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Idiot Houdini

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Frank: God, I've had to work hard every day of my life, and what do I have to show for it? This briefcase, and this haircut! And what do you have to show for your lifetime of sloth and ignorance?
Homer: What?
Frank: Everything! A dream house! Two cars! A beautiful wife! A son who owns a factory! Fancy clothes and (sniffs air) lobsters for dinner! And do you deserve any of it? No!
The Simpsons, "Homer's Enemy"

This is what happens when a character who is known for making consistently poor judgments never has to answer for them. In fact, nearly the exact opposite happens: Whatever mind-numbingly stupid idea they've come up with this episode, it will work. If he sells the party's material possessions for some magic beans to give to a Nigerian prince he met over the Internet, we can rest assured that at the end of the episode, a Nigerian prince will come solve the conflict with a Deus ex Machina. The Idiot Houdini will be healthy, wealthy, and have an ample supply of True Companions even though in Real Life, anyone acting the way he does would almost certainly have died ten episodes before the series began.

Characters will sometimes notice this bizarre disparity inside a story. When they do they almost always find it a serious cause for concern, although since the Idiot Houdini lives a relatively charmed life, there's little anyone can do about it. In other cases, they may be blind to it conversely because of the character's excess of prosperity.


There's a certain amount of Truth in Television to the latter portrayal, as any rudimentary analysis of pop culture fixtures indicates that no matter how badly they screw up, some people are so famous that they'll always get a second chance.

A "loveable" example of this trope generally relies on Hanlon's Razor to gain sympathy (especially if the victims to their stupid antics are even more sympathetic).

Overlaps significantly with Born Lucky and The Fool. The character who provokes Minor Insult Meltdown is usually also this as other characters scold the meltdowner rather than the provocateur. Contrast Too Dumb to Live, where a character does not escape the consequences of their stupidity, but instead pays the ultimate price. Compare and contrast Karma Houdini, where the lack of consequences is for immorality rather than stupidity. Also compare Elimination Houdini, for when this happens in a Reality TV show.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • Pokémon:
    • Cameron is incredibly scatterbrained, often forgetting to bring his Pokémon to matches and almost not making it to the League. He even brings 5 Pokémon to a 6-on-6 match by accident, and still manages to defeat Ash. Averted when he gets eliminated in the next round anyway.
    • Clemont's Chespin. Whenever he is ordered to work with Bunnelby, Chespin will always get all the credit even though it's Bunnelby who's the only one who did any actual work.
    • Clemont's Dedenne in "Adventures In Running Errands". He was requested to help the other Pokémon keep the electricity on, but only slept the whole time, and yet he gets most of the credit.
  • Code Geass:
  • Vash the Stampede in Trigun appears to be this from time to time:
    Villager 1: (as Vash is dancing along the street with headphones in) He's dodging the bullets!
    Villager 2: Dodging? That dumbass doesn't know he's being shot at!
  • Easily Kamina of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, at least before his death, anyway. Almost everything he does is outrageously stupid (such as attempting to hijack an enemy mech with zero idea of how it works or any of its security codes), yet he gets away with it thanks to sheer Refuge in Audacity, Rule of Cool, and the efforts of his little bro Simon. He operates entirely off of Indy Ploys, all of which succeed, and, in fact, the one time he actually tries to be smart and plan things beforehand, he dies, although it was more Simon's fault than his, though that also was due to a certain misunderstanding.
  • The title protagonist of Irresponsible Captain Tylor would be this if you buy into the interpretation that he really is an incredibly lucky idiot and not merely Obfuscating Stupidity.
  • Dragon Ball Z: The fat Majin Buu killed thousands of innocent people just for fun, both before and after turning on Babidi, but is forgiven for his actions and allowed to live because he didn't understand that what he was doing was wrong. That being said, he does reap what he sows in other ways; being the weakest and least skilled Buu form, he gets his butt kicked mercilessly by his evil counterparts. He gets turned into chocolate and eaten by Evil Buu, exactly what he did to many of his victims, and later he is overwhelmed and beaten to near death by Kid Buu, again just like he did to his victims. Also, unlike many examples of this trope, he does learn the difference between right and wrong, so if he faces no consequences for the actions he takes after the Buu Saga, it's because he doesn't need to.

