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Know-Nothing Know-It-All

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There are imaginary numbers, just not the ones he's thinking of.

"Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools."

A Know-Nothing Know-It-All is a character who insists they know everything, is always right, that they were the ''actual'' original creator of an idea, and who generally has an extremely high opinion of themselves and their abilities, when nothing could be further from the truth.

They are grossly misinformed, or just lying, about everything they talk about with authority. They create nothing new and are Ignorant of Their Own Ignorance. Their abilities could best be described as "scarce". When people call them out on their bullshit or fail to treat them like the geniuses that they know they are, it is because they are jealous or too stupid to recognize or understand their genius. Such people are, in fact, the living definition of the word charlatan.

While many characters show signs of being this, very few have it as a major facet of their character. For example, Peter Griffin of Family Guy tends to spew horribly misinformed information, but oddly enough, sometimes he's right, in the rather odd world the series is set in.


Little Known Facts are occasionally in the Know-Nothing's mental arsenal, thanks to their obtuse quality, but naturally, the research won't be. Hopefully, they're at least Entertainingly Wrong.

A Real Life engine driving this is the Dunning–Kruger effect, where the less competent are paradoxically more likely to consider themselves good at a task (because they are also incompetent at assessing their own performance at it).

Can sometimes intersect with the Jerkass to become an Insufferable Imbecile. Compare Too Clever by Half (which is when an actually smart person gets overconfident and makes a mistake they thought they were "too smart" to fall for), Small Name, Big Ego (who both want to be recognized and appreciated but take different paths to it), The Alleged Expert, and Feigning Intelligence. Propense to Delusions of Eloquence, though not all of them have them. Contrast Insufferable Genius, who has the same arrogant attitude but is not incompetent. Actually listening to one may result in The Blind Leading the Blind. Unintentional cases on serious issues can end up being a Clueless Aesop. For a more "physical" version, see Boisterous Weakling.


Averted in the case of The Smart Guy, because they really do know mostly useful and accurate information.

Has nothing to do with a know-it-all from the 18th-century American the Know-Nothing party.


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  • Coach Lasso: Lasso doesn't know anything about soccer, but confidently acts like he does.
    Lasso: {screaming at ref} Will you explain to me how that was offside?! ...No, I'm asking you seriously, explain offside to me.

    Asian Animation 
  • Jolly from Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf claims to be an all-knowing prophet, but a lot of his actions seem to point to him not being particularly "all-knowing" at all, such as providing a picture of a screwdriver and attempting to pass it off as a map showing how to find the Luminous Ray.

    Comic Books 
  • This is a character flaw of Horace Horsecollar in the Mickey Mouse Comic Universe. Always quick with an answer for everything, but really not as smart as he thinks he is. In particular, Clarabelle Cow easily outsmarts him whenever they cross wits. Unfortunately, this makes her think she's smarter than she really is.
  • Ms. Marvel (2014) has the second Inventor, who fully believes that using humans as an energy source is not just a valid solution to overpopulation and the energy crisis that the rest of the world is too weak to look at, but the only viable solution. However, as anyone who's ever heard of the plot holes cited with The Matrix will attest, humans (and all animals, really) take in more energy than they produce, so they wouldn't make for a very practical energy source. Not to mention overpopulation is an easily solvable problem that doesn't require sacrificing people but rather better sharing of resources instead of it being hoarded by a small but powerful minority.
  • Burt Schlubb and Douglas Klump from Sin City are two crooks who like to use large, important-sounding words to make them appear intelligent; unfortunately, their wordy speeches (which are often full of malapropisms) do little to hide how dimwitted they actually are.
  • Suske en Wiske: Lambik, who fancies himself an intelligent, brave, strong, and civilized gentleman, but is actually Too Dumb to Live.
  • Brainy Smurf has a library of books, all written by him, all useless. Whenever he gives a useless lecture to The Smurfs, they hit him with a hammer.note  He also insists that "Papa Smurf is always right."
  • Transformers: Shattered Glass has Computron. In standard canon, Computron does possess Super Intelligence to the point of Awesomeness by Analysis, and his Mirror Universe version used to... but when he tried an experiment to make Grimlock smarter, it ended up backfiring and fried his brain in the process. Consequently, Computron is still wholly convinced he's a genius, even though he's incapable of anything more sophisticated than Hulk Speak. At one point, he was blinded in combat and declared he would use his "infinite processing power" to locate his opponents... which consisted of blindly flailing around. When they simply stepped out of his reach, he concluded they had teleported away.

    Comic Strips 
  • Calvin and Hobbes:
    • Calvin's dad does this sometimes when Calvin asks him questions, but he's doing it on purpose. (Read: just making shit up and silently laughing at Calvin for believing him when he says, for example, that old pictures are in black and white because the whole world was black and white when they were taken.) Watterson's commentary says that he assumes it must be a great temptation for real parents not to abuse their power for pranks.
      • One strip in particular had Calvin ask what makes the wind blow, which his dad initially tells him is "Trees sneezing". When Calvin questions this, his dad admits that the truth is more complicated. Cut to Calvin and Hobbes walking with a heavy wind.
        Calvin: Boy, the trees sure are sneezing today.
    • Then there's Calvin:
      • One arc has him write a report about bats (which he based entirely on his idea that bats were bugs because they fly and are ugly and hairy) He boasts about how clever it was (writing it took fifteen minutes as opposed to Susie's report taking all evening) and how he'd get a good grade because he put it in a clear plastic binder.
      • Another example is how Calvin acts like he knows how to fix a leaky faucet despite never doing so before. Predictably, he winds up flooding the bathroom instead.
      • When our heroes are building a robot to make Calvin's bed for him, Calvin brags that he's an expert at inventions. The robot does keep Calvin from having to make his bed, but only because he and Hobbes spent so much time trying and failing to make it work that it's his bedtime when they finally give up.
      • Calvin brags that he can escape from being tied to a chair like Houdini. He's completely stuck, Hobbes can't help and just makes things worse and eventually his Dad has to come up and untie him.
    • Despite the picture above, Hobbes is not usually an example: math just isn't his strong suit. Why Calvin keeps asking him for help after all the bad grades he must get is something of a mystery. Possibly because he's in Calvin's head, and no smarter than Calvin at his best. Word of God states that one reality is Calvin's immature point of view, while the second is an adult point of view, and the reader can decide which is true.
  • RJ the raccoon from the comic strip Over the Hedge (not so much The Movie) makes up explanations for everything to the gullible woodlanders (to the annoyance of Verne, who usually has the accurate answer but can't explain it in a way anyone will understand).
  • Peanuts:
    • Lucy Van Pelt thinks that snow falls up, fir trees have fur on them, and that a chain line is so that climbers can all fall of mountains and die together instead of it having the exact opposite purpose (so that the climber falling doesn't fall to his death because the others are holding him up).
    • Snoopy had some moments like this too. His rule of thumb whenever he got lost was that the moon is always over Hollywood.
    • A variant is Peppermint Patty; she'll get a dumb idea from a complete misunderstanding about something, ignore all common sense advice as she pursues this fixation until she humiliates herself, and typically blames the people who warned her for not stopping her.
    • Sally Brown. She's too lazy to do research for her homework, so she usually just makes things up. While she has no qualms about simply bluffing, she often does mistakes in good faith, based on what she's heard or what she thinks she's heard.
  • Howland Owl may be the best example from Pogo. But then, nearly everyone in the comic is absurdly ignorant and doesn't realize it.

