A vaguely-defined job that somehow pays well, yet gives the character a conveniently enormous amount of free time for the plot. This free time is open to any point of the day and leaves plenty of opportunity for a Zany Scheme or two. Usually you'll never see the job actually performed, except in a few throwaway scenes, and don't expect the character's job to ever be a plot point. Somehow it always pays enough for a place with Friends Rent Control.
The reason for this trope is that going to have adventures while you're supposed to be working is not a good work ethic (unless you have the kind of job that's a conceivable part of), and no audience wants to watch someone at work with nothing interesting going on for any long amount of time. However, when you only ever see a lot of free time, and at times of day when the character really should be working, you may wonder how the character manages to earn anything.
Common jobs include columnist and artist — a decent writer can indeed pump out a newspaper column in about an hour if under the gun (though the resulting column itself is not guaranteed to be decent). Nevermind the fact that most columnists have other responsibilities at the newspaper like editing and reporting — you know, the things journalists actually go to school for. And an artist works not based on total hours spent on a project and so can drop "work" whenever needed.
For the childhood equivalent of this trope, see Shouldn't We Be in School Right Now?. Compare The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything (who are literally their profession In Name Only), What, Exactly, Is His Job? (when the profession isn't even named), and the Rich Idiot with No Day Job, Gentleman Adventurer, and Socialite (who have money but are not presented as holding down a real job).
This can also be contrasted to shows that take place primarily around the profession (when the profession itself is exciting enough, or can be made exciting through creative license), where the focus can be almost entirely on the work itself. Examples are Grey's Anatomy for medical drama, Band of Brothers for drama about soldiers, and M*A*S*H for both.
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Anime and Manga
Soun Tendo's job in Ranma ½ as city councilor seems to give him an inordinate amount of free time (enough for a few training trips and playing shogi all day with Genma), yet yields enough cash to pay the taxes and bills on his Big Fancy House and attached dojo, plus the costs of martial artist-induced repairs, as well as support his daughters, and still fit in family holidays to the seaside or mountains. He does complain about the bills, but it's only been twice in the entire anime and manga that they've ever been shown to be a problem and one of those was immediately after the Saotomes show up implying it was more of an immediate liquidity problem than gross income issues.
Not even Nayuki in Kanon knows what her mother does for a living. The hours and pay seem very good, though, as she is still there with no sign of leaving soon at eight AM and will be there whenever Yuuichi gets home from school as well!
Ayu goes to a school that lets her come and go basically whenever she wants, and doesn't even require a uniform. The explanation for this is finally given near the end, though, and turns out to be an important plot point.
Yotsuba&! is an interesting case. Mr. Koiwai is a trainspotter translator, which basically means he works from home on his computer and can set his own hours provided he meets his deadline. Of course, this serves as a good excuse to have him home with lots of free time to play with his daughter, Yotsuba. Note, however, that being a working-at-home translator is indeed a real occupation and we do see Mr. Koiwai working a fair bit; he often requests that Yotsuba not disturb him sometimes in order to get more work done, giving her a perfect excuse to spend time with friends or neighbors.
Deconstructed in episode 8 of Best Student Council. On the eve of a difficult exam, one character remarks that the protagonist, Rino, has done nothing but play ever since she arrived at the school, leaving her unprepared for the test. Rino spends the rest of the episode studying and barely passes.
Lampshaded in Durarara!!, where Mikado and Anri are surprised to learn that Walker and Erika actually do have jobs—Erika makes jewelry, and Walker's an ice-sculptor. They're freelance, though, so their schedules are flexible.
Fullmetal Alchemist plays with this. Ed is a state alchemist for the military, but seems free to swan off with his brother to Dublinth, wander the countryside without any immediate obligation to call in or report, and even act against the government's plots without bothering to inform his superiors. When he DOES do something like fight off terrorists, it's often because he ended up in the situation by accident. He is also clearly paid a ridiculously large sum of money for this, including a research grant of which he spends fairly casually. It's shown early on that most State Alchemists are supposed to either do research or fight as Super Soldiers, and even though most people would guess that Edward is doing the latter, he's officially supposed to be researching the Philosopher's Stone... which he is. In a heavily mobile fashion. At one point he's shown remembering he has to submit his research findings to keep his position, and he just shrugs and throws together some bullshit on the train, since he's so good he makes it look easy, and/or he's too good for the State to risk giving up and knows it. Of course, the government already knew all about the Stone, and what he tracks down initially is mostly his employers' evil schemes, but that's okay, because the program wasn't actually instituted to increase alchemical knowledge or even harness Super Soldiers; it's a Honey Trap for potential human sacrifices.
Lois Lanecan be like this. Clark Kent as well — They wanted him to have a job where he could plausibly disappear for hours a day to save the world without raising too much suspicion from his co-workers.
Belgian comic book hero Tintin is supposedly a journalist. He introduces himself as a journalist and occasionally takes out a book to take notes in an interview, but really he's a detective in all but name.
