Follow TV Tropes


Furniture Assembly Gag

Go To

Amy: How do we tell the difference between side A and side C?
Tails: Side A should have one more L-bracket.
Amy: You mean T-bracket, right?
Tails: Uhhh...
Sonic: Tails, so help me, if you've been confusing L-brackets and T-brackets this whole time...!
Sonic Boom, "It Takes a Village to Defeat a Hedgehog"

Flat pack furniture is sold to the consumer in a disassembled form. This allows for easy handling and transportation. For example, it would be pretty hard to load a fully-assembled dresser into the trunk of a car and carry it upstairs once you get home. The disassembled furniture also allows the merchant to store more merchandise in less space, and the expectation is that these savings are passed onto the customer.

Seems like a great deal for all, except the furniture needs to be, well, assembled, by the customer once they finally bring it home. Their efforts are usually stymied by the included instructions, which consist exclusively of cryptic hieroglyphs and no writing. (If the instructions contain text, they will be in Engrish). The package will be filled with a variety of different screws which supposedly serve different purposes, but are indistinguishable in the aforementioned depictions.

If a group (usually a family) is working together to put their item together, a fight will inevitably ensue between them. The final product may or may not be successfully assembled in the end. If it does, expect there to be excess parts left over, leaving the crew to wonder if they might have somehow missed a step despite following the instructions to a T.

Furniture purchased from IKEA is frequently, but not exclusively, used as the target for this gag.



  • Two Teen Titans fics by beautifulpurpleflame have Beast Boy attempting to assemble a crib for his future baby. The results are... less than impressive (despite Robin's assistance in one case).


  • A gag in Deadpool is that Blind Al, a blind old lady, assembles IKEA furniture as a service to the titular character in exchange for receiving free room and board from her.


Live-Action TV

  • In The Big Bang Theory episode "The Big Bran Hypothesis", Penny's neighbors attempt to help her put together an IKEA piece. Howard states the instruction is why Sweden doesn't have a space program (it does now).
  • Angela tries to assemble a baby walker in the Bones episode "The Prince in the Plastic". The instructions are a "Blind Idiot" Translation and she can't make sense of the diagrams and never gets it together.
  • An episode of The Cosby Show had Claire host a baby shower at the Huxtable house. To keep Cliff busy, she has him and Theo try to assemble a piece of furniture. They quickly run into trouble when it turns out the instructions are in French which Theo barely reads. (He translates two instructions as "Pound your ankle into slot A" and "Put your mother on a horse.") After the shower ends, Cliff reveals that they weren't able to complete the project and Claire gives him the English instructions.
  • Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: In an attempt to do something nice for his girlfriend, Valencia, Josh gets a table for their new apartment since she earlier complained they didn't have one. He recruits some friends to help him put it together, only for them to make no progress in twelve hours. His friends say they don't like the table (a thinly veiled metaphor for not liking Valencia). When they finally get the table together, she doesn't even like it either.
    Greg: Josh, there's still time to bail... on the table, I mean. We were friends with you before we even met this table.
    WhiJo: The truth is, none of us even really like... the current table.
    Greg: I hate this table.
  • Cutthroat Kitchen was fond of forcing chefs to build their own prep-table. This typically involved giving the chefs poor equipment and tools]] to use.
    • In a Take That! to IKEA, a pair of chefs were given a mystery box of parts to build a pre-table with - and they had to share the result. Much to their dismay, the box contained two mismatched surfaces, a few hinges, 3 legs of different lengths and an assortment of screws. They ended up building an incredibly rickety table, and had to resort to using an overturned pot to make one of the legs the same length of the other two. Half-way through the round, it tipped over and fell apart, forcing them to rebuild it.
    • During a challenge to cook pizza, a chef had to build their prep table out of pizza boxes, which came in their flat, unfolded state. Luckily for the victim, she had worked at a pizza restaraunt, so she could fold pizza boxes very quickly.
    • During the man-cave episode, a chef had to build a table from leftovers of a party. He ended up shoving a bunch of beer cans into trash bags and just using that.
    • An recurring sabotage was making an entire prep/cook station out of a shopping cart. So not only does the chef have to do their prep work on/in a shopping cart, they have to cook on it too.
  • In the pilot of Friends the guys assemble Ross's new furniture. Of course they can't find some parts and have extras of others. Ross points out that the instructions are confusing.
    Ross: (squatting with the instruction sheet in hand) I'm supposed to attach a bracket-y thing to these side things with a bunch of these little worm guys. (looks around) I have no bracket-y thing, I see no worm-guys whatsoever...and I cannot feel my legs.
  • Married... with Children: "Hi, I.Q." has Al and Jeff try to assemble "The Handyman's Workbench 5000". They start by splitting brackets depending on whether they're "L-shaped" or "7-shaped" not noticing it's the exact same brackets held differently, and move on to personal Amusing Injuries.
    Peggy: You can almost hear the Looney Tunes theme.
  • In The Noddy Shop episode "Following Directions", the goblins have trouble assembling their new grill because they haven't read the directions.
  • Red Dwarf: In "Lemons", the Dwarfers try to build a "rejuvenation shower" which would have made themselves younger. Problem is that it's a Swedish self-assembly. They do get it set up but the Cat complains that there is still a lot of leftover parts, which ends up turning it into a Time Machine which transports them to 23AD.
  • The opening credits of Resident Alien parody this - they are presented as IKEA-style how-to guides for real-life situations an alien masquerading as human would find himself in on Earth, with red Xs to depict comically failed results and similar checkmarks for how things theoretically should end up.
  • Shameless (US): Lip and Brad are brought in to see the most powerful mobster in Chicago and fear that they are going to be killed. However, the mobster just needs some skilled mechanics to fix his kid's birthday present: a kid-size car powered by an electric motor. The assembly instructions were apparently incomprehensible. Lip and Brad successfully assemble the car and seem to be off the hook. However, Lip tells Brad that they better get out of there quickly because he found some left over parts that he really hopes are not vital to something like the brakes.