    Films — Animated 
  • Disney Animated Canon
    • Scuttle the seagull from Disney's The Little Mermaid. He mistakes a fork for a fancy comb and a tobacco pipe for a musical instrument, and he also uses a telescope backwards. This gets lampshaded later on in the film when he's trying to warn Sebastian about Ursula. Sebastian is understandably skeptical, and Scuttle shouts "Have I ever been wrong? I mean, when it's important?"
    • Friend Owl from Bambi. The 'advice' he gives Bambi and his friends is actually terrible advice to give to young animals. Fortunately, it mostly gets ignored once "twitterpation" sets in.
    • Timon from The Lion King (1994) authoritatively explains that stars are really fireflies stuck on "that big bluish-black thing."
      Pumbaa: Oh, gee. I always thought they were balls of gas burning millions of miles away.
      Timon: Pumbaa, with you, everything is gas.
    • Jasper in 101 Dalmatians. His shtick with Horace is that Horace hits upon what's really going on and then Jasper emphatically calls him an idiot for getting such a stupid idea.
  • The Land Before Time
    • In the original film, Cera was this. She frequently boasted about always knowing the right way to do things, only to go on to prove that she, in fact, did not. She ended up suffering quite a bit of humiliation because of it—particularly after she lands the gang sans Littlefoot in trouble while trying to lead them to the Great Valley—and she loses the trait in the sequels.
    • Mr. Thicknose in the eighth film turns out to be this. Originally respected as the smartest resident of the Great Valley, having "been everywhere and seen everything", he soon confesses to the kids that he gets most of his knowledge from second-hand sources.
  • Nim Galuu from Epic (2013) is only as powerful as the scrolls that write the forests' activities, which cannot predict the future, and can only record so much. In the climax, MK calls him out on how he's relatively useless on his own.
  • The members of the Film Actors Guild in Team America: World Police, believe themselves to be highly knowledgeable and compassionate intellectuals, but they're really just Stupid Good actors who have no idea how the world outside of Hollywood works.
    Tim Robbins: Let me explain to you how this works: you see, the corporations finance Team America, and then Team America goes out... and the corporations sit there in their... in their corporation buildings, and... and, and see, they're all corporation-y... and they make money.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Moe of The Three Stooges often rudely bosses Larry and Curly (and Shemp) around for goofing up and considers himself smarter than them but is clearly every bit as dim as they are.
  • Oliver Hardy's character in Laurel and Hardy also presents himself as the bossy, arrogant, intelligent, more polite, and civilized one of the duo, but is actually not that much sharper than Stan Laurel's character. Hardy himself was known to state that his character was truly the more dumb of the two, because of how he would so often place his complete trust in Stan despite how invariably the latter led them to disaster.
  • Otto, the Bombastic Jerkass Nietzsche Wannabe American psychopath in A Fish Called Wanda.
    Otto: Don't call me stupid.
    Wanda: Oh, right! To call you stupid would be an insult to stupid people! I've known sheep that could outwit you. I've worn dresses with higher IQs. But you think you're an intellectual, don't you, ape?
    Otto: Apes don't read philosophy.
    Wanda: Yes they do, Otto. They just don't understand it. Now let me correct you on a couple of things, OK? Aristotle was not Belgian. The central message of Buddhism is not "Every man for himself". And the London Underground is not a political movement. Those are all mistakes, Otto. I looked them up.
  • Jimmy from Barbershop is only working at the shop to pay his way through college, and he tends to lord his superior education over his fellow workers. Problem is, he frequently gets his facts wrong, such as when he corrects another character by saying that scallops aren't mollusks (they are) and that a local store owner is Pakistani, not Indian (no, he's definitely Indian and quite resents being called Pakistani, thank you very much).
  • Calvin Candie, the villainous Southern slaveowner from Django Unchained, certainly thinks himself a wise and cultured man, particularly with his love of French culture. However, he doesn't speak the language (guests are specifically advised not to speak French around him so as not to embarrass him), doesn't know his favorite French author Alexandre Dumas was black, and justifies his beliefs in racial superiority with pseudo-scientific phrenology (already discredited among scientists even at the time).
  • Zelig, who has the uncommon ability to blend in and be mistaken for someone important, despite knowing very little, is somewhere between this and Seemingly Profound Fool.
  • Inverted in The Monkees' 1968 movie, Head. Peter, frustrated that the guys wouldn't listen to him after warning them about the "Black Box", makes them sit down to listen to his highly intelligent philosophy passed down to him by the Swami earlier in the film. His monologue closes with: "But then... why should I speak, since I know nothing?"
  • Paul, the "pseudo-intellectual" in the Woody Allen film Midnight in Paris acts like an expert on general Parisian art and culture but is proven wrong several times. It doesn't stop him though.
  • Gran Torino: Invoked and played straight: Just after Walt accuses Father Janovich of being this after hearing his wife's funeral speech, Father Janovich asks him what Walt knows. Walt realizes that he knows plenty about death, but not a lot about life.
    Father Janovich: And what about life?
    Walt: Well... I survived the war... got married... and raised a family.
  • Dr. Rick Marshall from Land of the Lost thinks he's an expert on everything just because he's a brilliant astrophysicist. At one point, he thinks dumping urine on himself will mask his scent, despite everyone pointing out how stupid that is. Indeed, the urine helps the dinosaurs find him faster. He's pretty much consistently wrong about what he knows about dinosaurs (e.g. tiny brains, no depth perception).
  • Shows up in 42 with a baseball announcer who declares that African-Americans are naturally faster runners than whites due to having the advantage of a "naturally longer" heelbone. He gets mocked by his peers when Jackie Robinson hits a home run soon afterwards.
    "How did his longer heelbone help him do that?"
  • Janine Melnitz of Ghostbusters (1984) looks fairly nerdy, and she claims people tell her she's "too intellectual" and that she's "very psychic." However, at no point does she actually show any intellectual ability, she constantly misunderstands Egon's comments, and at one point Peter puts her down by pointing out she is only qualified for some pretty low-end jobs. When Egon experiments on Louis Tully, she fails to grasp anything that's going on. During the second movie, she also proves to be a mediocre babysitter and that's about it. She undergoes Character Development and becomes a much more important character in The Real Ghostbusters and other spin-off materials.
  • In I, Tonya, Tonya Harding's bodyguard Shawn Eckardt gives a television interview at the height of the Nancy Kerrigan scandal, where he claims to be a counterterrorism expert who works internationally and has been consulted for a "travel magazine during the Gulf War." His character is so outlandishly delusional that it probably took some audiences out of the story a little...which is probably why the filmmakers added footage over the credits of the actual Shawn Eckardt making that actual claim.
  • In The Squid and the Whale, Walt makes a lot of authoritative comments about literature, but a lot of it might just come from his father. He belittles Sophie for loving a lesser-known F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, claiming Gatsby is superior, but his teacher later claims that Walt never read The Great Gatsby based on his coursework. Similarly, when Sophie talks to him about The Metamorphosis, she has substantial thoughts about it while Walt just condescendingly calls it "Kafkaesque".
  • The Princess Bride: Vizzini is a rather subtle case, as his whole schtick is being intelligent (completing the brain/brawn/skill trio with Fezzik and Inigo), but he really isn't. He repeatedly uses the word "inconceivable" to sound educated even though it's not accurate (as Inigo points out), his claim to genius is to mock other, actually acknowledged geniuses without anything to actually show for it, and he takes the Battle of Wits at face value, without even considering any other possibilities than one chalice being poisoned. He's a fast-talker, but that's about it.