Blacksad's sidekick Weekly, a scrawny little weasel journalist, tries to convince Blacksad that the nickname is because his work is so good that he can get away with only showing up at the office once a week or so. Eventually he admits that it's because the pungent odor Blacksad noticed when they first met has given rise to an office rumor that "weekly" is how often he bathes. He never elaborates on how often he actually shows up at the office, so he might be encouraged to stay out in the field to save his coworkers from his scent, but he evidently wasn't kidding about the quality of his work, because either way he's still employed.
Nearly literal for Mandy Krieger of American Flagg. She has a legitimate job as the air traffic controller for O'Hare Chicago Plexport... which only has two flights per week.
Apparently most of the Emerald City in The Wizard of Oz. They sing, "We get up at twelve and start to work at one, / Take an hour for lunch and then at two we're done! Jolly good fun!" (This can't be fully literal, since the heroes do get some work done on them in preparation to meet the wizard.)
Sonny Koufax, the Cool Loser protagonist of Big Daddy, works in a New York City toll booth only one day each week. He gets a lot of grief from his dad for this, since he's a law-school graduate and should really be studying for his bar exam.
Peter Gibbons in Office Space is at his job about seven or eight hours a day, strictly speaking, but he admits he spends most of that time only pretending to do anything. By his own estimation, he only does the equivalent of fifteen minutes of actual work per week.
He's also dreading that his boss will ask him to work on Saturday (naturally, without overtime). This is played as something bad, but considering Peter barely does anything, his boss may be justified in trying to get him finish his work before the deadline.
When interviewed by the Bobs, he explains that the real reason is the lack of motivation in the workplace. It's shown to be this way. Eating a Birthday cake looks like a very methodical process with hardly any fun associated with it. The only reason Peter does the work is because he's afraid of getting yelled at by 8 different bosses. Somehow, the Bobs think that this makes Peter a prime candidate for upper management, something his own boss (one of them, anyway) doesn't and would rather see Peter let go.
The people we are shown who are happy with their job are a guy who pretends to be a crackhead to sell magazines door-to-door (it works and he makes a lot of money) and Peter's neighbor who spends a lot of time sitting at home, drinking beer, and watching TV. At the end, Peter gets a job working for the same construction company as his neighbor and actually enjoys the manual labor.
The landowners in Jane Austen's novels seem to personify this trope (Mr. Darcy, for example).
Patrick Bateman in American Psycho seems to have one of these types of jobs—it's a high-paying position in a prestigious Manhattan firm, but he never seems to ever do that much actual work and appears to have lots of free time on his hands. This is probably one of the things that contributes to his extracurricularpursuits...
This one is part Nepotism (His father is mentioned as basically owning the company) and part cultural statement (Patrick and his friends have fabulously wealthy lifestyles They didn't earn and look down on others because of it).
Buck from Left Behind is ostensibly a reporter, but is not only never seen doing any work, but the work that he does do is pretty mediocre, based on few examples the audience is shown.
Malone (after quitting his lawyer job) and Sutherland in Andrew Holleran's Dancer From The Dance. More generally, as noted here, literature for gay men tends to use this trope a lot.
Qwilleran from The Cat Who... Series is a columnist of this sort. His column is mentioned pretty frequently, but doesn't curtail him solving murders, taking up esoteric hobbies, and traveling all over the place.
Sherlock Holmes' friend Dr. Watson is portrayed in his capacity as a doctor maybe four times in sixty stories, and that's if you really stretch it. One Sherlockian scion society is actually named "Dr. Watson's Neglected Patients".
Justified, since he's living off his army pension until he marries Mary Morstan, and his work with Holmes becomes more sporadic, and even then it's mentioned his medical practice is never really profitable. When Holmes returns in "The Empty House" and with no wife to support, since Mary passed away, he sells it off and moves back to Baker Street.
Sherlock simply makes him Sherlock's full-time sidekick. He also has a very popular blog, which he is often shown working on.
The 2009 Sherlock Holmes starts just as Watson is moving out and reducing his involvement with Holmes to get married. He is still a respected enough doctor to be called upon to confirm Blackwood's death when he is hanged.
Kitty Norville of the Kitty And The Midnight Hour series is a radio talk-show host, and a werewolf. Luckily this means she only has to show up for work once a week, in the middle of the night. (On workdays when the moon is full, they have to run an old "Best Of The Midnight Hour" tape.)
In the Elenium, there are monks whose sole responsibility is to perform rituals that are only done during the Archprelate's funeral. Which basically means that they only have to do about fifteen minutes of work each every twenty to thirty years.
In the epilogue of Captain Vorpatril's Alliance, Ivan turns his being Reassigned to Antarctica to this. Upon being transferred to a minor consulate on a backwater world, he quickly discovers that most of the actual work is done over the phone, so he relocates the consulate from the rainy capitol to a tropical island and reorganizes the workload so that he can fulfill all his consular duties by working two days a week and spends the rest of his time enjoying an extended honeymoon with his wife.
