Big things are happening on TV Tropes! New admins, new designs, fewer ads, mobile versions, beta testing opportunities, thematic discovery engine, fun trope tools and toys, and much more - Learn how to help here and discuss here.
"First, there is the sequence where someone is shown trying to unsuccessfully impale the cap of a normal pen, which suggests not only a lack of familiarity with pens, but also the visual-spatial reasoning ability of a pot-smoking chimp."
There are people in this world who take incompetence to an art form. You know who we're talking about; people who cannot be trusted to use scissors, cut themselves to ribbons when they try to use a potato peeler, and cannot even use a blanket without help. How can such utterly incompetent people make a living in this world?
By appearing in commercials!
You see, for Task [X] (say, cutting paper), performed previously by using The Old Way (a paper-cutter, or for added angst, scissors), there is someone trying to sell you a new PaperSlicerMax 3000, capable of doing the same thing. The new product has to be better than the Old Way if you want to convince an audience to throw out their old tools and buy new ones. All too often, the appearance of improvement is provided by showing the audience someone using the previous tool in a way so incompetent that it defies belief. What better way to advertise a new paper cutter than to show someone trying to use scissors and reducing their paper to modern art? Or, say, some idiot who cannot fold a map, to make GPS navigators look so much more efficient?
A popular format is to have the narrator say "stop wasting your time with conventional blankets", and showing a big red X or "no" slash over a typically monochrome and/or heavily desaturated video of someone apparently having a lot of trouble with it, or someone tossing it down and shaking their heads melodramatically. Bonus points if these conventional products cost thousands less in the long run. Expect Bad Bad Acting to be used to demonstrate frustration. Often the same person becomes dramatically more competent when they switch to the product being advertised — the idea is presumably "even a moron could use our product", but often comes across as "only a moron would need our product".
Might be Truth in Television for some products and some users. In fact, many of these products were invented specifically for the elderly and disabled, people who legitimately could have problems with some of these tasks. The Snuggie, for instance, was originally meant for wheelchair users who often have problems regulating their body temperature - the design allows for the upper body and legs to both be fully covered without a corner getting caught in a wheel and without fabric bunching up in the back (which can cause bedsores). The "being too incompetent to use it" factor usually arises when the item is marketed to a general audience and it becomes necessary to convince them that they can't live without these products. Even worse, products intended originally for a general audience, which shouldn't really need this, are *still* advertised with utter incompetents.
Gaze upon this video for a minute and a half of this sort of failure cut back-to-back. Sometimes goes hand-in-hand with The Power of Cheese, which is people acting incredibly stupid due to desire for the product being advertised instead of as a "demonstration" of a competitor. Related to Brand X, Cable/Satellite Mudslinging, and Side-by-Side Demonstration. May be used to cover up a Never Needs Sharpening flaw. Compare Deceptively Simple Demonstration, where the product is being used in a way that looks harder than it really is.
A Sub-Trope of Strawman Product. This may overlap with Lethal Chef if the product in question is related to cooking. Compare Viewers Are Morons.
Elfen Lied: Having been raised in a lab her whole life, Nana is virtually clueless of how the outside world works. First, she thinks the yen Kurama gave her is just "useless papers" and uses it for kindling. Then, while helping Mayu cook, she burns the contents of a frying pan and cuts a cabbage so enthusiastically that her prosthetic arm, knife and all, flies off and almost impales Mayu. Finally, while helping Nyu mop the floor and wash the windows, she first slips and gives herself a bloody nose, and then breaks said window.
The acting career of the main character in Hamlet 2 is mostly limited to performing these roles in commercials.
In the film Roxanne, the volunteer fire department CD is in charge of is pretty much this at the beginning. The first time we see the firehouse, CD arrives to find a fire burning in a barrel in the firehouse. This is why he hires Chris to train them properly.
Friends played with this. Character Joey Tribbiani is a struggling actor, and once accepts a role in an infomercial in which he portrays "Kevin", a guy who has trouble with milk cartons that are "flingin'-flangin' hard to open" (he rips one open while trying, spraying milk all over the place). But with the Milk Master 2000, he has no trouble. "Now I can have milk every day!" Later, Joey laments that his fellow cast members in a play tease him about the infomercial by asking him to open milk cartons ... and making fun of him when he really can't do it.
Admittedly the Milk Master is in some ways a pretty good idea - because if you're not allowed to use scissors to open a milk carton, you probably would need it.
Illustrated as a non-verbal Brick Joke; Rachel uses one at home a few scenes later.
30 Rock when Tracy advertises his Meat Machine in order to show bread is bad: a woman picks up a slice of bread and reacts as if it burnt her fingers.
"Are you tired of your bread making you angry?"