  • Adrian Mole considers himself an "intellectual" and brilliant author with a wide knowledge of art, literature, history, and culture. In reality, his writing (all unpublished) is terrible and he frequently confuses writers, important events, public figures, and branches of the arts. He is also shown to have limited general knowledge, such as not knowing why someone called Pandora would have the nickname "Box" or thinking that someone in the UK could take a day trip to China.
  • Patrick Bateman in American Psycho claims to be a big music buff who knows all the best tunes. An actual music buff reading his recommendations would kindly describe them as "entry-level", with almost all his favorites being big '80s pop hits. He also rejects anything remotely experimental by his favorite bands and makes a number of outright errors (apparently, "You Can't Always Get What You Want" is by The Beatles). This is much in line with Bateman's desire to be seen as special, contrasting with his inability to do anything outside the box.
  • Animorphs: Rachel's mother Naomi, who doesn't adapt well to going from high-powered attorney to camping with aliens and subordinate to her teenage nephew. Not at first, but Naomi eventually proves herself rather useful, helping the Hork-Bajir draw up their own Constitution and persuading Captain Olston to lend his support to the team.
  • Arly Hanks: Brother Verber recites Bible phrases at the drop of a hat. As he's the inept product of a fly-by-night correspondence-course seminary, he constantly misquotes them, mistakes their verse numbers, and/or takes them so far out of context as to be irrelevant.
  • Played for laughs with Dave Barry's recurring column "Ask Mr. Language Person". Mr. Language Person doesn't know as much about the English language or grammar than the average grade school child. In fact, frequently Dave pretends to be an expert on something he knows nothing about, all for Rule of Funny.
  • The incredibly smug Yanjingyi mages in Battle Magic somehow managed to miss what every real-life culture (including China, the one they are based on) figured out about willow trees: they make very effective medicine. (Salicylic acid provides analgesic and antipyretic properties, and has been used since antiquity before being refined into aspirin in modern times.) Mages there routinely use willow wood to store poison spells, and it's implied that it affects the spells' efficacy.
  • The Belgariad: In Polgara the Sorceress, this is Polgara's frank assessment of Duke Oldoran of Asturia's character, describing him as, "A petty, self-pitying drunkard with very little intelligence and with that sublime belief so common among the truly stupid that he was the most clever man in all the world."
  • Yefrem Levitan's educational Book About Stars And Planets features a self-praising gnome's wild stories about his supposed space adventures; the readers' objective is to find all the flaws in his stories, and there are many.
  • In Edgar Allan Poe's The Cask of Amontillado, The target of Montresor's hatred is the wealthy and well-connected Fortunato, who proclaims himself an expert wine connoisseur, but when Montresor suggests inviting a mutual friend with them to sample the titular spirit, he admonishes the idea because the friend "wouldn't know sherry from Amontillado." Amontillado is a sherry. He also guzzles an expensive fine wine like cheap swill, holds plonk brands in high regard, and samples wine while already heavily drunk, something no real wine connoisseur would do; all actions that do little to refute Montresor's opinion that he is really a boorish idiot.
  • This is Texas Jake's shtick in Cat Pack. Marco can read and knows the answers to many things, but Texas thinks his answers are silly and insists his off-the-wall answers are more accurate.
  • Confessions: Mani, the founder of the Manichees, claimed to have great spiritual and scientific knowledge. As Augustine learned that eclipses aren't caused by the moon's fear of the dark, he came to understand Mani was too ignorant to know he knew nothing.
  • In The Day of the Locust, aspiring but talentless actress Faye Greener meets screenwriter Claude Estee at a party through their mutual friend, set designer Tod Hackett (the novel's protagonist). Rather than ask for advice from the only person in the book who has actually achieved success in the film industry, she positions herself as the one who knows how to achieve success and talks at length about her career ambitions and how she plans to make them a reality, based on half-remembered and less-than-half-understood things she has read in fan magazines and trade papers. "It was all nonsense," according to the narration, and Claude eventually gives up trying to get a word in edgewise.
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid:
    • Downplayed with Greg. He is shown to be quite Genre Savvy, have plenty of intellectual outlooks on how middle school works, displays artistic and grammatical expertise in his writing, and has quite a long and detailed memory shown in his diaries. This makes him conclude that he is brilliant overall. However, he is seriously lacking in common sense as many instances of his ineptitude can prove.
    • Susan thinks that she knows Spanish, even though every Spanish phrase she says is completely wrong.
    • Albert Sandy claims you can dig holes in the floor with a spoon and that spit can freeze in the air.
  • Discworld
    • Sergeant Colon from the Discworld series is a mild version of this. He does consider himself well informed, but the only person he tries to impress this on is Nobby Nobbs, who he's aware may be winding him up. Such as when Colon identifies hieroglyphs as a type of mollusk, and is asked if they go lower they'll find loweroglyphs, and decides to go for broke - everyone knows you don't get loweroglyphs in these waters. It is said he had a broad education; he went to the school of 'my dad always said', the college of 'it stands to reason', and is now a post-graduate student at the university of 'what some bloke told me in the pub'.
      • Becomes a point of Hypocritical Humor in Jingo, when someone in the crowd is saying questionable facts and Colon mutters "There's always a know-all."
    • Most members of the UU faculty also display a strong tendency towards this trope. Everyone, that is, save Ponder Stibbons, who occasionally fakes it, spouting his own ridiculous explanations (because he knows the real facts will only kick off another off-topic argument among his colleagues), the Bursar (who can actually translate Stibbons' explanation into layman's terms when he's not away with the frogs), Ridcully (who is definitely Obfuscating Stupidity), and the Librarian. And of those four, the Bursar is insane, the Librarian is an orangutan, and Ridcully is not averse to flying off into tangential arguments of his own. Though, again due to Obfuscating Stupidity, he could be doing that on purpose. (In Unseen Academicals he deliberately starts an irrelevant discussion on whether the wizards are in fact "toilers by hand and brain" or "slackers by hand and brain", before deciding that "[h]e could do this all day, but life couldn't be all fun.")
      • Part of this phenomenon, in the case of the wizards at least, may be attributable to the fact that (much like real-life scientists up until about the turn of the twentieth century) they consider new breakthroughs to be gross discourtesy rather than something to strive for.
    • Granny Weatherwax does this as well, insisting that elephant is "a kind of badger". Granny is well aware of her own shortcomings, but her 'Headology' requires her to make the common folk consider her nearly omniscient. However, one book states that claiming authority on a subject one knows nothing about and stubbornly refusing to ever admit they're wrong is a trait of all witches.
  • In the short story "Everyday Use," Mama's daughter Dee is trying to immerse herself in her family's African culture, but repeatedly fails to understand its true meaning, or what it means to her family. She changes her name to "Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo" to protest the oppression and cultural whitewashing of black Americans, ignoring Mama's protest that the name "Dee" is just as important to their family if not more, having been passed down through many generations. The title of the story comes from Dee/Wangero's reaction to Mama not giving her a particular handmade quilt to hang up, saying that it should go to her and not her sister Maggie because the latter would "probably be backward enough to put them to everyday use". Dee/Wangero only views the quilt as a kind of trophy, something to be used to display pride in her heritage, while Maggie learned to make quilts from their mother and even sewed some of her own quilts, showing a more in-depth understanding of their family's traditions that she doesn't flaunt or take unnecessary pride in.
  • In the Greyfriars stories, Billy Bunter lives and breathes this trope along with its accompanying trope, Ignorant of Their Own Ignorance, unless the plot requires him to (always temporarily) come to his senses.
  • The Laputans from Gulliver's Travels are an entire flying country of Know-Nothing-Know-It-Alls. They devote their entire lives to math, music, philosophy, astronomy, and politics, failing at each one spectacularly.
  • Harry Potter
    • Gilderoy Lockhart initially appeared to be one of these in Chamber of Secrets, although in the end, it turns out he's well aware of his own incompetence and is impressively competent at concealing it, at least to those who don't know him well.
