than try to become genuinely good at it, they've honed the terribleness of their poetry so that it can be used as an actual torture device, and devised complicated machinery to enhance perception of metaphor and similar poetic devices, just so their victims can really appreciate how bad their poems are.
    • The second worst (the Vogons are third) belongs to the Azgoths of Kria, a less meta example. Their poet master caused four deaths by internal haemorrhaging and one case of "survived only by gnawing one of his own legs off" with a single poem recitation. It was directly followed by his own major intestine acquiring sentience and throttling his brain to save the rest of the universe from any encores.
    • "The very worst poetry of all perished along with its creator, Paula Nancy Millstone Jennings of Greenbridge, Essex, England in the destruction of the planet Earth. Vogon Poetry is mild by comparison." ("Paul Neil Milne Johnstone" in the original radio series. This was changed in all subsequent versions because Johnstone was a real poet who went to school with Douglas Adams and he complained. Not because of the reputation it gave him— he admitted that he was an awful poet as a teenager — but because the original broadcast used his real address. The "dead swan" poem in the TV series is in fact one of his actual works from that period.)
    • The Sirius Cybernetics Corporation — "It is very easy to be blinded to the essential uselessness of [their products] by the sense of achievement you get from getting them to work at all. In other words — and this is the rock solid principle on which the whole of the Corporation's Galaxy-wide success is founded — their fundamental design flaws are completely hidden by their superficial design flaws."
  • Discworld
    • Bloody Stupid Johnson embodies this trope. He was such a poor architect/inventor that people commissioned him just to see what he'd come up with. Indeed it became something of a status symbol to own something designed by BS Johnson. His genius was that the final product was brilliant, often in some way completely unrelated to the original intent. Some of his creations warped time and space, such as his terrace rows and a omnitemporal mail sorting machine containing circles where pi=3.
      • "If you wanted a small surface-to-air missile, you asked Johnson to design an ornamental fountain. It came to pretty much the same thing in the end."
      • The weird thing about BS Johnson is that he's named after the late experimental darkly comic novelist of the same name, who isn't known for being a poor writer or even a popular one while he was alive or when Terry Pratchett introduced the character. The theory is that Pratchett might just had wanted to make a reference to a writer he admired. (Also his character appears to be a mirror of the great gardener Capability Brown.)
      • It's quite a status symbol to own a Johnson Organ. While they amazingly did actually play music as intended, they had strange voices like "Farm Animals" and "Young Ladies Screaming" and, in the case of the Great Organ at Unseen University, the 128' long Earthquake pipe. Also, on account of having three keyboards and over 100 knobs, the Librarian is pretty much the only person with enough flexibility to play the Great Organ.
      • With the exception of the Great Organ (which, as noted, can't really be played by humans, and is connected to another of Johnson's creations), organs appears to have been Johnson's one exception to this trope. They have some additional voices not usually used except by the Librarian, but are otherwise to all appearances high-quality musical instruments used to play music intended to be played on organs.
    • In Making Money, this is artificially created when Igor "cures" a Mad Artist by switching his brain with a turnip. He's upbeat, calm and terrifically proud of everything he does... but it looks like a five-year-old drew it. Moist has to tell Igor to change him back, both because he needs the art skills and because he was never really happy with the idea in the first place.
    • Though it's less clear when he appears in The Last Hero — where it seems like he's doing Contractual Genre Blindness more consciously — The Discworld Companion reveals Evil Harry Dread to be like this. He tries so hard as an Evil Overlord and wonders why he seems to be unsuccessful... when he does everything "right" just as the clichés suggest a villain should do, that is to say, commits every mistake warned against on the Evil Overlord List.
  • In The Graveyard Book, one of the ghosts is a poet whose response to a bad review was to vow never to publish his poetry again, his logic being that people would one day discover his poetry and revere him as a genius, making the reviewer look foolish. On Neil Gaiman's blog, he says that the poet's epitaph was "Swans Sing Before They Die", in reference to a verse from Coleridge:
    Swans sing before they die - 'twere no bad thing
    Should certain persons die before they sing.
  • Jorge Luis Borges' short story "El Aleph" features a poet who is obsessed with his own mediocre poetry, and believes that as soon as anyone of importance will read his epic poem, he will be immediately regarded as the greatest poet of his time. During the story, he is attempting to write a poem describing in minute detail the entirety of the Earth.
    • Carlos Argentino Daneri recites to a resigned Borges a stanza with a lot of words he invented himself, switching between languages in the same line; his concepts are general nonsense, and immediately upon finishing he explains the poem. Borges comments:
      "[He] read me many another stanza, all of which earned the same profuse praise and comment from himself. There was nothing memorable about them. I could not even judge them to be much worse than the first one. Application, resignation, and chance had conspired in their composition; the virtues Daneri attributed to them were afterthoughts. I realized that the poet's work had lain not in the poetry but in the invention of reasons for accounting the poetry admirable; naturally, that later effort modified the poem for Daneri, but not for anybody else. His oral expression was extravagant; his metrical clumsiness prevented him, except on very rare occasions, from transmitting any of that extravagance to the poem."
  • In David Eddings' The Tamuli, the minor antagonist Elron spends most of his free time composing his ridiculously lengthy poem "Ode to Blue" (yes, the primary color) which, according to the protagonist unlucky enough to be forced to hear a part, is the most awful dreck ever allowed to sully a paper. When another character presents him with a starkly poetic (and entirely spontaneous) description of the steel-grey light of a harsh Rendorian dawn, Elron actually flees. This is also true of his villainous persona, "Sabre". While Elron/Sabre clearly wants to be a Magnificent Bastard, and may even think he is one, he doesn't actually have the first clue what one is like. The result, rather than being badass and intimidating, is such a Cliché Storm that the heroes, upon seeing him for the first time, are utterly amazed he's actually for real.
  • In Good Omens, we have Newton Pulsifer. He's passionate about electronics, but manages to destroy everything he touches. His ham radios manage to black out entire districts and when he buys a computer, he always buys the one that doesn't work.
    • The book also brings us Newton's car. It doesn't work well. Among many other things, its airbags tend to go off in dangerous situations such as driving at low speed down a straight, dry stretch of road but being about to crash because an airbag has just deployed in your face.
    • Then there's the time an electronics magazine he reads printed a design just for people like him, who are terrible at electronics — a circuit that doesn't work at all, in any fashion, whatsoever. When he put it together, he got a fully functional transistor radio that appeared to be picking up communications from Russia.
  • Three Men in a Boat:
    It is one of Harris’s fixed ideas that he can sing a comic song; the fixed idea, on the contrary, among those of Harris’s friends who have heard him try, is that he can’t and never will be able to, and that he ought not to be allowed to try.
  • Lapis-Trubetskoy from the Russian novel The Twelve Chairs, whose poems are filled with inane tautologies. Ostap Bender, one of the two protagonists, calls him Lapsus-Trubetskoy when they first meet. Later he is seen trying to sell poetry to several different magazine editors, changing the subject matter every time—for example, he calls his submission to a medical journal "The Ballad of Gangrene."
  • P. G. Wodehouse wrote one Jeeves and Wooster story about a friend of Bertie's who wanted to be a portrait painter. He couldn't get any commissions until he had painted some portraits, and he couldn't paint any portraits until he fulfilled some commissions, so he spent his time doing commercial art work. His uncle, who financially supported him, commissioned him to paint a portrait of his new baby. The portrait was so monumentally bad that his uncle cut him off completely, in a huff (or a minute and a huff). Jeeves, however, saw an opportunity to use the ugly portrait as the basis for a comic character, Baby Blobb, and the friend went on to become rich, drawing comics of The Adventures of Baby Blobb.
  • The Disaster Artist by Greg Sestero about The Room and the authors peculiar friendship with Tommy Wiseau is about the notorious directors complete lack of talent or social skills but bizarre ability to get what he wants and make a hit movie by being terrible.
  • A fictional biographical note of "Sir Joshua Easement" written by Terry Pratchett (appearing in the collection A Blink Of The Screen) describes him as an awful but persistent sailor—explorer who among other things discovered Australia but lost it again.

    Literary Criticism 
  • The above quote (and Trope Namer) regarding William McGonagall's poetry. It's a fair cop, too - virtually everyone agrees that McGonagall was the worst English-language poet of the 19th century (a century full of bad poets), if not all time, at least among those who actually published their work professionally.
  • Mark Twain went on at considerable length to describe just how awful he thought James Fenimore Cooper's works were in Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offences.
  • An essay by Isaac Asimov mentioned a correspondent of his that Asimov described as "an unappreciated national treasure," because on every issue the man was so (as Asimov put it) mastodonically wrong that Asimov felt that on matters of public policy, a sound approach would be to first find out this man's opinion and then do the exact opposite.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Friends:
    • Ross and his "wordless sound poems" which everyone (except Phoebe, who skirts this trope with her original songs), hates, and Joey's show Mac and CHEESE, where the other characters had to argue over what little good there was so they could compliment it for Joey's sake.
    • Joey believes the term "abysmal" signifies something very positive, since his critics use it so much when describing his work.
    • Monica gives terrible massages, which she struggles to accept due to her drive to be the best at everything. Chandler convinces her that she would technically win the award for worst massage, making her the best at being the worst.
  • Sophie Devereaux from Leverage. Among her more interesting performances are a hamtastic rendition of Lady Macbeth, a soap commercial where she viewed the dirt "as a metaphor for sin," and an unseen performance of Death of a Salesman where she played Willy Loman. In a twist, she actually can be a great performer... as long as she's conning someone.
    "Never before has a performance of The Sound of Music made me root for the Nazis."
  • Britta Perry of Community believes herself to be a talented photographer, but the only good picture she takes is by accident.
  • Dave Lister from Red Dwarf is an abysmally bad guitar player, but believes himself to be the next Hendrix. This ultimately saves his life when a form-copying Psiren invades the ship and takes Lister's form. The rest of the crew is unsure which one to shoot, so they hand the copy a guitar, who plays it brilliantly, (Because Lister himself believed he could play it brilliantly) revealing it as the fake, whom they thusly shoot on sight.
    Lister: How did you know that wasn't me?
    Cat: 'Cause that dude could play.
    Lister: He wasn't any better than me.
    Kryten: That's how you believe you play, sir. That's why, when the Psiren read your mind, he shared your delusion that you are not a ten-thumbed, tone-deaf, talentless noise polluter.
    Lister: Are you seriously saying you think he was better than me?
    Lister picks up the guitar and plays several dissonant, atonal notes.
    Lister: If anything, this is slightly better.
  • Tobias Fünke of Arrested Development believes himself capable of getting a career as an actor, responding to a statement that he should stop wasting time with it by agreeing that he should land a major movie role. On the rare occasions he did get a job, he neglected to read the script.
    • Gob as well. He just isn't a very good magician (his props constantly fail, he kills his animals, he often fails at simple sleight of hand, and his method for getting a yacht to disappear is to sink it while nobody is looking) but not only does he continue to vigorously pursue it, he insists upon his tricks illusions being taken seriously.
  • Part of the backstory for Spike on Buffy the Vampire Slayer was that he was a Giftedly Bad poet. Becoming a vampire seems to have cured him of the notion that he was a poet, however.
    • He gets applause when he reads one of his old poems in a modern setting, with the implication being he was ahead of his time (mixed with a bit of Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas as he read a poem about his mom to a group of badass bikers).
      • Either that or people enjoyed him on a So Bad, It's Good level. Some people shown from William's party (when he was still human) discuss how bad he is:
        woman: They call him William the Bloody because he writes bloody bad poetry!
        man: I'd rather have a railroad spike driven through my head than listen to one of his poems!
    • Joss Whedon actually validates the trope in DVD commentaries when he talks about how difficult it is to write "good" bad poetry.
  • The main character in the Korean Series Oh My Lady is the world's worst actor.
