My Bride Is a Mermaid: The Seto Group is a yakuza family, but the most evil thing we see them do is heckle Nagasumi under their boss's orders.
In Beyblade, absolutely no one goes to school. The only ones who have legitimate explanations for this are the Blitzkrieg Boys (they're from Russia, beyblading = life) and the Majestics, who have tutors, even though they're all so obscenely rich they don't need an education anyway. A small part of season 2 shows Tyson and Kai going to school. While a case of Tyson keeping at it off-screen could be implied, Kai pretty much drops out of his private boarding school when he decides to come out of retirement.
Despite being sent to school in the second episode, as well as numerous arcs that center around school characters or are set in the school, the students of Ranma 1/2 don't seem to be doing that much... schoolwork. Sure they are shown sitting down in class and standing outside in the hallway, but it seems they spend way more time with extracurricular activities (like sports) and martial arts than they actually do learning which is common of most stories involving schools.
Speaking of school, how about that Tendo "dojo"? 36 volumes, 0 students.
The Straw Hat Pirates from One Piece don't pillage or plunder. The crew's illegal activities are more in the nature of battling with various corrupt governmental ruling forces.
In the Love Hina manga, Kitsune claims to be a freelance writer; there's exactly zero evidence to support this. Though it's more socially acceptable to list "writer" instead of "Con Artist" as your occupation.
Kochikame revolves around police officers who are rarely seen doing any police work.
Bleach: The manga only shows us a few examples of shinigami hunting hollows or cleansing souls because that work mostly occurs in the human world and tends to be done by low ranking shinigami. The story focuses on the highest seated shinigami who don't do that sort of work. Among the seated officers, Yachiru is a lieutenant who doesn't even do lieutenant duties (fighting/administration) most of the time. She usually prefers to play, eat sweets and watch Kenpachi fight to the exclusion of all else. Her division has two proxy lieutenants in the form of the third and fifth seats.
Space PirateCaptain Harlock. He once robbed a ship and threw the valuables into space. He has claimed that pirates who steal are dishonoring the name of pirates. Lampshaded in Captain Harlock: Endless Odyssey, when Tadashi Daiba lambasts the good Captain for his reluctance to give orders and keep discipline onboard the Arcadia.Cosmo Warrior Zero, however, does portray him as a legitimate and somewhat bloodthirsty villain— who is still opposing a Vichy Earth. This is the only show that portrays him as such, though: most of the other shows, especially My Youth in Arcadia imply that The Powers That Be labeled him a pirate, because they were afraid that he would inspire them to rise up against the Vichy Earth.
In Yu-Gi-Oh!, the main characters are all supposed to be in school, but they sometimes spend days or weeks at a time out of school to participate in card tournaments - even the characters who don't duel. Even when they're at school, they are never shown doing work. Most of the time, they sit around playing Duel Monsters or developing the plot in non-school-related ways.
The thieves of Mount Reikaku in Fushigi Yuugi make a few nominal stabs at banditry when they first appear, but mostly seem to hang out, drink and squabble. Tasuki himself, despite having been appointed their leader, is almost never seen actually stealing things or even expressing a particular desire to do so. In fact, he's one of the more gullible characters in the series.
The only thing Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei's Nozomu Itoshiki ever actually taught his class was that potato starch turns purple if you add iodine. No, rants on society don't count...
All of San and Lunar's families in Seto no Hanayome are technically Yakuza, but the only "work" related thing we see any of them do is run a home shopping channel for mermaids.
In K-On!, despite all of the main characters being part of the light music club, they don't really play much and spend most of their time screwing around in the clubroom and eating cake. When Azusa shows up she actually gets into a conflict with the rest of the group over this.
Kyouko in WORKING!! never really does her job as restaurant manager other than eating, and other characters notice this.
The Akina Speed Stars of Initial D. Koichiro— Partly because they know that Takumi is the only person there who has any real driving skill and really didn't want to lose him, since if he leaves they can't defend their home turf from any decent racers. This was a big part of the first season, when Takumi didn't want to drive but his friends in the Akina Speed Stars convinced him.
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya: Though it happens occasionally, it's pretty rare to see the SOS Brigade actually hunt down any supernatural entities. Justified in that it's the leader of the SOS Brigade that is keeping them away from real entities. Her common sense gets in the way most of the time. At least according to either Itsuki or Yuki, the point of nearly every member of the SOS Brigade is to either keep her away from these entities, or to just observe her.
The "Space Pirate" theme is roughly deconstructed in Eureka Seven. Renton, a little boy with a with for adventure and to get out of his boring town, is accepted to the famous battleship that fights against the government and has its own media franchise telling the world how cool they are and "exposing the truth". He expects all kind of cool things there, but discovered most of the crew is lazy and have no qualms in taunting and using a little boy to do all their work without thanking him, the ship is almost naked on the inside and they have little money and have to do odd jobs (usually amoral at best) to keep things going. To top it off, the captain is an Abusive Parent figure who turned slacker and scaredy-cat (to feelings at least) himself.
For most of Tail of the Moon, Usagi falls squarely into the aforementioned category of "ninja in name only", though after the destruction of Iga and Hanzo's disappearance, she gets better.
Great Teacher Onizuka spends very little time doing any proper teaching, though he does go out of his way to teach his students many important life lessons not found in a typical school curriculum. The manga shows a few of his classes and even a couple of his lesson plans, and all of them serve to demonstrate that he has absolutely no idea what he's doing. One class involves his dressing up as Devilman to teach a lesson about sociology, only to give up halfway through and show the kids how to shoot bottle rockets out of their homeroom window instead.
Misaki from Misaki Number One also is never seen teaching anything else but life lessons to her students.
The Crossbone Vanguard in Crossbone Gundam are typically called space pirates despite being a guerilla warfare group trying to take down the Jupiter Empire. That said, they do play up the image of being pirates, since it makes a nice cover for their real activities. They do engage in raiding Imperial supply ships, but that's about the only "piratey" thing they do: they release any prisoners they capture unharmed, they don't attack civilians, and they spend their time sabotaging the Jupiter Empire's military rather than looting and plundering.
We're told that the major camps in Ikki Tousen are all schools, and indeed the characters are all of the age where they certainly ought to be in school. However, all any of them do all day is fight, indulge their perversities and generally engage in mobster-like behaviour. The whole 'school' thing may as well just be a decorative theme; not once is a teacher so much as seen at all, never mind seen teaching.
YuYu Hakusho: For someone who was appointed Spirit Detective, Yusuke does next to nothing that has anything to do with finding clues and solving crimes.
Reina and her flunkies in Yandere Kanojo consider themselves to be delinquents, but, outside of liking fighting and being somewhat foul-mouthed, they don't really do much to would support this claim; they attend class, they don't smoke, drink or do drugs, and, though Reina and the school's principal don't really get along, she never skips out on any punishments he hands out.
Naruto: Ninjas were covert agents and mercenaries, who engaged in such things as espionage and assassination and so on and so forth (or at least, that's what pop culture agrees they were, but the difference is semantic). While early arcs did make some attempt to play up these things, at no point did any of the good guys actually do any of it, despite being trained for it. Later in the series this is outright abandoned as the cast begins pursuing personal vendettas and fighting the bad guys using lasers and giant animals.
It's not all that clear what the intended purpose of the Yuyushiki's "Data Processing Club" is, but it probably isn't "lounge around and goof off on the internet."
Hyouka's current incarnation of the Classics Club does a lot of mystery-solving, but they're supposed to be budding authors, and they never do any writing. As above, they're coerced into throwing together an anthology for a School Festival.
Apart from the pilots, Yurika (captain), and Ruri (chief science officer) the rest of the crew of the Nadesico in Martian Successor Nadesico seem to spend very little time running a spaceship. Specific examples are Jun Aoi (vice captain), Minato Haruka (helmswoman), Goat Hoary, and Munetake (admiral) who never seem to do anything related to their profession.
In addition to being a Gym Leader himself, though he's on official leave from that, Brock was introduced as wanting to be a Pokemon Breeder. Yet, like Misty, that plot point was essentially dropped early on (in this case, in favor of hitting on the ladies ad nauseum).
Pretear: In the manga storyline, Natsue is the CEO of a cosmetics company but this fact is rarely stated and the only time she's ever seen doing something related to that is during a flashback from when she asked her butler to test one product. One of the other few times her job is mentioned has Himeno comment that "at least she's supposed to be".
Tintin: Tintin's reporter credentials are sometimes used as a plot device to get an adventure moving, but always without him having to report on anything. For example, in The Shooting Star, he is chosen as a member of a scientific ocean voyage as the on-board reporter. Not only does he do zero reporting during the adventure, several times other journalists report on his activities. Every story he's featured in is apparently supposed to be his report of the events, but this isn't made explicitly clear.
Viz used to have a strip called "Captain Morgan and his Hammond Organ" about a pirate who sails around playing songs on his Hammond organ - and not much else. This is part of the reason why the character was eventually scrapped (along with threatened legal action from the copyright holders of some of the music.)
David X and his Empire of Zen Crime from Casanova are described thusly:
It’s like crime, only there’re no victims, and really, no crimes. It really just spreads a general sense of unrest.
Batman's job description is "the world's greatest detective". Although he certainly is a skilled investigator, he does not do much (if any) "detective" work. Instead, he spends most of his time fighting supervillains, beating up endless hordes of minions, defeating evil overlords, saving the world (or at least Gotham City), etc. and other standard superhero stuff.
Arcade from the X-Men is supposedly a badass ace assassin. The problem? He never manages to kill anyone. Avengers ArenaLampshades this by establishing that Arcade is considered a complete joke by the rest of the supervillain community, largely because he completely fails to live up to his reputation.
The Anti-SOS Brigade doesn't really spend much time plotting to transfer Haruhi's power to Sasaki all that much in You Got HaruhiRolled!, where they are mostly comic relief. For added irony, in the arc which is a parody of pirate movies, the Anti-SOS Brigade aren't villains at all, but in the British Royal Navy. After they and the SOS Brigade (who are a literal example of this trope in this arc) team up to defeat a crew of Ruthless Modern Pirates, the Antis even go so far as to join the SOS Brigade themselves. Of course, this arc is an Alternate Universe, which we never see again after it finishes.
The protagonist of the B-MovieWerewolf identifies himself as a news writer, but we don't see him writing at all.
The various pirates in Pirates of the Caribbean are only ever seen attacking navy ships, each other or supernatural creatures. Apart from collecting all of the cursed Aztec gold, we never see them actually stealing anything from merchant ships or ports. At least in the first movie, this was something of an intentional joke. Part of the writer's concept of the script was to do a pirate movie in reverse: a band of murderous rogues sailing about and collecting treasure so that it can be returned to its rightful owners.
The Dread Pirate Roberts in The Princess Bride. We only see him after he's retired from piracy. He also admits that the Dread Pirate Roberts' fearsome reputation for taking no prisoners tricks everyone into handing over their loot without a fight, so presumably Wesley never had to commit murder during his tenure.
In the Spy Kids universe, the definition of the word "spy" seems to be "person who dresses sharp, has cool gadgets and kicks butt". Actual espionage never seems to be depicted. Not even the martini-flavored kind.
From Hell: While the rest of the prostitutes of Whitechapel go about the oldest profession right onscreen, Abberline's love interest Mary Kelly just seems to hang out, looking vulnerable and doomed.
Likewise in Serenity, where Inara's profession is so glossed over that you wouldn't have any idea that she's basically a courtesan/escort for hire unless you're familiar with the series. Only one easily missed line about seeing clients "in this very bed" give a hint.
For being a movie about a man's rise to power in a mafia-like organization, there is little crime shown being done by anybody in Johnny Dangerously, even by the various villains. Johnny is aiming for a kinder, gentler sort of criminal family, after all.
The crew of the Jolly Roger (Captain Hook's ship) in Disney's 1953 animated version of Peter Pan. They never seem to do anything other than "roaming over the sea" (as one of the pirates sings while playing his concertina) and trying to kill Peter Pan and his allies. Oddly, during the song "The Elegant Captain Hook", they sing that Hook is "the world's most famous crook" - without telling us what he did to deserve that fame. However, when the crew tell Mr. Smee that they want to leave Neverland and return to sea, one mentions he has almost forgotten how to cut necks, thus implying they were more traditional pirates before Captain Hook obsessed with vengeance on Peter Pan.
Even Captain Blood, regarded as one of the greatest pirate movies of all time, suffers from this. Blood is the greatest pirate in the world, but the only people he ever kills on screen are members of foreign armies and one perverted French captain. He's also never shown stealing or sinking other ships unless it's against enemies of England, and the other members of his crew are all rough, rougish, and jovial rather than a bunch of cutthroats. Even when the main villain, who abused them as slaves, is in their grasp, they happily just comically throw him overboard rather than kill him. The movie only barely glosses over his life as a pirate and thief, and it comes off as rather jarring when the love interest refuses to be with him because he's committed crimes we've never seen.
Steve the Pirate from Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story is a pirate without a ship or crew who doesn't take part in any pirating activities. In fact, all he really does is dress and talk like a pirate. He's more like a comic book geek who dresses up as a superhero, except that it's a pirate instead of a superhero.
Justified (weakly) in 8 Heads In A Duffel Bag. The protagonist of the film claims that his fiancee is a race-car driver, and shows another character a photo of her sitting in a racer to prove his point. But we never see her do anything remotely connected to racing (which, yes, makes her something of a Faux Action Girl as well). We do see her in a fast-moving van toward the end of the movie, but she's not the one doing the driving (she and her family have been taken hostage by a mobster). It is easily explained by the context of the movie, since the young woman is on a vacation in Mexico almost the entire time. But if his fiancee's job wasn't going to be pertinent to the story, why did the hero bother telling us about it?
Similarly the Reese Witherspoon film How Do You Know has a professional softball player as the heroine but five minutes into the movie she is dropped from Team USA and never so much as picks up a bat again. Roger Ebert even drew attention to the fact in his review:
The one thing we don't see Reese Witherspoon doing in "How Do You Know" is playing softball. Considering that she portrays a softball player, this seems strange.
There's a montage in Real Genius of how, over the course of a school term, fewer and fewer students stick around to attend one of Mitch's lecture classes, leaving tape recorders running there instead. By the end of term, Mitch is the only student still sitting in the classroom, and even the instructor has left a running tape player in his place to lecture for him.
In the film adaptation of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, the screenwriters actually go to the trouble to establish Mina Harker (a music teacher in both the comic book and the original novel) as having the oddly specific profession of "chemist". M even introduces her as a chemist well before we find out that she also has vampiric superpowers. With such a deliberate change to the source material, you'd think it would be an essential part of her character, right? Nope. Mina uses her chemistry skills exactly once in the entire movie, to identify some magnesium phosphorous left behind by a spy camera on the Nautilus.
Several of the nobles and royalty of Discworld are trained as assassins (although many never intend to actually graduate, since the assassin final exam is lethally off-putting), but that's more for the quality of the general education offered by the Assassins' Guild. They rarely kill anyone (largely because not many people can afford their services, and they never kill for free, except in self-defense). Of course, in the world of the nobility, knowledge of how assassins think is also a valuable life skill for anyone wanting to live past twenty.
Vetinari in particular has never been known to actually kill anyone by any of the characters in the booksnote In fact he was a practicing Assassin in his younger days, as Night Watch reveals; his was even the hand that took out the mad Lord Winder, which made room for the not-yet-mad Lord Snapcase, who he would eventually succeed.. The fact that no one knows for sure that he hasn't killed anyone only serves to increase his mystique as a dangerous man to deal with, especially because he's rumored to have specialized in poisons at school.
Later books tend to suggest that the Guild's killings are mostly of (unnamed) venal nobles by other unnamed venal nobles, probably to skirt round the moral dissonance they'd otherwise bring to Watch books.
Pteppic takes being the assassin who doesn't do anything to whole new levels. He actually can't bring himself to kill anybody, and passed his Guild exam only by mistake (the examiner thought he made a Trick Shot by firing at the wall and getting it to ricochet and kill the fake target, rather than actually wanting to aim away from the target).
The faculty at the Unseen University seem to avoid their students whenever possible, and are at one point described as running the other way or hiding behind doors whenever they see them. In fact, the only person in the entire place that seems to do any work at all is Ponder Stibbons (which has actually been lampshaded in story.)
It is mentioned that the chief job of wizards is NOT doing magic. Not failing to turn somebody into a frog, but refraining to do so when you know how easy it is. There are monuments to places where wizards were not as smart as that, and in some of them the grass would never grow again.
The UU serves as, essentially, a Roach Motel for wizards. Pretty much everyone is better off (including the wizards themselves) if the wizards are given a nice quiet place where they can eat all they like without ever actually having to do anything. Initially there was a certain amount of Dead Men's Pointy Shoes promotion involved, but the administrative staff at least has been pretty constant ever since Mustrum Ridcully took over as Archchancellor.
Similar to the UU's professors, Reg from Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency invoked this trope to avoid teaching duties all through his professorship at St. Cedd's, mainly by assigning an insane number of out-of-print books as required reading so that nobody who wanted to register for his course could find them. He also ducked out of advisement duties by responding to students' insecurities with stupid conjuring tricks, so they'd conclude he was too nuts to be of any help.
Another bit character from St. Cedd's didn't have to invoke this trope to live it out: nobody's spoken to him in years, because his nose is so big that everyone who tries to address him gets too embarrassed to say anything. He's lived quietly among the campus personnel, counting off the time since anyone last talked to him, and nobody's had the nerve to question what he's doing there.
Most of the professors in Gormenghast are like this, PARTICULARLY the headmaster, Bellgrove. They spend most of their time in their nasty private chambers, and sleep their way through classes they're supposed to be teaching.
This trope is somewhat lampshaded by the idiot sisters, Cora and Clarice, the highest ranking Groans after Sepulchrave, who do absolutely nothing at all except spend their time plotting revenge for losing "power" that they never actually had. When they are essentially kidnapped by Steerpike, nobody notices.
The Countess Gertrude starts the story as an indolent weirdo who does nothing but tend her pets (she doesn't even talk to her own children except for a once-a-year ceremonial visit). She eventually becomes a force to be reckoned with, but not until after an entire decade of plot has gone by.
The Thieves' Guild in Jennifer Fallon's Demon Child and Hythrun Chronicles series is practically an official branch of the government, with high-ranking officials — even sympathetic ones — constantly looking the other way regarding their activities and frequently enlisting their help. Mostly justified, as the God of Thieves, Dacendaren, is a recurring character who enjoys taking an active hand in human affairs, and the Hythrun people quite reasonably want to avoid annoying him.
Tom and Joe decide to become this type of pirate in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, because stealing is a sin. Huck isn't troubled, since he calls it "borrowing".
Many of the officers in Catch-22 don't actually perform their jobs, Major Major Major Major (not a typo) actually structured his entire day around avoiding people and Yossarian is trying very hard to be The Bombardier Who Doesn't Do Anything.
The pirates in Gideon Defoe's The Pirates! series. In An Adventure With Whaling, they actually realize this — one of the money-making activities they try is "actual pirating". Alas, they find it's just not in character for them.
The characters of The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas are rarely, if ever, actually depicted as using muskets. Though they do use muskets on the one occasion at which it would be appropriate to, when there's a war on. Using muskets when they're just wandering around Paris causing trouble would be unsporting. Plus the novels are set in the mid-1600s. At that point, muskets were still fairly clumsy, unreliable, inaccurate weapons that were painfully slow to reload; for close combat a sword and/or a brace of pistols were just better than long guns.
The omnipresent, prestigious and numerous Swordbearer Caste in the Spaceforce books are highly trained warriors - but the Taysan Empire has been at peace for centuries, if not millennium within its own borders, and apart from a bit of royal bodyguarding, it's not clear what the Taysan swordbearers actually do.
Robert A. Heinlein's Time Enough for Love features Single-Minded TwinsLapis Lazuli Long and Lorelei Lee Long, who are Opposite Sex Clones of the story's protagonist Lazarus Long. As they are unrepentant hellions and true inheritors of their brother's roguish nature, they decide at one point to grow up to become Space Pirates. In the quasi-sequel The Number of the Beast, they are introduced in that capacity and share a rotating captaincy of their vessel, with summary authority over "mutineers". However, at no point are they shown to perform any actual piracy, and happily defer to Lazarus in matters of his authority. Toward the end of that novel and into The Cat Who Walks Through Walls, they meet up with a second set of redheaded twins, male, who join them and reputedly do inspire them to embark on actual piracy, but again, this takes place entirely offpage and Lazarus appears more or less resigned to whatever fate they bestow upon themselves.
