Follow TV Tropes


Springtime for Hitler

Go To
"I was so careful. I picked the wrong play, the wrong director, the wrong cast. Where did I go right?"
Wedge Antilles: Tycho, we're about to achieve a tremendous victory we don't want.
Tycho Celchu: We'll put that in your biography. General Antilles was so good he couldn't fail when he tried to.
Star Wars: The New Jedi Order — Enemy Lines I: Rebel Dream

A character's attempt to deliberately fail at some task (usually to fuel some other, hidden goal) backfires when the intended failure proves impossible, or becomes an unwanted success instead; in other words, they failed at failing.

This is usually caused by Finagle's Law at work, where the attempt to fail is so spectacular that it Crosses the Line Twice. Crossing it twice is always "better" than crossing it only once. In these cases, the meta-fail was a result of trying too hard.

In a variation (really more of a Failure Gambit Gone Horribly Right), the person will fail at the initial task as planned, but somehow manage not to accomplish the hidden goal that the failure was supposed to yield. The person is now doubly cursed, as they now have to deal with the fallout from their planned failure without being able to enjoy the rewards of the goal they were actually striving for. May be a result of Misaimed Fandom.


This is a Sub-Trope of Failure Gambit. Compare Fake–Real Turn, with "fake" and "real" replaced with "failure" and "success" respectively. Common for people with Dismotivation. May be caused by a Plague of Good Fortune. If the initial failure would be getting in trouble with the authorities, see Can't Get in Trouble for Nuthin'. Compare with Nice Job Fixing It, Villain. For one going for success and succeeding despite others thinking he won't, see And You Thought It Would Fail. For when one doesn't even try to do anything but ends up winning anyway, see Wins by Doing Absolutely Nothing. Reassignment Backfire is similar where one sends a person they don't like or is expendable on a dangerous or impossible mission with the hopes they'll be killed in action, only for that person to come back alive and successful.


In contrast is the Xanatos Gambit, where the planner is perfectly content with the success of the first part of the scheme or the second part. Another contrast is Saved by a Terrible Performance, where a character who naturally fails to perform a certain task manages to save the day with their natural suck.

See also Reverse Psychology and Black Sheep Hit. Real life versions of this may be caused by a Writer Revolt, which the creators are subsequently forced to work with.

Not to be confused with Gone Horribly Right, where a person does succeed rather than fail, but that turns out to be a bad thing. Also not to be confused with Epic Fail, which is when an unintended failure happens in such sheer magnitude that the failure becomes impressive in and of itself. Inverted Trope of The Show Must Go Wrong, when the characters try to put on a good show and onstage catastrophe ensues. Draco in Leather Pants is similar, where one creates a villainous character, only for the fans to love them.

If you thought this trope had something to do with the bad guys from World War II, you may be looking for Those Wacky Nazis or Adolf Hitlarious.

In-Universe Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • A recurring plot element throughout Haven't You Heard? I'm Sakamoto is Acchan and other bullies trying to make Sakamoto slip up or look stupid. They do this out of jealousy for how easily Sakamoto attracts the attention of all the ladies. Whenever the bullies try, Sakamoto is Inexplicably Awesome, and always just ends up looking even more cool than he did before.
    • The bullies remove Sakamoto's desk from class so he has nowhere to sit. Sakamoto opens the window and sits on the windowsill instead, complete with Hot Wind.
    • When the bullies corner Sakamoto with a DVD he needs, they say he'll only get it if he rents a porn movie for them. But Sakamoto effortlessly manages to slip in to the 18+ section undetected, and has such a good poker face that he bluffs the store owner into letting him rent a dozen porn movies.
    • The bullies hold Sakamoto's balloon sculpture hostage at the culture festival, threatening to pop it if he comes closer. Sakamoto makes a gun out of balloons, and somehow uses the gun to pop the balloons himself, even making another sculpture out of it.
  • In Tytania, a weak planet sends a starfleet against the almighty Tytania empire just to not surrender without a fight and do it on more or less profitable terms. They assign the worst officer they have as the admiral, but he somehow manages to win the battle. Hilarity Ensues. Well, it doesn't turn out to be fun, eventually.
  • A variation of this can be found in Full Metal Panic!, where Sōsuke purposefully is very curt and detached from people so they won't be friends. It always fails, and he constantly ends up with a bunch of unwanted True Companions that all really like him.
  • Doraemon has a humorous example of this. Noby/Nobita uses one of Doraemon's gadgets and meets a goat-like alien. Because using this particular gadget literally forces extra-terrestrials to come, a good reason as well as a crazy amount of hospitality is needed. We wouldn't want them getting any ideas. Realizing that they need to make their guest as comfortable as possible, they serve him all of the good food they've got, only to discover that the only thing he absolutely LOVES to eat are Noby's failed tests. He soon returns with friends who demand another one, which he gladly says he'll bring....only he doesn't because by some unforeseen miracle he passed.
  • The premise behind Irresponsible Captain Tylor is that Tylor is so incredibly irresponsible that the United Planets Space Force puts him in charge of a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits onboard the worst ship they have in the fleet, and giving him assignments in every intent that he will fail and either be killed in the process or face any justified reason to discharge him from service. He ends up being so unintentionally successful, that he ends up bringing peace throughout the two warring factions, much to the annoyance of his superiors.
  • In one episode of Power Stone, a number of characters have been sent to work as slave labour in the mines to pay off their gambling debts. Falcon and Gunrock come up with a plan to rescue them by losing everything and being sent as well. Cut to them holding massive piles of cash.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure:
    • In Diamond is Unbreakable, Koichi catches the romantic attention of the beautiful but terrifying Yukako and wants to get out of it. Josuke and Okuyasu help him out by spreading rumors that Koichi is a real scumbag, in the hopes that it'll put off Yukako; instead, she abducts him and locks him in a house so she can "fix" him and turn him into a proper young man.
    • The Sugar Mountain arc of Steel Ball Run is like this, with deadlier consequences than usual. Due to the effects of an enemy Stand, Gyro and Johnny must rid themselves of everything they obtained in a recent Honest Axe trade. The problem is that their attempts to rid themselves of everything often wind up with them getting more.
    • And that wasn't even the worst of it. After finally disposing of all their wealth, they then have to trade away a pair of mummified ears... the one item they were after in the first place.
  • In a K-On! episode, Tsumugi decides she wants to get hit on the head, but Ritsu doesn't want to do it without a reason, resulting in various attempts that fail miserably.
  • A grimly hilarious example occurs in the 4th Ninja World War arc of Naruto, when Kabuto resurrects a number of famous and extremely powerful ninja. He then controls their bodies and forces them to fight their former allies, though they can usually still talk of their own free will. Some prove to be so tough that even when they outright explain what they're about to be forced to do, it doesn't help. The trope is indisputably played best with the Second Mizukage, whose desperate attempts at getting defeated are all thwarted because his illusions are so complicated, even a entire army can't understand his explanation of them.
    Second Mizukage: I keep trying to tell you, attacking me now is useless! I'm nothing but a mirage! Attack the clam first! I told you, the clam's creating the mirage! Oh, COME ON! I've told you! I've told you already! That clam is a mirage too, you idiots! Aim for the real one, GODDAMMIT!!!
  • Played for (what else?) laughs in Ranma ½. Ryōga receives a magical drawing on his belly which gives him superhuman fighting abilities. But the drawing is so ridiculous that he wants to get rid of it (it also compromises his Secret Identity since it also appears on his cursed form), and the only way to do that is to lose a fight. Ranma, of course, agrees to help. Unfortunately, Ryōga's fighting abilities have become so superhuman that even when he's blindfolded, restrained, and weighed down, and later in his little black pig form, Ranma can't lay a finger on him.
  • Rebuild World: When Akira gets a request direct from the Hunter's Office to assist in the extermination of the Yarata Socrpion nests, he tries to get them to drop him from the mission by adding on a series of ridiculous demands like having the government pay for all the ammo he uses, getting additional pay for every scorpion he kills, and being allowed to move freely on his own. To his alarm and chagrin, they agree to all of his demands, forcing him to go on the mission.
  • In Trigun, Vash at one point gets entered into a sharpshooting contest. Not wanting everyone to know that Vash the Stampede is participating, he decides he'll Do Well, But Not Perfect and gets wasted the night before, but since he has to put effort into not hitting targets, Vash wound up so hungover he couldn't fail and won anyway.
    Vash the Stampede: Oops. Oh no. I hit them all.
  • In the Ace Attorney Investigations manga, Randolph Miller's three hires to watch over the painting — Monet Kreskin (his niece, who knows nothing about art), Dick Gumshoe (the series's Clueless Detective), and Thomas Bester (a private detective possibly even worse than Gumshoe, but more conceited) — seem to be poor choices, because none of them know much about art, but then it turns out that Randolph sold the painting and wants to both stage its theft and kill Max Arden, the only other one who knows the truth. Then again, the failure of the plan is largely because Gumshoe's involvement brings in the much more competent Edgeworth, rather than any of the three being more competent than Randolph expected.
  • In an episode of Hyouka, Oreki attempts to convince Chitanda that he'd just gotten lucky with his theory-making (stating that theories can stick to anything) by playing a game with her. He follows an intercom announcement calling a student to the staff room for something happened at a shop the day prior to an explanation that's logical but likely too complicated to be correct. His theory was that the student had purchased merchandise at the shop with a counterfeit 10,000 yen bill that had been given to him as payment (this had been a problem that was talked about on the news recently), and then felt guilty and wrote an apology letter (which is why the announcement was read using the date instead of "yesterday"), leading police to turn up at the school (thus the announcement only being read once, as the school officials were nervous, and him being called to the staffroom instead of the chairman's office.
  • Date A Live's 13th episode dedicates its first half to Shido attempting to botch his date with Origami in the worst way possible as a means to get her off his back. To wit: he asks her to dress up in a School Swimsuit with dog-eared headband, "kneel like a bitch" and accept him leading her with a leash. She does exactly that. When he breaks down in tears and apologising, she responds with "Woof~". In other words, it fails epically because Origami is THAT much of a devoted love interest with a disregard for public opinion and a blunt attitude, dumbfounding everyone in the process.
  • An early episode of Pokémon had a trainer that needed a Paras to win battles in order to evolve into a Parasect in order to make an experimental medicine. Since it was for a good cause, Ash tries to deliberately let the Paras win. Unfortunately, his opponent is so pathetic it loses even as Pikachu and Squirtle hold back, and his third choice, Charmeleon, makes his disobedience known.
  • Billionaire Girl: In the last chapter, Yukari tries to lose her money by making investments with higher-than-usual risk. She actually makes a profit.
  • In Saga of Tanya the Evil, Tanya writes the recruitment notice for her rapid-response flight mage wing with plenty of emphasis on the extreme danger of the job in the hopes of dissuading recruits, which will make the brass give up on the idea and give her a nice safe desk job away from the front lines instead. Unfortunately, the Empire's populace is firmly convinced that War Is Glorious, and the notice comes off as Dare to Be Badass instead. Afterwards, she puts the recruits through an absolutely horrific Training from Hell, hoping that they all wash out. Every recruit passes the training, and they are so capable that she and the newly formed wing are sent out constantly into the most dangerous situations since the brass are (rightly) convinced they are up to the challenge.
  • Case Closed has a case where Heiji and Kazuha are arguing over whether to see a baseball game (Heiji's preference) or a theatrical production (Kazuha's preference). They make a bet, with the person who successfully solves a particular murder case getting their way. Heiji takes the bet seriously at first, but after seeing Kazuha at the point of tears, changes to trying to give her hints instead. Unfortunately, he puts too much effort into it and solves the case himself.
  • In one chapter of Kaguya-sama: Love Is War, Kashiwagi's boyfriend comes to Maki for advice on an anniversary present. Maki, hoping to make the two of them break up so she can have him for herself, suggests that he get her a tacky heart necklace. Kashiwagi ends up loving the gift so much that they end up getting to first base in the middle of the hallway.
  • In Dr. Stone, Ginro was against joining the voyage to discover the cause of the mass petrification due to how dangerous it is. However, he also wants to impress all the girls, so he decides to fake a change of heart by attempting to swim for the ship after it's already too far away to reach, and claim that he totally would've joined the voyage if they hadn't left without him. Unfortunately for him, the ship's crew notices him and sends out a boat to drag him aboard anyway.
  • This is, as it turns out, the origin of Dragonslayer, Guts's signature BFS in Berserk. It was created by the smith Godot, as a form of protest when his lord told him to make a sword capable of killing dragons. As he thought the challenge was stupid, because dragons don't exist (well, he thought so, anyway), he proceeded to design and forge an equally stupid weapon. The result was a sword so absurdly massive and heavy that most men couldn't even lift it unassisted, much less use it in a fight. However, as it turned out, when Dragonslayer was put in the hands of a man who was strong enough to use it in a fight, it is a terrifyingly effective weapon, able to shred plate armor and slice through giant monsters.
  • A recurring gag in Isekai Tensei, Ore ga Otome ge de Kyuuseishu: the male protagonist has been sent to the world of an otome game, that he hates. He hopes to finish the game without getting entangled in any romance with the male love interests; but to do so, he must keep his affection levels below the threshold where the romance route will kick in. So he takes part in game events intended to win over the characters, and sabotages them... but being a comedy, he often ends up raising their affection unexpectedly.
  • Similarly, in Trapped in a Dating Sim: The World of Otome Games is Tough for Mobs, the protagonist Leon reincarnates as a nameless NPC in an Otome Game, and wants to live a normal life in peace and quiet. Unfortunately, his attempts to get demoted by doing bad behavior, and to shift fame and glory onto the game's five capture targets instead of himself, all end up backfiring, leading to him being promoted. The former, due to having one of the most powerful aristocrats in the Kingdom backing him, and the latter because of said capture targets' Honor Before Reason stubbornness and the appreciation of their families for the bribes Leon sends them.

    Board Games 
  • Checkers has a rule that you must capture an opponent's piece if you're able to. As such, it can be played with a variant rule where the goal is to lose all your pieces as soon as possible. Since both players will be trying to do so, one of them will invoke this trope.
  • Suicide Chess is pretty much the same thing — you must capture an opponent's piece if able and you win the game by losing all your pieces.
  • In 1979, Parker Brothers produced "The MAD Game", a reverse-Monopoly game where each player starts with $10,000, and you win by losing all of your money. If by some bizarre coincidence your full name is "Alfred E. Neuman" (MAD's mascot), you may end up acquiring a unique bill worth a very specific amount of money... which you can never get rid of, so you inevitably lose. Except there's numerous opportunities to force another player to trade places with you. It's too bad you'll never actually use the bill unless you bend the rules.note 
  • In 1965, Avalon Hill created a game called $quander (Squander), in which each player started with a million Squanderbucks. The first player to lose all of his money won the game. After some changes, it came to the US as well as other countries under the title Go for Broke!

    Comic Books 
  • Disney Comics:
    • A Donald Duck story pretty much retold The Producers: A father-and-son duo of shady film makers plan to make their big, expensive movie Laura of Arabia fail spectacularly and run off with the investor money. (If the movie doesn't fail, the duo will owe the investors 753% of the movie earnings.) In order to ensure a flop, they sabotage every part of the filming process that they can. This includes hiring a completely inexperienced woman for the title role, not buying vital equipment, and employing Donald (who they believe is a huge, incompetent idiot) to do whatever needs to get done, so that he'll mess things up. Unfortunately for the film makers, Donald turns out to be excellent at all his duties... Except for when they make him a cameraman. When it's time to film the big, epic battle sequence, Donald's job is to film it from above, from the top of a pyramid. But he's exhausted from all his hard work, and sleeps through the entire shooting. And this was his only chance—the scene can't be re-shot. Then he's supposed to cut the scene, but decides that it doesn't work without the perspective from above. But one of the film makers arbitrarily re-cuts the scene while Donald is asleep, as a safeguard in case Donald turns out to be a decent editor. By pure chance, the arbitrary re-cut works excellently, and the scene ends up getting praised by critics, making the movie a huge success.
    • A Mickey Mouse story had the main investor of a stage director who had produced nothing but flops thus far go this route by having the play insured. Unfortunately, the director's latest ridiculous project (an adaptation of Hamlet set in the world of soccer) seemed to be actually working, leading the investor to dress up as the ghost of Shakespeare to try to sabotage the production.
    • In the short Carl Barks comic "The Colossalest Surprise Quiz Show", Uncle Scrooge takes part in the title quiz show. The show gives big sums of prize money to the contestants and the questions are ridiculously easy. However, Scrooge learns that he's reached the upper limit of his income tax bracket. This means that he would actually suffer a huge loss if he landed any money from the show. He doesn't want to chicken out, so he goes to the studio, but answers every question: "I don't know." The result? He receives a special bonus prize of $120,000 for being the dumbest person in the history of television.
    • A William Van Horn story had Donald taking a high tech aptitude test after being fired for the Nth time and being told that he's best suited for doing the lowest possible jobs. Whenenver he gets one of these jobs, a disaster occurs which he then solves, prompting his superiors to promote him... and is forced to resign, to stay as low as possible. The story ends with his nephews congratulating him on being promoted several times despite the test stating that he would always remain in the bottom of the ladder... with Donald (looking like he's about to burst into tears) saying "Yes... but I couldn't even succeed in THAT!"
    • The billionaire's club in Duckburg holds a contest awarding chess sets made of diamond, gold, or silver to the three most successful businessmen of the year, and a worthless wooden pawn to the worst one. For some reason Scrooge actually wants the consolation prize, and gets Donald to replace him as head of his business empire in the hopes that he'll ruin his profits for the year while Scrooge goes off on a holiday. Near the deadline he is livid to find out that Donald has actually been acting responsibly and his profits have shot through the roof. Then it's subverted when a stock market crash in the last minute makes Scrooge the biggest loser in the contest in one swoop. Oh, and the reason why he wanted the wooden piece was because it would have completed an invaluable chess set that Scrooge already owned and kept hidden in a vault.
    • The Carl Barks story entitled "Spending Money" tells of Scrooge having too much money to the point that every bank in town will not take another dime of his money. So he enlists Donald and the nephews to go on a spending spree with him. They spend money on a car with ermine seat covers only to replace car after car when something is wrong with the previous one, feeding a giant troop of Junior Woodchucks, staying in expensive hotels, and buying tourist souvenirs at super high markups. In the end, the ducks end up spending none of it as Scrooge proves that he is the economy.
  • The first arc of Ex Machina concerns an extremely offensive piece of art. It turns out the artist was so sick of the art world that she sought to make something that no one could possibly praise. She fails, it appears in the Brooklyn Museum of Art, and she vandalizes it in disguise so it can be taken down without her publicly giving in to pressure to remove it.
  • An issue of the Silver Age "World's Finest" has Batman suddenly receiving a bag filled with a million dollars, and desperately trying to spend it all on worthless investments to help someone stuck in a ripoff of Brewster's Millions. Unfortunately, Robin and Superman (who aren't privy to the deal) think Bruce is in financial trouble, and sabotage every scheme. (For example, when Batman buys an empty gold mine, Superman throws down a meteor filled with silver, leaving Batman with even more money.)
  • A hilarious example occurs in Batman: Gotham Adventures, Harley and Ivy arc. Gal pals Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy hear about an upcoming stupid action movie themed around... well, them. Naturally pissed off, they head to Hollywood to stop it, but Ivy sees how much money the flick is budgeted for and decides to take over. The two don't plan to release it — Poison Ivy's just in it for the money and Harley likes seeing the Batman actor blow up "over and over and over again" — but after they're sent back to Arkham, the film's backers release it anyway. It quickly becomes a smash hit. (Harley even wins an Oscar, attending the ceremony with a police escort.) Of course, the only reason the movie was released was because the company had no choice due to all the money Harley and Ivy sunk into it, and the reason it was a hit was because people thought it was supposed to be a parody of overblown action movies and considered it epic.
  • This has happened in Archie Comics a few times:
    • One Josie and the Pussycats story had their sponsor Mr. Cabot lamenting the Pussycats' success, having sponsored them because he thought they'd lose money and he'd get a big tax loss. He tries to sabotage both the Pussycats themselves and the seniors' club he owns by having the Pussycats play there, expecting them both to lose money and give him a big tax loss. Unfortunately, the Pussycats are a hit, and Mr. Cabot's club gets a six-month waiting list for people to join, earning Mr. Cabot another huge fortune.
    • In another story, Jughead tried to prove that people would believe anything. To prove it, he makes up a pamphlet with bogus stock tips and puts it with Mr. Lodge's morning mail, expecting Mr. Lodge to follow the tips, lose a fortune and prove his point. The first tips earn Mr. Lodge $60,000 and get him out of another company right before it crashes, which Jughead dismisses as a fluke. Following through on the rest of the tips earns Mr. Lodge a grand total of over $2 million.
    • In yet another story, Reggie lost a game of tennis to Archie and started complaining, and Veronica called him out as a sore loser. So, he decides to purposely lose a game against Archie, and act graciously. But he just can't seem to lose a game afterwards, no matter how badly he plays. Eventually, he breaks out in a fit over winning at another game of tennis.
  • In the Mortadelo y Filemón book ''El Tirano", the titular pair of agents are given the mission to eliminate a fascist dictator (a parody of Augusto Pinochet), but their constant failures actually stop murder attempts from other people (not to mention screwing with each other's attempts). When they are told they have to protect the man so that he is taken to Spain and judged for his crimes, they try, but their attempts at protecting him subsequently send him to the intensive care wing at the closest hospital.
  • This is the Running Gag for the Asterix story, "Asterix and the Laurel Wreath": to try and get into Caesar's palace to steal his laurel wreath (it's a long story), they get the bright idea of selling themselves as slaves from a vendor called the House of Typhus. Finding out they actually got bought by a common Roman patriarch and not Caesar, they try to get themselves thrown out; first by serving up a deliberately grotesque dinner (the family's son demands they be kept, because it works as a Hideous Hangover Cure), and then by waking them all up in the middle of the night by banging pots and pans and claiming it's a Gaulish tradition to throw celebrations like this (the inspired family promptly throws their own raucous all-night party, which keeps the Gauls up all night).
  • In the Vertigo limited series Cruel and Unusual, disgraced TV producer Bobbie Flint has been put in charge of the sleazy network owner's privatized jail, and is appalled by the inhumane conditions; prisoners are stored in silos, guards constantly beat prisoners and no one cares, and the owner won't spring for a new electric chair despite the old one setting two out of three prisoners on fire. She comes up with an idea; host the nation's first televised execution (of an obviously insane prisoner) to let the public see how bad it is and start the outrage machine. Unfortunately, it has the opposite effect... and Jail TV is born.
  • One issue of Marvel Adventures Spider-Man sees Peter get roped into trying out for the baseball team, and he discovers that he's a natural outfielder, much to his shock. Turns out all the years of fighting bad guys as Spider-Man have honed his muscle memory to the point where he can't not move fast and catch projectiles.
  • In Rising Stars, Randy Fisk, an ex-super hero, gives up his cape and runs for president. But fails several times in a row. In one season, he is losing so badly in the polls that he just gives up and decides to just spend the rest of his campaign wearing his costume and catching criminals. By coincidence, the two other candidates have sabotaged themselves and the voters get to choose between two criminals and one super hero. ...He wins.

    Comic Strips 
  • A Beetle Bailey comic had General Halftrack getting angry about a new television comedy show about an idiot general that looks a lot like him. He happens to run into the screenwriter getting drunk at a bar, who explains that he used to do cultural shows and was ordered to make a comedy. He then created what he saw as a terrible show in an attempt to get fired, but the show took off and he's now stuck writing it. He and Halftrack then hatch a plan to get the show off the air by writing an episode consisting solely of soldiers marching. The audience hates it... but the critics praise it as an avant-garde masterpiece.
  • Dilbert:
    • The Boss has tried to fire Wally on a few occasions, but the company is staffed by similar-looking bald people the Boss tend to mistake for Wally.
    • This is Wally's problem — he wants to leave the company, but by getting fired, because that way he can get a generous severance package. Thus, he acts as incompetently as possible. The problem is that the company is manned by the trope-naming Pointy-Haired Boss, so everything Wally does either gets the PHB's approval or is completely ignored. Oddly, this is based on someone Dilbert creator Scott Adams worked with, and he said, "This wouldn't have been much fun to watch, but he was one of the most brilliant people I've met, and completely committed to his goal." In the later Dilbert treasury What Would Wally Do?, Adams briefly mentions in his intro that said colleague did ultimately succeed in losing his job.
    • Also, the following exchange:
      Dilbert: The company pays me ten dollars for every bug I fix in my code, Ratbert. I want you to do your little rat dance on my keyboard so I'll have lots of bugs to fix.
      Ratbert: [dancing around] How am I doing?
      Dilbert: Not so good. You just authored a web browser.
  • One Blondie comic strip featured a wealthy person coming to the company playing a game of golf with Dagwood and Mr. Dithers. Mr. Dithers tells Dagwood to do poorly in the game so the newcomer will look good. Dagwood accidentally plays a great game.
  • An arc of Tank McNamara had sports fanatic Sweatsox coaching a Little League team, and learning that to advance to the playoffs, his team had to lose the current game. So, tied in the bottom of the ninth, he sent the most out-of-shape boy to bat. Sweatsox, with a smirk, thought, "I've forfeited." The boy, however, managed to get his first hit of the year, winning the game, and was carried off on the shoulders of his cheering team; Sweatsox was furious — and his wife said sarcastically, "That's the trouble with kids these days. They got no sense of values." (Sweatsox did at least have the grace to look ashamed of himself when she said that.)
  • The Bumpkin Billionaires was a long-running UK comic strip clearly inspired by The Beverly Hillbillies, and entirely based around this trope. The title family won a huge sum of money, and quickly discovered that they hated being rich... and so each strip would detail a new scheme of theirs designed to lose as much money as possible, much to the despair of their bank manager. Of course, their schemes were destined to fail, often resulting in the family ending up even richer.
  • Discussed by Garfield and Jon in the November 27, 2015 strip.
    Jon: What would happen... if I tried to be a failure... and failed?
    Garfield: We'd be rich!

