Obliquely Obfuscated Occupation
"Yes, your job, which we'll never explain or see you do, makes much less than his job, which we'll never explain or see him 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.
- In one of the stories of S.O.S. Bonheur, a man got a job in a firm, in which no employee knows the purpose of his daily job. They are analyzing numbers but have no idea what those numbers represent. It is later revealed that the so-called democratic government is a dictatorship, and this company is spying everybody so that the CEO of the firm, who is also the chief of the police, can detect the rebellious citizens.
- 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.
- The HELP in Samuel Shem's medical novel The House of God are this. The interns are unsure whether the HELP are glorified porters, social workers, janitors or something else altogether. Even the HELP themselves are unsure, and nobody even knows what the acronym stands for.
- 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.
- The faculty of Unseen University in Discworld all have grandiose academic titles, but since none of them have any contact with students if they can avoid it, it's not clear what these titles require them to do. This gets a Lampshade Hanging in the short story "A Collegiate Casting-Out of Devilish Devices":
Ridcully: Interesting idea, though. What do you do, Senior Wrangler?
Senior Wrangler: Well, er. The post of Senior Wrangler at Unseen University is, most unusually...
Ridcully: Yes, but what do you do? And have you been doing more of it in the past six months than in the previous six?
Dean: Well, if we're asking that kind of question, Archchancellor, what do you do?
Ridcully: I administer, Dean.
Dean: Then we must be doing something, otherwise you'd have nothing to administrate.
Ridcully: That comment strikes at the heart of the bureaucratic principle, Dean, and I shall ignore it.
Live Action TV
- The Office:
- 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 is, as the title suggests, fairly clear about what their lead characters do for a living—they run tech support for Reynholm Industries. What it is Reynholm Industries does is another matter entirely, and has never been elaborated on.
Jen: BHDR Industries, they're the top makers of that product that has something to do with our company!
- 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. The final season reveals 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 whistle-blower deal with the federal government that gets him off the hook while getting his personal revenge on the guy who stole his First Love from him.
- 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 knows what he doesnote .
Monica: That's not even a WORD!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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."
- He does occasionally work at the quarry, when it's helpful to the plot.
- 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 Boomhauer's job?" It wasn't until the last minutes of the last episode does it reveal he is a Texas Ranger.
- 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.