  • The Muppets thrive on this trope, especially in The Muppet Show. Fozzie Bear is probably the most pure example, but he's only one among many.
    • A debatable instance, though, because once in a while he came up with something good.
      • Even a broken clock is right twice a day.
      • Waka waka!
  • How I Met Your Mother has Marshall Eriksen, who has a lot of impressive talents, like winning every boardgame invented (and then triumphantly saying that game's name). However, stand-up comedy is not one of those talents.
  • Kamen Rider Double has one-shot character Jimmy Nakata, whose singing causes physical pain to its listeners and knocks birds out of the sky. And he's winning an American Idol style show in spite of this (because the Monster of the Week is rigging the contest). In a slight subversion, when the MotW is dealt with and Jimmy sings again, the judges say it was bad, but they can't disparage anyone who sings from the heart.
  • The Scouse woman in the second episode of Black Mirror is convinced she can sing. She's so sure of herself she paid 15 million merits to even enter the contest and then waited for over 2 months to be seen. She's on stage for all of a minute after which she's told she's rubbish. She isn't convinced.
    • Kind of a deconstruction though; it is presented as if she's genuinly talented instead of imagining it, and the problem of her not being appreciated truly lies with her judges and public, who are just too shallow to appreciate anything genuinly pasionately due to the extreme Crapsack World she's living in.
      • YMMV, but anyone who's not deaf can tell she sings extremely off-key. She's passionate, but talentless.
  • Seinfeld had Elaine and her dancing skills, which George likens to "a full-body dry heave set to music."
  • The WB's Superstar USA, a parody of American Idol, was built around this trope. The show used the same "series of auditions, then on to Hollywood" format, but purposely picked the worst performers to advance, while showering them with praise. The singers weren't told until the very end that they were actually picked for being terrible.
  • Jack from Will & Grace practically lives and breathes this trope. Mostly due to the fact that he's so wrapped up in himself and has to be the center of attention.
  • Subverted on the teen comedy City Guys as Cassidy is to perform at a big New York audition night with Chris and L-Train. However, her bad singing convinces them they'll be a laughingstock if they do this so they let her perform by herself. At which point, Cassidy reveals she's a fantastic singer and was faking being bad in order to trick the two into letting her go solo.
  • A common trait in People Like Us, but particularly "The Photographer" (played by Bill Nighy) who thinks himself much more talented than he actually is.
  • Trina Vega in Victorious. How she got to be a student at the Hollywood School of Arts is anybody's guess - she can't sing, she can't dance, she can't act. In fact, there is a second season episode wherein almost all the other main characters discuss how she could've possibly been accepted in the first place. Even one of the teachers who was on the select committee isn't sure...
    • A later episode answers the question. All the select committee had to leave for something else and let Sikowitz judge her alone, then he drank spoiled coconut milk and just saw a beautiful performance full of colors.
  • Echo from Mr. Young is a terrible singer. The titular Mr Young spends the episode about her singing trying to either improve her voice or hide it. By the end he saves her public embarrassment by performing a duet with his own amazing voice. Echo then believes that the horrible voice is the duet was his and the amazing one was hers.
  • Tim Taylor from Home Improvement is a giftedly bad handyman. If he'd only limit himself to just making repairs or actual reasonable home improvements, he'd be all right, as has been shown repeatedly on the show... except that his ego means that Tim can never settle for 'repaired' when he can go all the way to 'improved,' usually via the eponymous Tim Taylor Technology. His show, Tool Time, is half comedy, half workshop show—Tim's bumbling excess provides the comedy, while Al is his Hyper-Competent Sidekick and provides the actual useful repair tips. Tim's convinced he's a home improvement genius and is jealous of the more sensible but also far more popular and well-known handyman Bob Vila. Comically, several instances in the show reveal that Tim is actually a competent cook and can handle himself just fine in the kitchen (when he isn't trying to overclock an appliance). Notably, Tim is the first person to accidentally launch a BBQ grill into low orbit by trying to break a grill lighting speed world record with rocket fuel.
  • On Girl Meets World, Maya is a very talented artist. Riley, not so much. She pretty much paints purple cats in a style one might get from a kindergarten student.
  • Rik The People's Poet from The Young Ones is firmly convinced that he is a left-wing ideologue, The Casanova and the voice of a generation of kids and punks and skins and rastas. He is spectacularly wrong on all counts. His poetry is howlingly wretched, and believe it or not, is actually better read than recited.
    "Pollution! All awound!
    Sometimes ... up! Sometimes ... down!
    But always ... awound!
    Pollution, are you coming to my town ... or am I coming to yours?
    HA! We're on different buses, pollution ... but we're both using petwol!...BOMBS!!"
  • Cordelia Chase in Angel is so bad at acting that her colleagues debate yelling "Fire" to get out of her play. They reason that isn't a crowded theatre so it's OK.
  • Madam Edith in 'Allo 'Allo! is such a terrible singer that she makes customers stick cheese in their ears, if not outright run away.
    Lt. Gruber: Madam Edith has an unusual voice, René. Was it trained?
    René: Oh, yes. But it escaped and returned to the wild.

  • P.D.Q. Bach, the last, and certainly the least, of Johann Sebastian Bach's children. (Fictionally speaking.)
  • Murdoc Niccals has never canonically been heard to sing onscreen except for the growling-whispering rap in "White Light", but his singing has been described as sounding "like someone treading on a duck". He insists the world is merely too small-minded to appreciate his genius and he needs 2D's more "conventional" voice for the albums.
    • Possibly averted with the release of Demon Days, where supposedly he sang (Or whispered, more accurately) the words to the harder, punk track "White Light."
    • As of phase 3, we have heard him sing, but contrary to what the characters and Word of God said in ROTO, his voice is actually not bad. Though that may be an oversight on the management, so who knows.
  • Maria Cross, the worst singer in all of Visual Kei either as zis persona or as zis style. Adopted an Oshare style look, never mind zis music being an affront to the subgenre, and is known best for street performances in Tokyo where No Indoor Voice meets with Screams Like a Little Girl, Metal Scream, and other such tropes to create a hellish sound that somehow could be workable grindcore or noise, at least until the police end the performance because zhe has no permits for the amplified sound. The entire persona is possibly a Stealth Parody aimed at trashing Oshare Kei as a subgenre or parodying the very concept of Visual Kei itself, which makes it enough of a not real life example to be put here (though if it turns out to be serious, the example can be removed)
    • In fact, it's pretty likely Maria Cross is some sort of a parody, because zhe is actually capable of singing in ways that aren't absolute crap, and the way zhe flips between relatively ordinary for Visual Kei cleans/screams to Hell Is That Noise hints at Stylistic Suck - someone who does know what they are doing and is messing it up on purpose.
  • Harry Chapin's "Six String Orchestra" is about a would-be musician continuing to pursue his dream in the face of humorously harsh criticism.

  • Cyrano de Bergerac
    • Montfleury thinks he is a dramatic actor capable of romancing the ladies. Everyone else (except maybe his protector the Duke of Candale) disagrees: the bore calls him “a shame for theater”, Theatre representant, Jodelet, thinks the public came to see him to laugh at him, nobody really tries to help when Cyrano bullies him out of the scene and everyone calls him a coward.
    • In Act II Scene IV, Baker Ragueneau, who wants to be a poet, declaims his poem (a recipe in verse) to his friends, the poets. He is totally serious about his poem, but it's Stylistic Suck.
  • One of the most memorable scenes from Molière's Le Misanthrope comes when Alceste, the title misanthrope, thrashes the poetry of Oronte, an obsequious nobleman who desperately wants to be his friend. Alceste finds Oronte's poetry cloying, pretentious and devoid of meaning, and even says it is "meant to be taken to the cabinet" — "cabinet" having a secondary meaning of "outhouse" in 17th century French. He then responds with a poem he finds of high quality, a simple medieval country ballad.
  • While not an intended part of the plays in which he appeared, 18th-century actor Robert 'Romeo' Coates was so terrible, yet utterly confident in his acting, that his shows would sell out from sheer curiosity.

