A universal trope, most often spotted in comedies.
One character, in desperate need of advice on a pressing matter, solicits the help of a second character claiming to be an expert on the subject. Hilarity Ensues when it is gradually revealed that the person giving the advice is a far cry from an expert, and in fact may know even less than the person they were supposed to be helping. More often than not, neither character realizes this, and the first character, after a devastating failure, often ends up wondering what could possibly have gone wrong.
Compare Little Known Facts. Frequent result of consulting a Know-Nothing Know-It-All. Related to Hanlon's Razor.
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Anime & Manga
Ayumu and Kazuki of Hayate the Combat Butler think of themselves as experts in the topic of love. They give advice to Nagi and Saki. Although they are the only ones who've confessed to their crushes, we haven't seen any case of them actually succeeding. Their advice also doesn't seem to fit well, even if they are smug about it.
Literal leading example: in Bleach, Kenpachi has No Sense of Direction. Seireitei is a huge maze. He has Yachiru give him directions. Yachiru also has No Sense of Direction. Kenpachi is strong enough to break down walls. It's a miracle there's anything left.
Aria from Love Master A. She's loved at least 50 boys and never had a boyfriend, therefore gaining herself the title "Love Master". To escape this title, she goes to a different school, but her fame precedes her. Unfortunately, no one knows that the title is facetious and she is taken as an expert on love.
A very odd variation in Ranma ½. During the climactic showing during the first Pantyhose Taro arc, Ryoga and Mousse end up at a hot spring away from Taro's mountain hideout. Mousse remembers what the shape of the terrain, but has no clue where they are. Ryoga knows where to go, but couldn't see what the mountain looked like. They both decide to work together, resulting in Mousse pointing in the wrong direction, and Ryoga running in an even wronger direction.
Mikoshiba asks Nozaki to help him practice for a mixer. He quickly regrets that decision—Nozaki has no experience in those and his conceptions was coloured by the drama commonly seen in his trade.
Kashima asks Mikoshiba how to get Hori to notice her more. Using vast experiencewith this situation, his advice boils down to essentially being an aggressively clingy girl. Surely enough, Hori later complains to Nozaki and Sakura that Kashima was being "super annoying as of late".
The hilarious Teen Titans fanfic How to Woo a Raven, by Beast Boy is written as a reply from Beast Boy to his male fans, who supposedly write to him constantly and ask him to teach them how to attract girls. He's inadequate in romantic matters, and his "conquest" of Raven only happened in his mind... but he fails to realize this.
In the aptly named Home Stuck fanfiction The Blind Leading The Blind by anonymousComrade, Karkat goes blind, and Terezi has to teach him to smell and taste colors before the culling drones find him in this no-Sgrub-AU. Needless to say, she's not as good at teaching him as she thought.
Timon and Pumbaa in The Lion King. Timon acts as the intelligent one, he's not. Pumbaa listens to him, he shouldn't.
In The Little Mermaid, Scuttle the seagull acted like an expert on human culture despite knowing next to nothing, which resulted in Ariel trying to style her hair with a fork while eating dinner with Prince Eric and blowing into a smoking pipe as if it were a musical instrument.
Wreck-It Ralph has the title character teaching Vanellove how to drive. Ralph clearly has no idea what he's doing.
Film - Live Action
The 40-Year-Old Virgin takes this trope and runs with it. None of Andy's friends are virgins themselves but neither do they have any clue of what women are actually attracted to and in essence teach Andy how to behave like a Casanova Wannabe.
The Love Guru offers a similar example. Guru Pitka claims that he can teach people how to get their relationships in order, but he's saddled with tons of romantic personal problems that no reliable self-help guru would ever have. Some of his advice may be somewhat sensible, but most of it consists of bad puns and fecal jokes.
Almost Heroes gives us Guy Fontenot. He is a French man who claims to speak numerous Native American languages. Anytime he is called upon to use his skill, he cannot perform. ". . . of the hundreds of indian languages that I speak fluently, this is not one of them."
In Cabaret an innocent virgin asks Sally Bowles for advice on whether her feelings are true love or mere lust, since Sally is 'a woman who is giving her body often to men'. Sally, who is really 'as fatale as an after-dinner mint' can only shrug helplessly.