    • Dolores Umbridge in Order of the Phoenix is definitely one. She has virtually no ability to actually teach Defense Against the Dark Arts (having only been put there by the Ministry as a "Ministry-approved" instructor) and is shown to be incompetent in an actual fight. Her Pottermore profile reveals that she managed to rise through the ranks by being a Professional Buttkisser and taking credit for other people's deeds.
    • Cormac McLaggen in Half-Blood Prince, much like Sheldon Cooper below, straddles the line between this trope and Insufferable Genius. He's an above-average Keeper and has some decent tactical ability, but believes he can play every position better than everyone else on the team. When he takes over for Ron during Gryffindor's second match of the year, he tries to command the players in Harry's place, lectures his own team's Chasers for losing the Quaffle to the point of failing to defend the hoops, and takes the Beater's bat out of one Beater's hand with intention to 'demonstrate how to hit a Bludger'. That last one results in him hitting the Bludger at his team's Seeker, cracking his skull, and knocking him out for the rest of the match, causing Gryffindor to lose 320-60.
      Harry: I don't want to stay [in the hospital wing] overnight. I want to find McLaggen and kill him.
  • Mark Twain discovered one of these among his fellow passengers on the trip he took in The Innocents Abroad. Dubbed "The Oracle," his hilariously inaccurate observations (like pointing out "the pillows of Herkewls" in the Strait of Gibraltar) were encouraged by the other voyagers.
  • Into The Broken Lands: The two Scholars disdain any information that doesn't come from other Scholars, even when it's much more comprehensive and up-to-date than Scholar-approved sources. In the Broken Lands, they continually contradict their local guide, undeterred by being immediately proven wrong every time.
  • British statesman Lord Chesterfield wrote about them in Letters to His Son: "coxcombs, who have no learning at all; but who have got some names and some scraps of ancient authors by heart, which they improperly and impertinently retail in all companies, in hopes of passing for scholars." (letter XXX)
  • Most of the humour in Kaz Cooke's Little Book of comes from the author taking this role, providing "advice" on whatever subject that is one million per cent useless. The Little Book of Beauty suggests the use of wood glue for hair care, for Pete's sake.
  • Roongrat of Marty Pants often spouts random "facts" that are, in fact, total garbage. In the second book, "Keep Your Paws Off!", it's revealed that he inherited his trait from his mother.
  • Isaac Asimov's Opus 100: At the end of "Part 6. Biology", Dr Asimov describes when a radio talk show host had expected him to be an expert on brains because of his recent book, The Human Brain. Asimov, however, refused, explaining that everything he knew (and more than he could remember) went into the book. The only thing he admitted to being an expert on? Sounding like an expert.
  • The Phantom Tollbooth features the Overbearing Know-it-all in the Mountains of Ignorance, the Anthropomorphic Personification of the concept.
    From off to the right...came the Overbearing Know-it-all. A dismal demon who was mostly mouth, he was ready at a moment's notice to offer misinformation on any subject. And, while he often tumbled heavily, it was never he who was hurt, but rather the unfortunate person on whom he fell.
  • The Prague Cemetery. The protagonist Simone Simonini consults several anti-Semitists for his forgeries and propaganda tracts who don't know any Jews at all, yet claim to be experts on their culture and Evil Plans.
  • Mary from Pride and Prejudice can be read as one. The book implies that while she studies hard, she doesn't take in much and can learn the mechanics but not the soul of what she studies. It's shown most during the brief times she's allowed to talk, where she almost always moralizes about obvious things with all the arrogance and pride of someone making a great discovery.
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events has this with... well, pretty much every adult character, who enjoy either patronizingly or smugly explaining rather obvious facts to the Baudelaires despite the children being far smarter. More often than not, said facts are wrong.
  • Nigel Bruce's characterization of Dr. Watson in the Sherlock Holmes series with Basil Rathbone bears the "Boobus Brittanicus" nickname. However, the original Dr. Watson also had moments. In "A Study in Scarlet", he unknowingly mocks an article he reads in a magazine to Sherlock Holmes . . . the article's author. In "The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax", he arrogantly ignores Holmes' request to describe a suspect's ear and fumbles the case so badly that Holmes has to go in person to save the situation. Watson similarly performs poorly in "The Case of the Solitary Cyclist". While generally responsible and competent in "The Hound of the Baskervilles", Watson begins by pridefully making a series of deductions on Dr. Mortimer with reference to his cane . . . all of which were incorrect, as pointed out by Holmes.
  • The Shel Silverstein poem "Smart" deals with one of these, a young boy who is given a dollar by his father for being "his smartest son." He then proceeds to easily swindle a person into taking the dollar, in exchange for... two quarters. Because two is more than one, you see, and therefore he got the better end of the bargain. He then talks several other people into swapping the two quarters for three dimes, then four nickels, then five pennies, each time chortling at his intellect as he effortlessly walks away with more than what he started. When he shows the five pennies to his father and happily explains, all his father can do is stare silently and shake his head. Obviously, he's just that proud of him!
  • This trope is known in Japanese as shirakawa yofune (白河夜船 – night boat passing a white river), originating from a tale of a man who falsely brags that he's been to Kyoto. When someone else asks what he felt about "Shirakawa" (another name for Kyoto), the man, thinking it means a river, replies his boat passed it while he was asleep, revealing his lie instantly.note 
  • Eliza in Someone Else's War is quite bossy, but rarely ever in-the-know.
  • Among the Ten Fools (religious figures from The Stormlight Archive), we have Eshu, who speaks of things he does not understand in front of those who do.
  • The Third Policeman has this as an entire branch of philosophical study, all related to a man named de Selby. By pretty much all evidence, de Selby's beliefs are amusing nonsense and Word Salad Philosophy at best (highlights include his claim that night is actually caused by black air, and the urge to sleep comes from being asphyxiated by said air). Despite this, the footnotes and narration are full of discussions arguing about what de Selby really meant, with different philosophers eager to show off their intellect and analytical skills as they piece together the truth... which ends up making them all look like pretentious idiots wasting their time instead.
  • This is the defining personality characteristic of Stingray from Toys Go Out and its sequel Toy Dance Party.
  • Treasure Island: To an extent, Squire Trelawney, who is at loggerheads with Captain Smollett calling him "unmanly" and "un-English". Against everybody's advice, he blabs around about going after Flint's treasure. Trelawney then hires Long John Silver as the cook and has Silver choose most of the crew. Amplified in the 1934 film, where Nigel Bruce gives the character a "Boobus Brittanicus" quality. Fortunately, once Silver's plot is discovered, Trelawney acquits himself very well, owning himself "an ass" and awaiting the captain's command.
  • Winnie the Pooh: Owl and Rabbit both think they know it all, but whenever they try to explain anything, it becomes obvious they're just making it up as they go along. Owl is an example of a dead subtrope that was common back then; a Victorian school graduate with surface knowledge and a lot of arrogance, plus he is barely literate. Still, at least he's not particularly egotistical about it - Rabbit, however...
  • The character Jesse Honey, in Winter's Tale, thinks he knows everything but is laughably incompetent, and takes any critique as a shot at his diminutive height. It gets him another character, Hardesty Maratta, into trouble or injured several times, and eventually gets Jesse killed. In fact, the entire episode serves mostly to illustrate that Hardesty (a World War I veteran) is an extremely fortunate man. Another character, Juliet Paradise, is a self-proclaimed intellectual who is noted to believe that a goat is a male sheep.
  • Xanth: This is the effect of the Eye-Queue Vine. Anyone who holds one of the vines feels infinitely smarter and speak and act on that increased intelligence. But they generally just end up sounding like a pretentious twit and the effects usually wear off before they can act on that "boosted" IQ.
  • Kirtan Loor from the X-Wing Series has a Photographic Memory and, because of it, thinks himself a genius and is always surprised when his plans don't work. Early in the series he's taken before the Big Bad and lambasted for his flaws, most notably a tendency not to think. For the rest of the series he proceeds believing himself to have changed, but one or two insights aside he really hasn't. It's not until his death that he realizes that he's kept falling back on his old habits without even realizing it.

