I Have No Idea What I'm Doing

Heavy: Doctor, are you sure this will work?
Medic: Ahaha, I have no idea!
Team Fortress 2, "Meet the Medic"

Stock Phrases used when someone is about to, is doing, or has done something important, dangerous, dramatic or all of the above.

Phrases include:
  • "I have no idea what I'm doing."
  • "I know almost exactly what I'm doing."
  • "I'm making this up as I go."
  • "I trusted my instincts"
  • "It was a lucky guess."
  • "I bluffed."
  • "I didn't [know]."

May be related to Indy Ploy. See also "How Did You Know?" "I Didn't.".


Comic Books

  • Gone with the Wind: "I don't know nothing 'bout birthin' no babies!"
  • In Good Company: it's Carter Duryea's first day on the job as head of the Ad Sales department. He's only 26 years old.
    Carter Duryea: I have no idea what I'm doing. Don't tell anyone, okay?
  • Indiana Jones: Indy's Stock Phrase is "I'm making this up as I go!"
  • From The Hunt for Red October
    Mancuso: How did you know that his next turn would be to starboard?
    Ryan: I didn't. I had a 50/50 chance. I needed a break. Sorry.
    Mancuso: That's all right, Mr Ryan. My Morse is so rusty, I could be sending him dimensions on Playmate of the Month.
  • From The Empire Strikes Back: Han Solo flies into a huge asteroid to evade the Imperial fleet.
    Princess Leia: (to Solo) I hope you know what you're doing.
    Han Solo: Yeah, me too.
  • In Panic Room, Meg has a brainwave that they might be able to jury-rig her mobile phone (which has no signal) into the house's main phone line. When her daughter asks what she's doing, Meg says she has no idea. She manages to make it work (temporarily) because the different phone wires follow the same colour code.
  • Zig-zag in Monty Python and the Holy Grail after King Arthur tricks the keeper of the Bridge of Death:
    Keeper: What is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?
    Arthur: What do you mean? An African or European swallow?
    Keeper: Uh..I don't know that! (gets hurled into the gorge)
    Bedevere: How do you know so much about swallows?
    Arthur: Well, you have to know these things when you're a king, y'know.

  • Corwin in the first novel of The Chronicles of Amber finally admits to his brother Random (probably his only sibling he could trust in this way) that he doesn't know what's going on and has been bluffing his way through most of the novel.
  • Harry Dresden admits as much twice during the series, during Turn Coat and Cold Days. Interestingly enough, it's used for a specific purpose - to convince two people that he's the good guy, because if he were the bad guy they know he couldn't come up with a plan this complex and smooth. This does not stop the first incidence from being a Crowning Moment of Funny, or the second from being a massive Oh, Crap for the other person.

Live-Action TV
  • Burn Notice episode "Friends and Enemies"
    Michael Westen: I have a loaded machine pistol in my hand and I have no idea what I'm doing!
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode "Danger! Death Ray"
    Tom Servo: I have no idea what I'm doing, but I've seen this all on the James Bond movies, so...
    • Also in Junior Rodeo Daredevils:
    Joel: I don't really know what I'm doing!
  • The Doctor says this several times, in both new and classic Doctor Who.
  • On an episode of The Drew Carey Show, a bag of what appears to be cocaine is found in a Winfred-Lauder restroom. An security employee tastes it and says, "Interesting...I have no idea what cocaine tastes like."
  • In Merlin, when Arthur tells Merlin that they can smear themselves with Gaia berries to avoid getting eaten by huge monsters. Afterwards:
    Arthur: "Gaia berries worked. Huh."
    Merlin: "You didn't know if they worked?"
    Arthur: "Not for sure."
  • An episode of Spin City had Paul (who's usually portrayed as an idiot) going on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? and winning big. When Regis Philben asks how he keeps getting the right answers to questions, Paul gets a jubilant, I-can't-believe-it-either look on his face and replies, "I'm guessing!"
  • Joey says this to Chandler on Friends as they have a conversation while Joey attempts to unlock a sealed door, adding "For all I know, I'm locking it more."
  • Stargate Atlantis: Teyla goes into labor on an enemy ship with only McKay around. McKay starts doing lamaze breathing (very poorly), causing Teyla to snap "What are you doing?" Rodney admits, for possibly the first time ever, "I have no idea what I'm doing. What do you need me to do?"

  • The first track on A Liturgy, a Legacy, and a Ragamuffin Band by the late Rich Mullins opens with a member of the Ragamuffin Band admitting he's completely unprepared to perform.

Video Games
  • In Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Farah asks The Prince "do you have any idea what you're doing?" as the player navigates The Prince through a series of gymnastic hurdles; and he responds "I'm just working it out as I go!"
  • Persona 3: The main character, after defeating a boss on a runaway bullet train, successfully stops the train by pressing the right button. Upon questioned how he did it, the player can pick between to answers: "I trusted my instincts" or "It was a lucky guess." The right answer is instincts. It all ties in with the Tarot Motifs.
  • In the original Mass Effect game, if you use paragon to persuade Jeong to save the colonists, you can later admit to Ashley that you had no clue what you were doing. If you're a male Shepard, you get this exchange:
    Shepard: "I just pretend I have my head up my ass and don't care about anything except money."
    Ashley: "That would be a waste of a perfectly fine ass... sir."
    • Justicar Samara has many talents, but art criticism is apparently not one of them.
  • Team Fortress 2: In the "Meet the Medic" video, the Medic is doing a test run on the ‹berCharge with Heavy for the first time. The Heavy cautiously asks the Medic if he's sure it will work, to which the Medic enthusiastically replies, "I have no idea!"
  • This line is used in Fallout: New Vegas if you attempt to operate on Caesar's brain tumor without the necessary Medicine skill, but with 9 or 10 luck.
    Incultes Vulpa: That was incredible! How did you do that?
    The Courier: I... Have absolutely no idea.

  • In Gnoph, when Will's heart stops, Lyss quickly performs first aid. When she succeeds in resuscitating him, she seems astonished.
    Lyss: That WORKED?!? That's one to add to the database!
  • A two-person variant in 8-Bit Theater:
    Thief: Red Mage, do you have any idea what you're doing?
    Red Mage: Why should THAT stop me?
  • A variant inflicted by someone else in MegaTokyo, when Largo retrofits a gaming store as a LARP maze, complete with computer-controlled cardboard hazards... then reluctantly abandons it to teach an English class. His boss, attempting to retain the resulting sales that ensue from the retrofit, quotes the trope in panic.
    Piro: Boss-san, I'm so sorry! I'll clean this up as soon as I—
    Boss: Wait, I think I'm getting the hang of—
    Box marked "PWNZD" falls on Piro's head.
    Piro: ...Find Largo and PK him.

Western Animation
  • Looney Tunes, "The Unmentionables": as Bugs operates the controls of a cereal factory, he quips, "The way I work this thing, you think I'd know something about it."
    • In another Looney Tunes short, "Daffy Duck and the Dinosaur", Daffy paints a perfect replica of himself on a wall, after which he says, "Not bad for a guy who never took an art lesson in his life."
  • In a Justice League Unlimited episode, Flash (who can't normally fly) tells Fire, who is carrying him through the air, to drop him and help Hawkgirl. It does make an impression on Fire (whom he is trying to woo) but when she leaves, he quips: "I hope I come up with something before I hit the ground..." He does.
  • Teen Titans: Mumbo says this when he uses Starfire for the Saw a Woman in Half trope.
    Mumbo: It's only fair to warn you... I have no idea what I'm doing.
  • The Penguins of Madagascar: one of Kowalski's Catch Phrases.
  • In one episode of The Simpsons, the Sea Captain promises Homer that a raft is the "yarrest river-goin' boat thar be". It promptly sinks, forcing him admit "Yarr, I don't know what I'm doin'."
  • In one episode of Archer, most of the ISIS employees go on strike. So Lana and Archer are in one of the labs, discussing their plans, when Lana asks Archer to bring up the map of the place they're infiltrating. After a few failed attempts, Lana sarcastically asks Archer if he's just hitting random buttons, to which Archer replies, "Obviously!"
  • Happens twice in Xiaolin Showdown, both times with Omi. The first time is when the Shen Gong Wu hunt begins; Omi yells, "Follow me, to victory!" And runs off. "...I have no idea where I'm going." The second is after Omi goes back in time to retrieve a MacGuffin from Grand Master Dashi; "Now, I must return to the future!" Pause. "Which I have no idea how to do."
  • In one episode of Beetlejuice, BJ does a swan-dive off a 15,000 foot-high diving board, and plants a glass of water on the ground to dive into. He then remarks,
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "It's About Time", Twilight asks Pinkie Pie to "recalibrate the apertures on the nine and quarter catadioptric telescopes"note , which Pinkie agrees to do...and then just looks at the telescope. When Twilight asks if she's done, Pinkie cheerfully says, "I have no idea!"
    • During the episode "Castle Mane-ia" Pinkie is found playing a pipe organ and tells her friends "Hey you guys! Did you know I could totally play the organ? Because I didn't!"