    Comic Strips 
  • The Pointy-Haired Boss in Dilbert is this, but unlike most examples it's not a quirk of his personality. Rather, it's because the company's promotion protocols seem to be designed in such a way to ensure that a person of his intelligence level becomes a manager, and that said manager is impossible to fire. Scott Adams' book The Way of the Weasel offers a possible explanation to this phenomenon: that a company will naturally shift incompetent people to management because that is where they cause the least harm. Dilbert and the rest of the employees prove this by regularly finding ways to circumvent the pointy-haired boss' idiotic requests and policies, getting their work done in spite of him.

    Fan Works 
  • Iris in Ace Attorney fic The Fey Family Cousin. Through the fic she never does a single logical thing. She deliberately avoids and pushes away a guy she's in love with knowing that he loves her, keeps visiting her sister knowing that she's Manipulative Bitch who doesn't give a crap about her, ignores Mia's advice about both of the above and later during her trial she doesn't give her lawyer critical information about the case leading him to run in circles for most of the trialspoiler  and almost getting herself found guilty. Despite this she gets her Happily Ever After.

    Films — Animated 
  • In Moana, we have Heihei the rooster. There are several points throughout the film where he should've drowned, but he doesn't. It helps that the ocean likes the protagonist, though in time it gets fed up with him and stuffs him in a Matryoshka Object before cramming all of it into the cargo area of the ship.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The two main characters from Bio-Dome live in relative luxury despite having no useful skills, and exhibit intelligence you'd expect from idiots who went on to get brain damage. Which considering the scene where one of their mothers was seen drowning them, they may very well have brain damage. On the other hand, they are smart enough to repair the damage they did to the dome experiment.
  • Inspector Clouseau from The Pink Panther movies shows crime-solving skills that make the Scooby gang look good.
    Outraged Matron: That's a priceless Steinway!note 
    Clouseau: Not anymore.
  • In Go, a sleazy strip-club owner berates his useless son for this.
    "You know what wakes me up in the middle of the night covered in a cold sweat? Knowing that you aren't any worse than anyone else in your whole screwed-up generation. In the old days, you know how you got to the top? Huh? By being better than the guy ahead of you. How do you people get to the top? By being so fucking incompetent, that the guy ahead of you can't do his job, so he falls on his ass and congratulations, you are now on top. And now the top is down here, it used to be up here... and you don't even know the fucking difference."
  • Dr. Silberman from The Terminator. It's bad enough watching him get away with his ignorance in the first film, when he actually had an excuse for not believing Kyle Reese's crazy-sounding story, but when you see how he's made a career out of Sarah Connor's "insanity" for telling the same story in the second movie, it gets downright infuriating to see him get away with his stupidity. What, he's just going to walk out of the police station past the Terminator right before the guy shoots up the place, demonstrating that Kyle was right about everything? Yep: that's exactly what he's going to do. He doesn't get any presumed comeuppance at all until the third film, and that's all off-screen after he's demonstrated he still doesn't believe in any of that Terminator crap. There is catharsis in seeing him in the loony bin in The Sarah Connor Chronicles and the implication of a Bus Crash in Terminator: Dark Fate.
  • Forrest Gump. The lead character is cognitively disabled yet all his decisions lead to success, wealth and fame. He becomes a star footballer just by running into a stadium during a match. He survives an ambush and napalm strike in Vietnam, saving some of his fellow soldiers and emerges with nothing more than a stray bullet in the ass. He becomes a world table-tennis champion because he is bored while recovering from his bullet wound and wants to occupy himself. He makes millions as a shrimp boat captain despite having no skills, experience or success until a freak storm wipes out the local industry leaving him miraculously unscathed. He inspires the creation of the smiley face and the phrase "shit happens". He meets three different presidents and exposes the Watergate break-in by pure accident. He fumbles and stumbles through life pursuing on a whim whatever seems like a good idea at the time, yet nothing he ever does throughout the film leads to negative consequences for him.

  • BioshockRapture In the backstory to the Bioshock game, this trope drives Andrew Ryan, but it runs out shortly before the events of the game. He used to be a good little boy working in a Jewish enclave - until his family was brutally slaughtered in a Bolshevik revolution, convincing him that good guys die first. The instant he let the darkness into his heart, fate itself seemed to bow before him - he escaped multiple Soviet purges, made his way to America solo, struck oil after buying a random patch of land, became a multimillionaire despite his obvious Russian origins and lack of social tact, got away with starting a massive wildfire on his property, and built a giant underwater city without drowning. This string of borderline physics-defying luck warped his personality into a sociopathic workaholic who believed that people who work for themselves always get paid what they're deserved - which is the exact opposite of true. When his 'capitalist utopia' finally crumbled under its own arrogant weight and lack of social infrastructure, he couldn't comprehend the idea that his hard-working exploitation and lack of empathy was the cause, especially since he hadn't faced any negative consequences for his sheer number of reckless gambles that always went well for him, and he went full fascist trying to convince his few remaining loyalists to go back to work, destroying what was left of the city.
  • Tommy Wiseau and ''The Room''. The Disaster Artist (a book later made into a film) details all of the bizarre decisions Tommy made as Writer/Director/Producer/Star, spending $6 milliion on a film that took So Bad, It's Good to new heights, drawing in crowds to its showings and lifting him to stardom.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Arrested Development:
    • Nearly everyone in the Bluth family falls into this trope. Gob, Lindsey, Buster and their mother all live high-class lifestyles despite the fact that none of them have any useful skills or even common sense. We find out in the first episode that the family patriarch is similarly idiotic: The only thing he ever actually seemed to do effectively was break the law in order to steal company money, to the point that the viewer is genuinely surprised he wasn't arrested much sooner.
    • Later we meet prosecutor Maggie Lizer, who's a successful lawyer in spite of the fact that she's spent several years doing a very, very poor imitation of a blind person. The only rational explanation for how she wasn't found out sooner is that she's never met anyone who had seen a real blind person before. And even when Michael tries to expose her she wriggles out of it because she had temporarily lost her sight, when she should have been disbarred.
  • Ashley Abbott on The Young and the Restless falls into this pattern chronically. Her characters arcs tends to follow a simple pattern. Make an extremely poor decision. Then, get mad at other characters when they point out why what she's doing is a bad idea. When she finally realizes how stupid she's been, she then gets mad at other characters for offering advice and decides to deal with her problems by going it alone. Rinse and repeat. This doesn't even get into her ability to screw up other people's plans simply by being involved in them. On one occasion, while speaking with Abbott arch-nemesis Victor Newman, she gets a phone call from her brother Jack about an important business deal. So, naturally, she excuses herself so she can talk about it without Victor over-hearing. Which room does she go to? The nursery. She left Victor in the living room with the baby monitor. It's hard to miss the fact that, in a show where many of the main characters are business executives, Ashley stands alone as the one whose business sense is clearly an Informed Ability.
  • Michael Scott on The Office has a habit of falling into this from time to time. Even though he has aspirations to being a highly successful businessman, for example, he doesn't seem to have a rudimentary grasp of economics.
    • An episode where he meets his accountant shows that he spends a great deal of his money, not just on luxuries, but on objects that are almost completely useless to him: He has a fishing rod worth several hundred dollars even though he doesn't know how to fish. His best escape act, though, is when he bankrupts the Michael Scott Paper Company by not understanding that his prices are so low he can't recoup his costs. Dunder-Mifflin, not realizing this (in part because Jim sabotages Dwight's attempt to warn them), offers him a buy-out because on paper Michael's taken a lot of their customers.
    • Another good straight example is when Michael was vying for a raise in "The Negotiation". The exec who was conducting the review to determine if he deserved one was Jan, who Michael was in a relationship with at the time. Despite Jan telling Michael not to try bringing up their relationship and Michael already having numerous legitimate reasons as to why he deserved a raise, Michael's relationship with Jan is the only card he ever tries to play, at one point even threatening to withhold sex from Jan if she didn't give him the raise. Not only is he somehow neither sued nor fired over this, he actually gets the raise.
  • In Family Matters, while Steve Urkel is not an idiot per se, he does several stupid and destructive things to the Winslows, mostly involving destroying their property and getting the family injured. This is largely laughed off as him being clumsy, but it got so bad that their insurance company decided to charge them more just for having him as a neighbor. Every time the family (usually Carl) gets mad at him for being destructive, and tries to keep him away from the house, they're presented as being judgmental and "bad friends", even though Steve at best presents a very real and serious financial liability. He REALLY grated on some fans' nerves when he broke out his (in)famous Catchphrase "Did I do that?"
  • Kamen Rider Zero-One: Gai Amatsu, the CEO does pretty good as a Villain with Good Publicity, but what makes him a criminal mastermind is that the other characters think with an Idiot Ball, not a brain. No matter what ludicrous scheme he comes up with, it brings him closer to his goal. Sabotage a collaborative project with Hiden Intelligence and pin the blame on them? It has zero effect on the company's reputation. Force the protagonist (the current CEO) to use a Dangerous Forbidden Technique in order to publicly discredit him? Great, now it's his Super Mode. The only reason he ever manages to take over Hiden Intelligence is because the plot says so.
  • Played with for The Gang from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. All of The Gang are varying degrees of Insufferable Imbecile, often causing themselves and those around them all kinds of misery either due to their short-sighted schemes, conflicting egos and their inability to realize that they are wrong about something. However, they are all so self-involved that they act on Negative Continuity, usually ignoring or forgetting the consequences of their actions by the end of the episode and has to be reminded of it when to comes back to bite them.

    Puppet Shows 
  • Greg the Bunny. Greg: with no marketable skills and a large amount of anti-puppetism in-universe, he lucks into a regular cast position on the in-universe children's show. It gets worse, in the spinoff Warren the Ape, Greg is revealed to have a massive mansion and live a high-class lifestyle. He acquired his riches by helping a Nigerian prince move some money out of the country. It actually worked.

    Video Games 
  • Killzone 3: Rico's overly aggressive plans somehow manage to work every time throughout the game, despite the sheer level of General Ripper vibes one would normally get. He only gets some karma after the events of the game, where he and his team are declared international criminals for destroying Helghan.note 

    Web Animation 
  • Neebs from Doraleous & Associates. He embodies Too Dumb to Live, and most of Doraleous' bad luck stems from his arrogance and disobedience (which eventually gets him fired), but said idiocy earns him half the throne of Ashbury, a fortune in broom sales, and (arguably) most of the credit for the Geighs' victory over the Giopis.

  • Ethan's devolution to this in Ctrl+Alt+Del is in large part why the comic has such a hatedom. In early strips, other characters put up with his stupidity only to the extent necessary to keep him as a character in the webcomic. By the time Winter-een-mas rolls around, the universe is bending over backward to turn all of his stupid ideas into outrageous successes. At the comic's end, he did end up getting some comeuppance by getting killed off trying to fix the consequences of his actions. The author admitted the decision behind this was that he was overdue to get some backlash after having things go his way for so long.

    Web Original 
  • No matter how much Jeffy from SuperMarioLogan makes Mario miserable, he never seems to learn anything from it or have anything bad happen to him.
    • Bowser Junior always doesn't seem to learn from his mistakes, even if it involves a single situation turning into a big outcome.
  • Self-applied by Danny when the Game Grumps come together to play Among Us and Danny wins a round as an imposter thanks to pure dumb luck and for being so bad and inexperienced at the game at that point that nobody believed he had any chance in hell in getting away by being an imposter:
    Danny: Ah ha ha ha ha! Once again I stumble ass-backwards into victory!

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons:
    • Homer Simpson at first showed reasonably poor judgment, but repeated encounters have gradually turned him into this trope. A good example is the episode "Homer Defined" that features Homer saving the nuclear power plant from a meltdown, and becoming a hero because of it; but in reality he simply hit the override button by going "eeny-meeny-miney-mo." When this is discovered, the term "Homer" thus becomes a trope of its own in the episode, for whenever someone does something good on just plain dumb luck. Magic Johnson even said, "Looks like I pulled a Homer!" when he won the game by accident.
      • This aspect of his character was deconstructed in the eighth season episode "Homer's Enemy" featuring Frank Grimes, an orphan who had to struggle and work hard all his life just to reach the lower middle class. He is perplexed and disturbed by how successful Homer is despite the fact that he's incompetent at nearly everything. Grimes finally snaps when, after tricking Homer into entering a future nuclear plant model contest for children, the crowd cheers and applauds Homer when he wins the competition by building a scale model with minor efficiency tweaks and stripes going down the towers, even though the previous entry by Martin was an actual fully functional miniature power plant that was powering the lighting in the room at the moment, which he also demonstrated.
      • Of course, it is worth noting that Homer is also one of the show's prime Butt Monkeys. He can get away with his stupidity, but only when the plot calls for it, other times fate punishes him dearly such as in The Simpsons Movie, where his actions got the town domed in and everyone goes up to his house with Torches and Pitchforks and his family leave him, only for him to Idiot Houdini his way outta that one as well.
    • Bart Simpson pull this to a lesser extent. Especially when he is in a rivalry with Lisa.
  • The Amazing World of Gumball: Deconstructed in "The Finale", as the Wattersons are looking through their family photo album and reminiscing, the unhappy residents of Elmore come up to their house and remind them of the damages incurred throughout the series:
    Richard: Hey, Hector's mom, what brings you here?
    Mrs. Jötunheim: Do you remember the time when your kids wound up my boy and he went on a rampage?
    Richard: Oh yeah, I remember... [flashback transition, clips from "The Colossus" are shown, Hector is seen destroying the town. The flashback is interrupted by Mrs. Jötunheim.]
    Mrs. Jötunheim: Enough flashbacking! If you remember well, seventy-five percent of Elmore was destroyed and somebody has to pay for it!
    Richard: You mean it didn't all end well like it always does?
    Mrs. Jötunheim: [takes out a sheet of paper and hands it to Richard] Here's your half of the bill for the reconstruction work.
    [Richard gasps as the sheet of paper unfolds, revealing a long list]
    Mrs. Jötunheim: Why are you looking so surprised? Did you really think we lived in some sort of fairy tale? 'Cuz wake up buddy, we don't.
    [Mrs. Jötunheim gets on her broom, and flies away, then disappears. Someone clears their throat. Richard sees that Principal Brown has appeared.]
    Richard: [whispering] Weird, that lady gnome seems to think that things we've done in the past have consequences in the now.
    • Principal Brown breaks the news that Gumball and Darwin have to go back to kindergarten because their disruptions tend to prevent the other students from receiving a decent education, followed by a phone call from the police department:
      Richard: Oh, hello officer. Really? I don't remember any reckless driving. [A quick montage of all of Richard's terrible driving is shown.] Right... well I think I just won't pay the fines and wait for this to all blow over. Bye. [hangs up]
      Anais: Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. If you don't pay, they could send you to jail.
      Richard: That's exactly what he said, but don't worry. I've been imprisoned heaps of times. They put you in then straight away you're just not in there anymore.
      Nicole: This bill is eight hundred thousand dollars. It says if we don't pay by tomorrow, then they can take our house away. What is going on today?
      Anais: It seems the results of all our reckless actions are finally catching up with us.
      While in jail, the Wattersons start to devise a plan:
      Anais: I think Gumball was on to something. Up until now, every bad situation has gotten worse and worse until it somehow just fixed itself. There's only one solution left.
      Richard: What is it?
      Anais: [hands out papers containing charges against them] Everyone take a problem, part ways, and produce a problem more problematic than a problem of that proportion should probably be.
      Gumball, Darwin, Nicole and Richard: Huh?
      Anais: Just do what you do best. [evilly] Make things worse.
    • Later, when the episode is about to conclude and the Wattersons are being confronted by an angry mob:
      Richard: [poking people with a broom] Somebody think of something, I can't hold 'em off forever!
      Nicole: No! This is it! It's all over! The end of the Wattersons!
      Gumball: The only thing that can save us is reality being completely reset by some kind of magic device!
      [The episode ends abruptly.]
  • Family Guy: Peter Griffin should not be able to survive, much less thrive. The show occasionally lampshades this. At the end of "Tale of a Third-Grade Nothing", Peter actually goes to jail for blowing up a hospital earlier on. Naturally, he gets released just in time for next week's episode. Often combined with Karma Houdini due to Peter's frequent high-scale Jerkass tendencies, though it is sometimes hard to define which trope he plays on occasion (being a Psychopathic Manchild has that way). Peter exploits this trope in "Petarded". After being declared "mentally retarded", Peter proceeds to do whatever he feels like because no-one will press charges against someone with a mental disability. This ends up biting him the ass when he hospitalizes Lois during one of his stunts and Child Services takes his kids away, since they don't have a guardian who's mentally fit. Meg actually lampshades it in "Seahorse Seashell Party," remarking that Peter should be in jail for most of the things he's done.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants leans more and more increasingly into this trope as seasons pass, frequently bothering or inflicting misery on the other residents of Bikini Bottom (usually his neighbour Squidward) due to his well-intentioned stupidity, and someone else facing the repercussions for it. Combined with his friend Patrick's near-equal Idiot Houdini tendencies the show becomes disturbingly sociopathic for a kid's show at times.