In the Italian comedy film Fantozzi (one of the many) one of the characters is so near-sighted that once he's guided by a blind man. Partly subverted because the blind man manage to lead him to the right place.
In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Ford (a space alien) tries to explain to Arthur (a human) how several advanced scientific concepts work, such as the principles that enable Time Travel. It soon becomes obvious that Ford himself has no idea of how such complex things work, though. (Either that or he's too drunk to make any sense. Or both. Probably both, given that it's Ford.)
The Guide itself may be an example, due to being (reputedly) notoriously unreliable.
The Guide is definitive, reality is sometimes in error though.
Or, to steal a line from H. Beam Piper, "If you read it in the Guide, you can depend on it. It's wrong."
In Stephen Colbert'sI Am America (And So Can You!), Stephen offers the reader advice on several romantic, sexual, academic, and family matters. Anyone who seriously follows his advice had better brace themselves for a lifetime of failure and despondency.
Similar to the Colbert example above, Dave Barry has also written a few hilarious and obviously fake "self help" books that only Darwin Awards candidates would take seriously.
And so has Ben Stein, though his was titled, "How to Ruin Your Life."
In Naked Empire from Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth, a culture of Strawman Political pacifists receive their wisdom and guidance from a young boy who is kept blindfolded throughout his life.
Miss Piggy's Guide to Life contains some fairly hilarious "advice" on everything from fashion to romance to food. ("You do not sew with a fork, and I see no reason why you should eat with knitting needles...")
Twoflower: You said you could fly one of these things!
Rincewind: No, I didn't; I just said you couldn't!
Live Action TV
A sketch in a Norwegian humour show was a subversion: Not only were both characters actually blind, both characters though they were being led by the other. One sketch had them Rally-driving.
On the updated version of Hollywood Squares with Tom Bergeron as host, Gilbert Gottfried would often claim to be an expert in the question's particular field, then provide a humorously inaccurate answer. Just picking him and saying "I disagree" before his answer was even uttered would have likely been a viable strategy. You Fool!
George: Tyler, do you know how to run a washing machine? Tyler: (enthusiastic) Do I know how to run a washing machine?!? (Gilligan Cut to Tyler and George, up to their knees in suds) Tyler: No, I don't.
LISTER: There. I think that's it; boot him up. KOCHANSKI: You're * sure* you know what you're doing? LISTER: Hey...
KRYTEN: Ketchup?? With * lobster* , you want —
KOCHANSKI: I thought you said you knew what you were doing! LISTER: No, I just said 'hey'. If you'd let me finish the whole sentence it'd have been: 'hey... no I don't'.
In the pilot episode of Community, Jeff claims to be a Spanish tutor to get time alone with Britta. Then she invites half a dozen other people to the "study group", and Jeff has to stall and keep them distracted to avoid having to admit that he can't tutor them.
In a later episode we find out that their Spanish professor does not actually know Spanish and has been teaching them Klingon.
In the second season episode Mixology Certification, Britta and Jeff lecture Troy about which drinks to take and which bars to go to... until it turns out they don't know any more than he does. They spent the entire episodes arguing which of two bars are better when they're actually talking about the same bar neither knows the actual name of.
Jerry vacillated between this trope, "semi-visually impaired leading the blind" and "guy with 20/20 vision who can't be bothered to look where he's going leading the blind" in his Straight Man role on Seinfeld.
The Colbert Report: Stephen the character lives this trope. It is especially highlighted in the Stephen's sound advice segments where he gives advice that is anything but sound.
In The Red Green Show, Red gives pretty good advice in his "North of Forty" segments, while he is at his fly tying bench. However, in his "Handyman Corner" segment, his advice of how to build something with the junk you have lying around and duct tape are hilariously the blind leading the blind.
K9: Mass detection circuits indicate maximum reading on current vector. Probability of error (beep)
Adric: Well, what is the probability of error, K9?
K9: Recomputing. Probability of error, eighty seven point seven nine four eight percent.
Adric: Eighty seven? But that's terrible!
K9: The accuracy of this unit has deteriorated below zero utility.
Adric: You mean you're worse than useless.
In Star Trek: The Next Generation, Geordi teaches Data how to paint. Riker comments on the poetic irony of the blind man teaching art to the emotionless android.