In pastoral poetry and romances from antiquity to the Renaissance, shepherds and shepherdesses tend to just sit around looking pretty and having Love Dodecahedrons, mysteriously free from all the hard work (and variable weather conditions) attendant on outdoor animal husbandry. The genre was parodied and criticized for this at least as early as the 17th century.
The pirates in Peter Pan don't get up to any actual piracy within the story, they just seem to spend all their time trying to kill the Lost Boys and the Indians.
In Joan Hess's Maggody mysteries, the ladies' Missionary Society claim to be a charitable organization working to promote Christian values by sending Bibles abroad. In practice, their most typical achievements are to hold local potlucks and stroke Mrs. Jim Bob's ego.
This is Played for Drama in the Honor Harrington novel On Basilisk Station, where the previous representative of the RMN to Basilisk, Pavel Young, was not doing his duty. Honor and crew have to fix that.
The title character of Sebastian by Anne Bishop is an incubus. Apparently. He does apparently have incubus powers, and is called a demon multiple times, but the way he's written, he's a normal guy.
The Tribulation Force in the Left Behind series is supposed to be the Resistance to Carpathia's One World Government. Their track record after seven years is precisely one assasination attempt, not counting Hattie and Chaim. Buck and Rayford's roles as Reverse Moles in Carpathia's organization serve only a narrative function as witnesses for the audience to the global events of the tribulation rather than any particular kind of functional espionage. Plus, Buck supposedly a great investigative reporter never does any investigating, except at the very beginning of the first book and damn all reporting.
At the end of Hush, Hush, Patch becomes Nora's guardian angel. In Crescendo, this means he spends his time...following her around and making out with her. Which he did anyway. Actual fighting of evil is pretty absent, however.
In Sherlock Holmes, Watson's portrayal as a doctor is usually limited to giving him an office, having him know a throwaway character in a hospital, and the like. He does save a client from poisoning once, but all in all, when Doyle inflicts him with the overriding compulsion to go to the bedside of a person he's never met while he's in the middle of something important, it rings false.
In the few first books of the Wild Cards series, the New York Mafia is depicted as a bunch of affable Italian gentlemen in dark suits who are more concerned about running Italian restaurants, holding family reunions, playing snooker with The Consigliere and having fun with call girls than, you know, being scary gangsters running a criminal empire.
In the young adult novel Dreamland Lake by Richard Peck, the narrator mentions that he used to be in a neighbourhood gang called the Oakthorpe Avengers. Since there were no rival gangs anywhere nearby, though, the Avengers never actually had to defend their territory or anything.
Like all gangs, it was organized boredom.
The Riftwar Cycle has Helbinor the Abstainer, the god who doesn't do anything. It's enough to drive a theologian to drink.
In the whole Harry Potter series, Hagrid is supposed to be Hogwarts' gamekeeper and to watch over the Forbidden Forest, but he spends most of his time in his hut or immediately around trying to breed strange creatures that will inevitably bring him trouble. Granted, he does know the Forbidden Forest and his denizens well, but you sometimes wonder why and how, since every time Harry, Ron and Hermione turn up, he's at his home and available to have a friendly chat around a cup of tea.
In the Bigtime series, Captain Freebeard and his Saucy Wenches are technically pirates, but they only rob the occasional passing cruise ship, and all they ever take is food and booze so they can throw wild parties. Between the fact that the passengers of the cruise ships invariably get invited to said parties and the fact that they are almost as good at helping endangered mariners as the local Coast Guard detachment, nobody in the area considers them important enough to hunt. The cruise lines even consider them to be a tourist attraction.
Cheers. One of Carla's issues with Diane comes from the fact she seldom seems to do any real work around the bar.
Janet Eldridge: (to Diane) Excuse me, miss. Do you work here?
Carla: How come no one ever seems to know that?
Daphne on Frasier is ostensibly Martin's full-time, live-in physical therapist, but at most her only real duties seem to entail leading Martin through brief exercise sessions once in a while. As the series progresses, she begins to perform some maid-like duties for the Cranes as well, though is often shown resenting this, weirdly, since she was hardly over-worked with her "real" job.
Daphne's vacation time comes up now and then, and is often portrayed fairly straight as something quite important to her. This can seem a bit jarring to the viewer, considering it's hardly obvious what Daphne would do in vacation time that she doesn't already do with all the free time she already has.
Frequently lampshaded in Psych, to the point of semi-subversion.
Many Soap Operas include business executives who spend most of their time on the job planning man-hunting schemes or ways to character-assassinate their boss and take his place, and rarely do any actual work. This also applies to police officer characters on soaps who seem able to drop everything and take three-month tropical vacations once a year. Conversely, medical doctors on soaps are frequently seen doing their jobs, perhaps even being overworked, as the main doctor characters will be involved in any sickness or injury whether the patient is a child, gunshot victim, cancer patient, or heart attack patient.
Green Wing deliberately uses this: though set in a hospital, there are no medical storylines. Guy, Caroline and Mac do perform surgery from time to time but, naturally, the whole thing is played for laughs. On one occasion Dr. Statham burst in, had an argument with Mac about a parking space and attempted to eat the patient's gall bladder.
The IT Crowd: Outside asking "have you tried turning it off and on again?", the main cast don't do much work, and when they do, they're usually faking. Reynholm Industries itself just has "a lot of sexy people not doing much work and having affairs". How is this company still running?
In Roots, slaves seem to have an awful lot of free time. Much is made of major outrages (rape, children being sold away, mutilation of runaways) but little emphasis on the horror of performing agricultural work 70 hours a week for no pay from age six till death.
In Edgemont, a show based around teenagers in high school, the students are never shown actually in class (and rarely studying or doing homework). Of course, showing a scene in class would clash with the fact that There Are No Adults.
The show itself is guilty of a partial version of this. While the main cast always looks very busy and we see them do all sorts of important stuff (like advising the President and negotiating with other politicians), it can be a little vague and unclear what each individual character's job title and responsibilities actually are. For example, one can watch several episodes in a row without realizing that Toby Ziegler is supposed to be a speechwriter. He seems more like the show's paid pessimist. The two biggest exceptions are President Bartlett (obvious) and Press Secretary CJ Cregg who is regularly seen addressing reporters in press conferences. Of course, it helps that the main characters are all high-ranking aides and that the job duties of any White House position are flexible in Real Life as well.note Technically, Toby is Communications Director and is in charge of coordinating the White House's message across all forms of media, so his primary role would be management and wrangling high-level politicians into line, not speechwriting. This is truth in television, as job duties become less defined the higher you stand in the White House hierarchy. Chief of Staff and Deputy Chief of Staff are two positions that are, essentially, whatever the current occupant makes of them. The real life inspiration for Sam Seaborn noted that his job responsibilities were closer to Josh's than Sam's, which means the show may have been inadvertently accurate.
Captain Feathersword, Sixth Ranger of The Wiggles, sings pirate songs and causes mischief with his crew but doesn't actually do anything very piratey. Which is just as well, what with his... feather sword.
The title character of Angel claims to be a private detective/in private security. When actual detective work is required, he has at least once hired a real private detective to do it for him. It's not like he has any interest in being a detective, he just tells people that because it's easier to explain than "I go around protecting people from monsters", which he does quite successfully.
On that note, Giles from Buffy the Vampire Slayer often fell into this - he was the school librarian and in charge of a very large and nice-looking library that nobody ever seemed to use for non-occult reasons. Lampshaded when the occasional clueless kid wanders in looking for something decidedly library-related, and the Scooby gang stares in shock and confusion.
Susan Meyer from Desperate Housewives is meant to be a children's book illustrator. Five seasons in, the episodes actually featuring her on the job are still in the single digits.
In Community, the main characters are part of a Spanish study group, and yet after four seasons, none of them can speak a lick of Spanish. This is Lampshaded in a Season 3 episode where a therapist points out to them that after three years, none of them have made any progress.
In Father Ted, Fathers Dougal and Jack are, respectively, an idiotic manchild and a lazy, violent alcoholic, both of whom are completely incapable of doing any work that might reasonably be expected of a priest. Ted himself seems to have a One-Hour Work Week. Justified in the case of Jack, who seems to be retired and being nursed supplied with alcohol by the other two priests. As for Dougal, the one time he attempts to perform his priestly duties at a funeral, they somehow end up with more corpses than they started with. You'd make sure he didn't do anything either. Additional justification may be that the Craggy Island parish is something of a dumping ground for the church's immoral and incompetent priests.
In theory, The A-Team are a band of mercenaries who lease their skills out for cash so they can stay on the run. However, they never seem to ever participate in a job that's even slightly shady and they rarely seem to get paid for whatever they do.
The Janitor in Scrubs rarely, if ever, does his job. Normally, he only cleans if he really doesn't have anything better to do. This is an acknowledged fact in-universe.
Janitor: I'm sorry Carla, I can't help you, I have work to do.
(entire room bursts out laughing)
Janitor: Ah, that one always kills.
In The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Vivian averts this for the first season because she is a teacher and is signed on to teach Will and Carlton's black history class, however her job is at best almost never mentioned after the first season.
Derek, Burger and Ash from I'm In The Band are in Iron Weasel. But in most episodes, they usually slack off in Tripp's apartment and don't do much, despite Tripp suggesting them do some rehearsing. Tripp puts emphasis on this in the season 2 opener "I'm Out of the Band".
75% aversion on The Office (US): We see people doing their jobs (particularly the sales and warehouse staff) in almost every episode. It's not a complete aversion because Michael's antics often eat up a large part of his day, and they often drag at least a couple of the other characters along. Jim and Pam's pranks seem to take up a significant amount of time also.
Played straight with Creed, who has to spend a few minutes thinking to remember what exactly his job title is (it's quality assurance). When his failure to do his job becomes a plot point for an episode, he complains about how it happened the one year he blew it off.
Karen and Davis from Corner Gas are cops who rarely do police work unless either Oscar or the Mayor tell them to, and they're usually reluctant to.
Henry, Eureka's auto mechanic (and resident Omnidisciplinary Scientist), never seems to work on an actual car, after the first episode. Carter lampshades this at one point; Henry says he does, occasionally, "when it gets slow".
Ralph Kramden is a bus driver, but is never actually shown driving.
We never got to see Norton working either, but then, he works in the sewer, so who'd want to?
Played intentionally in Unhappily Ever After - Jack is firmly established as a used car salesman who frequently skips work and rarely sells a car when he does come in. In the finale, he finally starts taking the job seriously and makes enough commission in a week to fund Tiffany's entire Harvard tuition - then he goes back to being a slacker to save Mr. Floppy's life.
Sarah Jane Smith of The Sarah Jane Adventures is supposedly a reporter, but we never see her doing any actual reporting. She spends most of her time battling evil aliens, something she has explicitly vowed to not report on. Lampshaded in that Sarah's standard excuse when she dashes off somewhere is "I have to go file a story!" This is never what she's actually going to do.
Nathan Petrelli of Heroes is appointed to the U.S. Senate in Season 3. He is never shown voting on any motions, amendments, or bills, attending any committee meetings, meeting with any constituents, or doing anything else that a U.S. Senator's job entails. He is instead able to focus all his time and efforts on running his own personal Government Conspiracy.
Will from Glee is a Spanish teacher who seems to spend very little time teaching Spanish. (Also, the few times he is seen speaking Spanish, his accent is very poor.) It becomes kind of ridiculous in the first episode of season three, when Sue announces her intention of making sure all the high school arts programs are removed. Will becomes very upset, not only because he believes it's a mistake to take away the arts from the kids, but because his livelihood is at stake... conveniently forgetting that coaching the glee club is something he volunteered to do, and that he is first and foremost a Spanish teacher.
Lampshaded in Season 3, Episode 12, titled "The Spanish Teacher." Will admits that he doesn't know much about Spanish and takes a night class in Spanish, taught by someone much more qualified at Spanish. He ends up becoming a History teacher and the other character becomes the new Spanish teacher. Not that we see Will teaching History very often either.
Completely averted in Profit where the plot revolves almost entirely around the eponymous character doing his job, albeit in a rathercreative fashion.
This is the basic plot of Maid Marian and Her Merry Men; Marian wants to believe that she's the leader of La Résistance, but she's more like den mother to a group of overgrown kids who spend their time inventing bizarre games and, in Robin's case, designing uniforms.
Robbie Ray Stewart is, as much of the dialogue suggests, the main in-universe writer of Hannah Montana's string of gold hits, but with few exceptions, such as the occasional special song, or something that carries the plot of the episode or a joke or resolve, you rarely saw or heard him in action.
Notably averted in Veronica Mars; Weevil and his PCH bike club actively engage in biker gang activities, although they aren't as violent as real life gangs.
Aside from the first few episodes, the kids from Twin Peaks are too busy solving mysteries to bother attending school. This only serves to emphasise the show's pervasive Dawson Casting.
Willie Tanner in ALF is supposed to be a social worker. We almost never see him doing anything of the sort. This is lampshaded when another character arrives and has no idea that Willie is a social worker.
On Saturday Night Live, one of the recurring "Weekend Update" characters is their resident political comedian, Nicholas Fehn (played by Fred Armisen). Despite bearing the title "political comedian," he never actually does any comedy; he reads newspaper headlines and responds, "No wayyyy! No! Can't do that!", and spouts out a series of unformed thoughts and unfinished sentences till Seth interrupts him, telling him he's not really saying anything. Then Nicholas accuses Seth of not wanting to think or use his brain.
In The Weird Al Show, Val Brentwood, Gal Spy doesn't actually perform any espionage or anything spy-like. Given the number of episodes where actual spy work would be useful to Al or his friends, it's surprising that she pretty much doesn't do anything but hang around at Al's house.
The crew in Blake's 7 is supposed to be a notorious band of interstellar terrorists or freedom fighters depending on who you ask. They don't commit any memorable acts of terrorism that go anywhere. Real terrorists conduct hijackings, kidnap people, and bomb public places hurting innocent civilians. They did none of these things and the only innocent people who got killed were those who were stupid enough to actually get involved with them. Their most memorable genuine terrorist scheme turned out to be a setup by Servalan and Travis) and they're never actually seen fighting for anyone's freedom. Mostly, they run into people who are perfectly capable of fighting for themselves. Under Avon, they spend all their time either on the run or participating in mostly get-rich-quick schemes that fail because they're always getting had. They are actually seen more as a nuisance than as an actual threat to the Federation and in the final season, even the Federation felt for the most part that they had bigger fish to fry. And even when they were involved, it turned out to be yet another setup, this time by a nobody officer that turned out to be a mole in Blake's non-organization, this time it caused a misunderstanding between Blake and Avon that got them all killed
Justified in that at the start they were captured terrorists/freedom fighters. In the series itself they are on the run.
At the start, only Blake and Cally were actually career terrorist/freedom fighters. Everyone else was convicted of crimes such as homicide, smuggling, theft, and white collar embezzlement.
Noser from The Middleman spends an awful lot of time not playing the guitar. He also has an incidental sideline in not riding a motorcycle, and an entire episode built around his not being a ventriloquist.
Chip Dunham's Overboard is quite literally about a group of these.
Wally from Dilbert does absolutely nothing at his office, to the point of being referred to as "the Wally" by those outside the organization. He claims he only comes to work because he doesn't know how to make coffee (and doesn't want to pay for Internet access, according to the animated series).
The character of Wally started out as a plot (Based on a True Story) about a competent worker who was deliberately trying to get himself fired by acting lazy and abusive because the severance package was so good. However, he's long since been Flanderized into being lazy and incompetent. A few strips have shown that he has made so much money by investing in the competition whenever the company enters a new market that his net worth is higher than that of the company itself.
Der Inspektor from The Katzenjammer Kids, arguably the world's first comic strip. Although he was known only by his title as School Inspector, he never really did that job. This might by partly because he was initially representing Imperial Prussia, a power which no longer exists, and partly because he realized that getting Hans and Fritz (i.e. the Katzenjammer kids) to stay in school is next to impossible.
Beetle Bailey and his fellow soldiers have been in the Army during three major foreign wars (Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan/Iraq), plus numerous small-scale interventions (Grenada, Somalia, Panama, Lebanon, Kuwait), yet they never actually seem to deploy out of Camp Swampy.
As The Comic Strip Doctor put it, "He is a soldier who never kills, in an army which never fights, for a country which never calls on him."
The general consensus seems to be that Camp Swampy is one of the Army's dumping grounds for its failures. Given the general level of competence displayed up and down the chain of command, that theory appears to be very sound.
This also might explain why they're still wearing and using 1950s-era equipment.
Jon Arbuckle from Garfield is a cartoonist, but the only time he is actually shown working on a cartoon is in the first strip. His job proceeded to be mentioned only two times later in the strip, the first being when he went away to a cartoonist's convention in 1984, then twenty-six years later in 2010, Liz informs her parents over the phone about Jon's cartoonist job. He is frequently seen working in the Garfield and Friends and The Garfield Show animated series, though.
Andy from Foxtrot is employed as a newspaper writer, but she's not seen as doing much actual writing - granted this is mostly in the mid-recent years of the comic strip. In the early years, she's seen writing columns and a couple stories have been centered around her writing a column or trying to get around to writing columns.
Many wrestlers are accompanied at all times by colorful, charismatic "managers" - but we hardly ever see these so-called managers negotiating contracts, and we never see them handling their clients' financial assets.
You want to? "WWE RAW, now with five times the pulse-pounding accounting action!"
Note that there are some aversions, such as Paul Bearer actually working in a funeral home or Ray Traylor (Big Boss Man) being a former corrections officer.
Melina Perez, Johnny Nitro, and Joey Mercury ("MNM") entered WWE in 2005 claiming to be Hollywood stars, but even in Kayfabe none of the movies or TV shows they'd supposedly appeared in were ever mentioned. (It was later explained that MNM weren't actors themselves, but hobnobbed with actors in their quest to become "famous.")
The bandits in Two Gentlemen of Verona don't ever actually succeed at banditry. The closest they come is on their meet main character Valentine, when it takes about a minute for them to go from "Give us all your money!" to "We like the look of your face. Be our leader!"
Antonio is supposedly a pirate, and gets in trouble for crimes he's committed in the past, but onstage we don't see him do anything but be nice to Sebastian.
Viola, who got her job with Orsino with the intention of becoming part of his musical entertainment (she can sing). Lots of music gets played for Orsino, and Feste (who doesn't even work for Orsino) sings for him, but Viola seems to prefer sitting by Orsino's side while they both comment on how pretty the music is.
Older Than Feudalism: In a lot of ancient Greek plays, the Greek Chorus usually was supposed to represent the townspeople or the household help or whatever a crowd in the play's given setting would naturally tend to be. While these people do help the audience understand what's going on with their songs (thus doing their job as a chorus), there's nothing in the script to suggest that they actually do anything related to the trades of the bit characters they supposedly represent.
The eponymous Pirates of Penzance speak oft and loud about how they are rough men (rough!) and lead a rough life (rough, rough!), and how they live by strife, and so on... but every time they do, it's to point out that they'll make an exception just this time. They drink sherry, refuse to separate Frederic from his beloved girl (okay, there's other reason for that), and sing a hymn to Poetry, yet never rob anyone. It is eventually revealed that the pirates are members of the peerage gone to the bad—which means that they weren't doing anything related to that position either.
None of the sets in the LEGO Vikings line have the eponymous Vikings raiding villages or fighting any human opponents. Instead they are cast in the role of defenders, with dragons and other monsters as the attackers.
The MMORPG EverQuest features gnome pirates who have to constantly remind each other to talk "piratey." They're bad at following through on the details, but they like the idea of being pirates.
Although Samus Aran from Metroid is described as being a Bounty Hunter, she's usually never seen hunting bounties. She seems more like a kind of mercenary than anything. It's possible the definition has changed in the future, though; all of her jobs are given to her by the government.
Not to mention her nemeses the Space Pirates, who seemingly exist only to antagonize her; then again, Samus keeps breaking into their bases. The Prime subseries manages to deal with this in a decent way - the Pirate Logs throughout the games establish that the Space Pirates do have a life outside of trying to kill "the Hunter" (their little nickname for her gives you a guess what Samus does during her down time).
Retro Studios planned on having Samus fulfill more of a bounty-hunting role in Prime 3, namely, by having the player pick out actual bounties to go after. The higher-ups vetoed this, in part because of the Genre Shift it would entail and in part because Samus doesn't really fit the role of bounty hunter to a T. The guys at Retro jokingly referred to her as a "pro-bono hunter" instead. There's also a story about how when Retro Studios made the suggestion, Nintendo's Japan-based officials were horrified at the suggestion of Samus becoming a "murderer" and being paid to do this; apparently "bounty hunter" wasn't quite the most accurate translation of their intended title for Samus Aran.
In a few issues of Nintendo Power there was a tie-in comic series to Super Metroid. A new character - a male bounty hunter - was added in as a sort of rival and irritant to Samus. While she continued blasting her way through the underground tunnels, he would stop to pick up the space pirates' "ears" or claws or whatever alien body part they were. After he started going on about how rich he was going to be after turning these body parts in for the bounties, Samus actually expressed disgust at his mercenary ways.
Captain Falcon from F-Zero falls into a similar rut, although the focus of his series is mainly on his side-business, racing. All of his Bounty Hunting is literally All There in the Manual.
In the live-action movie and Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, they do use their plumbing skills to stop an attempted sabotage/flooding at a dig site and then in a castle basement. Likewise, the animated series would occasionally show them using their plumbing skills and equipment, either for actual plumbing or for dire situations.
Referenced in Banjo-Tooie, when Loggo the toilet complains of being clogged:
Kazooie: Then call a plumber. I think Mario's free at the moment. Loggo: I don't think he actually does that kind of work anymore...
Also referenced in There Will Be Brawl, where Mario claims to have done a lot of things, but denies being a plumber.
In the original Donkey Kong he was working on a skyscraper as a carpenter.
The "plumber" thing is from the original Mario Bros. Thing was, his business wasn't just plumbing even then, but rather unusual sewer pest control (both the pests and the method of control). Which is really not much different from what he's done ever since. His skills are probably a lot more specialized than your average drain unclogger. You wouldn't hire the Ghostbusters to rescue a stray dog, would you?
In contrast to most of the Mario universe, the Nintendo Comics System's Super Mario Bros. comics from the early 1990s feature a surprising amount of plumber-related content. The brothers built an impromptu network of water pipes to cool down a volcano, and saved the day when Bowser's poorly-thought-out plan to destroy the sewer resulted in a flood. There was also a running gag about Mario's obsession with a comic book series about a plunger-wielding plumber superhero. The shorter comic strips in between the stories included Luigi taking the reader on a tour of a plumbing museum, and Mario and Luigi's childhood trip to plumbing camp.
In Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon, the first mission in the Haunted Towers is called "A Job For a Plumber", and indeed, Luigi has to restore the water supply to the mansion to complete the mission. Of course, the way he does it - fighting ghosts, monstrous crows, and Man-Eating Plants - isn't the type of thing you learn for such a profession. Professor E. Gadd's statement after finishing the mission implies he doesn't know that Luigi is actually a plumber by trade either.
This trend of the Mario Bros. not doing any plumbing is finally (and canonically) averted in Super Mario 3D World's opening cutscene. Mario and Luigi use plumbing tools to fix an actual pipe.
Princess Peach for that matter doesn't do many royal duties either despite being the ruler of the Mushroom Kingdom. She usually just stands around and looks pretty whenever she isn't kidnapped or playing games with her friends (and enemies). Sure, Peach does go on adventures herself and protect her kingdom in Super Princess Peach and the various RPG games, but she never does anything involving ruling her kingdom. The royal guards never do their job either, practically handing Peach over to the villains with next to no resistance. Bowser, on the other hand, actively rules his kingdom in many of the games. He commands his army and orders the construction of new settlements, among other things. Considering how much respect Bowser's minions have toward him despite his evil deeds (as seen in Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story, where they serve him out of admiration instead of fear), Bowser might very well be a better ruler than Peach.
Daisy would probably count as well. Her home kingdom of Sarasaland was only shown in her debut game, Super Mario Land, where Mario had to save her after she's been kidnapped by aliens, though it's sometimes mentioned in her biographies for the spinoffs where she's often seen with Peach beginning with Mario Tennis except for Super Smash Bros., not counting the trophies (Melee's trophy for some reason has a third eye) and stickers.
The town of Rogueport in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door is a parody of the Grand Theft AutoVice City-style setting, and as such has several examples of rogues, bandits, and roughnecks who are rarely, if ever, seen stealing or doing other unsavory things. Goombella even remarks of one character: "At least he's supposed to be a thief, but I've never seen him steal anything."
There are a few subversions. While having a conversation with Toadsworth, the player can see two of Don Pianto's henchmen beating up a Goomba for some business or another. At one point, a bandit robs Mario of some coins, forcing the player to track said bandit down (the trope is zigzagged when the bandit returns the coins without a fuss, upon being caught). Also, one side quest has Mario track down a bandit that conned a Goomba. When the bandit is caught, the Goomba carts him off for, it's heavily implied, some less than savory retribution.
The explorer in Flipside in Super Paper Mario never actually goes out and explores anything, but he might say a few things about places Mario and company have already been to as the game progresses.
The "great adventurer" Toma in Chrono Trigger spends pretty much the entire game drinking in a bar and talking big. In the game's present day, you learn that he did find what he was looking for, at least.
Blue Rogues in Skies of Arcadia are more in the nature of random do-gooders and adventurers, and look down on pirates who actually engage in, y'know, piracy. Some exposition reveals that Blue Rogues are in it for the challenge; any ship that can defend itself is technically a valid target. Vyse's little group still kill people and take their stuff, as per the genre standard... they're just very selective of who they do the "killing" part to. As they do spend a lot of time messing up the navy of the not-Spanish-reallyEmpire, one could think of them as English privateers without an actual England to endorse them, at least until the end of the game when they essentiallystart their own England.
Similarly, early on in the game, you might find you're getting less money than you could be for discoveries because a treasure hunter is discovering them first. You'll eventually meet him, in a restaurant run by a pirate you trounced earlier. He'll join you if you've discovered thirty discoveries, but if not he'll just hang around in the restaurant, not hunting much of anything, until you have.
In Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time/Darkness, there's an exploration team composed of a Slakoth and a Slowpoke who call themselves "Team Slackers, the zero-motivation exploration team". Each time they appear, they point out the fact that they don't really do anything besides just laying around, and they wonder why they even formed an exploration team in the first place.
In Monkey Island, pirates who actually do anything pirate-related are about as frequent as chicken's teeth. Even the protagonist, self-proclaimed "mighty pirate" that he is, never does anything more nefarious than your average Kleptomaniac Hero. The first game lampoons the idea with Guybrush's crew (who he has travelled all over Melee Island to find) flat out refusing to help him and instead sunbathing on the deck, treating the journey to Monkey Island like it's a cruise holiday. He does get the opportunity to sink the ship later in the game, instead travelling back with the Island's hermit, Herman Toothrot, who has his own ship. It turns out in the fourth game that this is canon and his former crew are pissed off with him because they had to find their way back to Melee without a ship (ie, had to make some effort).
Justified in The Secret of Monkey Island (in which the pirates are afraid to sail because there's an evil ghost ship on the loose) and Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge (in which the Largo Embargo does not allow them to sail). Also lampshaded all the time by the responses Guybrush gets when he claims he's a mighty pirate ("You look more like a flooring inspector!").
Out of the first two games full of pirates who don't do anything, the Men of Low Moral Fiber do by far the most nothing. They're slack enough in the original, but they spend pretty much the entire sequel dozing on a ledge. They have a lot of excuses for why they're up there.
Man of Low Moral Fiber: No, it's the opposite of acrophobia...
Guybrush: Sounds more like WORKAPHOBIA to me.
Escape from Monkey Island ramps this trope up to 11, to the extent that it lessens the blow of the pirates getting overrun by tourists. For instance, compare the SCUMM Bar from the first game, where pirates are downing grog, swinging on chandeliers and passing out on tables, to the one in the fourth game, which has about two or three people sitting around and playing darts.
The rather dynamic opening of Tales of Monkey Island's first episode is one large callback to series traditions. Guybrush faces LeChuck once more, complete with mystical voodoo artifact - assembled through yet another long-winded quest - a ship, lots of alleged treasure and a lazy crew sleeping in the hold.
Then you finally see some proper pirates besides LeChuck in The Seige of Spinner Cay (the second chapter of the fifthsixth game). You do not fuck with McGillicutty.
In the fourth episode of Tales of Monkey Island, it's revealed that the Pox of LeChuck that's been driving the conflict only affects real pirates, proving that while Guybrush may not be much of a pirate, he is a pirate.
Though the "pirates" from The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker love to boast about being the terror of the seas, they mostly just act as roughneck ferrymen for Link and the many people he rescues or works with over the course of the game. They're even ruled by a little girl whose mother was the previous pirate leader. They do eventually engage in about one and a half acts of actual piracy, but they don't seem particularly cutthroat in either case.
It gets worse in Phantom Hourglass, where Tetra seems to have gone crusader of the seas and wants to scold the owners of the "Ghost Ship" for kidnapping people. - Which should be common business for pirates.
In Oracle of Seasons, the skeletal pirates eventually stop being stranded and set sail on the open seas, only to immediately become seasick, dock their ship and proceed to stand around on a beach for the rest of the game.
Depending on the game, Princess Zelda is shown doing very little by way of actual ruling. This tends to be justified by her being blocked by her disbelieving father, being taken prisoner by the Big Bad, being enchanted, etc. In most cases, the best she can do is contact Link and send him to save her and Hyrule. In the case for Twilight Princess her non royal duties are somewhat explained in promo-materials because Hyrule was invaded before her coronation.
For all the effort that Kay Faraday puts into building her entire identity around being a "Great Thief" and a "modern day Robin Hood" in Ace Attorney Investigations (going so far as to give herself a motto), she never steals anything more valuable than people's catchphrases, Gumshoe's role as sidekick, and the contents of Edgeworth's pockets, even when it would be very useful for her to do so. Partly justified because she is a 'Thief of Truth' whose main goal is to steal and expose evidence of corrupt doings, but she never makes any efforts towards that end either. Even more egregious as Investigations does not use Kleptomaniac Hero, with Edgeworth relying on notes/pictures/ect. In fact, Phoenix Wright and Apollo Justice's assistants (Maya and Trucy) actually end up doing more thievery than... well, the thief.
Dungeons & Dragons-based video games (such as Neverwinter Nights or Stormreach) tend to feature an inordinate number of career adventurers sitting around in taverns or campsites, practically begging you to delve into loot-filled dungeons in their stead, as well as a bunch of adventurers who are just waiting for someone with actual work ethic to turn up and talk them into seeking fortune and glory (i.e. the main character).
In Neverwinter Nights 2, you become a squire... which explicitly, as your knight tells you, doesn't require you to clean his stables and polish his armor, or really do anything at all expected of a squire. You don't even see him again are are perfectly free to continue adventuring with your own Ragtag Bunch of Misfits. This is justified, though, in that the sole reason for your promotion to squire was a legal technicality to let you face your court trial in Neverwinter rather than the Kangaroo Court of Luskan.
The Baldur's Gate series at least tries to justify the latter as much as it can manage (mostly that said adventurers have come into a situation they couldn't handle alone and need a group to help them with), but still lets in a few Fridge LogicNPCs here and there.
Subverted in the expansion, Throne Of Baal. You find some adventurers in a dungeon, and they ARE actually on an adventure. They start pestering you to give them a quest, but you are so far above their level that you give them busywork to get them out of your hair.
Gordon Freeman is a scientist who is never really seen doing any science. Even in the beginning of Half-Life, briefly depicting him working with the other Anomalous Materials Team members, his contribution to the experiment is pressing a button and pushing a cart. General consensus is that all the other scientists were better qualified (at least had seniority), given they all had access past biometric scanners where Freeman did not. On the other hand, Barney's comment Looks like you're in the barrel today indicates Gordon just drew the short straw for this particular anomalous materials assignment, and would otherwise be reading gauges and writing equations on chalkboards with the other labcoats.
Barney: Good job Gordon, throwing that switch and all. I can see your MIT education really pays for itself.
Perhaps also referenced in Gordon's meetings with the GMan, who alternately refers to Gordon as "Mister Freeman" and "Doctor Freeman", with audible sarcasm quotes around the latter.
Less obvious is that he is stated to be a theoretical physicist. In reality theoretical physicist don't really conduct many experiments, they basically sit around think about really complicated math problems. The name was probably chosen to indicate Black Mesa research is getting at technology we can only imagine in real life, but if they're using it, it shouldn't be considered theoretical for them.
In Final Fantasy XII Vaan wants to escape the poverty and oppression of Archadian occupation to become a sky pirate. Fran and Balthier are notorious sky pirates. And Reddas is a former sky pirate who runs a whole smuggler's port full of sky pirates. Don't expect to see any actual piracy in the skies though (or on the high seas or anywhere else for that matter), or even an explanation of what sky pirates actually do with the massive amount of free time they seem to have.
It's mentioned in-game that the moniker "sky pirate" has drifted from "person who robs airships" to a generalized sort of adventurer-type who probably spends more time hunting monsters and raiding ruins.
We do get to see plenty of sky pirates in action in Revenant Wings. Aside from the player characters it seems to involve theft, murder, slavery, and the odd bit of genocide. The player characters prefer to beat up other sky pirates and take their money, which is only somewhat less reprehensible.
Duodecim lampshades this, as the name for the mannikin version of Vaan is "Idle Sky Pirate."
Final Fantasy V has a band of pirates stuck in an inland sea, where there is little to no sea travel, because of the Torna Canal being closed. Pillaging seems to be beyond their understanding; if you do sail into town, they'll just head for the inn and get drunk, forcing you to actually pay the undefended townsfolk for any goods you need.
Averted by their leader Faris, whose first reaction to finding out she has a princess in her custody is to hold her for ransom.
In Final Fantasy VII, we have the Turks (Reno, Rude, Elena and Tseng mostly), who are supposed to be high ranking officials of the intelligence and security division of the Shinra Electric Company. Instead of doing any administrative or security work, they spend most of the game trying to abduct Aerith.
And at one point, you encounter two of them, expecting to have to fight them. Their response is essentially "We don't want to fight you. It's our day off."
Seth and Sed of Lost Odyssey are both pirates, but we never actually see them participating in piracy, despite Sed, having a ship (though no crew).
Mother 3 has Wess and Duster, practitioners of the Thief Arts. One of the conversations with the townsfolk involves a girl calling you "a thief that doesn't steal anything." They do sneaky things, yes, but not in a criminal way. They are considered to be somewhat odd by the other villagers, though.
It does bear mentioning that, pre-Time Skip, Tazmily was an idealistic paradise that didn't have or need any form of currency, and everyone was happy to help one another out; there WAS nothing to steal (the Hummingbird Egg aside, but Wess was the one who'd put it where it was, anyway).
Similar to other Pirate examples; the pirate crew in Fire Emblem Rekka No Ken doesn't seem to be, well, that piratey. They seem to be more Mercenaries/hirable ferry. However; they are a bit of an aversion of the pirate tropes - Lyn is very distrustful of them merely because pirates actually do pillage and plunder because her parents and the rest of her tribesmates WERE killed by bandits...
In The Elder Scrolls series, the player can become the head of several guilds and factions. Fortunately, nobody expects you to do things like run the organizations, participate in politics, debate religious doctrine, etc. After all, that would interfere with your actual job of delving into caves and fighting bandits and monsters.
Averted with the Imperial Cult in Morrowind and that one faction alone. You can only advance so far due to not being a full time priest, even after the local leadership has noticed you have met all of their gods.
House Telvanni in the same game modifies it - their outlook on things means it actually makes sense that most of the actual running or details are left to someone else once you become a Master or the Archmagister. It is, instead, the mid-level ranks where the player doesn't have to do any of the stuff that is supposed to come with the ranknote The entire point of the Mouth position is to represent their Master in council and handle a lot of the actual political running of things so their Master doesn't have to..
Slightly limited in Daggerfall, in that it is established that you aren't actually head of the various guilds (not even of the regional guild, as in Morrowind), just amongst the most high-ranking members.
Most people recognize that the protagonist is sufficiently badass that their time is better spent battling world-threatening events than doing paperwork. For instance, in Morrowind you end up appointed "Hortator" by the three Houses, supposedly making you a joint warchief. Rather than being put in charge of any armies, though, you are officially recognized as a one-person army. They even tell you that your new duty is to venture into dark and dangerous places where no one else would dare to enter. In addition, many organisations have established procedures with middle-management people running things smoothly (and possibly dipping into the till) without the important people at the top having to bother. The Winterhold academy in Skyrim ran itself pretty smoothly, while the guild arch-mage in Morrowind was somewhat insane and didn't actually run anything outside of his imagination.
In Skyrim, none of the named members of the Thieves Guild, Dark Brotherhood, or the Companions are ever shown actually doing their jobs. They much prefer sitting around the clubhouse, swapping stories of their past exploits, and cajoling the Dragonborn into doing their missions for them.
Dr Z in Dinosaur King (the DS version) wants to realise his dream of riding on the backs of dinosaurs. He does nothing (aside from his initial act of acquiring a Dinoshot to summon dinosaurs) towards that aim during the entire game, instead getting his minions to go around, menace the local populations, and infest areas with robots.
Faith of Mirror's Edge is a Runner, carrying important data across one of the few remaining unmonitored channels left in the City. Or at least, that's what we're told. She only actually gets one message to deliver, and passes it off to Celeste before the end of the first chapter. Later events reveal it probably never got there. There are some Kent Brockman News reports paranoid about those employing the Runners suggesting a good portion of the population has hired one before, but there isn't much reason to actually believe them. Most of the other Runners seem to be more interested in political assassination or selling out friends.
This is also a case of What Could Have Been: Unlockable content reveals that the bags played a larger role in early drafts of the plot.
Justified, since Faith spends the rest of the game being hunted by the government after they interrupted her first delivery of the game.
The nominally "mercenary" Star Fox team aren't very mercenary-ish in their business plans. Despite turning General Pepper's offer to join the army down cold in Star Fox 64, Peppy replaces him and leads the army in Star Fox Command. The ending to Star Fox 64 shows that Pepper paid the team quite a bit (depending on the score). They also were paid for Sauria and the Aparoid business. Star Fox Adventures actually begins with the team in a financial crisis from their lack of mercenary activity.
The rival Star Wolf team seem to get it wrong too, since they are considered criminals. Granted, realistically mercenaries are always a bit shady, but just living out the "whoever pays"-style doesn't warrant bounties.
For bandits, we really don't see much banditing from Moses Sandor and his band in Tales of Legendia Even when they move their base into town after being forced to leave their former base, the townspeople come to consider them to be pretty friendly people. Though their former does appear to show that they may have done plenty in past based on Moses room and all the gold they had.
Reimu from the Touhou series is a miko in charge of maintaining the Great Hakurei barrier. From what everyone's seen, that consists of drinking tea, sweeping, and more tea.
Averted in Silent Sinner in Blue. Not only does Reimu spend the early part of the manga practicing to call upon the powers of Sumiyoshi, her opening battle with Yukari Yakumo involves her calling upon Ama no Iwata Wake no Mikoto. So she isn't so lazy that she never practiced channeling deities.
The official title of Patchouli Knowledge is librarian and tutor of the Scarlet Mansion, however no-one but her actually uses her library (with the exception of Marisa's regular bouts of kleptomania) and it seems unlikely Remilia values a good education. Granted, researching new magics might be what Remilia hired her for, this being an instance of "do what you love doing".
Reimu's case is lampshaded and deconstructed in Mountain of Faith; none of the humans pay the Hakurei Shrine more than lip service because Reimu doesn't fight the youkai as expected of a miko. So when the Moriya gang arrives, sets up their shrine, and starts actually sending their miko to fight youkai, Hakurei followers quit in favor of the new guys who actually do the job, endangering the Shrine and by extension the Barrier.
Magi in Tsukihime are described as people who research and study magic intently far away from other people all by themselves their entire lives. Then they made the next game, Fate/stay night and based it on magi. And what do you know, not a single character is like that, and the prequel and supplementary materials illustrate quite clearly that it's actually kinda rare for a magus to actually do this, and not always voluntary. Averted in Kara no Kyoukai, which was written before Tsukihime, and it involves magi actually doing things. Such as killing and enslaving the residents of entire apartment buildings for the sake of magic experiments.
Dupre in Ultima was apparently the mayor of Trinsic in Ultima IV. He joins the Avatar's party in the local tavern, where he's mostly busy drinking. And nobody ever brought his job up in the following parts of the series. But being a mayor was easy in Ultima IV, when characters didn't have daily schedules implemented yet, anyway!
Most of the pirates in Alundra 2, only time we see proper pirates is in the protagonist's flashback. Protagonist himself, a pirate hunter, doesn't really do any pirate hunting.
MapleStory assassins seem to follow this trope. None of that 'professional murder' business in this child-friendly MMO. Even if they are supposed to be ninjas instead (orange Naruto gear ahoy), they don't fare terribly well at this either, being in no way stealth-driven and generally picked by the most look-at-me showoffish players in the game. Pirates fare no better, since any running away from these so-called ravening hordes is generally down to the reputation pirate players tend to have on MapleStory forums, rather than any notion of actual piracy.
AdventureQuest: There's vampires who never drink blood, rogues who never do anything particularly rogue-like, a treasure hunter that's almost never seen hunting treasure, a water elf who spends disturbing amounts of time on dry land well away from water, and a farmer who'd rather be a dread necromancer... among other things.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution: Adam Jensen is supposed to be the chief of security to Sarif Industries, but after the opening scenes he doesn't spend two minutes doing his actual job, instead being turned into a spy/hitman/all around problem solver for his boss. The job description of a security chief should rarely involve crawling around ventilation ducts and disposing terrorists personally.
Somewhat lampshaded if your gaming instincts take over and you start looting your coworkers' offices: eventually you'll get emails asking Jensen to investigate a series of petty thefts in his capacity as chief of security.
The original plan for the opening level/tutorial averted this: it was going to feature Jensen breaking in to a secure facility only to be revealed at the end that the facility belongs to Sarif and it was all part of a demonstration of security vulnerabilities.
The player character in Fallout 3 never does any marriage counselling or pedicuring or whatever the GOAT selected for them. Justified in that it was supposed to be your job in the Vault... which you end up having to flee from the very day you turn of age.
Averted in League of Legends: the actual pirate champion, Captain Gangplank, used to be treated as one of the comic relief characters, with his stereotypical pirate slang and his cannonballs and his ability to eat oranges to "cure his scurvy" and break out of curses and stuns in the process. He is, however, the only champion who was willing to shoot his own men to give others a "morale boost" (now removed for balance reasons). As more lore was released, it became clear that behind the child-friendly model is one of the worst bastards in the League.
Kingdom of Loathing has a burgeoning pirate population, all of whom seemingly just wander around their cove and/or play drinking games. They make you clean their ship because they're too "busy" to do it, or anything else, themselves. Their ship never even leaves port unless you pretend to be the captain and guide them somewhere. The only time they do anything significant is in the special secret ending to the hippy/frat war, where the pirates launch a barrage of cannonballs and bomber airships to destroy most of the island. And that still isn't really pirating, because they don't bother with stealing things or capturing hapless maidens; they just blow stuff up.
The Mongols in Medieval II Total War. They might take one or two fortifications or throw an army at your capital every once and so often, but overall they just tend to sit there looking menacing, even on higher difficulties. Guess the Khan just felt like taking a holiday in Europe rather than conquering it.
Pirates In Love takes place aboard a pirate ship whose crew engages in no actual piracy; the crew of the Sirius are more like seafaring treasure hunters who prefer to search for long-lost hidden valuables rather than pillage those already owned by someone else. In spite of this, for some reason they're still outlaws, with the result that any lawbreaking they do over the course of the game involves escaping from the Navy, whose officers are bent on arresting them for the crime of, apparently, calling themselves pirates.
Assassin's Creed 2 features "thieves" who can be hired by the player. When they are, they act as quick and agile fighters. The rest of the time, they are just hanging around on rooftops and other hidden areas and looking "stealthy". Either way, they never seem to do any thieving at all.
And then there are the prostitutes (called courtesans). Their job is to distract guards, which they are remarkably good at considering that they never actually put out. This is handled better with the Romani dancers in Revelations, who are actually meant to be a distraction.
Averted with the series' latest iteration, Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag; which takes place during The Golden Age of Piracy and everyone who calls himself/herself a pirate, player character Edward included, participate heartily in proper piracy. Funnily enough, it seems to have inverted the trope somewhat in-series as although there's plenty of piracy and Edward is fully capable of assassination, the actual nature of being an assassin is downplayed and Edward doesn't even join the cause formally until the last leg of his journey, this did not escape the notice of many longtime fans of the series.
In Xenogears, party member Citan Uzuki is supposed to be a doctor (well, as well as a mechanic, engineer, scholar, martial artist, master swordsman, spy for Solaris, ...), but he is never seen actually doing much medicine. He has one in-game ability related to healing, but it is more magical than medical and at least two other characters (who are not doctors) have similar abilities.
Also in Xenogears, in the beginning of the game we can see that the main character Fei is a quite gifted painter and enjoys making art. During the rest of the game, Fei is arguably busy being the hero and generally being at the center of several multi-millenarian plans which will determine the fate of the world, but we never ever hear anything again about his artistic vocation. It only lasts for a few seconds at the beginning of the game. That said, his painting is still quite relevant to the plot, especially when the protagonists find a centuries old portrait with a similar technique....
In Dishonored, the player character Corvo Attano is the Royal Protector, which means he is supposed to be the Empress' personal bodyguard and to protect her from threats at all times. So why does she send him far, far away for months on a quest to to find a cure for the plague which is decimating her city? It turns out there's actually a reason for this: she did so on the recommendation of the Royal Spymaster, who's trying to assassinate the Empress and wants a few months without Corvo so he can hire some untraceable assassins that can bump her off without interference.
In the extension Knife of Dunwall, you play the master assassin Daud. Daud is not a nice guy and killing people is supposed to be his job, but you can play in a completely non-lethal way if you want. If you do so, this is lampshaded by your lieutenant, who points out that you're not yourself these days and that not killing people is not your habit. (This is more or less justified by the fact that Daud is questioning himself and feeling guilty for murdering the Empress.) However, if you go out of your way to murder everyone and leave a pile of bodies at your wake, your lieutenant will think that you're slipping since as a master assassin you really shouldn't be killing that many people.
The Pirate storyline in Escape Velocity Nova really doesn't make the player character into much of a pirate — it is about resurrecting and then leading the Association of Free Traders, who are more smugglers than pirates (they're a group of semi-legal free traders banded together to protect themselves from piratical predations and the Federation's blatantly Mega Corp.-slanted trade laws). The only plundering going on is aimed at actual pirates, and consequently tends to be ignored by the legal authorities.
Terror Island has Ned Q. Sorcerer, DDS, who was bathed with "rays of pure dentistry" in his backstory, but has never been seen to perform the functions of a dentist, preferring instead to give long tedious speeches about "moonitaurs." However, his superpower is that everyone knows he's a dentist. He isn't actually a dentist.
Despite being described as "hardboiled detectives", Pickle Inspector, Ace Dick and the eponymous character of Problem Sleuth never actually do any detective work. They do solve lots of Weird Puzzle Shit and defeat a demonic manifestation of a local mob boss in an epic boss fight though.
The mercenaries in Schlock Mercenary pride themselves on their policy of hurting people and breaking things and only caring about their paycheck. But while they do plenty of mercenary work they usually manage to end up on the right side (or lesser evil side) of a conflict. The times that they didn't was usually in ignorance, preferably when they were actually trying to be the good guys.
Tagon: This isn't moral high ground. This is the artillery range.
A more obvious example would be Coach Z. The earliest character page said that he wasn't even a coach and he goes by Coach Z because it sound cooler than just "Z". This fact was later scrapped. He still does just as much janitorial work and rapping as coaching these days, though.
Despite the fact that Bubs owns several businesses, you can count on one hand the number of sales that he's made. He's given away items for free (or exchanged them for something worthless like play money or pencil shavings) far more often than he's sold them. Nor do we ever see him talking to vendors, taking inventory, counting money, setting prices, etc.
Sean from Mega64 was initially introduced as someone who delivers Rocko and Derek e-mail from the Big Bad's other Mega64 test subjects, but Rocko and Derek don't answer their e-mail much throughout the series, and Sean spends most of his time instead getting involved with the episode plotlines and plans.
Untitled Pirate Movie: The ex-pirate indeed doesn't do anything (anything pirate-related, anyhow), but so desperately wants to.
In Counter Monkey, Spoony recounts a Thieves' World tabletop campaign where one of the players was a thief who responded "I'm not that kind of thief" to pretty much every activity you'd expect a thief to do, such as lockpicking and pickpocketing. It seems like the only reason he was a "thief" was to tumble around during combat.
The Trope Namers in VeggieTales are a very self-aware example. Larry's verse implies that he doesn't even know what pirates are supposed to do.
Didi in Rugrats is supposedly a teacher but this rarely gets mentioned beyond the requisite 'taking Tommy to work' episode, where Chuckie's imaginary friend seems to remember her grading papers, and another when Stu asks why she's home and she reminds him it's summer.
Drew lists his occupation as investment banker, but this comes up even less. Likewise Chaz is a bureaucrat, but this is never shown and seldom referred to.
Bart: Do you even have a job any more? Homer: I think it's pretty obvious that I don't.
Earlier seasons did focus a lot on Mr. Burns and the Power Plant, but after that well ran dry, they Brother Chucked an entire section of Springfield. This is also true of the school, although less so.
The most obvious example is Captain McAllister: "Arrgh! I hate the sea and everythin' in it!"
Popeye's a sailor man (toot toot), and certainly engaged in lots of high seas adventure in the comics, but famously had very few encounters with ships or even water in his animated cartoons. An average of one Popeye cartoon per year (out of ten to twelve made) showed the sailor actually doing his job.
A big exception was during World War II, where quite a few cartoons portrayed him as having (re)joined the navy.
Captain K'nuckles from The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack claims to be an adventurer, yet he seems to actively avoid doing anything that involves leaving the harbor or performing manual labor. If he ever does go on an adventure, it's usually because Flapjack guilts him into it, or else by sheer accident.
The Whalers of the Moon, who freely admit there aren't any whales on the moon, and even have a song about it.
Professor Farnsworth, who is only seen teaching in one episode (he intentionally makes his course titles sound difficult so no one will sign up).
Professor Farnsworth: I don't know how to teach. I'm a professor.
Likewise, this episode is the only one in which Amy, ostensibly an engineering student, is shown attending class. She's also an intern at Planet Express, but never seen to do actual work there. It's later revealed that Professor Farnsworth keeps her around because she has the same blood type as him.
Planet Express itself never seems to do deliveries anymore. Lampshaded in an episode by Hermes:
Hermes: Didn't we used to be a delivery company?
Lampshaded in another episode where Bender isn't sure what they do, but guesses they're a bus service.
The title characters of the short-lived Undergrads are not once seen attending class, talking to instructors or even studying. Every university student on the planet wishes post-secondary school offered that much free time.
Variation with occasional cameo The Huntsman in Freakazoid!, a superhero (complete with rousing intro) who genuinely wants to act the part. Problem is, for some reason there's never a problem that requires his abilities, and he's invariably reduced to stomping off in a huff and cursing "Darn the luck!". He's more accurately described as a Pirate Who Doesn't Get To Do Anything.
Dr. Orpheus in The Venture Bros. is by trade A NECROMANCER!, yet is never seen actually raising anyone from the dead (apart from an attempt at resurrecting Hank and Dean). What he actually does appears to be random magic and protecting the fabric of the universe from the forces of chaos. Lampshaded in Season 4, where he mentions that he only chose his title because, unlike terms like "wizard" or "magician", it hasn't been tainted by popular culture.
Then there's Billy and Pete:
Billy Whalin: We don't need much room for what we do, and that's why we can't pay you that much. Because we don't do that much.
Pete White: We actually don't do anything.
An early episode also had literal pirates who were stranded in a forest of sargassum kelp and, aside from using (fake) Ghost Pirate tactics to commandeer passing cargo ships (which there don't seem to be many of in the Bermuda Triangle) they really don't do much of anything at all. This is appended when they foolishly try to hijack Doctor Venture's X-2 hydrofoil, and Brock burns down their ship.
Plankton in SpongeBob SquarePants really just exists to act as The Rival to Mr. Krabs and cause drama by trying to steal the Krabby Patty formula; he's practically never seen being a restauranteur, which is ostensibly his job. This appears to be an intentional part of his Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain schtick: he's so obsessed with upstaging the Krusty Krab that he forgets to run his own restaurant, and nobody in Bikini Bottom wants to eat at a "restaurant" that doubles as a Supervillain Lair.
Glenn Quagmire in Family Guy was said to be a pilot in early episodes. It wasn't until "Dammit Janet!" that we see him in his uniform, and in "Airport '07" that we actually got to see him do his job (although he was seen returning from a flight in "The Thin White Line").
On that note, just how often did you see Cleveland at the deli that he owned? This was lampshaded by Lois in the pilot episode of The Cleveland Show, when the characters learn that Cleveland is leaving Quahog, she asks him who will run "that deli you never work at".
In How to Train Your Dragon, the human characters are all Vikings. No raiding of other societies is mentioned - in fact, the Vikings are the ones getting raided, by dragons. Though given the events of the movie, it's possible that the dragon raids were so disruptive that they were focusing most of their time on getting rid of that issue.
The hero of the cartoon Night Hood. It's ostensibly a 1930's version Arsène Lupin. He's hunted by police in every country in the world. Other criminals try to pin their crimes on him. Does he ever actually steal anything or commit a crime more serious than lightly taunting police forces? No.
Velma seems to be the only character on Scooby-Doo who actually does anything school-related, even though they're allegedly all meddling kids. And even she's more likely to have a winning display at a science fair than to actually do something as routine as, say, attend a lecture.
Lampshaded in the new series by Fred's dad, the mayor of Crystal Cove, who we never really see doing anything other than try to mess with the gang's mystery solving, up to this point:
Fred: Dad? What are you doing here?
Mayor Jones: My job as mayor! (Beat) Or at least what I interpret that to be.
Pinkie works at a local bakery but is only seen baking a handful of times over the course of the series, and more often than not it's for personal reasons rather than business. It might be that she gets all her work done in the fairly early morning, as a bakery well might, before the adventures.
Some of the comics have shown that Princess Celestia does very little actual governance, and suggest that the role of a Princess in Equestria might simply be using their power and immortality to counter the more powerful evils of the world as well as ceremonial figurehead duties in peace.
The Crystal Empire doesn't act like an empire at all. It has its own alicorn princess to rule over it and is considered important, but it appears to be limited to a single city and is treated as if it's a city-state that is affiliated with Equestria...which would make Equestria the empire, if anything.
South Park: Randy Marsh is supposed to be a geologist, but rare is the time we actually see him doing any geological work. Instead, we see him trying to set the world's record for taking the biggest crap, aiming to become a TV chef, giving himself testicular cancer so he can smoke medical marijuana, etc.
When Archer becomes a "Pirate King" by killing the previous captain, he quickly alienates the crew by turning them into this (meaning nobody is getting paid). Combined with his Jerkass personality, a mutiny quickly ensues.
Played with in Peter Pan & the Pirates. All of Hook's Pirates are very eager to do some plundering and often talk abou t heading towards the Spanish main, but Captain Hook refuses to leave Neverland until he has dealt with Peter Pan, resulting in some very eager real Pirates that have nothing to do but act like stereotypical pirates who don't do anything.
In Leapfrog: Numbers Ahoy, the villain is a pirate. What makes him a villain, though, isn't anything resembling or labeled as piracy, but what he does on the side: kidnapping fish and keeping them in the hold of his ship. He's not shown to do anything else, and it's revealed that his fish-napping is part of a hobby separate from his "job" as a pirate.
Moral Orel: Throughout the series, Clay refers to his "stinking dead-end job" but he is never seen doing it. In fact the audience, and even his own son, doesn't even know what it is until the penultimate episode of the series when Orel goes to talk to the mayor and finds out that it's his dad.
Many Renaissance Festival village ensemble stock characters are like this. There's a ratcatcher who's almost never seen actually catching any rats, the highwayman who almost never robs anybody, and of course pirates and privateers who are there on shore leave and don't actually loot or plunder (though of course they may sing about such things).
Darkly averted in one Onion story, about people being drawn and quartered at a Renaissance Festival.
According to Sax and Violins, the band Talking Heads are "criminals that never broke no laws".
So-called "famous for being famous" celebrities.
In older fiction involving air travel, airline stewardesses are often shown panicking and/or fulfilling a Distressed Damsel role in a crisis (presumably because the writers had taken their "beaming glorified cocktail waitress" get-ups at face value) when flight attendants are in fact trained, clear-headed professionals who would immediately take action to maximize air passengers' safety during an emergency. Hiring pretty young ladies and having them serve coffee and flirt with businessmen was just the early airlines' way of making their presence less alarming to travelers, who might otherwise be scared off by speeches about what to do in the event of a crash.
On several video game sites, it's often joked that so many so-called "gamers" spend more time discussing and arguing about games online than actually playing them.
The popular stereotype of the "artist" who just sits in the coffee shop "waiting for inspiration" and complains about how hard it is to be an artist. It happens sometimes, but bonus points go for wearing turtlenecks and/or berets.
At the time when Spain was a great empire going from the Iberic peninsula to America and the Phillipines you could be a pirate if you were French, English, or just not Spanish approved and went to one of the ports of New Spain to sell things like shirts and scissors. You didn't have to kill, rape or steal anything, just defying Spain's commercial monopoly was enough. Sure, there were the people that made their living raiding cargo from Spanish ships, but those didn't pass everyday.
Many Wargamers fall into this. Most clubs have members who turn up, but never actually game, just sit around chatting. There are gamers who have hundreds of figures (many unpainted) and shelves of books (many unopened), who haven't touched any dice in months, but still say they are wargamers.
A literal example of this trope: If the following article is to be believed, the Somali pirates are now doing other things to pass the time due to better ship security and international naval patrols.
As companies grow larger and labor becomes more divided and bureaucratized, new positions and titles begin to emerge that often don't seem to indicate, what, if anything, their office holders are responsible for. Examples include obtuse titles such as "assistant deputy senior vice president of internal affairs" or, conversely, positions where titles are so vague they could mean just about anything (e.g., "consultant").
This is a specialty of government as well, particularly American politics.
In summer of 2010, 10 Russian spies were caught in America. However these aren't your badass Cold War Russians, as these spies were hanging around in Hoboken and raising families in suburbia. Though the spies were doing all sorts of James Bondian things, like bag switch offs and burying messages, there isn't any evidence that any of their information was of actual value. Most embarrassing are thephotos of the spies. The first of these were posted on Facebook.
"Do-nothing Congress" is a common phrase in American politics, usually used by Presidents, presidential candidates or the minority party in Congress; the charge was most famously levied by Harry Truman at the 80th Congress in 1948 and by the Democrats against the 109th Congress in 2006. Often it's an empty talking point that means "This Congress has done nothing I asked them to do," but occasionally it's used accurately. When the U.S. Senate or House of Representatives is closely divided between parties (and sometimes even when it's not), it's entirely possible that very few substantial bills will get passed. Likewise, when one political party strongly dominates the presidency and one house of Congress, the remaining house will very rarely get anything done, and even then only grudgingly.
Whether or not Congress does do anything is a contentious issue and "do-nothing" can be a desirable outcome depending on the issues on the table, party affiliation, philosophy (federalist vs. anti-federalist), etc.; moreover, "do-nothing" is usually used only in the context of passing legislation. Congress is technically responsible for overseeing the executive branch and crafting legislation, but as time has gone by representatives have created numerous subcommittees and it's now difficult to tell what Congress isn't responsible for, meaning that individual representatives may be doing quite a bit while the Congress itself does no legislating whatsoever.
President Obama has joked on several occasions about this subject during White House Correspondent Dinners
“I want to especially thank all the Members (of Congress) who took a break from their exhausting schedule of not passing any laws to be here tonight.” - WHCD 2012
“My ‘charm offensive’ has helped me learn some interesting things about what’s going on in Congress. It turns out absolutely nothing." - WHCD 2013
Presidents often receive a similar rap, as in Michael Moore's allegation that George W. Bush spent most of his first term on vacation or Republicans' criticism of Barack Obama's golfing, vacations and parties during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill crisis. Dwight Eisenhower was similarly portrayed as a golfer-in-chief.
According to Stephen Fry, rules at Oxford and Cambridge were so lax thirty years ago that students could (and many did) get away with going to almost no lectures or tutorials their entire four years there. And not just the students, either: professors were at least rumored to get away with this.
There are a long list of people who have become famous for no real reason (actor, singer, musician, writer, model, etc., although they might dabble in these after the fact.) They become famous for any number of reasons (reality shows, marrying a celebrity, sex tapes, churning out babies, etc.) who are able to get by on "appearance fees" for club appearances and the like.
Pretty much the point of a sinecure, which is basically a title and a paycheck without any real work involved. These are sometimes given out as political favors or to kick someone upstairs, but can also help people do their jobs (giving someone a title so that they can sit in on meetings, for instance).
The MythBusters have drifted into being Pirates Who Don't Do Anything in real life. Jamie Hyneman's actual business is M5 Studios, and he and his crew worked for years as very successful special-effects artists and product modelers. Jamie has since admitted in interviews that M5's activity has been declining since MythBusters hit it big, because companies that would have hired them don't want their products taking a backseat to the show's schedule, which as the show chugs on through ever larger projects is exactly what has happened.