  • The video for Nanowar of Steel's song "Valhallelujah", which is basically a 6.5-minute string of IKEA jokes to the tune of a gospel song, ends on the male lead's girlfriend gesturing at a partially unboxed IKEA furniture kit by the Christmas tree, and the male lead looking like he's about to have a migraine at the thought of assembling it.
  • The Holden Family's song "We Are Never Ever Ever Putting This Together" (a parody of Taylor Swift's "We Are Never Ever Ever Getting Back Together") is about their failed attempts to assemble a new bed frame they purchased from IKEA.

Tabletop Game

  • In Battletech, the 3058 upgrade to the Condor Hover Tank is also sold by Quickcell as flat-packs as well as pre-made vehicles. The flat-packs work fine when assembled, but they always leave a small pile of parts nobody knows the purpose for.

Video Games

  • In the Marrakesh level of Hitman (2016), a member of the Swedish consulate is trying to assemble a product which resembles an IKEA chair. He eventually gives in and calls for technical support, not that it helps.

Web Original

  • Game Grumps: One of the "Ten Minute Power Hour" episodes involved Danny and Arin putting together the hardest-to-make IKEA product, known as "The Divorcemaker". At one point, Arin started losing his mind and starts walking all over the wooden planks, slamming things, and loudly insisting he's not crazy, all because one of the shelves wouldn't fit properly.
  • One of the final episodes of Regular Ordinary Swedish Meal Time was a spinoff featuring Niclas buying and assembling an IKEA armchair in the series' trademark insane fashion, starting off by throwing out the assembly instructions and culminating in him wringing in screws with his bare hands until they start to bleed. The Twist Ending reveals Niclas to be living in an asylum, with two doctors watching over him and commenting that his condition shows improvement.

Western Animation

  • In the pilot episode of Clerks: The Animated Series, Leonardo struggles to assemble an Ikea desk, and ends up using his secret diary outlining his evil plan to prop it up on one side.
  • In the Futurama episode "Less Than Hero", Professor Farnsworth orders a flat-pack particle accelerator (an "IVNUK SUUPERCØLLIDR") from "πKEA". It's delivered by a robot resembling a glass-fronted cabinet (who immediately starts falling apart as he leaves). Fry, Leela and Bender are tasked with assembling it, but it lasts only a few minutes before exploding and flinging the Professor through a wall.
    Farnsworth: Bad news, nobody! The super-collider super-exploded.
  • In Little Princess, the episode "I Want My Swing" involves the adults struggling to assemble a swing. They can't find the spanner, the King reads the instructions upside-down by mistake, and it ends up taking hours.
  • The Looney Tunes Show: The episode "The Shelf" centers around Bugs Bunny getting a Nobel Prize and needing a place to display it. He goes out and buys a shelf, refusing the offer to have it installed professionally because "I won a Nobel Prize, I think I can put up a shelf." This leads to a series of progressively disastrous hijinks as Bugs's house is systematically destroyed even as the rabbit continually rebukes any advice on the merits of his award.
  • The Simpsons: In "Mom And Pop Art", Homer purchases a home barbecue pit, but the box accidentally opens and all the materials drop into the wet cement. Homer frantically tries to put it together ("English side ruined, must use French instructions... Le grille? What the hell is that!?"), and it ends up as a pile of mismatched parts. Unable to get it refunded, it accidentally gets uncoupled from the back of Homer's car and it hits the car of Astrid Weller, a conceptual artist who praises his handiwork as outsider art.
  • The first season finale episode of Sonic Boom, "It Takes a Village to Defeat a Hedgehog", features the good guys trying to build a bookcase for Amy, complete with confusing instructions and a box containing far more parts than should have been capable of fitting in it. Naturally, the assembly process is a disaster, and the finished product winds up so badly assembled that it's barely recognizable. Shadow in particular in unimpressed.
    Sonic: Hey! We worked all day on that!
    Shadow: Your shoddy craftsmanship brings shame on all hedgehogkind. And for that, you shall perish.
  • We Bare Bears: The short "Assembly Required" has the Bears trying to put together flat-packed furniture from Okia. Highlights include Panda trying to look up a translation for the instructions on the Internet ("This word could mean 'carefully' or 'body slam'?"), the Bears trying to assemble the furniture into various improbable shapes (including an irrational cube), and the Bears trying to sit on their completed furniture when it's clearly some kind of shelf ("Uh, guys? I don't think this is a couch...")


Video Example(s):


Homer 'Builds' a Barbecue Pit

Inspired by an advertisment, Homer decides to try his hand at do-it-yourself masonry. Unfortunately, he ends up with a monstrosity.

How well does it match the trope?

4.8 (20 votes)

Example of:

Main / EpicFail

Media sources: