Mistaken for Profound
"Beyond its entertainment values, Baywatch has enriched, and in many cases, helped save lives."Rule of Funny. What happens next can also vary. The mistaken person may never be found out (and he/she may just go with this). Sometimes it cause problems for the mistaken person. Sometimes the mistaken thing is revealed to be what it is almost immediately after being praised (often by a character who is The Ditz, so it's pretending to be Dumbass Has a Point and then subverting it). A Super Trope to Seemingly Profound Fool (when The Fool or The Ditz is constantly mistaken for being profound). Compare Ice-Cream Koan, Comically Missing the Point, Not Actually the Ultimate Question.
— David Hasselhoff, world hero
Anime and Manga
- In Medabots, a man sitting on the street selling chicks (baby chickens) keeps trying to peddle his birds to protagonist Ikki. Ikki always interprets the man's sales pitches as words of wisdom pertaining to whatever problem he currently has. Occasionally, other characters pass him by when they have trouble and treat him and his speeches the same way Ikki does.
- On Tiger & Bunny, Keith is going through an emotional slump when he happens to meet a pretty girl (actually a malfunctioning Robot Girl) in the park. As he explains his problem she continually responds "Why?," which he takes to mean that he needs to look deeper inside himself for answers. He gets over his slump and returns to his usual bombastic self, ironically by destroying the robot when she goes beserk.
- There was an issue of Green Lantern in which Hal Jordan, while living as a drifter, was working temporarily as a seasonal farmhand. One of the other farmhands was a hippie who told Hal that he mostly "follow[ed] the Dead," which Hal thought was poetic until the man explained that he followed The Grateful Dead on tour.
- Mass Effect Clash Of Civilizations: As part of a team exploring a space station built by a never before encountered species (the UNSC).
(...)Liara (...) was utterly intrigued with the architecture. (...)Every now and then she would see words written on hanging signs, above doorways, and on walls in some strange alien language. Perhaps they were words of great wisdom or knowledge.
'Dining to the Left (Kids eat free!)'
'Do not spit over docking ledge. Thank you'
- Brian from Monty Pythons Life Of Brian, who gained devoted followers that saw anything he said or did as profound, even if they didn't agree on what he meant by them.
- In Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, Bill and Ted decide to "recruit" Socrates by "philosophiz[ing] with him", quoting the lyrics to "Dust in the Wind" in pantomime. Socrates is stunned, thinking that the boys agree with what he was saying before they showed up, and says "Of course! Like sands in the hourglass, so are the Days of Our Lives!" He ends up being so amused that B&T are free to gently lead him back to the time machine while he's laughing his head off.
- Spoofed again in the sequel, the boys are able to pass off the lyrics from "Every Rose Has its Thorn" as the meaning of life, which earns them access to Heaven.
- In Fear of a Black Hat, Tone Def states, "Because when you take the bus, you get there." His fellow musicians think it's gibberish, but the producer is deeply impressed with this sage wisdom.
- Being There revolves around the trope. The main character, a gardener with absolutely no experience with the outside world who may or may not have some sort of mental deficiency, is always thought of as a genius. Hell, the ending insinuates that some people want him to become the president. For example, when asked about the economy, he simply talks about the seasons in relation to his gardening experience. This is immediately inferred as some sort of profound understanding of the global economy. The best part is that he has no idea why any of this is happening. He's just a polite man making small talk.
- In Discworld, Witches Abroad mentions that wisdom from far off appears more profound, which explains why saffron-clad young men tend to pay visits to Ms. Marietta Cosmopolite, an Ankh-Morpork dressmaker. They take the cliches she spouts like "I wasn't born yesterday" and "When it rains, it pours" as koans, and end up inventing a martial art inspired by her that involves shouting at people and hitting them with brooms. Thief of Time reveals that Lu-Tze of the Time Monks is a follower of "The Way of Ms. Cosmopolite", but it's unclear whether Lu-Tze actually believes it to be profound or not. He seems to find a certain profundity to them, but unlike the other monks, he also knows what they actually mean (he implies at one point that the sheer practicality is why he thinks they're profound); the other monks try to parse them as koans, which makes them look silly (not that they really need Lu-Tze's help at that).
- He is doing the latter on purpose though; he wrote it all down in a book he carries with him so he can introduce the quotes with "Is it not written..."
- In The Wastelands, Jake Chambers writes his final essay while losing his mind due to a time paradox. The result is an incoherent mess combining bits of memories from a timeline that never happened with bits of prophesy. Fortunately, his teacher is of the, "If I don't understand it, it must be brilliant" mindset, gives Jake an "A", and says she wants to talk to him about publishing it.
- The Isaac Asimov short story "The Eternal Bard" tells the tale of a scientist who brings William Shakespeare back to life, and enrolls him in a Shakespeare study class taught by a colleague without telling him. Shakespeare flunks the course, unable to get his head around all the subtext people have extrapolated from the plays he just wrote to pay the bills, calling it "an ocean wrung from a damp sponge." It's left up in the air whether or not the scientist, who is drunk at a party, is telling this story just to mess with his friend, but toward the end of the story, the literature professor starts to remember a very odd student...
- Cheers: when Woody is running for City Council his simple statements are taken as down home country expressions and powerful political messages by reporters.
- How I Met Your Mother, "Definitions": Ted shows up to the wrong classroom on his first day as an architecture professor, and misinterprets his students' attempts to inform him of this as profound reflections on architecture.