    Video Games 
  • May in Dragon Nest is a fairly typical example. She genuinely believes that she is amazing at painting, cooking, managing her small business, fashion, and everything else, and she believes herself to be smart, sophisticated, and attractive, but in reality, she is so stupid and terrible at everything that other townsfolk begin to wonder if she's cursed after a while. This is compounded by her endless quests that tend to create problems rather than solve them. It's almost a wonder she isn't chased out of town with torches and pitchforks.
  • No One Lives Forever gives us Inge Wagner, a Brawn Hilda whose Start of Darkness began when her parents pressured her into becoming an opera singer, ignoring that she was completely tone deaf. The combination of reassurement, ridicule, pressure, and resentment drove her mad, and she eventually fell in with H.A.R.M. She runs a cover operation as a nightclub in Hamburg, where her responsibilities as a hostess extend to singing for her patrons. Badly. Yet the club remains popular with beatniks, who think that she does so deliberately as an avant-garde rejection of conventional taste in music. She is completely ignorant that this is why they enjoy her singing.
    Patron: "Anyone can sing a melody. It takes a true artist to defy a melody!"
  • Portal gives us Cave Johnson, CEO of Aperture Science, a man with great enthusiasm, vision, and commitment to Science!, but next to no common sense, much less business acumen. Inventions include Repulsion Gel, which allows objects to bounce off of it without losing any momentum, thereby enabling a perpetual motion machine. It was originally marketed as a dietary aid replacing pudding so that the food would bounce right out of people's stomachs. Aperture's most famous invention is the Handheld Portal Device that can create wormholes and is powered in part by a miniature black hole. Johnson's original intent for it was to be used for shower curtains. It goes without saying that either of these inventions could have changed the world, but Aperture instead became obsessed with trying to get them to function in their original roles, and became trapped in an endless cycle of cube and button-based testing.
    • "Excursion funnels are part of an investigation into how well test subjects can solve problems while traveling through a churning funnel of liquid asbestos. Results so far have been highly informative: They cannot."
    • Wheatley himself fits the profile. He's designed to be the dumbest moron who ever lived, but his chaotic actions make him utterly impossible to predict and almost impossible to outwit.
  • Persona 4: Yukiko, Chie, and Rise have the utmost confidence in their cooking schools and are seemingly oblivious to the fact that they're absolutely horrible at it, no matter how many times they're told as such and how many times their meals have made the others sick. Yosuke even lampshades it in Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth, outright asking them how they haven't realized how badly they suck at cooking.
  • Saber in Fate/EXTRA believes herself to be the pinnacle of the arts, a creative savant on par with the gods. In reality, her skills are below-average at best. In her past life as Nero Caesar she even built a personal theatre devoted specifically to her performances, and when people started to leave in the middle of her first recital, she ordered all the exits sealed.
  • In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, there is Lurbuk, an Orc bard working in the Moorside Inn in Morthal. He is a notably terrible bard who hasn't been kicked out only because there are no customers around to complain. However, he is apparently so bad that there is a Dark Brotherhood contract out on him, which you get to fulfill if you are a member.
    • If you talk to Nazir about the contract, he states that there were multiple contracts on him, so they had to hold a lottery to see which one would actually be honored.

    Web Comics 
  • Cyril The Bard in The Fourth is not a very good musician, yet he doesn't seem aware of this.
  • Tom and Izzy from Home On The Strange visit an art exhibition, and everyone they encounter is one of these.
  • In Men in Hats, Jeriah likes to think he's an underappreciated great artist. He characteristically maintains that True Art Is Angsty, but his own efforts come across more as just plain ridiculous.
  • Caliborn from Homestuck. His first drawings are incomprehensible (think three-year-old discovering MS Paint), and only mildly improve after several years. When he has the chance to use a Learn How To Draw book, rather than actually practice the drawings in the book, he cuts them out and uses them for his own shitty comic.