    Live-Action TV 

In General:

  • Danny Kaye had a number of characters who were this. Though most of them were one-offs.
    'Yes, my friends, do you realize you can live to be 127 years old... if you listen to Petrov?
    First, you have got to live for a hundred and twenty-six years. Then, you have to be very very careful.'
  • On several of Discovery Channel's Shark Week specials, Rob Riggle presents himself as a shark expert. Real shark experts note Riggle has no idea what he's talking about yet his utter confidence in his "expert knowledge" lightens up his specials.

By Series:

  • Recurring goofball villain Pete Hutter from The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.. He has a massive vocabulary of big words and acts as if he's an expert in numerous fields, from Fine Arts to Architecture to Economics to Train Engineering, but he ends up being one of the dumbest characters on the show.
  • Amen. Thelma is convinced that she's a Supreme Chef when she's actually a Lethal Chef. This is despite numerous snide comments from everyone regarding how terrible her cooking is and her nearly burning down hers and her husband's home. She's also quite convinced she's a wonderful singer when she's just as bad at that.
  • The Andy Griffith Show: Barney Fife is Andy's overly-officious deputy, who once locked up the Mayor of Mayberry for being a vagrant. When he tries to make improvements or "modernize" law enforcement in Mayberry, Hilarity Ensues.
  • The Beverly Hillbillies: In later seasons, Jethro becomes insufferably conceited and believes he's an expert on everything. This is by virtue of his sixth-grade education and his "giant brain". Some of his low-lights include his attempt at being a talent agent, his belief he can speak Japanese, and any number of claims that he's a Hollywood playboy.
  • Sheldon Cooper of The Big Bang Theory is normally a straight-up Insufferable Genius... when you're dealing with a body of knowledge he has experience with, such as physics. Get him onto something more practical, however, and while his knowledge base drops dramatically, his opinion of his knowledge base remains as insufferable as ever.
  • Cliff Clavin of Cheers. He inherited his "gift of gab" from his mother, Ma Clavin. The big difference is that Esther actually knows what she's talking about, despite being a know-it-all herself.
    "Well ya see, Norm, it's like this. A herd of buffalo can only move as fast as the slowest buffalo. And when the herd is hunted, it is the slowest and weakest ones at the back that are killed first. This natural selection is good for the herd as a whole because the general speed and health of the whole group keeps improving by the regular killing of the weakest members. In much the same way, the human brain can only operate as fast as the slowest brain cells. Excessive intake of alcohol, as we know, kills brain cells. But naturally, it attacks the slowest and weakest brain cells first. In this way, regular consumption of beer eliminates the weaker brain cells, making the brain a faster and more efficient machine. That's why you always feel smarter after a few beers."
    • Cliff was not part of the original Cheers concept. He was added after John Ratzenberger went to audition for the part of Norm. He ultimately didn't get the part but, while he was there, he pitched them the idea for another character, a typical bar know-it-all. He improvised a performance to give them an idea of how the character would act, and that sealed the deal.
    • From time to time, he did actually get things right, and on other occasions, he was cut off before he actually spewed anything that was incorrect.
    • John Ratzenberger said that, according to Cliff, Cliff was "the wing nut that held civilization together." According to Ratzenberger, Cliff is just a winged nut.
  • In a slight departure, Stephen Colbert portrayed himself as an extremely far-right Republican Know-Nothing Know-It-All in The Colbert Report. For that matter, most TV pundits in the US are like this; parodying this was the original premise behind The Colbert Report.
  • Britta Perry from Community wants to be seen as an enlightened woman of the world, but often betrays her ignorance. Pierce Hawthorne is even worse; he's a foolish, addled old bigot convinced of his own brilliance. Chang turns out to be this, after The Reveal he made up his credentials.
  • Kathleen from Degrassi Junior High is a borderline case. She really does know more than the rest of the cast, but she's such a Control Freak that this knowledge is rarely relevant to anything. She drives a science fair judge crazy by reciting every stack of facts she knows, never giving her partner a chance to talk, and is shocked when that doesn't earn her first prize. A Running Gag on the show is that when Caitlin (the overachieving School Newspaper Newshound) needs to come down to earth a bit, it always happens by way of Kathleen doing something better than her — which is the most humiliating thing possible.
  • Doctor Who:
    • "Voyage of the Damned": Mr. Copper, the starship Titanic's historian, claims to have a first-class degree in "Earthonomics"... right after claiming that the UK is ruled by Good King Wenceslas and his wife Mary, and that Christmas celebrations involve the people of the UK eating the people of Turkey, like savages. It turns out later that he got his "degree" from a diploma mill (and dry cleaning service), and he lied just to get away from Sto.
    • "Midnight": Professor Hobbes introduces himself as an expert on the titular Death World. In this role, he proceeds to insist despite mounting evidence to the contrary that nothing can survive on its surface and shout down and denigrate his assistant when she proves to be at least as knowledgeable as him and a good deal more wise. Mr. and Mrs. Cane latch onto him as an expert largely because of his title, because he's agreeing with them, and because he's not the Doctor.
  • In Downton Abbey, Robert hires Sir Phillip Tassel to assist in Sibyl's childbirth. The family physician expresses concern that Sibyll is suffering from Eclampsia. Tassel dismisses this right until the end, saying what she's experiencing is normal. The other physician was right, and Sibyl dies from Eclampsia. Yeah.
  • John Walker from The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. While he may have admired Steve from afar and kept close tabs on his entire career in the military and with the Avengers to the point he feels that he knows the man, it's clear that he is so focused on Steve's accomplishments that he doesn't quite understand the man's actual character. This is partially why Sam and Bucky consider him an Inadequate Inheritor.
  • The title character in Father Ted considers himself an intellectual due to being Surrounded by Idiots on Craggy Island. Best exemplified in "And Then God Made Women" when Ted tries to impress a Brainy Brunette.
  • Frasier: Roz's arrogantly ignorant hipster friend Jen, who, among other things, wants to go to Vietnam on vacation because "Americans haven't heard of" the country, and that an art gallery mostly focused on paintings of landscapes is intended to "make us feel good" about American "imperialism".note 
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Ygritte has shades of this. Although she knows much about her own people and constantly teases Jon that he knows nothing, she herself mistakes a windmill for a great castle and seems completely ignorant of the wildlings' previous failed invasions.
    • Despite his pretenses of restoring the family name and dreams of being a conquering hero, Viserys is thoroughly incompetent about politics and incapable of commanding an army, as noted by both Jorah and Daenerys.
      Daenerys: My brother didn't know anything about dragons. [Beat] He didn't know anything about anything.
  • Chidi Anagonye in The Good Place is an odd variant. He's actually very knowledgeable about his chosen subject (ethics and morality), but he also happens to be The Ditherer. He loves to talk about it and he knows it very well, but he has no actual point or conclusion in his studies, and no actually useful information. The biggest indication is when we see his Door Stopper of a book on morality... and it's a complete mess, to the point that a near-omniscient celestial being of inhuman sight has a hard time getting through it. Indeed, over the course of the series, he presents contradictory views many times (in the aforementioned book, he reportedly contradicted himself midsentence).
  • Reversed in Hogan's Heroes, where Schultz was always quick to assure people that he "knew nothink!", when in fact he knew more about Hogan's operation than any of the other Germans and realized that playing dumb and ignoring the issue was his best option.
    • Also Colonel Klink, whose massive ego and delusions of grandeur constantly land him in hot water (though he's not a particularly awful person; he's often horrified by the lengths his commanders and others in the Nazi regime are willing to go, even confessing to Schultz once that he hates the entire Nazi system). He seemingly is ignorant of Hogan and the others' activities, but it's hinted more than a few times he actually does know about everything (most notably an episode where Major Hochstetter arrives to find a resistance radio; as soon as Klink gets a chance, he tells Schultz to get to Hogan's barracks and turn off the radio), and is feigning ignorance for two reasons: 1, so he won't be suspected of aiding their activities and 2: it lets him get away with subtle insults against his Nazi higher-ups. There's even a good chance he was the mysterious British spy "Nimrod".
    • Played straight on the Allied side with Colonel Crittendon, a British colonel and utter buffoon who is repeatedly sent out on dangerous sabotage missions by Allied High Command despite the fact that he's quite clearly incompetent and nowhere near as good a soldier as he claims he is (as he tells multiple stories of entire squads that he's in command of dying and leaving him as the Sole Survivor). At one point Hogan and the others left a truck full of dynamite parked at a factory to blow it up. Stuck there when they leave without him, Crittendon drives the truck back to the camp. The only reason he's even in command at all is that he's been a colonel longer than Hogan.
  • Jay Cartwright from The Inbetweeners constantly brags about his knowledge of sex. Of course, he's a virgin until the end of the first movie.
  • All of the main characters in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
    Charlie: This bar runs on trash. It's totally green now.
    Dennis: How is burning trash green?
    Charlie: I could stick it in a landfill, where it's gonna stay for millions of years, or I could burn it up and let it disappear into the sky where it turns into stars.
    Mac: That doesn't sound right, but I don't know enough about stars to dispute it.
    • Charlie tends to stand out in particular, as while the others are mostly average-to-below-average in terms of intelligence and education, Charlie is barely literate. Despite this, he tends to be the member most prone to trying to pass himself off as highly learned. This was especially evident in "Flowers for Charlie", where Charlie was given a treatment that supposedly vastly increased his intelligence—it turns out it was just a placebo, and the experiment was to see if him being told he was smart would actually increase his intelligence. It didn't, but Charlie still acted like an Insufferable Genius, causing them to conclude that it actually had effects on his arrogance and egotism.
  • Foggy Dewhurst of Last of the Summer Wine has deluded himself into thinking that he knows the answer to any problem the trio is stuck in, when more often than not, he just makes things worse, mostly for himself.
  • Leave It to Beaver: Eddie Haskel, Wally's best friend, is always on hand to give bad advice that invariably gets Wally or the Beaver into trouble. Lampshaded several times; one time when Eddie recommends a stock to Wally and the Beaver, and the stock price actually goes up, Beaver complains that they didn't listen to Eddie the one time he was right. The stock price later collapses when the aeronautics firm Eddie recommends loses a government contract.
  • A recurring bit on Leverage as a mark loves to brag about their "expertise" on a subject but actually knows little about it (which the gang can use for their con).
    • The sequel series has one mark considering herself an art expert and tastemaker because of a single year she spent at the Royal College of Art. It quickly becomes clear she couldn't tell a Rembrandt from a Monet if you put labels on them.
  • Nevil Maskelyne is portrayed this way in Longitude. He's the favorite son of the Royal Society for his proposed lunar method of determining longitude, but he struggles with calculations that William Harrison and even the slightly crackpot inventor Christopher Irwin perform without difficulty, while blaming "conditions" for his failures. Despite this, he eventually attains the title of Astronomer Royal which provides him the ability to interfere with the Harrisons even more.
  • Lost in Space: Dr. Smith epitomizes this trope. He is always wrong and his terrible advice and insufferable ego are usually the cause of episode's troubles. Everybody knows this, even young Will Robinson - who although otherwise a precocious genius is susceptible to falling for, or reluctantly facilitating Dr. Smith's latest bout of idiocy.
  • Paul Kinsey of Mad Men. Perhaps his defining quote in the series wasn't actually said by him, but rather about him; "We get it, you're educated."
  • Chris in Making History (2017) assumes that as a history professor, he can easily handle traveling through time to different periods. However, Chris soon finds out the hard way that there is a lot about the past that the history books got wrong and his "knowledge" really doesn't count for much.
  • In The Muppet Show, Sam the Eagle claims to value culture but in reality, he's a complete ignoramus with the arts. For instance, he didn't recognize the world-famous ballet dancer Rudolph Nureyev in street clothes and thought William Shakespeare was a composer. He also tried to sing (karaoke, cause it's a nice American activity, even!) "American Woman" in one of their YouTube videos. When the machine told him it was by The Guess Who, he hazards, "Um, I don't know...John Philip Sousa?" before trailing off halfway through the third or fourth line, demanding to know who was responsible for the blatantly anti-American lyrics. And he really flips it when Kermit tells him The Guess Who is a Canadian band.
  • Bill McNeal from NewsRadio quite frequently. He once attributed the line, "Gather ye rosebuds while ye may" to the poet John Keats in 1776. Too bad that 1) that wasn't Keats, it was Robert Herrick, and 2) it wasn't written in 1776; in fact, neither man was alive then, Herrick having died in 1674, and Keats not being born until 1795.
  • The Office (US):
    • Ryan, during the first few seasons, seemed savvy and intelligent enough on business to outdo most of the characters, but in later seasons, however, it becomes clear he is this trope, having no skill at all as a salesman (he never managed to sell anything in the time he was promoted from intern) and when he manages to take over Jan's jobs, his administration is one mess after the other, with the site he so invested fumbling badly, but he hides it by using hip and technical terms that his subordinates don't quite get. At the Season 4 finale, Ryan was arrested due to fraud, as he tried to record sales twice (as office sales and as websites sales) because his website was doing nothing.
    • Dwight Schrute has a heavily over-inflated impression of exactly how intelligent and knowledgeable he is, which he is not shy about arrogantly flaunting. He's not wholly without skills or abilities — he's good at selling paper and his small beet farm appears to be effectively, if eccentrically, run. But he has a tendency to pontificate about things he is convinced he is expert in despite clearly not being as well-informed about them as he thinks, and them not being particularly useful or relevant to his life as a middle-class white collar sales drone even if he was. His knowledge about safe firearm procedures has some shocking gaps, his boasting about his self-defence prowess is undermined when he gets utterly trounced in a one-on-one with complete newcomer Michael, and in one conversation with Toby he seems to display a significant lack of knowledge of the female anatomy.
  • Red Dwarf:
    • Rimmer is entirely convinced he's a genius in all fields who is being held back by his parents' low class and having to share a room with Lister. In the real world, when Lister sarcastically claims a cartoon is Citizen Kane, he swallows it hook, line and sinker.
    • Holly often boasts about his 6,000 IQ, but thanks to his computer senility, there's an awful lot he turns out not to know. Doesn't always stop him from pretending to have an answer.
      "It's the theory of relativity. You know, it's the theory you only tell your relatives."
  • Parodied in The Red Green Show in the segment where they examine the three hardest words for a man to say: "I DON'T KNOW!" Thus, the guest is always morphed into one of these. Played straight with Hap Shaughnessy who, in any episode that features him, claims to have invented a common item or to know the reasoning of historical figures due to him being there when they made their decisions (if he wasn't responsible for them making the decision in the first place).
  • A recurring bit on Saturday Night Live is someone made out to be an expert but clear they have no idea what they're talking about. The humor of the sketches is how they continue to cling to their "expertise" even when called on it.
    • A parody of car theft movies has the master thief getting into the car only to tell the group that "this must be military, never seen a setup like this." As he describes this "highly advanced" system before him, the rest of the group realizes the master car thief has no idea how a stick shift works. The man never loses his cool arrogance as he insists "I can drive anything" even as he has to be talked through how to use the gas pedals and clutch like it's a totally foreign concept.
    • "Financial expert" Lloyd Ostertag will show up to promote stuff like cryptocurrency or some stocks as "the way of the future"...yet can never explain just what this stuff actually does.
  • Mr. Chekov, of Star Trek fame, thought that everything from genetically modified wheat to the written word was a Russian "inwention". Given that the show was made during the Cold War, he was never right about any of it. note  This attitude of Chekov was spoofed in a novel by Diane Duane when he claimed that roller coasters had been invented by Russians. Nobody believed him, as the first roller coaster had been patented by an American... Yet, Russians actually created the ancestor of roller coasters, the Russian mountains, and in many languages (like Italian, Portuguese or Spanish) the roller coasters are called the local language's translation of "Russian mountains". (For that matter, there's something to his comments about the genetically modified wheat too, in that Stalin was a huge fan of Trofim Lysenko's unorthodox ideas about evolution, and tried to create a new superwheat to feed the country. It did not go well for anyone.)
  • Neelix of Star Trek: Voyager claims to be competent at many things (diplomacy, navigation, survival, cooking...) but he fails almost every task he's given. Sometimes it's hard to tell whether he's supposed to be this trope, or if they're Informed Abilities. To be fair, Neelix is quite knowledgeable about the Delta Quadrant, which is why he's the ship's designated guide. The comedy in the character comes from his desire to prove that he's more than just a tour guide. He's also a competent cook, it's his very limited selection of ingredients and refusal to listen to criticism that make his food less than savory. In the case of diplomacy, he does manage to recover from a diplomatic incident caused by Janeway putting her hands on her hips, which is a grave insult to a race that relies heavily on body language. He proves himself quite adept at their "language", knowing all the right gestures and phrasing.
  • In the original The Twilight Zone (1959) episode "Hocus-Pocus and Frisby" (under the late great Rod Serling), a small-town bumpkin was this, and everyone around knew it (including himself). Except the aliens (who had never evolved the concept of lying) who overheard him, mistook him for the greatest human brain ever, and kidnapped him for their zoo. He escaped through courage and dumb luck. And when he tried to tell people ... Crying Wolf, anyone?
  • On Veep, an Election Night analyst smugly discusses his brilliant analytical program that's predicted with barely any margin of error, how the election will go. By the halfway point of the night, he's coming apart as every state goes the opposite way of his "expert" predictions.
  • Rick from The Young Ones is convinced he's an anarchist when really he's a misinformed Strawman Political.