  • Cosmo from The Fairly OddParents, notably when he was the cause of Crocker losing his fairies, twice. Once when his past self revealed himself as a fairy godparent, and again when his present self and Timmy travel back to the 70's to prevent this from happening. While Timmy stopped Crocker's fairies from revealing themselves, present Cosmo notices a switch that turns the microphones on, and Crocker's secret is accidentally blurted out by Timmy out loud, thus making him the indirect cause. Timmy was punished by being forbidden to travel to March of 1972 ever again (though he's allowed to visit every other month of the year if he doesn't meddle with President McGovern's elections), and yet nobody called Cosmo out on his actions.
    • Timmy's parents, too. They almost always neglect him and, aside from Mr. Turner's occasional Butt-Monkey moments, never receive any comeuppance for it.
  • The latter half of fellow Nicktoon CatDog is even worse; Dog's brainless antics frequently make his conjoined twin Cat's life unbearable. The show nearly always plants things in Dog's favor in the end. Granted Cat isn't the soundest of people, but not really to deserve what he suffers from his twin, especially since there are times this converts into a Karma Houdini and Dog gets away with being a genuine Jerkass himself.
    • Particularly bad in an early episode where all Cat wants to do is watch a TV event at home that he paid for (the most jerky thing he did was not let a housemate watch too). Dog physically forces him to stay by a fire hydrant because another dog marked it. The end result is not only Cat missing his TV event, but his house and everything he owns in the world being burned to the ground leaving him only to laugh insanely that his life couldn't possibly get any worse. Then, to hammer Dog's side in even more, when their house is burning down and Cat calls the fire department, Dog refuses to let them use it to save their house, even when Cat begs him in tears that if he values Cat in any way he'll let them use the hydrant. He doesn't. The episode ends with Cat laughing in insanity and Dog laughing along, not actually knowing what's going on.
    • In another episode where it's found that they are responsible for each other's teeth (Cat's good dental habits give Dog good teeth, while Dog's horrible habits give Cat a dentist's nightmare) Dog doesn't make any efforts to stop any of his bad habits for the sake of his brother, and even getting angry when he finds Cat tricked him into cleaning his mouth, yet takes offense when Cat starts giving as good as he gets. It ends with both of them escalating in tooth damage and getting false teeth, yet Dog doesn't really get punished for his clear lack of caring for his brother's wellbeing.
    • Deconstructed in one episode where Dog gets an intelligence boost, but as a result of his huge brainwaves, starts draining Cat's own brain matter from him. Thus still unintentionally causing misery for his brother, but no longer having the excuse of being too dumb to know any better. It is poetically this particular circumstance which reaches Cat's Rage-Breaking Point and has him beat the living shit out of Dog until their IQs are evened out again.
  • To an extent, the entire Planet Express team of Futurama tend to cause endless problems in their botched deliveries. Of course many of them (especially Bender) fluctuate between this and an outright Karma Houdini at times. Nibbler, the Team Pet, seems to undergo this trope due to being perceived as a mindless animal.
    • If not for his ridiculous stream of good luck, Zapp Brannigan would have died several times over but he always seems to survive by the skin of his teeth, just in time to get another commendation from the Democratic Order Of Planets for doing nothing intelligent or strategic. In at least one case (when sitting in on a hearing to consider his reinstatement), Leela even reinforces it by agreeing to every single bald-faced lie he told just so he and Kif can be out of her hair.
  • Dee Dee from Dexter's Laboratory. She normally means to be playful, but always destroys everything Dexter works hard for with nearly no comeuppance at all. Of course, this can be explained by Dexter not wanting to tell his parents she broke some stuff in his secret laboratory, and that said laboratory, despite containing an arsenal of supposedly powerful weapons and tools, remains more or less defenceless against one (pre)pubescent child.
  • The flock from Shaun the Sheep qualify. No matter how stupid of an act they do, they're saved by the end, it inconveniences the Farmer in some way. Well, being a farmer, that flock is his livelihood, so he kinda has to keep them around. Though as he's oblivious to the wacky hi-jinx the animals on his farm get up to, he never realizes that they're the reason for his misery in the first place (except for the frequent times when it's caused by an error in judgement on his own part).
  • American Dad! has Stan always make poor choices or having a lapse in judgement that usually results in someone getting hurt in some way while he doesn't get it until the last minute. Since Stan never retains anything he learned and karma's laser rarely strikes him, he goes back to making idiotic choices at the expense of others.
    • One great example of this is when the town gets flooded from a hurricane and the whole house gets washed away. Stan makes several bad decisions in a row that results in Hayley being attacked by a shark, getting the house flipped upside down, and simply not evacuating the town just to prove that the hurricane isn't as bad as people made it to be. Stan eventually breaks down and grows too afraid to help his family after realizing what his bad choices resulted in, but Klaus encourages Stan to do better and help out. Stan attempts to do so, but the following happens:
      • Stan takes exposed wires and tries to dip them in the water to fry a shark, but he fries Roger instead.
      • Stan sees a bear floating down the street and he moves it into the house to fight the shark, only for the bear and the shark to attack the family as a team.
      • Despite Francine begging Stan to just stop helping, Stan keeps trying to help out as he takes a javelin and throws it at the bear, but winds up missing and hits Francine instead. Even the bear looks to Stan and shakes his head as if to say "Dude, really?"
      • Hell, it got so bad that when Buckle (their neighbor) busted into the house to save them by shooting the shark and bear with a tranquilizer gun, he shot Stan as well, noting afterwards that he couldn't tell which of the three was doing the most damage.
      • After this is all over, Stan even admits that all of these things were his fault, if they were ever put in a situation like that again his trying to help would only make things worse like it did this time, and he still says he won't do nothing the next time the situation comes along. He (and the show) fully acknowledges his idiocy and he's still steadfast in holding to it.
      • After the hurricane is over, Stan is held up at gunpoint by Cleveland and Peter and winds up shooting Francine out of reflex.
  • Name an adult in South Park. Any of them. Chances are they'll have been this at one point or another.
  • Invader Zim: Zim was The Millstone on his own planet, but became this after being Reassigned to Earth. If anyone suffers from Zim's plans, it's usually Dib, the one person who knows (or cares) that Zim is an alien.
  • Wander of Wander over Yonder. For example, in "The Pet," he attempts to train an alien monster that is heavily implied to have killed someone in the past, and it just barely fails to kill Wander too. Furthermore, Sylvia tries to get rid of the monster by activating self-destruct on the ship they're all on (when she thinks the monster devoured Wander when it was actually a teddy bear Wander gave him), and Wander doesn't try to evacuate (or even seem to notice) until Sylvia rescues him.
  • The title characters of Beavis and Butt-Head to an extent.
  • King of the Hill: Peggy Hill is very much this. Smuggling cocaine into prison, check. Kidnapping a Mexican child, check. She even once kidnapped a bus full of people and either held them against their will for a day or dropped them off far enough away that the poll booths were closed by the time they got back.
    • Doubled subverted in the episode she kidnapped the Mexican girl. Her highly-overestimated grasp of the Spanish language made her make the situation that much worse. However, in the end the Mexican jury rules that's she's not guilty as they realize that Peggy has no idea what she was doing or what the Mexican girl (or anyone else speaking Spanish, for that matter) was saying and did not fit the Mens Rea part of the crime, i.e. she didn't intentionally commit a crime, she thought the Mexican girl was just another one of her students.
    • Also played with for smuggling cocaine - she was duped into doing it in the first place because the guy played to her ego (he wrote her a letter talking about how she inspired him when she was a substitute teacher for one of his classes, then later reveals he wrote the exact same letter to several dozen substitute teachers in the area - Peggy was the only one dumb and egotistical enough to believe it), then once the con is revealed she's coerced to keep doing it by the knowledge that the convict can turn her in for what she's already provided at any time, such as if he's about to get in trouble for it (or whenever he feels like). Also, while Peggy doesn't end up with any real consequences from it, and in true Peggy fashion refuses to admit that it was her ego that got her in trouble, she does spend a good portion of the episode clearly on edge.
  • The Powerpuff Girls (1998):
    • Bubbles in "Neighbor Hood", when she gets away with stealing money to donate to her favorite show.note 
    • Bubbles again in "Him Diddle Riddle", wherein she scores the highest on a test out of her sisters by drawing on it.
    • Bubbles for a third time in "Bubblevicious". She spends the whole time beating the shit out of people for minor stuff and gets away with it.
  • Penn Zero: Part-Time Hero has Principal Larry. Not only is he ditzy, extremely weird, and downright creepy sometimes, he doesn't seem to know much of anything. Whenever he's around, all he does is be extremely long-winded and tell stories he never finishes. What is Larry's life like?? He won the lottery 32 times. He lives in a giant mansion. His butler has a butler. He genetically modified an elephant to stay small and cute forever. And at the end of his A Day in the Limelight episode, he wins the lottery again.
  • The entire premise of Grizzy & the Lemmings revolves around intellectually challenged lemmings ruining a bear's day when he's just minding his own business and often getting away with it.
  • Both Todd and Mr. Peanutbutter on Bojack Horseman, although Todd's is more powerful: When Mr Peanutbutter is in a skiing contest, and relies on his luck to win, Todd wins instead, even though he wasn't in the race. They both seem to be completely aware of this, too, and follow whatever random thought crosses their minds in the explicit expectation that it will pay off later. It's most dramatic in the third season, where a string of bizarre business decisions over the course of the season ends up with them having the exact combination of resources and employees needed to save the day from an absurd disaster. Princess Carolyn calls Todds' status as this trope as "Failing Upwards", where he somehow always gets higher up the food chain in his schemes.
  • A variant is one of the core rules of the Looney Tunes and their various spin-offs, reimaginings and derivatives: a protagonist's ability to retaliate against an antagonist is directly connected to the antagonist's intelligence. A recurring plot point is a protagonist being forced to defend themselves against a character who causes them harm through either ignorance or naivety, and which thusly prevents them from using the slapstick violence they normally freely dispense to anyone else who upsets them.
    • It bears mentioning that fans often don't actually like these episodes, for the same reason that the standard Idiot Houdini is disliked. In particular, the character Elmyra from Tiny Toon Adventures, who is both an Idiot Houdini and a Creator's Pest, is resoundingly despised by all fans of the shows.
  • The Darkwing Duck episode "Inside Binkie's Brain" has Binkie Muddlefoot attempt to make St. Canard safe, only to cause havoc and even hinder Darkwing's efforts in stopping Megavolt. She doesn't get punished for her actions solely because she's too dumb to know that her actions are causing problems.

    Real Life 
  • Timothy Dexter, who became wealthy after marrying a wealthy widow, was persuaded by his friends to invest his wealth into all sorts of ridiculously dumb things. When Dexter sent mittens and warming plates to the West Indies, the mittens were bought and shipped to Siberia, and the warming plates were sold as ladles to the molasses industry. When Dexter shipped coal to Newcastle (the British capital for coal mining at the time), it arrived during a strike and was bought quickly for a great price. When he played the stock market by buying stocks at random, all of them went up. When he wrote a book called A Pickle for the Knowing Ones — a travesty of literature — it sold very well. To give an idea as to just how blindly lucky he was, he's the only example for The Fool under Real Life. He actually made it into The Book of Lists for shipping coal to Newcastle (along with such others as selling oil products, specifically lighter fluid, which was too small a market to bother building a refinery locally to produce, to Saudi Arabia). Every one of the entries on the list was something that's generally used as an example of a stupid thing to ship to a particular place.
  • Even after causing the cancellation of the Lupin III "Red Jacket" series by stupidly distributing the first anime film outside of Japan, where the estate of Maurice LeBlanc (which at the time owned the copyright on the Arsène Lupin name) was more likely to notice an infringement on its copyright, Toho is still distributing new adaptations of Monkey Punch's manga in Japan. To their credit, though, they were much more careful afterwards as far as international distribution was concerned while the Lupin name was still in copyright elsewhere (i.e. they often forced international distributors to change Lupin's name), which is likely the only reason why TMS Entertainment (who produced the anime) didn't turn to a new distributor immediately after the lawsuit.
  • In a similar example, Studio DEEN took over adapting Rurouni Kenshin after the very popular Kyoto Arc and quickly ran the show's quality to the ground with poorly done filler, eventually leading to the show getting canceled before they could adapt the final story arc. Despite this, years later Studio DEEN got to work on a new two-part Kenshin OVA which, to everyone's disappointment, turned out not be an adaptation of the story arc that concluded the manga but was instead a remake of the Kyoto Arc.