The Snuggie, as well as its commercials, were parodied in iCarly with "The Sack".
The funny part of iCarly making fun of Snuggies is that Nickelodeon advertised the Snuggie.
Even funnier, there's something like "The Sack" that actually exists, albeit with a different purpose. There's something similar that's marketed for people who travel frequently and would prefer a protective barrier between them and filthy hotel sheets.
Parodied and subverted in one episode of The Honeymooners: Ralph and Ed are trying to sell a multi-function kitchen utensil on an infomercial. They only have two apples, so they don't practice coring them. When they're doing the actual commercial, Ed, in full Cloud Cuckoo Lander mode, doesn't bother faking having trouble with the normal corer, and finishes in less than five seconds. Meanwhile, Ralph spends several minutes trying to get the product to work, growing increasingly frazzled.
One episode featured a series of ads for products combining mayo and mustard in a single jar, like Hellman's Dijonnaise. In the end, a guy is shown missing out on the important moments in his life because the process of spreading mustard then mayonnaise was simply too time consuming.
An episode features Janeane Garofalo as a woman who simply can't organize the bags in her kitchen, shouting, "Help me!" at the camera. The solution is "bag hutch," a box to put bags in. The writers had to change the name of the product because "bag box" was already the name of a product that did the exact same thing.
Picnicface featured a segment called "Infomercial Plus" - an infomercial actor agency that offers people Too Incompetent to Operate a Blanket in real life to make your infomercial even better! Highlights included a literal blanket-operating failure, a man unable to comprehend fruit and another utterly incapable of cracking eggs.
Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: Bulk once tried to star in an ad for a karate dojo and ended up serving as an example of what happens when one tries to learn karate without proper training.
Parodied in a Russell Howard's Good News sketch. A faux-ad for Bic's new "Lady Pen" depicts a woman being completely incapable of using a "manly" pen.
Infamously - nay, Legendarily - Inverted in the second episode of The IT Crowd, wherein an advert ("Has This Ever Happened To You") depicts an elderly woman falling down some stairs, getting right back up with no problems, and then falling down some more. But before she can dial up Emergency Services, the ad cuts in with how, as part of a general improvement, they've changed the number - it's no longer 999note The show takes place and is shown in the UK, but perhaps mindful of US viewers Roy later mentions '911', which Moss corrects, but (*jingle*) 0118 999 881 999 119 725...
...3. ("Hello, I've had a bit of a tumble.")
In one Horrible Histories skit, there is a parody commercial for John Joseph Merlin Roller Skates, the first roller skates ever invented. However, due to the very slippery floor and the poor design of the skates, Merlin is constantly slipping and crashing over and over during the commercial, until he has a bloody nose and bruised right eye from all the falls he's taken.
Warning: Early roller skates do not include stoppers or brakes
The Phoenix punk band Andrew Jackson Jihad created a commercial for their product the "Salad Glove," a nylon-free glove used to eat salad by those who struggle with forks but don't want to appear rude by using their bare hands. The product was originally invented as a lyric in their song "People 2 II: Still Peoplin'."
Parodied by You Don't Know Jack in one of its faux advertisements, which began with "Playing Solitaire on the computer is fun, right? But it's hard to remember all those rules!" The "ad" proceeded to hawk a fictional computer game titled "52-Card Pickup 2000".
In Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars, the molotov cocktail preparation minigame at gas stations suggests that Huang Lee would be a great candidate if there was ever an infomercial for people who can't efficiently pour gasoline into their gas tank.
Depressed, he sits down on his bed and puts a gun to his head to kill himself, but when he pulls the trigger, it clicks empty, informercial music starts playing, an X is emblazoned on the screen, and an announcer shouts, "ARE YOU TIRED OF UNRELIABLE GUNS?!" revealing that what we saw was the lead-in to another infomercial.
After Hours discusses this trope at length in one episode - the one where they debate which commercial universe is the coolest. Dan O'Brien initially pitches infomercials as the coolest - after all, being able to perform basic tasks in those universes would mark you a deity - but it's quickly pointed out that he'd have to rely on idiots to do everything else.
Soren Bowie: Think of how lonely you'd be being the only person in the universe who can do anything. And what happens if you get sick? Do you really trust a doctor from a world where people get trapped in bubble wrap?
Adding "Thanks, Obama!" to gif examples of these has become a political meme, due to a (real or perceived) tendency for Republicans to blame everything on him.
Parodied by Smosh in the informercial for the Easy Step. The opening shows Anthony struggling to climb steps.
MikeJ has an entire series of these, dubbed Infomercialism. Some items of note:
The comfort wipe, essentially an extended arm to hold toilet paper for those who are "too important to wipe their own ass" (though Mike conceded that someone with limited reach might, might need one, he'd assume they'd need help with more than just that).