  • Death: "The Philosopher"
    You know so much about nothing at all.
  • The subject of Men Without Hats' "I Like".
    I like when they talk real loud, try to tell you what they know.
    I like when it blows real hard and it doesn't even show.
    I like when they haven't seen a thing and try to tell you where to go.
  • Featured in the first verse of "The Gnu" by Flanders and Swann.
    A year ago, last Thursday, I was strolling in the zoo,
    When I met a man who thought he knew the lot.
    He was laying down the law about the habits of baboons,
    And the number of quills a porcupine has got.
    So I asked him: "What's that creature there?" He answered, "It's a h'elk."
    I might have gone on thinking that was true,
    If the animal in question hadn't put that chap to shame
    And remarked "I h'ain't a h'elk, I'm a g-nu."

    New Media 
  • At least half of any given fandom regarding the fandom itself. Especially the "Stop Having Fun" Guys and Scrubs in fandoms that have them.
  • Truth in Television: Just go on a Message Board. You'll get loads of total idiots experts on many subjects. Played straight and averted by 4chan. This is a product of the fact that users of some boards completely loathe all the other boards. Interest-based boards commonly avert this, and are somewhat filled with level-headed individuals who are generally intelligent and well informed in regards to the board's topic (/co/, /tv/, /sci/, /lit/, and /a/ on a good day). The rest of the site tends to play this straight though, particularly the more easily trolled boards. /pol/ is quite possibly the worst offender, as at least 50% of its userbase are superbly ignorant idiots who spam crap, with the other 50% composed of trolls posing as strawman liberals or conservatives.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Nite-stic Eddie Brown came out of retirement in 2012 because he felt his students in promotions such as Ring Wars Carolina were becoming too complacent.
    "When you get to that point where you think you know everything about wrestling? They change the game on you. Nobody knows everything, trust me."

  • Crispin from Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues is completely convinced that he's in the right when it comes to his explanation for the empowering event. When obvious flaws in his idea are pointed out, he gets defensive and tries to twist them into the narrative that he's created, making it clear that he doesn't really know anything at all.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In the Dungeons & Dragons setting of Ravenloft, the Tepestani Inquisition views itself as humanity's last defense against The Fair Folk and the evil witches in league with them. Even in a land as...backwards... as the Demiplane of Dread, they are regarded as a bunch of ignorant thugs who cause massively more harm than they do good. At least two 3rd edition sourcebooks feature In-Universe characters commenting on how little the Tepestani actually know and how dangerous their arrogant belief otherwise is.
    • In the "Ravenloft Gazetteer V", which covers the geography, culture, and society of several domains, including Tepest, the book's In-Universe author, the mysterious "S", routinely mocks the inquisition's ineptitude and misplaced confidence in their own thoroughly inaccurate misconceptions. She even mentions being unable to resist correcting the ignorantly self-assured leader of the Inquisition, Wyan of Viktal, on a few misconceptions about fey and arcana that were so blatant she could bring herself not to.
    • In "Van Richten's Guide to the Shadow Fey", a mini-bestiary focusing on The Fair Folk of the demiplane, the prelude opens with its In-Universe author showcasing a letter from the famous Van Richten. He had received a copy of the Malleus Umbricum, a fey-hunter's guidebook written by Wyan of Viktal, who arrogantly thought that Van Richten would appreciate someone else following in his footsteps and writing guides to hunting monsters. Van Richten was so aghast at the Malleus Umbricum's nature as a collection of misinformation, old superstition, falsehoods, and other bad advice that he was compelled to write his own fey-hunter's guidebook and to warn everybody that the Malleus Umbricum is a deathtrap and a guide to murdering innocent bystanders barely worth using for toilet paper.

  • The character of Dottore in classic Commedia dell'Arte is often played as smugly satisfied with his own learning, despite his ineffectiveness. In a script that cast him as a medical doctor, for example, he would speak perfect Latin, but his patients would all die.
  • Erasmus Montanus: While Erasmus himself is legitimately well-read, just very prideful and a bit absent-minded, Deacon Peer is definitely this trope. He presumably had a priest's education but has clearly forgotten or skipped over most of it, and any time he proves his intellect he's just making up nonsense. The townsfolk, who lack education, believe every word he says and think the Deacon won his "debate" with Erasmus because Erasmus was too flabbergasted by the nonsense to have proper answers.
  • This is Slightly's shtick in Peter Pan (and any incarnations thereof in which he appears). While none of the Lost Boys remember anything about life before they joined Peter's band, Slightly is constantly faking knowledge, convinced that he remembers himself.
  • Feste of Twelfth Night claims to avoid it because "it is better to be a witty fool than a foolish wit."

