Obliquely Obfuscated Occupation
"BHDR Industries, they're the top makers of that product that has something to do with our company!
Lily: "Barney, what do you do?"
A classic sitcom trope where a character (or an entire company, in some examples) has an occupation but no details are ever revealed to the audience, or occasionally to any other characters. Usually played for laughs as their job can contain as many Noodle Incident
events as possible, or the character will expect all others to know what he does and be disappointed when nobody can name it. For the character example, this trope is not to be confused with Pointy-Haired Boss
; this character is generally competent, just nobody knows what their position is.
Related to The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything
. Not to be confused with What, Exactly, Is His Job?
, that's about a character with a rotating role on the team itself.
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- Johnny Turbo is a "computer expert". Never you mind what that entails.
- Johnny of The Room is vaguely defined as working in a bank, and he apparently makes mad amounts of money from it, despite only being shown going to work once. Lisa is in "the computer business", whatever that means, and is never shown working.
- Lampshaded in The Lego Movie. President Business, aka Lord Business, is the head of Octan, which does everything. His real-world counterpart, The Man Upstairs (played by Will Ferrell), is a straight example. We don't know what he does, but by implication we can infer that it takes up a great deal of his time.
- Played for Drama in The Boy In The Striped Pajamas, where Bruno's father hides his occupation from his son, since he take orders directly from "The Fury". It's pretty obvious to the audience what Dad does, though.
- Pretty much the entire faculty of Unseen University in Discworld, which is quite a feat considering we only know them all by their job descriptions (it's hard enough to figure out what a Provost does in real life). Exceptions are Archchancellor Ridcully (who's in charge), the Bursar (who does the accounts...as long as he remembers to take his pills), the Librarian (who runs the library), and Ponder Stibbons (who does all the things that need doing, including distracting Ridcully from asking what, exactly, everyone else does). Rincewind is explicitly stated as having nineteen jobs, none of which involve doing any actual work. The real purpose of the faculty is that if the world's most powerful wizards are in pointless committee meetings and big dinners, they aren't blowing holes in reality.
Live Action TV
- The Smoking Room Justified: the series lasts two seasons where the camera never leaves the smoking room, and the characters have all agreed to never talk shop in there, so the audience never finds out what the company does. Also, mainish character Robin also spends the entire show in the smoking room, so while all the other characters have specific roles, his is never touched on.
- The IT Crowd plays it straight for the most part, but lampshades it occasionally (see page quote).
- How I Met Your Mother has Barney, who answers every question about his job with a dismissive laugh and a "please." It is stated, however, that the company destroys the environment, engages in a great deal of illegal activity, and does extensive business with North Korea. In later seasons, the company has a merger with Goliath National Bank, completely changing his company... while still keeping Barney's position equally vague.
- Revealed in the final season that his job title is actually P.L.E.A.S.E. - "Provide Legal Exculpation And Sign Everything". He's the designated legal fall guy for his company's various criminal activities but, being Barney, he's actually two steps ahead of them, and has already made a whistleblower deal with the federal government that gets him off the hook.
- Black Books lampshades and inverts when Fran gets a new job, rises spectacularly through the ranks, and loses it in the space of a week or so, all without ever knowing what she was meant to be doing.
- Friends: Chandler's generic, white-collar job is set up as a trivia question, but nobody can answer what he does. It's "statistical analysis and data reconfiguration."
- In the Fred Savage sitcom WORKING!!, it was never mentioned what the corporation did.
- A running joke on Martin with Tommy. To the extent that multiple episodes were dedicated to trying to find out what his job was.
- Kramer on Seinfeld appears by all accounts to be unemployed, but is never hurting for money. When Jerry asks him what it is he actually does, he simply answers "Oh, I get by." In the Festivus episode, Kramer reveals that he used to work at a bagel shop before the employees went on strike demanding higher pay. When the strike is called off, he goes back to work... until he's fired at the end of the episode.
- In The Adventures Of Ozzie And Harriet, Ozzie's job involved hanging around the house a lot, although he was, nominally, a bandleader, as he was in real life.
- A British TV series featured a school teacher whose subject was unknown. When other teachers asked him what he taught, he replied, "Bastards".
- Lampshaded in My Cage, where Norm does some kind of work for a company called MacGuffin Inc, whose purpose is unknown.
- Dilbert. The title character is an engineer (along with most of the rest of the cast), and there are references to creating software, but that's about as much details as you're going to get.
- In the Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book, cartoonist Bill Watterson says he wanted to avoid readers asking "What is Dad's job?", so he made Calvin's father a patent attorney. However, it only comes up in about two strips at most.
- During The Undertaker's biker gimmick, some of his gear featured an insignia with the words "Deadman Inc." on it in bright red text. Whatever "Deadman Inc." was was never even really hinted at.
- "Robert Roode Inc.", the company Bobby Roode supposedly inherited from his late grandfather, has allowed him to employ buxom assistants and custom security teams as well as bully around Eric Young. Despite this, it was never exactly made clear what this company does before he struck a bond with James Storm and eventually formed a tag team. Despite being a partial inspiration for the Beer Money, Inc. name, the company was predictably largely phased out of his character after that.
- A particularly extreme example in Ultima Underworld II. The Eloemosynator in Talorus, an alternate dimension, has a function so glorious and complex that we're not expected to understand it.
- A cutscene from Tales of Symphonia invoked this trope when Lloyd asked Sheena and Zelos what a company president does. Regal lampshades it.
- In Tales of Vesperia, despite being stated as the largest and most powerful guild in the union, it's not clear exactly what Altosk's purpose as a guild is. The other four Master Guilds all have clearly defined jobs -Fortune's Market are merchants, Ruins' Gate are archeologists, the Soul Smiths are blacksmiths, and the Blood Alliance are mercenaries- but Altosk doesn't seem to have any particular focus other than being in charge of stuff.
- On The Flintstones, Barney's occupation - aside from occasional single episode jobs he and Fred get together - is never clarified. It became a running joke, such that in one episode, when Wilma and Betty are trying to impress someone by lying about how prosperous their families are, Wilma claims Fred is "in the construction business" while Betty claims Barney is in "top secret work."
- For the majority of Moral Orel, Orel's dad Clay Puppington complains about his "lousy dead-end job". It isn't until the second to last episode that we find out he's the Mayor. Even his son is surprised.
- One of the biggest mysteries in King of the Hill throughout its run was "What is Jeff Boomhauer's job?" It wasn't until the last minutes of the last episode does it reveal he is a Texas Ranger.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has two of the Mane Six with explicit jobs that we don't see them doing.note
- Pinkie Pie, who works and lives in a bakery, but we rarely see her doing anything but holding parties and breaking the fourth wall. Most likely, Pinkie's job at the bakery is just that, a job, and unlike most of her friends, her job is not a major part of who she is.
- Similarly, Rainbow Dash is the town's weatherpony — that is, she controls the weather, not being a meteorologist — but rarely is she ever seen doing that job, as she spends most of her 'professional energies' on practicing her flying, to the point that it's easy to forget that she has a day job. When she does do the job, she tends to be extremely competent at it, giving her effectively a Ten-Second Work Week.
- On The Ren & Stimpy Show, Ren would occasionally be shown going to work wearing a hat and tie and carrying a briefcase, but what job he had was never specified. Of course, since there is no continuity between any of the shorts, he could very well be in a different job in every one of those episodes. If Ren doing a job is plot-relevant, it will be shown. Otherwise, it's just an excuse for him to leave the house so something can happen there while he's out.
- On Phineas and Ferb, it's never said what Charlene Doofenshmirtz's job is. Whatever it is, it apparently pays very well, as a lot of Dr. D's schemes are funded by her huge alimony checks.