  • Count Legato actually a nerdy kid named Panpipe using a stolen magic contact lens of Cucumber Quest writes and stars a play that is atrocious by just about any standards. Not only is it poorly-written and possibly even less well acted, it's also incredibly self-serving to the point of creepiness. He is so deluded that he thinks it's a work of brilliance and only realizes how bad it is when he's called out on his behavior and his writing in front of the audience, whereupon he promptly has a pseudo-Villainous Breakdown.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Squidward Tentacles from Spongebob Squarepants is not as good at music as he thinks he is. He does have his moments though. The trope is zig-zagged depending on whether it would be funnier, at the moment, if Squidward were an unappreciated talent or Giftedly Bad.
    • When Squidward actually gets passionate, his clarinet playing is pretty good. However, he normally plays just to tone out the stupidity of his neighbors... which doesn't really require a proper melody.
    • SpongeBob himself is a notoriously incompetent driver, having failed well over a million times on his driver's test. Each time normally leads to him reducing Bikini Bottom to ruin through his manic driving habits, which has led Mrs. Puff to deem SpongeBob unteachable. This however never sways him and he remains obliviously optimistic even as he has driven his instructor deeper into insanity.
    • Like with Squidward and his clarinet, SpongeBob's incompetence varies, and can be a competent driver through unorthodox, though unfortunately illegal means that would otherwise also be deemed unsafe. In the first movie, he is shown to drive the Patty Wagon quite competently without the need for a license, saying such a thing is not needed to drive a sandwich.
    • Plankton is determined to destroy Mr. Krabs with his rival restaurant at the Chum Bucket, trying to market chum-related products to his customers even as he's trying to acquire the Krabby Patty formula. It has been shown that the food Plankton offers is simply unfit for consumption, driving away anyone who isn't already scared away by his cruelty. Plankton tries numerous ways to convince his customers his food is just as good as that of the Krusty Krab, but it usually only sickens whoever works up the nerve to try it.
  • Brian Griffin of Family Guy is a dedicated, passionate, confident writer... whose book was such a flop that the unsold copies were sent back to him packed in shredded copies of his book. The one time he writes a hit is supposed to be a Take That! to the trend of awful self-help books, which he writes in a day. When he's suddenly well-known, he rolls with it until Bill Maher utterly destroys him on his show.
  • Rocky and Bullwinkle has Captain Peter "Wrong-Way" Peachfuzz, the worst sailor in the world. Despite having wanted to be a sailor since childhood, he's totally incompetent at it (mainly because he has No Sense of Direction). He only captains a ship because he inherited a huge sum of money, bought a cruise liner, and hired himself as its captain. The rest of his crew has a conspiracy to keep him from actually controlling the ship: they disconnected all the controls on the bridge, and the ship is actually steered from a secret control room he doesn't know about. This plan fails when he blunders his way into the real control room by accident while trying to get to the fake one.
  • From Daria, Trent and his band "Mystik Spiral" (although they're thinking of changing their name) are pretty poor musicians in general, but Trent is absolutely abysmal at writing lyics. The lyrics of "Oh, my nose! Oh, my face!" have to be heard to be believed.
    Daria: It has a beat, and you can dance to it if you have no shame.
  • Throughout My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, whenever the Cutie Mark Crusaders attempt a new scheme to get their cutie marks, it usually goes wrong in a particularly spectacular fashion. Their attempt at performing a rock ballad in "The Show Stoppers" is probably the best example. It ends up winning them an award... for best comedy act. All of this despite being told multiple times by multiple different characters that they're going about getting their cutie marks the wrong way. It takes them until season five to finally get their cutie marks, in the episode "Crusaders of the Lost Mark".
  • Leela from Futurama became a major-league blernsball player in "A Leela of Her Own". Her complete lack of depth perception combined with a very strong throwing arm made it quite dangerous to be on the receiving end of her pitches. She did, however, provide a strong boost to ticket sales, as people would show up just to see how many batters she would "bean" during the game. It took her most of the episode to discover that she was really nothing more than a publicity gimmick.
  • Kaeloo draws like a kindergartener, but considers herself to be a great artist (not that anyone else does).