Laborious Laziness

"Have you ever seen anyone work so hard at being so lazy?"
Jon Arbuckle, Garfield

Alice has just been asked by her mother to refill the dog's food and water bowls. She doesn't really want to do it; after all, that sort of chore would take time and effort that could be better spent lounging on the sofa and playing video games.

But Alice is an inventive little devil, so she spends an hour or so putting together a Rube Goldberg Device involving an air pump, a length of drainpipe, and a plastic flamingo that will automatically fill both bowls when she steps on a foot pedal. After doing just that, she then returns to her lounging, satisfied that she accomplished her task the easy way.

But hang on. Just getting up and filling the bowls by hand would've taken less than fifteen minutes and a lot less effort. When you put it in perspective she hardly did it the "easy" way.

You see a lot of this in fiction (and sometimes outside of it). In pursuit of a lazier way to do a task, a character will wind up spending magnitudes more time and effort developing and executing that lazier way than it would have taken to do it the normal way. This is often a trait of the Professional Slacker and Ridiculous Procrastinator.

A frequent variation (and method of communicating An Aesop that 'laziness never pays off') is that the character's efforts to avoid work just end up causing them a whole heap of trouble, misery and and pain (physical and / or emotional) which could have been avoided entirely had they just sucked it up and done what they were supposed to do in the first place. For example, in constructing the Rube Goldberg Device Alice might kickstart a chain of events which results in the kitchen flooding due to a busted tap, the bag of dog food exploding all over the house, a broken window, a plastic flamingo lodged into the wall, Alice falling off a ladder in the chaos only to break her leg and her mother ending up very, very angry with her.

Note that situations where investing some time and energy now will genuinely save effort in the long run (for example, if Alice builds an automatic dog feeder that she could use every day from then on) are not examples of this trope.

Related to Short Cuts Make Long Delays. See also Dick Dastardly Stops to Cheat. May or may not overlap with Duct Tape for Everything.


Anime and Manga
  • Shiromi Kosegawa in Saki, mainly in "Saki Biyori". In the first Miyamori chapter of Saki Biyori, she pulls a hand cart to bring a kotatsu to school, wanting to rest under it but knowing that she won't be able to get out once she does. In the second Miyamori chapter, she rests in various places around the mall, under the pretense of doing things such as waiting for a friend or trying on shoes, but ends up moving around the mall quite a bit, as Sae points out.
  • Bleach: While Shiba is 10th Division captain, there is a constant battle between him and his lieutenant, Rangiku, to push work onto the other to avoid doing any themselves. Shiba goes to enormous lengths to find new places around Soul Society to hide, while Rangiku goes to even greater lengths to track him down, drag him back to the office and make him do the work. In the time it takes them to do all this, the work gets completed by Third Seat Hitsugaya, while the effort to avoid it leaves Shiba and Rangiku tired, bruised and sweaty.
    Shiba: "All this running around and looking for me has made your boobs glisten so nicely!"

  • In With a Forked Tongue I Lie in Wait (Taming Snakes) Harry and the Weasley twins fake a kappa infestation to support a lie he told about a missing Transfiguration essay. McGonagall gives him two points for being the first person in twenty years to pull the wool over her eyes.
    McGonagall: It would have been more, but it is somewhat less impressive since you're spending so much more time and effort on getting out of the homework than it would actually take to sit down and do it like you're supposed to.
  • In Harry the Hufflepuff Harry's aunt calls him lazy so many times that he decides to run his life on this trope. Being sorted into Hufflepuff, the House of hard work and loyalty, does little or nothing to change this.