Live Action TV
The eponymous couple of The Cosby Show. Bill is a doctor, his wife is a lawyer, yet they are somehow always available to spend quality time with their kids whenever necessary. Cliff does have the excuse that his medical office is apparently in the basement of their brownstone, but Claire's status is unexplained.
Tommy's job on Martin was never stated by the writers and Martin himself always insisted he didn't have one, which became a running gag on the show.
Chandler's job in early episodes of Friends is subject to a Lampshade Hanging in one episode, where the deciding question in a trivia contest is "What is Chandler Bing's job?" Incidentally, it was Statistical Analysis and Data Reconfiguration until he got a job in an advertising firm. Even when Chandler and Monica are a couple she can't remember what he does. This is Lampshaded in one episode, where the Friends note that their bosses don't seem to like them... at which point Joey points out that this may be because they're hanging out at a coffee house at 11:30 on a Wednesday morning.
Made more fun by the fact that Joey is one of two people in the group - the other being Phoebe, and even then Phoebe sometimes does hold regular jobs as a masseuse - who works as a free-lancer.
Joey shouldn't be let off the hook either. It was justified when he was a struggling and mostly unemployed actor. However, daily soap opera stars have incredibly long work hours.
Rachel and Chandler the ones with ordinary office jobs appear to take lunch breaks for hours at a time.
Monica has several character arcs about her career as a restaurant chef, eventually becoming Head Chef at a very prestigious restaurant. This is usually a job with 14 hour days, often seven days a week, but she seems to work about as much as Joey when he's unemployed.
Not to mention Ross, who in later seasons is a university professor, a career involving not only teaching but tons of grading papers, tutorials and your own research. He seems to go to campus once a week at most.
Coupling has a... variable approach to this. Most of the characters have jobs (Patrick is a banker, Jeff, Susan, and Julia work in the same office doing something-or-other, Sally runs a beauty parlour, Jane is a local radio broadcaster, and of course Oliver has his shop), but they all seem able to skip work whenever the plot requires it. Steve's work is never seen or referred to - but writer Steven Moffat, who based the character on himself, has said that Steve is a TV writer, responsible for a popular sitcom based on the group's experiences...
Sportswriter is a popular vocation; Paul Hennessy from 8 Simple Rules, Oscar from The Odd Couple, Raymond from Everybody Loves Raymond and Tony from Listen Up (based on the writings of sportswriter Tony Kornheiser) all fitting the part. This is probably so the character could be manly AND lazy at the same time.
Carrie of Sex and the City is a columnist, which only requires a laptop these days as a convincing prop. Oddly enough, Miranda is supposed to be a lawyer, yet she seems to have just as much free time as Carrie, except when the plot requires her to be too swamped with work to spend time with her boyfriend Steve. For some reason Miranda is never too busy to go brunching or out to fancy nightclubs.
Also Samantha, a PR agent, who in real life would be just as busy as Miranda is supposed to be, yet always has time to go shopping, to nightclubs, to restaurants. . .but as a PR person, she would no doubt HAVE to do this as part of her job.
In the Spiritual SuccessorCastle, the title character spends a good deal of time tooling around with the cops, but scenes often open with him writing at home.
In the second season finale, Castle is in trouble with his ex-wife/publisher because he's late finishing his new book. It's noted that the amount of time Castle spends with Beckett leaves him with very little time to write, and perhaps there's another reason he follows her.
In the third season, a scene involves him in an argument over the phone with said ex-wife/publisher while on the way to a crime scene which ends thus:
I have to go now, I'm at work... it is so work!
Lorelei's job as an innkeeper in Gilmore Girls doesn't ever seem to take up much of her time, unless the plot so demands, and it is always extremely easy for her to get holidays or weekends off
Susan's job on Desperate Housewives. It seems that she's a children's book illustrator, but her work is rarely in evidence.
In Mad About You, Paul makes documentary films, which leaves him a lot of down-time between projects. Jamie was a high-powered advertising executive, but she was rarely shown at the office.
The series often lampshades the fact that Frasier's job as a radio psychiatrist only takes up a few hours of his day. Usually brought up by Roz when he's complaining about something to do with his time or what he feels he is due. His brother Niles — a psychiatrist in private practice — also makes a few sarcastic comments about Frasier's "McSessions".
Niles himself seems to have a lot of time to hang out with his brother during the day, and is rarely seen working.
Daphne's supposedly "full time" duties as Martin's physical therapist are also somewhat vague, and can easily allow one to reach the conclusion that Frasier is essentially paying her just to hang out in his home. A theory verified in the Arrival Episode: Frasier didn't actually mean to hire a full-time therapist for Martin (who certainly doesn't need full-time care), but Daphne was mis-informed by her agency, and needed a live-in job... and Martin somehow persuaded Frasier to make it one rather continue their search for the perfect therapist.
On Hart to Hart, Jonathan is supposed to be the head of a large multinational corporation, yet has plenty of time to solve mysteries with his wife.