  • Qui-Gon (or at least his player, Jim) in Darths & Droids:
    • Whenever the Game Master makes up a word Jim insists he knows what it means, be it "Jedi" (It's a type of cheese), "Naboo" (Fish oil mixed with liquor), or "midi-chlorian" (exactly the same as Star Wars midi-chlorians; in this case, the GM just threw up his hands and went with his explanation, even though it was ridiculous).
    • He remains firmly under the delusion that he can 'Summon Bigger Fish'.
    • Although it was reversed when the DM used the term "Vergence", which he thought he had made up but which Jim actually knew the definition of. Turns out he's not the idiot he seems and is working on a Ph.D. in geophysics. He just likes to "turn his brain off" when gaming, turning him into a Genius Ditz when something burns through the fog.
  • 8-Bit Theater:
    • King Steve is completely insane, but how do you argue with someone who "invented inventing"?
    • Red Mage professes towards being a genius, but being unbelievably Wrong Genre Savvy, he tends to only succeed on the rare occasions that Rule of Funny ends up in his favor.
  • The Furry Webcomic Nip and Tuck, by Ralph Hayes, Jr., justifies Gilly Gopher as being the Butt-Monkey that he is because he's a Know-Nothing Know It All.
  • Kankri from Homestuck. He fancies himself as an authority on social justice, and will go on and on and on about class warfare and the injustices of the caste system - completely failing to realise that his society is free of such problems, mainly because it now consists of exactly twelve individuals who are all dead, and none of them give a fuck anyway. He is also incredibly dismissive about other people's actual issues and social problems, despite priding himself on avoiding "triggers".
  • In Tails the douche, Tails corrects Knuckles after he introduces himself as an echidna, telling him that it is pronounced "arachnid".
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent: Emil had expensive private tutors growing up, but the story keeps dropping hints that they failed at actually teaching him anything. First, his grades dropped when he went into public school after his family's Riches to Rags episode. Second, any high knowledge level information he shares tends to be blatantly wrong and just asking to be corrected by one of his crewmates who got an actual education. However, since he hasn't figured out that the problem was his tutors and not the public school system having it in for him, he still thinks of himself as well-educated and shares his inaccurate knowledge with certainity that it's right.
  • Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal "Behold" has a man thinking he's on a date with a woman and going on about how he knows better than anyone about everything from string theory to economics, only for her to come up behind him and reveal he's been talking to a crude mannequin but didn't notice because he was so self-absorbed. He calls it a "Doppelgänger" and then, in the bonus punchline, explains that the word means "double ganger" in German.
  • Wesley from Weak Hero spends a lot of time mocking cram students from less affluential schools, only to get beaten out by those students in the mock exam and, ultimately, gets demoted from the advanced class due to his failing grades. And rather than owning up to his failure, he puts all the blame at Gray's feet.

    Web Original 
  • In Babe Ruth: Man-Tank Gladiator Throckle No'Goor insists that he's an expert on the 21st century.
  • Ask That Guy is a particularly psychopathic version of this. It's implied in some episodes that he knows he's wrong and just does it for the fun of it, such as in one episode where he's asked "why is my nose bleeding?". He begins going on about how every nose goes through what's called a "nose-period", but then just shouts out "I don't know! What kind of a stupid question is that?" A less insane (but only slightly) version from the same site would be The Nostalgia Chick. Best showcased in the X-Men review, where normal!Chick brushes off Dr. Tease with "I know everything", and Chick on Truth Serum admits that the mutant powers really confused her as a kid.
  • FreedomToons:
    • "Liberals on Women's Issues" portrays Dr. Mac, the host of The Echo Chamber, as this when it comes to women's issues. Every issue he lists is just a different way to say abortion, and guest speaker Jackie calls him out on this.
    • In "Gun Control with Piers and Cenk", Dr. Mac claims to be knowledgeable about firearms because he has a PhD, but when queried further, he clarifies that he's a doctor in "lesbian poetry", and it's also revealed that he, Piers Morgan and Cenk Uygur all can't tell real guns from video game guns.
  • Riley from Less is Morgue has an unshakable belief in their own "high" intelligence, deranged theories, and awful writing.
  • Early SMBC Theater had this issue with subjects like Christianity, Superheroes, and geek culture. However, they have stuck with subjects they're more familiar with.
  • "Crank" is a pejorative term for a person who holds an unshakable belief or opinion that most of their contemporaries consider to be false. Unlike the likes of Gallileo, Copernicus, and Ignaz Semmelweis (whom Cranks may compare themselves to), whose theories were proven correct despite conflicts with established authorities, Cranks are characterized as overestimating their own knowledge and abilities regardless of others opinions and experience, insisting their discoveries are urgently important while rarely if ever acknowledging faults no matter how trivial.
  • In Ultra Fast Pony, Pinkie Pie is a huge fangirl for The Lord of the Rings. She claims to be an expert on the series, yet she's unaware of basic information, like the fact that the movies were based on a book series.
    Pinkie: Oh, yeah, gettin' down in Minas Morgul!
    Rarity: I don't think Minas Morgul is the equivalent to Canterlot, Pinkie.
    Pinkie: Whoaho, bro. Bro. I am the Lord of the Rings expert here, and I think I know the name of the city that Saruman laid siege to.
  • Doc of The Time... Guys thinks he's a scientific genius, but it's obvious that he has no idea what he's talking about.
  • Jace from Deagle Nation claims to be an expert in firearms, parkour, and the US military. Due to this, he ends up spouting out nonsense facts that aren't true at all every time he appears.
  • The Healthy Band from Don't Hug Me I'm Scared sing about healthy foods but the problem is their views on what is healthy are messed up. 'Bland' and plain-looking foods like bread and cream are healthy no matter how processed they are while 'fancy foods' like eggs, vegetables, and fruits are unhealthy. Later they even say white sauce - something they encouraged seconds before - is bad for you.
  • SuperMarioLogan:
    • As of Part 5 of the "Bowser Junior's First Grade!" story arc, Bowser Junior believes the sun is a planet, much to Cody's disappointment. Unlike Rosalina, who says the same thing but is clearly off her rocket, Junior makes logical arguments that are entirely wrong such as the Sun being round and therefore being a planet. He actually even died when trying to go to the Sun to prove it.
    • In "Jeffy's Homework!", When it comes to math, Jeffy thinks 2+2=2 because it makes a baby 2, 8-4=8 because the four is taken away, and 0+0=2 because there are two zeroes who don't love each other. It even causes him to go into a swearing fit and suddenly become more eloquent and curse his diaper, helmet, and pencil, as well as several scientists while claiming that his answers are right. By the end of the video, Mr. Goodman reveals that he believes in his subtraction reasoning, and it is even named "Jeffy's Law of Subtraction", leading the whole world into believing Jeffy as well.
    • Both Toad and Chris the Cucumber continuously give out wrong advice while claiming it to be correct.
  • Chronicling real-life examples of this is the entire point of r/iamverysmart.
  • While Mordecai, MMFEC's shaman in Shadowrun Corporate Sins is a competent and powerful magician he is almost completely useless regarding technology but refuses to admit it.
  • The hosts of Oh No Ross And Carrie encounter these types fairly frequently, given the nature of their show. The flat-earth believers in particular have enormous creativity when it comes to inventing explanations for why the planet is definitely not spherical and all evidence that it is has been faked by the government/NASA for...reasons.
  • Matt from season one of Escape the Night IS very smart, but not in his element, he becomes increasingly arrogant despite constantly proving himself to be Wrong Genre Savvy most of the time.
  • This Not Always Right story is about a woman who tries to get rid of multiple books she considers scientifically inaccurate while revealing her own ignorance.

  • The Italian satirical magazine Il Vernacoliere held an "Ask the Expert" column for some time, where the "expert" gave completely wrong answers to the readers' questions while talking down to his audience and using way more words than necessary.
    Q: Egregious Expert, could you tell me the meaning of the famous E=mc2 formula?
    A: It is of course impossible to express the full complexity of Einstein's ideas in the limited space of this column; nonetheless, keeping in mind that the following is by necessity a simplification, we can say that the formula in question equals twenty-eight. Twenty-nine, tops.


Video Example(s):


Don't Call Me Stupid!

Wanda tells Otto exact how stupid he is.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (15 votes)

Example of:

Main / InsultToRocks

Media sources: