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All Work vs. All Play

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"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
All play and no work makes Jack a mere toy."
Maria Edgeworth, Irish novelist

Alice is all work, all the time and never has time to have fun because fun is not productive. Meanwhile, Bob only cares about having fun all the time and claims to be allergic to work. If only there was some sort of golden mean...

Usually, a scenario to give An Aesop about balance between responsibility and leisure, this has been seen incarnated in different ways through media but at times is just the essential characteristic between two characters. Compare All Take and No Give. Contrast Work Hard, Play Hard.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Agon and Unsui of Eyeshield 21. Though this seems to stem from what they were born with. Agon's incredibly talented and a quicker learner so he's never needed to work. Unsui is an average guy with an inferiority complex.
  • In Hetalia: Axis Powers, Germany (all work) vs. Italy (all play).
  • Liszt and Alice Kiriki in Ōkami-san. Due to the series' fairy tale theme, they're based on the Ur-Example below (List being the Grasshopper, and Alice being the Ant).
  • Haruhi (work) and Tamaki (play) in Ouran High School Host Club, due to their social backgrounds. Really, Haruhi vs. the entire host club (minus Kyouya and Mori) are this.
  • Siblings Taihei and Umaru are All Work and All Play respectively in Himouto! Umaru-chan. This gets played with in a few chapters, however. In one case, Taihei takes some vacation time and, once all the chores are caught up on and Umaru isn't home from school yet, finds himself incredibly bored, but starts to develop an interest in cooking as a hobby. Umaru skips school and stays home while Taihei goes to work, but soon feels guilty and goes to school after all.
  • Kaguya-sama: Love Is War has a single person example with Fujiwara. She used to be an honor student who never had any time to play due to spending every waking moment practicing the piano until she was on the verge of a burnout. After Kaguya convinced her to quit, she decided to make up for lost time and became The Hedonist.
  • Brothers Bruno (work) and Licht (play) in The Royal Tutor. Bruno is very studious and dedicated to improving himself through education. Licht prefers to have fun and spend time with pretty women. Subverted in that it's discovered that Licht has a secret job as a hardworking waiter.
  • Sailor Moon: Usagi has this relationship with both Ami and Rei. Ami is an honors student who takes her studying very seriously and Rei is a Workaholic, while Usagi herself is often lazy and tends to not take things seriously. Same goes with her brother Shingo who gets good grades and does what he's told, in contrast to his sister who is Book Dumb and whiny.

    Comic Strips 

    Fan Works 

  • Better Bones AU: Brackenfur is the all work to Graystripe's all play, with the two disliking each other for that reason (and also due to Graystripe being a poor mentor to Brackenfur).
  • A Dip in the Inkwell: In "Staring Contest", Olive and Todd have this dynamic. Olive is the no-nonsense one who wants to focus on work, while the latter, who chides her for such an attitude, is the fun-loving one who likes to let loose.
    Todd: This is Odd Squad! We're kids! Chillax and goof off once in a while, yeesh! If we wanted to be all boring-bore-bore all the time and sit around with serious faces while we do too much paperwork, we'd grow up and get some dumb regular job. Not a job like this!

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Cameron Diaz is the All-Play character to Toni Collette in In Her Shoes.
  • Metropolis is kind of like this, except that most of the population lives in constant toil and misery in order to facilitate the lazy decadent lifestyle of the privileged few. The moral of the story is that a compromise between the extremes needs to be found, but it's more about reforming the straw capitalist state than about the virtue of moderation.
  • Uptown Girls: Molly is all play, Ray is all work.
  • Hot Fuzz - Workaholic supercop Nicholas Angel is shunted off to a sleepy village for making every other London police officer look bad. In his first week, he learns that pubs in Sandford allow a certain amount of underage drinking for the "greater good", getting drunk and nearly hitting a fellow office with your car means you have to pay for the ice cream for a while, and there hasn't been a murder in decades. Then the "accidents" start...
  • Combined with Technician vs. Performer in Rush. James Hunt is a playboy, arriving at the track with last night's conquest on his arm and his eyes peeled for tonight's. Niki Lauda will have been there for several hours already, working on his car's setup.
  • In The Cat in the Hat, Sally is an uptight Control Freak, whereas Conrad is a compulsive rule-breaker and thrill-seeker. Both attitudes are portrayed as problematic - Conrad's drives part of the plot, while Sally's is shown to have a negative effect on her social life. The Cat discusses the trope during his musical number:
    The Cat: You can juggle work and play, but you've got to know the way!

  • The Ur-Example is in one of the Aesop's Fables, "The Grasshopper and the Ants", though that one supports the Ant's philosophy (work first, because winter is coming).
  • Norton Juster's children's book The Dot and the Line, famously adapted into an animated short directed by Chuck Jones. The Line is All Work while the Squiggle, his romantic rival for the Dot's affection, is All Play. The Line only gets the girl because he learns to bend a little (quite literally) and be creative, giving the Dot a Love Interest who's the best of both worlds.
  • In Epithet Erased: Prison of Plastic, Molly muses how this was the dynamic of her parents when her mother Calliope was alive after asked about it by Rick Shades: she was a workaholic who barely smiled, while her father Martin can't take anything seriously if his life depended on it. In her musings, Molly acknowledges that while they'd probably do a bad job as single parents (something Martin had come to prove in spades), together they managed to create a "happy home balanced on two broken support beams".
  • The French children's book Fattypuffs and Thinifers where two countries go to war: the Fattypuffs, who are fat and only care about pleasure and relaxation, and the Thinifer, who are a bunch of thin bitter workaholics.
  • The elvish society in the Hollow Kingdom Trilogy is based around beauty and leisure with no hard work. The goblins in the story disapprove of their lifestyle and are hard working.
  • H. G. Wells The Time Machine: The Morlocks (All Work) focus on nothing but menial labor to provide for the Eloi. The Eloi (All Play) simply laze about, though they'll also be eaten by their apparent servants. They're presumed to be divided paths of human evolution, and the Aesop is a "If This Goes On" variety about the class differences of Victorian England.
  • The conflict between an active life and a life devoted to abstract intellectual pursuits is one of the central themes of The Glass Bead Game.
  • The March sisters in Little Women try an experiment that involves all play and no work only to find that they are incredibly bored by the end of it, thus providing An Aesop that one really needs a balance of the two to be satisfied.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Liz Lemmon on 30 Rock is all work while everyone else (especially the writers, who want to avoid actual work as much as possible) is all play.
  • Drake & Josh: Josh is All Work and Drake is All Play
  • Fraggle Rock: Fraggles are All Play and Doozers are All Work.
  • The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air: Carlton is All Work and Will is All Play.
    • Carlton lampshades this trope several times. In one episode he even compares himself and Will to "The Grasshopper and the Ants".
      Carlton: See, the grasshopper goofed off, while the ant worked hard storing up food for the winter. When the winter came, the ant had food, but the grasshopper starved to death. You know what the moral of the story is?
      Will: Yep! Even if we were insects, I'd be bigger than you.
    • Say what you will about Will, but he technically was the first person to start looking for a job. He's streetwise enough to earn his own way, but when it comes to actual schoolwork, Carlton trumps him easily. An entire episode is actually dedicated to how Will is a much better job worker than Carlton, simply because he's less tempestuous to deal with.
  • Joey Tribbiani on Friends pursues an acting career while Chandler Bing takes a steady job and holds down rent.
    • Well...kind of holds down rent...
    • Although both of them are definitely All Play to Ross's All Work. Made clear in one episode where Ross wants Joey to keep working on his screenplay while Chandler wants to play "fireball".
  • Full House: Danny is All Work, Jesse and Joey are All Play.
  • Moonlighting: Maddie is All Work; David is All Play...
  • The Office (US): Dwight is All Work; Jim is All Play.
  • Oobi: Oobi and Kako are All Play; their teacher Maestru is All Work.
  • My Two Dads: Michael is All Work; Joey is All Play.
  • On Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Sabrina's Aunt Zelda tends to be All Work, while Aunt Hilda tends to be All Play. There is an episode where the two magically switch personalities....
  • Charlie Sheen has embodied the all play character against two all-work characters in two different TV shows. In Spin City, he was the foil to Heather Locklear and in Two and a Half Men, he's the foil to his brother
  • The Suite Life of Zack & Cody: Cody is All Work; Zack is All Play.
  • In Wings, Joe is All Work and Brian is All Play.
  • In many episodes of Supernatural like "Hollywood Babylon" and "Tall Tales", Sam is all work and Dean is all play.
  • Rimmer and Lister in Red Dwarf are like this, at least to start with. Rimmer is career-obsessed, despite being the second-lowest rank on the ship, and tries to enforce the rules and protocols of the Space Corps even after the entire crew (except Lister) have died, while Lister spent most of his time before the crew died slacking off and getting drunk with his mates, and his plan for the journey back to Earth is to 'slob around' and 'have a few laughs'.

    Video Games 
  • Catherine: Vincent's two love interests, Katherine and Catherine. Katherine is all work - a strong-willed, mature career woman who wants Vincent to be the best he can be. Catherine, meanwhile, is all play - an impulsive, sexy girl who wants to have fun regardless of the consequences. Vincent starts out as a Lazy Bum who doesn't really play or work as much as he should, but he can choose either woman by the end--or neither, and pursue his own dreams.
  • This sums up the dichotomy between Duma and Mila in Fire Emblem Gaiden. Duma, the god of strength, built Rigel into a strong martial nation... causing it to devolve into The Empire. Mila, goddess of kindness, blessed Zofia with abundance... causing it to devolve into lazy hedonism. Both gods had undergone Sanity Slippage and took their ideals to further and further extremes, and the story ends with the people of Valentia rejecting both in favor of a balanced approach, represented by the more moderately all-work Alm and all-play Celica.
  • Fire Emblem: Awakening: Nowi is all play, despite being around 1,000 years old. Her daughter winds up being all work, in an unusual example of this trope.
  • Fatal Fury: Terry is all play, spending most of his time on playing arcade machines and eating cheeseburgers. His brother Andy, however, is all work, spending most of his time in Japan honing his skills. Despite this, Terry was always ahead of Andy because of his greater fighting skills and natural talent, which is honed by street-fighting that shapes up Terry's instinct for the unpredictable.
  • The main conflict in Lil Gator Game is this. Lil Gator wants Big Sis to stop working on her college project and play with them like when they were younger, but Big Sis thinks she can't afford to take a break until she's completely done with it. In the end, the two reach a compromise, with Lil Gator accepting that they can't force Big Sis to do what they want, and Big Sis in turn realizing that she's worked more than enough to earn a break and going to play with her sibling.

    Visual Novels 
  • Little Busters!: Haruka, a mischevious Genki Girl always causing trouble, versus Kanata, a strict stickler for the rules and straight A student. This is because they're twins, and while Kanata was always played up as the 'good' twin and expected to do well and forced to act in line with the family, Haruka was constantly told that she was inferior and essentially disowned by them.
  • Nameless - The One Thing You Must Recall -: This is one of the main personality conflicts between roommates/former dolls Lance and Red.

    Web Animation 
  • Red vs. Blue: Grif and Simmons. Simmons is a insecure suck-up who is constantly working, thrives on rigid organization, and takes great pains to appear to be a genius when he really isn't as smart as he likes to think he is. In contrast, Grif is a Lazy Bum who constantly avoids work, has no respect for authority, and is implied to be considerably smarter than he lets on.
  • Done in Steve And Carlos with the title characters, Steve being all play and Carlos being all work. Played for laughs much like the inspiration Red vs Blue.

    Web Comics 
  • Deconstructed with Percy and Ava from Superego. Their extreme stances on the work-play spectrum are symptomatic of their deep issues. Percy is a perfectionist who suffers from constant anxiety about doing things methodically, while Ava is an attention-seeker due to being ignored in favor of her older, "perfect" sister during childhood.

    Western Animation 
  • Henry and Stanley in The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan, though Henry isn't as uptight as most examples.
  • The Amazing World of Gumball:
    • Gumball is often lazy and hedonistic, preferring to goof around over focusing on his responsibilities. Anais, by contrast, is a studious Child Prodigy who does what she is told. Gumball has occasionally shown to do work, but only when he feels like it.
    • Richard is a couch potato with no job, while his wife Nicole is far more dedicated to housework and chores. In "The Job", it is shown that if Richard does find a job, Elmore would face extinction.
  • American Dad!: Invoked in one episode where Stan and Francine decide to raise Steve and his clone in their own ways, with the clone being the All Work and Steve himself being the All Play. Stan makes the clone do chores, exercise, and study, whereas Francine allows Steve to do whatever he wants, namely playing video games all day, eating junk food, masturbating, and staying up late at night. Deconstructed when the clone turns into a sociopathic murderer due to the stress of having to work 24/7 and Steve turns into an overweight, lethargic couch potato from having nothing to work for.
  • Arthur: Arthur tends to be the All Work, while Buster is usually the All Play. Same with Francine (All Work) and Muffy (All Play) as well as Brain (All Work) and Binky (All Play), if those characters are paired together.
  • Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers: Chip is All Work and Dale is All Play.
  • On Class of the Titans, Jay is All Work and Neil is All Play. The others fall somewhere in the middle, and usually take turns trying to persuade Jay to loosen up a bit. (Getting Neil to be more serious is generally understood to be a lost cause.)
  • Dexter's Laboratory:
    • Played with with Dexter and Dee Dee (respectively All Work and All Play), where there would be episodes where Dexter would be more relaxed like Dee Dee or Dee Dee more work-minded like Dexter only to turn back at the end. Certain episodes, however, has Dexter frequently worrying about normal things for a boy his age, such as his favorite television heroes, and being liked by the neighborhood kids.
    • In one episode, Dexter briefly attended college and was put off by how most of the students were more interested in partying. However, he overdoes it on his studying and suffers a nervous breakdown, and when he's actually willing to party, everybody else is concentrating on their schoolwork.
  • From Gravity Falls, the Pines brothers. As they grew up from childhood, Ford became all work, and Stan remained all play. This drove a wedge between the twins to the point that Ford was willing to abandon Stan for an (admittedly serious) honest mistake. While Stan has become a little better about this in his adult years, Ford largely remains at his extreme. Subverted with their nephew and niece, Dipper and Mabel Pines. While Dipper is the more serious, mature twin, he certainly knows when to loosen up and have fun, and Mabel is playful and fun-loving, but knows when to be serious. They get along a lot better than their uncles.
  • In Inner Workings, Paul's Brain is All Work, believing that any deviation from Paul's humdrum life will have disastrous consequences, while Paul's Heart is All Play, wanting Paul to break out of his routine and enjoy life more. The Brain gradually realizes that he's just making Paul miserable, and learns to let Paul lighten up a little.
  • There are two sets of characters in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic that fit this dynamic.
    • Applejack is a solid and reliable hard worker, who will faithfully help her friends even at the risk of overextending herself. Rainbow Dash is Brilliant, but Lazy and would rather nap and save her work for the last moment. Some episodes display a Friendly Rivalry between the two. Subverted, however, when Rainbow Dash is pursuing her dreams of a Wonderbolt. She does try hard. She's also an example of Hard Work Hardly Works.
    • Twilight Sparkle is the studious pupil of Princess Celestia herself, who can always be found studying or using her powers of Obsessive Organization to organize an event. Pinkie Pie is a Cloudcuckoolander who doesn't always pay close attention to whatever's going on and whose answer to any problem is to throw a party at it. Literally at it; she has a party cannon.
    • This is highlighted in the episode "Magical Mystery Cure", where Twilight accidentally swaps the destinies/lives of her friends. The playful Pinkie Pie is now an apple-farmer. This goes as well as can be expected.
      Pinkie Pie: I ain't much for picking fruit, and ploughing fields ain't such a hoot
      No matter what I try I cannot fix this busted water chute!
      I've got so many chores to do, its no fun being me...
      But it's got to be mah destiny, 'cause it's what my cutie mark is telling me!
  • The Owl House: Luz is very fun-loving, air-headed, and impulsive, while her girlfriend, Amity, is more studious, reserved, and serious.
  • Ready Jet Go!: Whenever the kids need to solve a problem, Sean wants to use the Scientific Method and work to get the problem solved, while Jet wants to play around and deliberately make mistakes in order to solve the problem.
  • Regular Show:
    • Downplayed with Mordecai and Rigby. While they are both slackers, Mordecai is shown to be more devoted to his job than Rigby, who would rather goof around and come up with any excuse to avoid his duties.
    • Also downplayed with Benson and Pops. Benson is devoted to his job as park manager and persistent in keeping his workers in line. Pops, though far from lazy, is usually too scatterbrained and childish to perform his duties at the park, preferring to play with toys and catch butterflies.
  • In The Simpsons, Marge and Lisa are All Work while Homer and Bart are All Play. This gets lampshaded a couple of times.
  • Sonic and Princess Sally in Sonic the Hedgehog (SatAM). While Sonic is one of the most active Freedom Fighters, he tends to treat missions like a game and fool around, while Sally is a humorless workaholic who constantly berates him for being reckless. A lot of the time Sonic's careless attitude gives an opening for the villains, though he has occasional moments of brilliance.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: SpongeBob is a devoted worker at the Krusty Krab and a Neat Freak, in contrast to his best friend Patrick, a Fat Slob who doesn't have a job and goofs around 24/7.
  • Teen Titans: Robin and Raven are all work, Beast Boy and Cyborg are all play.
  • The Three Little Pigs: The first two pigs are All Play, while the third is All Work.


Video Example(s):


Playboy vs. Workaholic

During the song "When We're Human" Naveen and Tiana layout their respective philosophies on life.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (9 votes)

Example of:

Main / AllWorkVsAllPlay

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