- In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dawn brings a robot replica of Buffy to a parent-teacher conference rather than reveal that Buffy (her sole legal provider) is dead. The Buffybot naturally makes boneheaded remarks, such as "School is where you learn.", all of which are accompanied by 'yeahs!' and 'you said it!' from the other parents. ("Bargaining Pt. 1")
- In Boy Meets World, Shawn ends up sitting in on a college philosophy class. When in response to the question, "Why are you here?" he responds "just visiting," everyone takes it as an expression of his belief on the transience of life. This leads Shawn to start thinking that he doesn't need to apply himself in his high school classes anymore, since he's apparently having such an easy time in a college environment. Subverted later on when Cory, who shows up to try and bring Shawn back, tells the professor that he's "just passing through" and gets mocked for seemingly thinking he can pass himself off as profound by spouting Ice Cream Koans in class. Shawn is crushed at the end of the episode when his term paper is flunked by the professor, who points out that his lack of knowledge of the basics (Like what you learn in high school) means that his grammatically twisted, illogical and contradictory paper cannot properly express his thoughts.
- In the "Gettysburg" episode of The Office, Kevin complains about the placement of the cookies in the vending machine during a company brainstorming session. Robert California thinks it's a metaphor for a business plan, and winds up congratulating Kevin on his great idea. Everyone else is dumbfounded.
- In a The Kids in the Hall skit, Mark, Bruce, and Dave are Sitting on the Roof sharing a bottle of wine and looking at the moon. Mark tells a story about the moon watching him during a teenage romance, and Bruce spontaneously responds with an angry beat poem about the moon laughing down at violence in the Middle East. Dave gradually goes from appreciative to panicked as he realizes he'll be expected to come up with something too. When his turn comes, he just blurts out, "Gee, I wonder who owns that moon," then cringes as he waits for judgement. Bruce and Mark act as though it's deep and congratulate him. Dave just shrugs and the skit ends.
- In the Monty Python's Flying Circus sketch about the "poet" Ewan MacTeagle, everybody praises his poetry, even though it's nothing more than some letters asking for money.
- In Portal 2 when GLaDOS finds inspiration in the insane ramblings of Cave Johnson, especially when he makes a rant about how when life gives you lemons, you should burn life's house down.
- In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Riften's court wizard Wylandriah is preoccupied with a magical conundrum. If you ask her about it, she'll ask for your opinion. As you go through the dialogue tree, you can either tell you her you don't know what she's talking about or offer nonsense. She interprets the nonsense as a fresh perspective on her problem, even if you told her to use "the blue thing."
- This strip of The Non-Adventures of Wonderella.
- In Koan Of The Day, this has happened in several koans.
- The audience at Pat's performance in this strip of Achewood.
- In The Powerpuff Girls, Mayor is running for reelection, spouting his usual, tired lines. Fuzzy Lumpkins gets tired of Mayor's shouting to the crowd interrupting his sleep, so he yells "SHUT UP!", and people act like it's the best campaign slogan ever.
- This happens relatively often in Daria, usually only between the least intelligent members of the cast. For example, Kevin and Brittany telling each other how smart they are, Sandi telling Quinn that she's deep, and Mystic Spiral lyrics.
Mr. O'Neill: Now, why do you think it is that Tolstoy felt he had to make War and Peace so darned...unpleasant? Daria?Mr. O'Neill: (thoughtful) Hmm...
- One episode, "Quinn the Brain," centered around most of the school deciding that Quinn was smart and deep, and her trying to act that way as a result (and thus annoying Daria to no end). There was a Reset Button at the end, though ironically Quinn would legitimately go on to gain a boost of intelligence in later seasons.
- Daria herself can get this, oddly enough, when she makes a sarcastic comment that people take literally (or as a suggestion for some school activity):
- In The Simpsons episode "Bart's Inner Child", self-help guru Brad Goodman convinces the entire town of Springfield to copy Bart's mantra of "I do what I feel like".
Capt. Tenille: Tell me, young man, what do you want out of life?
- Also in "Simpson Tide", where Homer enrolls in the Naval Reserve and his captain takes an immediate shine to him, inviting him to eat at the captain's table.
Homer: (reaching for a bowl of peas) I want peas!
Capt. Tenille: We all want peace! But it's always just out of reach.
Homer: (sadly) Uh huh...
Capt. Tenille: So, what's the best way to get peace?
Homer: (uses his knife to retrieve some peas) With a knife!
Capt. Tenille: Exactly! Not with the olive branch, but the bayonet! Ha, ha, Simpson, you're like the son I never had.
Homer: And you're like the father I never visit.
- On King of the Hill, Peggy's father is a senile Montana cowboy whose meaningless ramblings Hank takes as "cowboy wisdom."
- Trash Heap from Fraggle Rock who gave out random bits of advice that usually worked out this way.
- On The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, Fred Fredburger has to cast the deciding vote about whether Billy or Mandy is Grim's true master. He replies yes, which the judge takes as profound wisdom about how the two friends shouldn't be forced to split up in the first place.
- The entire premise of the Taz-Mania episode "Ask Taz".
- In an episode of South Park, the boys write a book entitled The Tale of Scrotie McBoogerballs, intending it to be the most disgusting and most offensive piece of literature ever written. When the adults read it, however, they see it as the most brilliant piece of literature ever written.
- In Phineas and Ferb, a bunch of goth kids mistake Doofenschmirtz's line "there's a platypus controlling me" as a metaphor for whatever is keeping you down, when he really means there's a platypus controlling him.
- Similarly, in She's the Mayor, Candace wins the Mayor for a Day contest because the judges assumed "Why My Little Brothers Should Be Busted" was a political metaphor.