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: the gang's occupation as bar-owners was specifically selected to free them up for hijinks during the day. However, the gang is still seen off the job at night, and even during the regular business hours of other bars around town. The show lampshaded this in one episode where the bar's patrons are described as simply serving themselves.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Buffy's "job" as a counselor at Sunnydale High School late in the series. Kids rarely come see her and she hardly ever does anything in the office (her boredom at work is a Running Gag). Basically, the only purpose of the job is to explain how she manages to pay the mortgage on the house she inherited from her mom and support Dawn, and still have time to slay vampires. This is somewhat justified, as she got the job because the principal is in on the town's secret and kept her around to deal with any Hellmouth issues.
iCarly: Spencer is a sculpture artist. He manages to repeatedly sell his sculptures for huge piles of cash in very short spaces of time, even after rebuilding them 2 or 3 times when they catch on fire.
Seinfeld, though it's a little more justified than most examples. Jerry is hardly ever shown working on his material. We do see him get the occasional bit of inspiration and bounce an idea or two off his friend's heads but even a talented comedian puts in long hours to develop a bit. He also gets away with doing very little touring. Perhaps lampshaded by later seasons when he is not shown performing and friends are seen talking about his material falling off. Yet somehow he can still afford a nice New York apartment and has money to buy his dad a car.
Jerry lives in a rent controlled apartment building.
Jerry's status as a comedian seems to change, but it can be justified in that during the bits where he actually is performing at the beginning, it always seems to be at the same comedy club. Perhaps he's just a regular there and performs sporadically.
Episodes have been known to show him returning from gigs or referencing them. It's possible he makes enough money from these jobs to support himself as he does not seem to have any distinct expenses.
George ends up being the most justified. He's lazy and only ever motivated when it comes to finding ways to avoid work. He is unemployed at different points and lives with his parents for a long stretch.
Literally true for the Fraggles of Fraggle Rock — one first-season episode is actually called "The Thirty-Minute Work Week".
The Doozers are the exact opposite. They work constantly, because they enjoy it so much.
Absolutely Fabulous - Patsy got her job as the editor of a fashion magazine by sleeping with the publisher, and the position requires so little of her that she only shows up there a couple of times a year, and even then only to claim free clothes and other giveaways. It takes the magazine going out of business to dislodge her from it, and she immediately gets another job at a high fashion store which requires even less work on her part, as it actively discourages customers. Eddie, on the other hand, is often seen at the office, although very rarely doing any actual work while there.
Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert have both joked that they only work a half-hour a night for four days a week. Of course, it's just a joke because they, along with their teams, research everything. It's honestly pretty damn amazing they have free time at all.
Similarly, David Letterman has explained to his audience that unlike companies that provide 24/7 service, The Late Show provides 1/5 service.
Lampshaded in Psych, where Gus works at a pharmaceutical company, but he never seems to actually do any work. In one recent episode, he wheels his big metal suitcase into the Psych office, signifying that he's working, and Shawn comments that he hasn't seen it in about two and a half years.
In one episode Gus's boss told him to quit the psychic detective business or be fired from his job. Shawn tries to avert this by making himself useful to the boss and finally just ends up blackmailing the guy so Gus can keep doing both.
Amanda Graystone of Caprica is shown to be a doctor in the first two episodes, complete with a cushy office at the hospital. In "Reins of a Waterfall", she is stated to have resigned, and it is unknown if she will go back to work. In "Gravedancing", she clarifies that she is a plastic surgeon.
After the first few episodes of Season One of The Vampire Diaries, students at Mystic Falls High School never seem to attend class (other than History) or have homework or even go into the school building unless it's for one of the school's random super-cool parties.
Lampshaded by Elena. "You know, school? That thing we keep forgetting about?"
Charlie in Two and a Half Men is a jingle writer and composer. We occasionally see him playing the piano and there was an episode about an awards ceremony for jingles for which he was nominated. In fact he even outright says that he has a job that pays extremely well and only requires him to work a few hours a week.
At the same time, it was established in at least one episode that Charlie is living above his means.
It's also somewhat justified in that many episodes are set during the weekends when Alan has custody of Jake.
Walden Schmidt is a billionaire computer genius who seems to have plenty of time to goof around, sleep till noon, and bone hot women. He has an office but seldom visits it, leaving the lion's share of the workload and responsibility of running Electric Suitcase, Inc. to his ex-crackhead business partner who hates him—perhaps not the best business decision.
Billie from Accidentally On Purpose is a film critic for a newspaper, which leaves her plenty of time for seeing her friends for drinks and being at home with her twenty-something boyfriend and his wacky friends. Although she is often seen at the newspaper office, only two episodes deal with her actually doing her job.
In Diff'rent Strokes, Mr. Drummond is the founder and CEO of a multi-million dollar corporation, yet we never see him at work and he is always home when the kids are.
In The New Adventures of Old Christine, the title character is the owner of a women's-only gym. Despite her constant complaining about money, Christine must be pretty successful to afford an exclusive private school for her son as well as a big home in Los Angeles with a guest house on the property for her brother. But she is rarely shown at work (and is pretty clueless when she's there), and she comes every day to pick up her son from school.
On My Wife and Kids, Michael Kyle is vaguely described as having "a fleet of trucks" but isn't shown at work very often and seems to be at home during the day an awful lot.
Played with and subverted in The Big Bang Theory. The characters are often shown working and many of their hijinks take place at night or on weekends. Furthermore, they often lampshade that being research scientists isn't an extremely demanding job (except in some cases). Additionally, episodes have often shown them working at home or plots revolve around work in some way.
Though considering that Howard isn't a theoretical physicist like the rest of them, but an engineer, one would expect him to have a more typical 40-hour work week.
Played for laughs in Father Ted. The characters are priests but almost never perform any parishional duties or say mass. Given the show's humourous take on Irish life and how clueless (Or drunk in Jack's case) the priests are, this is probably intentional.
Subverted in My Name Is Earl. Earl, Randy and Joy are all explicitly shown as unemployed. Though they have worked odd jobs in the past, they mostly sustained themselves through crime and now live off Earl's lottery winnings, thus allowing them time to work on his list. Darnell works part time at a bar and Catalina works at the motel the brothers live at, explaining her presence. They go even further by stating that the manager is incompetent and doesn't expect much from employees.
Catalina also gets her old job at the strip club back as the "bouncing girl" (she doesn't strip but just jumps to a song).
In True Blood, some of the characters have more than one job, but seem to have plenty of free time. This is often handled well, such as when someone needs to get off early or shows up late, but at times, many of the main characters seem to blow off work when they should be working. Several of the characters work for Merlotte's, and Sam is too much of a Benevolent Boss to fire anybody, even if they jaunt off out of town for days at a time.
When Sam's brother shapeshifts into him by accident, he fires Sookie for once again being late, not having his brother's patience.
Charmed plays with it. Both Prue and Piper had full time jobs early on, Prue in an auction house and Piper in a restaurant and many episodes have them rushing out of work to fight demons, making "family emergency" excuses. Some demons do come to their work though. In later seasons Prue is a photographer, Piper owns a club (and therefore doesn't have to be there all the time; she has people to help her run it) and Phoebe is an advice columnist, with some episodes showing her working on her column from home. Given that she becomes quite well known and popular in San Francisco it's likely that her boss would cut her some slack for this. Paige is initially a social worker and many season 4 episodes have her dealing with demonic problems at work, but then she leaves her job in season 5 and doesn't work full time again except when she runs Magic School (and nobody is going to question a Charmed One having to leave to take care of demons).
Lampshaded in one episode where Phoebe goes for a job interview and says she'll need a flexible work schedule. She doesn't get the job.
This is lampshaded in the final season of The West Wing when CJ, as the outgoing White House Chief of Staff, is headhunted by various organizations. A number of those job offers are for a position on the organization's Board of Directors which offers a lot of money but is largely ceremonial and requires her to work only a few hours a week. She expects a similar 'emeritus' offer from the incoming administrations but President-elect Santos instead offers her a real job that would keep her almost as busy as her current job.
On Newhart, the Stratford Inn only has a small staff (Dick, Joanna, George, and Leslie/Stephanie). Somewhat averted as the show takes place there and all of the employees live there as well, but there have been times when the entire staff was gone, such as when visiting Stephanie's family in England (though in one of those episodes they mention the inn being closed for a week), when helping Kirk fix the cafe (which is next door), there have been times when they all went to Michael's apartment, and they all went to the TV station when Dick hosted his first "Vermont Today".
Additionally, the Minuteman Cafe never has a staff beyond its owner, and yet whoever owns the cafe (whether it's Kirk or Larry, Darryl, and Darryl), they have plenty of time to visit the inn and other places. Sorta justified in that the cafe is just next door and business tends to be slow. After Larry, Darryl, and Darryl bought the place and it had three owners, one would think that at least one of them would be running the cafe while the others visit the inn, but it's rare to see any of them without the others.
Zig-Zagged on Chuck. As part of the Nerd Herd, Chuck can skip out on work hours relatively easily on spy missions by logging the time as "being on an install." It's also helped in the first three seasons by Big Mike being one of the worst slackers at the store, and it's not until Emmett comes aboard in season 2 that anyone actually takes a look at Chuck's work forms.
However Casey is a Green Shirt at the store, so doesn't have Chuck's excuse for skipping work on his cover job.
Once Morgan is brought into the loop in season 3 this becomes less of a problem since they now have someone of authority to cover for them. By season 4, the Buy More is now owned by the CIA and with Morgan assigned as store manager, completely eliminating this problem. Ironically, it comes back as a problem to an extent in season 5 after Chuck and Sarah buy the store, since they initially neglect their jobs as owners.
Played straighter with Sarah in season 1, when she works at the Wienerlicious. Despite frequently missing hours due to spy business, Sarah only once comments about losing her cover job over missing work. Her civilian boss is also seen in a couple episodes but never comments directly on her frequent absences. In season 2 she's instead working at the Orange Orange, and no further comments are made about missing hours. Some WMG is that the Orange Orange is actually owned by the CIA, as the only employees ever seen there are Sarah and Agent Forrest, and the store is extensively outfitted with CIA technology. The Orange Orange last appears in season 3, and no further mention is made of Sarah having a day job for the rest of the series.
In Blood Ties, Henry is frequently shown working on his graphic novels, pointing out a few times that his publisher will kill him if he's late on the next issue. At the same time, he has a very nice apartment in Toronto. Since he's a Friendly Neighborhood Vampire, he sleeps most of the day, frequently with a different girl every time in order to secretly feed on her. At the same time, he appears to spend a lot of time helping Vicki on her cases. Being a bastard son of Henry VIII doesn't carry with it a lot of treasure.
Played with on the show Get A Life from the early 90s. He's 30, lives above his parents' garage, and delivers newspapers for a "living."
In FoxTrot, Andy is (or was) a columnist, but this hasn't really been shown or mentioned since about 1995 and now she just seems to be a stay-at-home mom. Even Roger is rarely shown at work, even though there are a lot of strips in which he leaves for work or returns from work.
There have been a few strip arcs that focus on Roger's job, such as the one where he quit to spend more time with his children. When that failed, he returned to humbly ask for his old job back, and was hired back on the grounds that with him gone, the office's computers haven't crashed in months and everybody was stressed out from all the work.
Zits made Connie (Jeremy's mother) a child psychologist trying to write a book, but this was almost completely dropped after the first year and hasn't been seen in the last decade.
Walt, Jeremy's dad, averts the trope. He's an orthodontist, and he has, on occasion, been known to recognize people by their teeth.
Averted in Calvin and Hobbes, where Calvin's dad is specifically stated to be a patent attorney.
Admittedly, a patent attorney who still has plenty of time for biking, reading, and telling his son outrageous fibs, but there have been several strips where his working was relevant, usually in the context of not being able to play with Calvin.
The protagonists of the German comic Lula und Yankee also qualify: Lula plays in a girls' rock band (OK, they have one guy, but everyone overlooks him). Yankee doesn't seem to have a job at all.
Cutter John from Bloom County is a particularly big example; we're told he's the new town doctor in his first appearance, but we never see him doing anything remotely medical. Maybe Bloom County's residents are just so healthy that he has all the time he needs to make out with his girlfriend and play Star Trek with the local Talking Animals.
Player characters in The World of Darkness games tend to have jobs like this. Many PCs are musicians, since on paper, it grants them the flexibility needed to be Vampires/Werewolves/Mages/whatever and still pay their bills on time. In practice however, they don't perform or tour nearly enough to support themselves on their music alone.
One of the freelance writers for White Wolf, Matt McFarland, has said he's surprised most PCs don't take the private eye/Occult Detective route. What with the mind-reading and mind controlling powers of vampires, the scent tracking and shapeshifting abilities of werewolves, and the... well, everything of mages, it would be a snap.
In Genius: The Transgression it is mentioned that mad scientists tend to need a lot of funds for their experiments. The pdf suggests that a player character's income should be explicitly stated and offers some suggestions to the drawbacks of each. Admittedly not all the jobs listed earn enough to both pay the bills and fund a secret laboratory but then, a lack of money is stated to be one of the common problems facing mad scientists.
Phoenix Wright works hard when he gets a case, about once every three months. On the other hand his lack of funds is a running joke. He stays afloat but Maya's hamburger addiction takes its toll on his wallet.
The games are also a bit inconsistent regarding Phoenix's workload. Sometimes it drops hints that we're only seeing the most interesting of his cases, and other times the game implies that the cases featured in the games are the only ones he's ever taken. One example of the former comes from Maya suggesting that Phoenix puts up photos of all the defendants he's gotten acquitted. Phoenix then thinks to himself "But what about the cases we've lost?"
One possible explanation is that he takes cases that don't involve going to court.
In the fourth game, he's a professional poker player. His daughter also chips in as a magician, as well as Apollo's assistant, and is implied to work really hard at her job.
Also in that game is Klavier Gavin, international rock star and prosecutor. Not only was he a musician before he became a prosecutor, he's clearly working hard at prosecuting as well. The other members of his police-themed band are also in law enforcement.
It's a great puzzlement to the cast of Tsukihime as to what Arihiko's sister actually does for a living. So far, they know she's not a writer or a couple of other odd jobs.
Averted in The Sims. When Sim a leaves to work it's usually 8 hours during which (s)he is unavailable to the player.
Played straight, however, when the Sim gets their income from producing things (ex. paintings, books, toys, lawn gnomes...) or is self-employed.
Professor Layton is an archaeology professor. The number of times throughout the games he can be seen doing anything related to archaeology or being a professor can be counted on one hand.
In the third game, one of the locations in the game is the University Layton works at. No one there seems to mind the fact that he just wanders in and out at his leisure. And bear in mind he's Flora's legal guardian, so he's actually got two mouths to feed. Luke doesn't count, as it's mentioned in The Unwound Future that he lives with his parents.
JustifiedOne-Hour Work Week: the hour in question is the live broadcasts of the reality show, Last Res0rt. Of course, when your job can kill you, it's implied the rest of your time better be spent finding a way to avoid that fate, and to be fair they're filmed for the purposes of the show (and general security) 24/7 anyway. Still, they're not exactly shown using the rest of their time pumping weights or other military-like regimens, though this could just as easily be blamed on the pace of the comic.
Happens a lot in Sluggy Freelance, though there is the occasional work based storyline. It's Lampshaded with Torg when he works for Adversion Advertising, since he has rather...unique views on time off. He gets away with this because he somehow convinced his boss's boss that he's an "advertising genius."
Parodied in Shortpacked!: Robin spends most of her working hours in a toy store, despite having been elected to Congressduring a Cadbury Creme Egg induced sugar rush. No one seems to care about this. Robin has also repeatedly stated that she considers her Congresswoman position to be "just a hobby" and prefers the reduced responsibility of her job at Shortpacked (which fits completely with her character).
However, her congressional position has been used as the focus for a few storylines, especially when she's up for re-election.
Lampshaded by Jean in The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!, since we'd seen Bob actually working at his newsstand (which should be a pretty time-consuming job) a grand total of once over the first five story arcs. Later stories have made it clear that Bob misses work a lot because of his adventures, and his customers don't appreciate it.
Both averted and played straight in Questionable Content: Coffee of Doom is half the cast's job. On the other hand, Marten was originally a cube-worker that only had a few strips of actual workplace (and half of them were after he got fired), and then he became a librarian at Smif (and his boss became a tertiary member of the cast.)
Living with Insanity averts this with Alice, but plays it straight with everyone else. She's seen working a lot and being exhausted from it, but David and Paul are only occasionally seen working on their comic.
The comic Sequential Art shows Pip doing the eBay trading variant. Note that the graphic artist Art, the photographer Kat, and even the poet/writer Vanity are not shown to be that idle during daytimes.
And then the site freezes Pip's account, forcing him to get a job at a consignment store. With a hot woman who was Kat's school rival. Who manipulates and actively drugs him so he thinks they're in a real relationship, while she's actually dating a much-hotter guy and building connections to get a better job. Which effectively reduces her to a ZeroHour Work Week.
Zac in What the Fu lampshades that he never really understood what Dries does for a living.
Dr. McNinja spends relatively little time actually working as a doctor, yet has no trouble hiring contractors to rapidly rebuild his entire doctor's office after it gets blown up.
In Precocious nobody remembers what Gene Et's job description is or what he's responsible for. He's literally paid to sit in an out-of-the-way office and play video games all day.
On The Simpsons, there are far too many instances to list on this page regarding Homer's most common job as a nuclear safety inspector.
Bart: Don't you even have a job anymore?
Homer: I think it's pretty obvious that I don't.
Given an implied Hand Wave by the fact that Mr. Burns seems to have Laser-Guided Amnesia for everything related to Homer every single week. His inability to remember Homer's name was Flanderized to the point where he is incapable of remembering the man's central role in everything he's done for the past few years. As such, it seems as if even Homer has caught on to the fact that he will be forgotten, if not explicitly forgiven, for everything from multiple industrial catastrophes to flagrant dereliction of duty, and as such, can pursue his Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny! with impunity. Groening himself has stated that he's lost track of how many times Homer's been fired and re-hired, so they just default to him being at work when the jokes require it.
It's also been stated that the best way to keep the plant safe is for Homer to not do his job.
Likewise Cleveland owning a deli was only mentioned and shown in a few early episodes the rest of his appearances are hanging out with the gang. When Cleveland moved on to his own show, he got a job at a cable installer, giving us this exchange:
Donna: If you can get the time off work...
Cleveland: Oh, right, work! I keep forgetting I'm supposed to go to that!
For the longest time in King of the Hill, we were never treated to Boomhauer's job and how he can afford such expensive things. A few episodes suggested he worked at some sort of factory; however, the last episode reveals he is a Texas State Ranger.
Every character on the show falls under this trope. Some, like Peggy or Dale, hold part-time or infrequent employment while others like Bill and Nancy work regular full time jobs but still have all the time needed to screw around. The most blatant examples of this trope are Hank and Kahn; Hank works a regular 9-5 day and loves his job so much that he won't leave 10 minutes early on a Friday when he literally has nothing to do but sit at his desk and stare at the wall. An entire episode revolves around Kahn's job, in which he gets on with a 2 hour commute that is forgotten about a few episodes later. Notice that most episodes take place over several days; basically, the show falls under the rule of only showing the characters working when it suits the joke.
Applies varyingly in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic (of all places). Most often played straight with Pinkie Pie, who's rarely ever seen working at Sugercube Corner (though throwing parties is practically her second job). Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash are rarely seen "on the clock", but the unusual natures of their jobs (micromanaging the local fauna and weather, respectively) let Fluttershy set her own hours and let Rainbow do her job in "ten seconds flat." Averted with Twilight Sparkle (Celestia's student, seen studying more often than not, who functions as the caretaker and librarian of the library she lives in), Applejack (apple farmer), and Rarity (fashion designer), who are often shown working; in fact, entire episodes have revolved around the latter two's lines of work and one of Applejack's major character flaws is workaholism.
Averted with Princess Celestia too, as most of the time when she appears, she's either working, giving out work, off to attend some sort of work-releated activity, or generally being diplomatic and working to keep Equestria safe and peaceful.
Since Twilight's official assignment is to "study the magic of friendship", maintaining the library could be assumed to be her hobby, whereas she's actually on the clock whenever there's parties, or picnics, or spending time with her friends and learning important friendship lessons. Some fans also argue that Fluttershy's animal caretaking is a hobby (most of them are either wild beasts or her own pets) and that she gets money from something else, such as having a trust fund or secretly being the author of the Daring Do series.
Although they work for a delivery company, the characters in Futurama are rarely seen doing deliveries, unless the plot calls for it. This has been Flanderized with the new season, as the crew seem to do even less deliveries then before.
Even when doing deliveries, they only ever deliver one package at a time with their spaceship.
SpongeBob SquarePants apparently has to work 6 days a week 23 hours a day (or 24, if the joke calls for it). However, these figures only ever appear when the jokes calls for them, otherwise Spongebob is free to demolish Bikini Bottom or harass Squidward every 10 minutes or so, which is lampshaded by the latter. He also apparently has time to attend school every day in spite of all this.
A sinecure used to be a government position that gave you a fancy title and a salary, but few or no responsibilities. It was awarded to people to either reward them for past services, or to enable them to concentrate on their art (Goethe held one, for instance). As the article points out, a few straight examples are still scattered around
Sinecures still exist in Japan in the form of "amakudari" which is pretty much the same things but involves moving high-level ex-bureaucreats to private positions.
This was the original intent of being Poet laureate of the United States- aside from "promoting poetry" they don't have any real responsibilities. But the stipend for being US Poet laureate hasn't been adjusted for inflation since the position was introduced in 1937, so while it used to be a One Hour Work Week nowadays it's more a reputation thing, or a nice bonus while you work a real job.
Some freelance positions can appear like this, not because they never work, but because they tend to be able to stagger their hours so they can get time off at certain times. They can, for example, do a majority of their work Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday so they can have Thursday and Friday off, or they can work late at night.
In some areas, retail and service industry employees may appear like this as well, thanks to the recession and certain laws that give employers incentive to hire only part time workers. And depending on your view of unemployment, it may qualify as well.
Service workers may also work strange shift patterns that give this impression (though in Real Life they have to squeeze sleep into their day somewhere)
The increasing trend of both work-from-home and "Flex hours" results in people who work in otherwise normal 9-5 jobs look this way; being able to have off every Friday afternoon (or whole day) seems like an unwarranted vacation, until you find out that instead of working 9-5 (or 9-6 with an hour lunch), it's 8:30-6:30 with only a 30 minute lunch. Or the jealousy of "always being home" without realizing that you still need to punch in an eight hour day instead of spending all your time lazing around the house.
Workers at remote mines in Canada usually have a two-week in/two-week out work schedule. While some people jump at the job thinking having two solid weeks off is great, they often fail to note that the "two-weeks in" is a solid two weeks: 14 straight days, no days off. And those are often 12 hour work days, so over a 14 day period they'll work roughly the same amount of time in that two weeks as they would in a normal 8.5 hour job/5 days week over in a month. Many people end up not being able to deal with it, while others thrive and even have a second job in their two weeks out.
Many people think clergy fall under this trope, not realizing that many are required to have attended a school of preaching, and must study throughout the week in order to plan their weekly sermon, and would have other responsibilities at their house of worship as well. And if the congregation isn't very large, they might also work a regular job in addition.
And even ones who don't have a secular job still tend to have other responsibilities during the week such as running charities or other church functions and tending to the pastoral needs of their congregation.
The White House employs a full-time movie projectionist. While White House projectionists apparently do have to be "on call," it seems like a pretty cushy gig, even with presidents who are relatively avid movie-watchers.
While technically not work, unschool education is a school where there are no test, no assignments, no report cards and best of all no grades. There is no punishment for not going to school so children spend their free time either independently learning or doing whatever they want.
Depending on the institution, subject and level, English and Welsh universities expect students to be anything from 50% to 95% 'self-guided' while still technically on a full-time course. Of course this in theory should mean they spend 50% to 95% of a working week studying in libraries or their rooms, but as they're generally young people living away from home for the first time, most of them regard their brief as this trope (and in fairness, university culture tends to be fully aware of this, or at least that changing it is a prolonged learning curve. Allegedly it stays because self-motivation is an important life skill.)
Unlike movies would like you to assume, sitting in a corporate board is far from a full-time job. In fact, most people sitting in them also sit in multiple other boards at the same time to fill their hours and pad their paychecks even further, as well as create vital connections to potential business partners. The ethics of this have been brought to question many times over, since in practice a surprisingly small number of people controls the grand majority of major businesses in the entire world and may hold positions in supposedly competing corporations.