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Faux-To Guide

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In that case... what do all the other pages say?

Satirical "How To" guides. The instructions are faulty, or the person following them does it horribly, or the instructions are loaded with irony about how not to do it. One sure thing, the point is to laugh, not to teach. The word "faux" in the trope name, is a French word that means "wrong" or "false."

Compare Mockumentary, Little Known Facts, Parodies for Dummies, Fauxtivational Poster, Faux Documentary, Sabotutor, Anti-Advice.

Contrast: Documentary.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Ranma ½, Ranma Sotome is revealed to be deadly afraid of cats, because his father, Genma Saotome, had read in a martial arts instruction book that to toughen up a student, the teacher had to tie food that would be appealing to cats to the student and then throw them into a pit full of cats. After several failed attempts, Genma turns the page and reads that this training technique should not be attempted because it doesn't work.

  • One George Carlin comedy routine consisted of a list of nonsensical "how-to" books, including "How to Annoy Everyone" and "How to Kill a Rat With an Oboe".
  • Brian Regan has a bit making fun of how the pop-tart microwave and toasting instructions start out by telling the person to open the packet. He even pokes fun at the fact that the microwave instructions for pop-tarts is to cook it on High for three seconds.
    Regan: If you have that little time in the morning, you need to rethink your life.

    Comic Books 

    Fan Works 
  • Halloween Unspectacular: The first story in Terror Australis Incognita is a sarcastic how-to guide on writing Danny Phantom fanfic. Among other things, it "advises" ignoring everyone outside of a select few characters, exaggerating Sam's gothic traits into suicidal tendencies, writing Vlad as being a better parental figure for Danny than his actual parents "by dint of looking more bishie", and to only write romance plots wherein Danny rescues a heavily chickified girl, all without having to care about proper spelling, punctuation, formatting, etc.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Robert Benchley "How To" shorts from the 1930s and 1940s (How to Eat, How to Sleep, etc.).
  • Also some of the "Pete Smith Specialties" shorts were How Tos. (How to prepare a meal for guests at the last minute.)
  • Tim Conway's straight-to-video Dorf On Golf.
  • Tyler Durden's versions of the airline safety instructions card in Fight Club.

  • The Compleet Idoit's Guied for Dumies (sic)
  • The Complete World Knowledge series includes hobbies for asthmatic children, how to tell the different types of werewolf apart, information on hermit crab racing, advice on cons, advice on de-lousing your children, advice on de-axolotling your plumbing (do not look for too long at an axolotl or you will become one), how to buy a computer, how to cook an owl, how to remember any name (especially the name John Hodgman), the secret of your identity and how you got that terrible scar, etc.
  • How NOT to Write a Novel is a self-help book that is written like one of these.
  • How to Ruin Your Life by Ben Stein is an inversion, in that it actually describes how people ruin their lives to help people avoid such pitfalls.
  • The Zombie Survival Guide offers practical advice, albeit for a completely fictional situation.
  • Taming of the Screw by Dave Barry is a guide of this kind for DIY home improvement projects. He also used to write a recurring column called Ask Mr. Language Person which did this for grammar.
    • Also Dave Barry's The Only Travel Guide You'll Ever Need
  • How to Be a Superhero was part this, part satire of Super Hero tropes. Similarly, inversely, there is also How To Be A Villain.
  • The Action Hero's Handbook — The information is fairly accurate, but it advises you for situations you'll probably never run into yourself, and it's not a good idea to try any of it yourself.
  • How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, though some of the advice seems like it might work.
  • In the computer world, Mr. Bunny's Big Cup o' Java(TM) and Mr. Bunny's Guide to Active X by Carleton Egremont, Jr. describes those technologies in the style of a children's book. Both are funny only to those who already understand how they work.
  • Oh, the Humanity: A Gentle Guide to Social Interaction for the Feeble Young Introvert. You can obtain great results just by taking its instructions and doing the opposite.
  • Likewise, Kaz Cooke's Little Books Of X. At one point, The Little Book of Beauty advises the use of wood glue in a hair care regime.
  • The Book Within A Book Witchhunting for Dumb People in Wintersmith is actually a very useful and helpful book ... if you're a witch who wants a village full of dumb people to let you have a good night's sleep and wake you with a cup of tea in the belief this will rob you of your powers, rather than burning you.
  • How to Survive a Horror Movie, which also helps you determine if you're in one, and if so, what kind. Very very trope-savvy.
  • How to Lose Friends and Alienate People by Irving Tressler is a 1937-vintage guide to making oneself obnoxious.
  • Miss Piggy's Guide to Life, "as told to" Henry Beard. Chock-full of hilarious "advice" such as the suggestion that people with crow's feet should wear scarecrow earrings.
  • The eponymous book-within-a-book in How to Train Your Dragon. The book is two pages long, one of the pages reading simply "YELL AT IT" and the other being an "about the author".
  • Humorist Dan Greenburg wrote several books like that, such as How to Make Yourself Miserable, How to Avoid Love and Marriage and most notably How to Be a Jewish Mother.
  • Delia Ephron's How to Eat Like a Child: And Other Lessons in Not Being a Grown-up deals with subjects such as "How to Torture Your Sister" and "How to Have a Birthday Party".