A multitude of cheese graters, with one electric grater getting the honors of having Mike do a side-by-side comparison with an ordinary hand grater which won by a mile. These products tend to disappoint him the most.
A Spray (pronounced as Aspray since the commerical left no space between the A and S)
The pocket chair listed in Advertising above. Mike noted that it was slightly too large for his pockets, and too small for him to feel all that safe sitting on. He also noted that the commercial has the people not taking advantage of the perfectly good bench right behind them in the park scenes.
A Day in the Life of DarkSydePhil, a skit by Retsupurae fans, parodies Phil's inability to perform basic actions in games as well as his tendency to blame said games for his own incompetence by applying the same thing to real life actions such as starting up a car, unlocking an iPad or even eating pasta with a fork.
Table Flip parodied this trope hard for the shirt ad. Without the shirt Suzy can't flip a table, and Barry can't even sit down.
Deconstructed to a complete T in the Cold Open of "The Meaning of Love" from The Cyanide & Happiness Show, essentially an infomercial for "Not Doing That". Then, it becomes an ad for "Doing That"...then considerable things and some people from "Not Doing That" appear and screw it up. Then, it becomes an ad for "Making Your Own Decisions Based on the Situation", which is...well, yeah.
Parodied in one of the Troy McClure/Dr. Nick infomercials from the earlier seasons of The Simpsons, which opens with Troy demonstrating a juicer by first awkwardly squeezing an orange against his forehead for a few seconds before telling his audience that "Until now, this was the only way to get juice from an orange." Immediate cut to Homer who is, of course, in the middle of actually making juice this way.
Homer: "You mean there's a better way?!"
Then he demonstrates said juicer, which Dr. Nick shouts is "WHISPER QUIET" and acts incredulous at the fact that only one drop comes out of the machine. "You got all that from one bag of oranges?"
An early episode of Squidbillies features a fake commercial for a fictional baby crib. It starts off with a woman apparently unable to cope with her ventriloquist infant screaming with his mouth closed, insisting with a lip-synch that wouldn't be out of place in a Godzilla movie, "There's got to be a better way!"
Another fake advertisement in the same episode starts the same way. This ad is for the Baby Death Trap, which apparently exists solely so the manufacturer can sue people who call the earlier product a "death trap" not for libel but for trademark infringement.
Clone High, where Gandhi and Abe advertise their knork by having Abe dress up as an old lady who complained that she could barely walk because of the difficulty of using two utensils at the same time.
In Hoodwinked, the 2006 adaptation of Little Red Riding Hood, Kirk Kirkkendall is an actor trying out for a Paul's Bunion Foot Cream commercial. When told over the phone he has received the part and is being summoned back tomorrow to perform in front of their client, the director instructs Kirk to go out to the woods, and cut down a tree. He emphasizes, "Don't act like a woodsman, be a woodsman." So Kirk goes off into the woods with an axe and makes several attempts to cut down a short tree for practice, but his attempts are so pathetic that he looks like the world's worst lumberjack:
First, he tries holding the axe by the axe blade itself, hitting the handle against the side of the tree and pretty much looking like a complete idiot. This is also idiotic in the fact that you could cut your hands easily.
Then he tries ramming the blade vertically into the side of the tree like he's trying to split the tree down the middle.
Lastly, he tries uprooting the tree, using the axe and one of his feet as leverage.
He only becomes competent once he reads Chopping ForActors ("Discover Your Inner Woodsman!").
Now that he's read up how to properly operate an axe, he goes on a tree cutting spree with his small axe. This works out well....on small trees at least, and some trees that take no more than three or four swings. But when he gets to a very big tree at least five feet in diameter, his option is to swing repeatedly at the tree despite being fully aware that it won't fall with one swing. Cut to several hours later, and the tree is just balancing precariously on a small amount of bark like someone just took a giant bite out of it. That's when Kirk hears a scream from the cottage at the bottom of the hill he's standing on. As he's going down to investigate the noise, the tree gives way. A person wanting to take down a redwood tree that large would likely drill explosive charges into the sides and detonate them.
Something also says that he didn't have any permit to do tree clearing.
In Fillmore!, O'Farrell is described as "Isn't trained to use a stapler" when Fillmore assigned him as a bodyguard.
Vallejo: Fillmore! O'Farrell isn't trained to use a stapler, let alone bodyguard somebody!
South Park has mocked this many times. A good example would be the episode "Timmy 2000" when Chef tries to introduce a drug-free way to get the children to listen without Ritalin. The result is a program known as "Be Quiet or I'll Pop You in the Mouth Again."