  • Victor Tugelbend in Moving Pictures is the master of this trope (which the narrator acknowledges). Thanks to a trust fund from a relative supporting him while he's in school, he much prefers the life of a Wizarding School student vs an actual wizard, Victor studies extensively to keep his grade just low enough to not pass, but high enough that he doesn't lose his trust fund to failing grades. He also exercises regularly because being thin means less weight to drag around, and physical activity is less effort if you're in good shape. It's a kind of enlightened laziness.
    • Another Discworld example; in Making Money Moist is told that "a certain kind of man will scheme for two days to earn what he could have made by honest work in one." Subverted by Moist reflecting that honest work may be more efficient, but scheming is more fun.
    • There was another book from the series pointing out how much work bandits have to do to set up a decent ambush with falling rocks etc. and how much easier it would be to just get a job.
    • One past student at Unseen University, seeking an easier way to copy out lines when issued this common school punishment, developed a whole series of increasingly-complex mechanisms that would write multiple pages at once. Not only did the development of these gadgets take up more time and effort than simply writing the lines would have, but eventually a malfunction in one high-tension prototype catapulted its inventor out a window to his death.
  • The unnamed protagonist in "The Tale of The Man Who Was Too Lazy To Fail" in Time Enough for Love by Robert A. Heinlein's

Live-Action TV
  • Married... with Children: Al Bundy even tried to walk over to the TV but eventually grew tired of it and agreed to have sex with Peggy for the remote.
  • Jeff of Community will go to absurd lengths to get out of work - in the pilot alone, he tries to bribe/blackmail a teacher into giving him not just the test scores for his upcoming test, but every single test he'd ever have in his studies, goes along with a study group he hates as part of a plan to have sex with Britta, and spins a master plan manipulating six different people he's just met into having a screaming match with each other. As one of them pointed out, this is all to avoid doing the work for what is basically a simple Spanish test that would take him, at most, half an hour to study for the normal way. By the end of season three, he's mostly grown out of it. Lampshaded in "Documentary Filmmaking Redux" where he proudly boasts, apparently without noticing the irony, that he's "always willing to go the extra mile to avoid doing something."
  • George Costanza of Seinfeld is perhaps the Ur-Example of this trope. In nearly every episode he goes to great lengths to avoid work, effort, or even discomfort. He puts so much effort and scheming into being lazy that one wonders if it wouldn't just be easier to to the original task in the first place.
  • The one-time Don Ramón from El Chavo del ocho decided by himself to go look for a job was after he read a phrase "The thing that takes the most work is not having a job".
  • LazyTown: Robbie Rotten prides himself on being lazy, and schemes to make the rest of the town as lazy as he is, but due to these elaborate schemes, he's easily one of the most active people in the entire town.

Newspaper Comics
  • As noted in the page quote, Garfield is prone to this sort of thing. In the comic quoted, the lazy cat nails the TV to the ceiling above his cat bed so he can watch it without getting up. Think about how much effort it would've taken to hoist that television up there and then keep it in place while he nailed it there, and then think about how much effort it would've taken simply to get up and walk over to where the TV was.
    • In another occasion, Garfield, Jon and Liz were watching TV together when the remote control stopped working. Jon and Garfield went to a shop to buy new batteries. When they came back, Liz pointed out the set was five feet away. Garfield commented "Girls".
  • In FoxTrot, Peter tells his friend Steve about all the job leads his father is sharing with him, and his persistence in doing so.
    Steve: So you're going to spend the summer hiding from your dad?
    Peter: I only wish my not working didn't require so much work.
  • In Dilbert Wally has been shown to be very active in his efforts to not do any work, and is largely successful. He was based on a former co-worker of the creator, Scott Adams, who realized that the severance package was more beneficial than working, so he became fiercely dedicated to being extremely unproductive. To quote Wally:
    Wally: I'm not lazy, I'm useless. There's a difference.
  • Calvin and Hobbes:
    • In one series, Calvin built a time machine to travel two hours into the future and get a copy of his homework from himself after it was already finished. Predictably, it doesn't work.
      6:30 Calvin: Well, since we're you from the past, I suppose you know why we're here. Did you do the homework?
      8:30 Calvin: Me?? No.
      6:30 Calvin: No?! Why not??
      8:30 Calvin: Because two hours ago, I went to the future to get it.
      6:30 Calvin: Yeah, and here I am! So where is it?!
      8:30 Calvin: That's what I said two hours ago!
    • In another series, Calvin didn't want to make his bed, so he and Hobbes spent all afternoon trying to build a robot to do it for him. They couldn't get the robot to work, but since they spent so long on it, the bed never got made. Mission accomplished!
  • Sometimes the title character from Beetle Bailey. An example is when he refuses to go through the obstacle course and tries to hide from Sarge. Sarge discovers him and ends up chasing him through the very same obstacle course.

  • A cartoon from the National Enquirer depicts a man driving with one hand on the wheel and the other holding the dog's leash while two women on the sidewalk watch.
    Woman: You win - your husband is lazier than mine.

Video Games
  • Wario is made of this trope.
  • For Love of Digby involves trying to come up with a convoluted way for the main character, whose remote is broken, to change the channel in time for his umpteenth viewing of Digby the Biggest Dog in the World without ever leaving his recliner.
  • The title character of Atelier Annie: Alchemists of Sera Island has this as her motivation for doing anything, as she hopes that by working hard, she will marry a rich man and be set for life, never having to work again.
  • Sans in Undertale is a self-professed slacker, to the point where he avoids doing his actual job (border patrol) by doing a different job (hot-dog sales).

Web Comics

Western Animation
  • The Simpsons: Bart and Lisa have been tasked to clean the back yard but they're too lazy to do so.
    Bart: Man, look at all this stuff... pull weeds, mow lawn, scoop and bag dog business. There's gotta be a way out of this. Lisa! Chop off my hands!
    Lisa: No! Then who'd chop off my hands?
    Bart: All right, you chop my hands halfway off, and then, I'll still have enough strength to chop-
    Marge: Get to work!
  • The Amazing World of Gumball:
    • Richard is a master of this. Just watch this episode (the second one on the page).
    • Also, in one episode, Gumball travels back in time to avoid changing the title of an email. Granted, it was in his imagination, but he was planning to do it for real.
  • Teen Titans: Cyborg took Raven's suggestion of walking over to the TV for a tasteless joke.
  • Dexter's Laboratory: Dexter's father finds the idea of walking over to the TV so horrible he doesn't have the courage to tell Dexter people used to do it before the remote control was invented.
  • In Dan Vs. "The Boss", Dan goes to great lengths to avoid doing any real work on his first day at the office and doesn't understand why he's so tired. Chris tells him that looking busy is usually harder than actually being busy, and suggests that maybe Dan should just do his job.
  • In the PBS Kids version of The Berenstain Bears, both "By the Sea" and "Up and Down" exemplify this, with Brother/Sister and Papa respectively trying to avoid work but ending up doing about twice as much in the process until they learn their lesson.

Real Life
  • Many TV viewers have torn their room apart looking for a missing TV remote control when they could just walk over to the TV and change the channel that way. Though, on a lot of newer TVs you can't really do that if you're watching anything but local broadcasts. Same goes for disc players without the buttons necessary to navigate the menus on a movie.
  • A recurring story from many educators is the at-times ridiculous lengths that some students will go to in order to cheat their way through an assessment piece or to pass a test without doing the 'work', to the point where it would probably be both easier and less time consuming to simply study properly and receive an honest grade for it.
  • Seen in the Not Always Friendly story "Irony is Effortless": Context 
  • Bill Cosby once had this trope as part of a comedy skit. His wife would wake him up, early, pre-dawn, threatening him with a bucket of literally ice-cold water, and order him to make breakfast for the kids before sending them to school. Not being completely awake, nor wanting to be in the kitchen anyway, Bill Cosby serves the kids chocolate cake because cakes are made with milk, eggs and flour, healthy right? The kids were noted to be rejoicing at this. "Our daddy is great, he feeds us chocolate cake!" Until the wife showed up, had a "conniption" that sounds like some kind of demonic possession, the kids turned on him "we asked for juice, eggs and bacon, and he made us eat this!" wherein she angrily sends him back to the bedroom, where he wanted to be in the first place!