    Live-Action TV 
  • Dick Loudon in Newhart wrote how-to guides. They were straight how to guides, but one episode had the town ready to burn them because they thought it helped a man escape from prison. Then they read the books, and wanted to burn them because they were boring. Fortunately, they realized that that was setting a bad precedent.
  • "Stephen's Sound Advice" on The Colbert Report includes such advice as, "Wash your computer thoroughly to avoid viruses." The advice frequently focuses on BEES!, whether they're relevant to the situation or not.
    • All-purpose advice for any situation: FUCK 'EM!
  • Parodied in M*A*S*H, with a guide on how to disarm a bomb.
    Guide: Cut the blue wire.
    Hawkeye: [cuts wire]
    Guide: But first remove the fuse.
  • Similarly, from Mystery Science Theater 3000:
    Crow: [reading from bomb instruction manual] Cut the blue wire.
    [Joel cuts the wire, and gets silly-stringed in the face]
    Crow: "But first, cut the red wire. Got you, scrawny man." [gets a glare from Joel] But that's what it said!
    • Other instructions included "Most very kindly, find the Lookie Switch which is nice and sitting there with green label which leaves you singing" and "Carefully disregard and do not do the very wrong thing or much confusion will result... with sparks, flowers and loud report on some models."
  • The Monty Python's Flying Circus sketch 'How to Do It', which consisted of extremely vague instructions on how to do particular things, such as cure the world of all disease ('Well, first of all become a doctor and discover a marvelous cure for something, and then, when the medical profession really starts to take notice of you, you can jolly well tell them what to do and make sure they get everything right so there'll never be any diseases ever again.')
    • Also, there's "How Not To Be Seen", among others.
    • Also also, the flexi-disc "Teach Yourself Heath" was a guide to imitating the speech mannerisms of Edward Heath.
    • Pre-Python, John Cleese starred as the host of a special called How to Irritate People, also featuring Michael Palin and Graham Chapman.
    • "How to Recognise Different Trees From Quite a Long Way Away" consists of a picture of a larch, and the voiceover repeating "Number one. The larch. The. Larch." Eventually they move on to number 3, which is also the larch, and then the horse chestnut.
  • The old sketch comedy show Out of Control had a reoccurring segment called "How Not to Do Things".
  • A good deal of the humor on Look Around You involves startlingly unsound or dangerous procedures for science experiments.

  • The song "Nine Secret Steps" by They Might Be Giants is a parody of self-help guides that advises the listener to give up and "let go of all your thwarted dreams and visions of success."

    Print Media 
  • The Journal of Irreproducible Results cheerfully offered instructions for how you can build a thermonuclear device in your own home in ten easy steps.

    Puppet Shows 
The Muppet Show: Lynda Carter's appearance in one episode inspires Scooter, Gonzo, Link, Fozzie, and Lew Zealand to take a correspondence course on "How to Be a Superhero". The course's instruction manual, Invincibility Made Easy, has a chapter on flying. It states that all they need to do is believe that they can fly. Scooter, reading this aloud, encourages the others to "step off the ladder and float to the ceiling". Cue all four Muppets falling flat on the ground.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000: The Imperial Infantryman's Uplifting Primer. A tactical manual so chock-full of propaganda, misinformation, misunderstandings and outright lies, no-one in-'verse thinks of it as anything other than a glorified roll of toilet paper.
  • If you even get instructions for using something in Paranoia (more often than not, they're above your clearance), they're likely to be this due to a combination of garbled information, computer malfunction, conspiracy manipulations, overzealous redaction by the censors and just plain incompetence on the part of basically everyone involved. Occasionally, the GM is even encouraged to provide technically true but somewhat misleading descriptions of the results of trial and error, just to make stuff slightly harder to use. And, of course, complaining about any of this is treason.
    Player: [forlornly, as her character surveys a bewildering array of buttons] What clearance are the instructions for the Handy-Dandy Traitor Disintegrator, Friend Computer?
    GM (as Friend Computer): Good news, citizen! Instructions have been located for the Handy-Dandy Traitor Disintegrator. Some material in the instructions may have been redacted by order of Internal Security. Offer may be void in Sector FKU. [hands the player a piece of paper]
    Piece of Paper: Step 1: [redaction bar] red button [redaction bar]; Step 2: [redaction bar] tea kettle [redaction bar]; Step 3: [redaction bar] Teela O'Malley reruns [redaction bar] vigorous thrusting [redaction bar] giant, radioactive cockroach.
    Player: ...Thank you, Friend Computer. It is as wonderfully helpful as I had expected.
    Friend Computer: It is no trouble, Citizen. Have a pleasant day. The Computer Is Your Friend.
  • Both Played for Laughs and Played for Drama in Hunter: The Vigil. Members of The Cheiron Group's Field Projects Division (the people who go hunting monsters to be broken down for parts) are given a white booklet containing what the company knows about monsters. This booklet is absolutely useless. At best, it's pop-culture garbage; at worst, it's outright misinformation. This is the entirety of training that the FPD gets. The book is company property, so they can't even throw it away. 2E takes it a step further - the white booklet was replaced with even worse information, and it's now encrypted, forcing the new FPD employee to break it just to discover they haven't told him a damn thing.


    Video Games 
  • It's possible to make one of these in Fallout 3. When working with Moira, you can give her "evil" answers when she asks how your exploits went. Popular answers include heavy radiation poisoning actually feels quite good, and is healthy for you, and that disarming a mine is surprisingly easy if you just step on it. Needless to say, the resulting survival guide ends up being a how-to guide for killing yourself.
  • A fake guide to a video game is sometimes called a "FWAK"note . See Urban Legend of Zelda for more information.

    Web Animation 

  • The Seventy Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenariesnote  from Schlock Mercenary, including such - admittedly sage - advice as "Pillage, THEN burn." and "A soft answer turneth away wrath. Once wrath is looking the other way, shoot it in the head."
  • Basic Instructions runs on this. The advice text is usually genuine, while the pictures usually show it applied badly.
  • DM of the Rings has author comments that occasionally do this, generally in a deadpan or sarcastic way.
  • As does Darths & Droids.
  • This strip of It Sucks to Be Weegie! has Princess Daisy buying a book titled "How to be Thin and Pretty" by Princess Zelda. The book's contents? "GENETICS, BITCH!!"
    Daisy: Well played, Princess...
  • How to Make Sushi, as depicted by Molg H, where an unseen narrator viciously rips into the sushi-making character. Variants pertaining to different fandoms were quick to pop up (and even some Fix Fic ones where the sushi gets made correctly).
    1. First, gently roll the rice and salmon inside the nori, and... (sushi is rolled incorrectly, spilling outside of the nori)
    2. (instructed character sadly looks at mess) Damn! You spoiled it! Like everything you do.
    3. (character starts crying) This sushi is like your life. You're always fucking up.
    4. (character crawls under table) You start lots of things but never finish them.
    5. (character assumes Troubled Fetal Position) Nobody loves you.

    Web Videos 

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Classic Goofy cartoons used to do this with a number of subjects (mostly sports). It was given a Shout-Out in a Goof Troop episode, and there are several examples in House of Mouse (such as "How to Haunt a House," which begins with Goofy getting hit by a car and dying), and "How to Hook Up Your Home Theater" showed before National Treasure 2.
    • According to the story, the narrator for the original "How to" cartoons wasn't told he was doing voicework for Goofy cartoons, but instead voicing serious how-to films (out of a fear that he'd reject doing voicework for comedy). He supposedly got quite angry when he found out what he'd done the work for.
    • Goofy is not the only Disney character who has done this. Donald Duck appeared on "How to Have an Accident in the Home" and "How to Have an Accident at Work". What makes these ones different from Goofy's is that instead of a faceless narrator, we have J.J. Fate, a fantastical duck dwarf.
  • An entire episode of Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law ("Sebben and Sebben Employee Orientation") features the cast in a sendup of cheesy workplace orientation videos.
  • The SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Krusty Krab Training Video".
    • The episode "Boat Smarts".
    • "Squilliam Returns" has this in book form:
    Squidward: You have less than 20 minutes to become a fancy waiter, so here, read this: [hands out a book] SpongeBob: "How to Become a Fancy Waiter in Less Than 20 Minutes."
    • Downplayed, perhaps, as it's possible someone reading the book actually could have become a fancy waiter in less than 20 minutes if they were smarter than SpongeBob
  • The Private Snafu cartoons prepared by Warner Bros. for the Army-Navy Screen Magazine. A series of training films that show how to behave during wartime by showing how the worst soldier in the army gets it wrong.
  • Troy McClure from The Simpsons has apparently done a few of these. In "Bart's Inner Child", he introduces himself on Adjusting Your Self-O-Stat with "You might remember me from such self-help videos as Smoke Yourself Thin and Get Confident, Stupid."
  • In the run-up to Archer's 5th season, they've released a number of these (styled as "Isis Orientation" videos) on YouTube.
  • Steven Universe:
  • American Dad! has a Running Gag where Stan reads how-to books about subjects shortly before trying it out himself. For example, "How to Look Pensive" or "How to Take Off Glasses Angrily". He only succeeds some of the time.

     Real Life 
  • The manual for the video game based on the series Home Improvement appeared to be a normal manual at first, only for the player to open it up and see the instructions were covered up by a large sticker reading "Real Men Don't Need Instructions!"


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