In another episode, Wesley ends up seeking dating advice from Worf. It isn't that Worf doesn't know about romance, it's that his advice - based on Klingon mating rituals - is entirely inapplicable to Wesley's situation and thus, entirely useless.
It's revealed in Star Trek: Voyager that the Doctor's social skills were programmed by Reginald Barclay, a man who described himself in his introductory episode as the guy who, at a party, will be examining the potted plant because he's not confident enough to involve himself in any conversations, based on those of Dr Lewis Zimmerman, who is kind of a jerk.
Practically any time anyone asks for advice in Will and Grace. After Grace's advice backfired for Will she once claimed "Most of the time I'm just talkin outta my ass." In an earlier episode, Grace is Genre Savvy enough to ask Karen for advice and do the opposite of what she said.
The X-Files: "Rain King" has, at one point someone asking Mulder for dating advice. On hearing about this, Scully goes silent, then quotes this trope.
The Crystal Maze was a real-life embodiment of this trope. A game-show based on physical and mental challenges that were, at their worst, primary school-level in their required brainpower, nevertheless it seemed that every contestant had difficulty grasping such concepts as keys, simple instructions and basic maths and would require the rest of their team to call out advice. However, this advice was often counterproductive to the point where it would cause confusion and sometimes directly lead to a failure ("Jump down!" in a game where touching the floor is an automatic lock-in).
Host Richard O Brien's reactions to such stupidity became legendary. If the player of the game was a lost cause, or if Richard's advice was ignored, he would often let the viewer know, before breaking out into off-putting Harmonica music, drowning out the team's 'advice' and breaking the player's concentration. In effect, he became a kind of Musical Assassin.
In at least one episode, Richard actually broke out a Fender Telecaster and amplifier.
On rarer occasions, Richard would have an attack of What the Hell, Player??, haul the player out of the game room and complete it himself.
Used by name in Monty Python's Flying Circus, in the Flying Sheep sketch - the farmer points out a ewe trying to teach her lamb to fly. We hear it "Baa" and hit the ground. "Talk about the blind leading the blind."
Literally done in an episode of MythBusters, where they tested the myth where a blindfolded person would have No Sense of Direction (confirmed). At the end of the episode, they decided to try a rig where the two of them were connected by a rigid ladder while blindfolded. The hypothesis was that each person would be able to feel the other start to veer off course and compensate. It ended up working about as well as the trope description would expect (i.e. not well at all).
Frank applies this to Klinger and Radar when he sees them trying to put out a fire outside the operating room in an episode of M*A*S*H.
Who's to blame for the lives that tragedies claim? No matter what you say, it don't take away the pain That I feel inside; I'm tired of all the lies. Don't nobody know why: it's the blind leading the blind.
Mentioned in the lyrics of the Billy Talent song, "The Dead Can't Testify":
And the angels sing: let it shine, let it shine Dry the teardrops from my eyes And the bells will ring when the blind lead the blind 'Cause the dead can't testify.
A literal example appears in Megadeth's, "Millenium of the Blind":
Trust your leaders As they send you out to die The true face of evil can't be seen Without eyes Sacrifice your leaders Like it or not Or else your going down with the ship Death on the rocks Blind follow Blind lead All our hopes and dreams Washed out to sea
In a time of darkness the blind man is the best guide In an age of insanity, let the madman lead the way.
Tycho gives Gabe advice on how to be a good game master in Penny Arcade. Unfortunately, Tycho tells Gabe to be a Killer Game Master and all of Gabe's players quit in frustration, which Gabe does not appreciate. Tycho then admits that he hasn't actually run a game since high school, since no one wants to play with him.
Patrick often gives SpongeBob SquarePants this kind of misguided advice. For example, one episode has Patrick teaching Spongebob how to be mature, with tips such as growing sideburns, puffing out his chest, and developing an appreciation for freestyle jazz. Hilarity Ensues.
"Your Shoe's Untied", where Patrick buys shoes, but doesn't know how to tie them. SpongeBob tries to teach him how, but realizes he's never learned himself.
Since they're both mentally six, they're occasionally known to do this to themselves-devoid of anyone to provide them with questionable advice, they'll attempt to deduce the proper course themselves and arrive at exactly the wrong answer through some of the unsoundest logic it's possible to come across.
In the 'pilot' episode where Spongebob meets Sandy for the first time, Spongebob goes to Patrick for advice about the mysterious concept of 'air'. Patrick claims she means 'putting on airs', or fancy talk. His advice is to go to Sandy's and 'When In Doubt, Pinky Out'. This causes Spongebob, an aquatic animal, to slowly dry out in Sandy's 'treedome'. Patrick enters at one point, and the duo end up completely drying out, but Sandy saves them with water-filled helmets (which become standard attire when visiting her). So, not only is Patrick's advice misguided, it's even dangerous.
A similar scenario in 6Teen has Caitlin teaching Wyatt how to be mature so he can attract a girl. Parodies of teenagers' conception of an adult world ensue, along with An Aesop about being yourself.
Homer Simpson tried to teach Apu all about America for Apu's citizenship test. (Example: the 13 stripes on the flag are for good luck.) Afterwards, Apu was so tired and confused he didn't remember anything Homer taught him. Lisa happily declared him ready for the test. Which he passed.
Even funnier is that Apu actually already knew more about America than Homer did. The flag Homer showed him had 47 stars, which Apu deduced must have been made during that brief period in 1912 after New Mexico became a state but before Arizona did.
Officially, the U.S. flag never had 47 stars; it's only updated on July 4, so in 1912 it went from 46 to 48.
Another Simpsons example has Bart getting test answers from Milhouse. Mrs. Krabappel's response after he fails the test? "You did worse than Milhouse!"
In an early episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender , Aang asks Sokka to teach him how to seduce a girl. It helps that Sokka himself has so much experience on the matter (read: he has talked to exactly one girl his age in his life apart from his sister, and immediately made himself immortally ridiculous in front of her. It still worked, somehow). It also helps that Sokka assumes Aang to be in love with someone entirely else than he actually is. Hilarity Ensues, though Aang's efforts do end up saving a village.
In The Legend of Korra, it's shown that despite being the Keeper of Forbidden Knowledge Wan Shi Tong is reliant on his fox aides to gather knowledge of the human world, who somehow came to the idea that the radio was operated by tiny men inside machines. When he realizes his mistake, he gives a stern glare at one of his foxes, who bows it's head in shame.
In an episode of Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, "The Big Leblooski", Mac, after being thrown off Madame Foster's bowling team for sucking, seeks help from an imaginary friend called Bowling Paul, who he assumes is an expert bowler because a) he has a ton of bowling trophies and b) ...his name's Bowling Paul and he has a head shaped like a pin. As it turns out, Paul's odd zen approach to bowling is entirely useless, and the trophies were actually won by his creator.
Judging by his creator's deadpan reaction to the ten-pound ball rocketing around his bowling alley, this isn't the first time Bowling Paul has tried to help out some poor bowling-deficient soul, either.
Peggy Hill once led her Spanish class to Mexico for a day-trip. Pity Peggy speaks unspeakably bad Spanish, likely worse than that of some of her students, and it was no surprise when she led them to a butcher's shop thinking it was a carnival (the Spanish word for "butcher" being carnicero).
This also led to the first of many cases that point to Peggy being at least slightly deluded. After getting arrested for accidentally kidnapping a girl and taking her back to Texas (Yeah) Peggy refuses to admit she had a misunderstanding due to language. To reiterate, she thought the police officer who was interrogating her and promising to lock her up and have rats eat her face was planning to give her an award AND she naturally assumed that her lawyer in her trial was asking to go out and buy a hat when he called her to testify.
In Futurama, there's Doctor Zoidberg. He knows nothing about medicine for humans. Never ask him anything about what's wrong with you. He doesn't even know anything about psychology, generally using his own life to explain your own issues.
Zoidberg: "Here's the problem right here! There's a skull embedded in your head!"
There's a reason for this though - His doctorate is in art history.
Israeli Rabbi Ovadia invoked this when he called Israeli politician Ehud Barak a ‘blind goat’, telling a parable about how a shepherd wanted to punish his herd of goats by using a blind goat to lead them, making them trip wherever the blind goat did.
In the US Air Force, avoiding this trope is the reason that inexperienced airmen are advised not to listen to "Dorm Lawyers" or "Dorm Doctors", in favor of seeking out the actual subject matter experts.