    Fan Works 
  • In the second Love Hina arc of Sleeping with the Girls, the main character walks several of the local girls through how in worlds that run on the Rule of Funny, such as theirs (a romantic comedy universe), plans will almost always fail because it's funnier that way, even if you are planning to fail. If you are planning to fail, you will almost inevitably succeed.
  • In XSGCOM, while negotiating with the goa'uld System Lords, Weir wants to avoid going to war with Ba'al, so she tries to make a request that they will refuse by demanding that the goa'uld cede them every star system within two and hundred and fifty light-years of Earth. They go for it, and Earth inadvertently becomes an interstellar empire.
  • Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality reveals that Lord Voldemort is this trope. Tom Riddle created the "Lord Voldemort" persona as an absurd Card Carrying Politically Incorrect Villain to work out the method for playing a villain and get the stupid mistakes out of the way for his next grand role to be defeated by his "David Monroe" persona and propel "Monroe" to hero status. Sadly the Ministry was so utterly incompetent that they couldn't actually defeat Voldemort, so he unleashed "Monroe" on him... which was hampered by the ministry doing a decent job of keeping Monroe from accomplishing anything to help them. He eventually gave up and just became an Evil Overlord because it was more fun.
  • One subplot in Red Duty, Black Honor is that the Kuchiki elders require either Rukia or Byakuya to get married. Rukia suggests to them that she marry Ichigo, figuring all of them would hate him as a candidate and would fight amongst themselves, delaying their decision. Instead...
    Rukia: I didn't think they'd agree to it!
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fic Roll for Initiative, Rainbow Dash is playing a game of Dungeons & Dragons with the rest of the Mane Six. Due to a combination of reckless playing and unlucky dice rolls, Rainbow's characters get killed in rapid succession. At the next session, Dash embraces her bad luck and creates a new character: Trixie, who she wants to die — at which point the Random Number God suddenly swings in Trixie's favor. No matter how suicidally reckless Trixie acts, she somehow walks away unscathed from every fight. It culminates with Trixie single-handedly killing a Tarrusque, then eating its life force...
    Twilight: Rainbow, I have good news and bad news for you. The good news is that Trixie is gone forever. You can never play as her again. [...] As for the bad news, you just turned her into a goddess.
  • In this Sailor Moon fanart, Sailor Mercury fills a cookie jar with spicy chili cookies in attempt to make Chibi-Chibi afraid of them (so she would stop stealing them). Chibi-Chibi ends up enjoying them more, intentionally inducing a Fire-Breathing Diner like a dragon.
  • In Neither a Bird nor a Plane, it's Deku!, Izuku gets into a spat with Kendo Rappa over a Beebo plush and meekly tries to back out. Unfortunately, they're both egged on into playing the "Test Your Strength" Game for the doll. Izuku tries his hardest to just lose and get it over with, but his lovetaps alone are stronger than Rappa's casual punches. After being pushed to go all-out, Izuku utterly wrecks the machine, prompting Rappa to challenge him to arm wrestle instead. At this point, Izuku is fed up with him and crushes Rappa so badly that Rappa's arm flips around 180 degrees.
  • In The Guy Who Cried Grendel, the titular Non-Action Guy made a desperate charge against an Charnel Daemon, hoping to distract it and buy time for his teammates to escape while the daemon was busy brutally murdering him. And then he rolled a Critical Success for his knife strike and decapitated the daemon in one hit.
  • Pretty much the whole point of A Young Woman's Political Record. Tanya von Degurechaff tends to fail upwards, fail at failing or her actions have unexpected consequences that work entirely to her benefit. So far:
    • She joins a minor political party for a cushy job as a party functionary. She winds up as Chancellor.
    • Tanya provokes the Francois Republic with an eye towards being removed from power in exchange for a comfortable exile. The other Great Powers backstab the Francois Republic and basically tore up most of the Treaty of Triano. Notably this was a major plank in Tanya's (thought to be impossible to achieve) party platform.
    • Tanya seeks to get voted out of office peacefully before the problems of post-War Germania can rear their ugly head. She starts a government enterprise to splinter her own ruling coalition (which contain radical Free Market Capitalists). She puts a man to work designing a cheap car for the masses thinking it would be a marginal profit. Instead he creates the Volkswagen Beetle, one of the most successful cars of all time.
  • In the upcoming The Pokémon Squad episode "Fifty Shames of Gray", RM and Brock write a Troll Fic based on The Fairly OddParents. However, the fic becomes so much of a smash success that it ends up getting a movie deal!
  • The Ultimate Hope chronicles a version of Danganronpa where the murder game results in the trapped students befriending each other and becoming better people... much to the frustration of Junko, who'd been trying to force them to kill each other.
  • White Sheep (RWBY):
    • Qrow, believing that Jaune is the half-brother of Qrow's niece Yang, decides to sabotage Jaune and Yang's burgeoning relationship, despite muttering that this will make him "the biggest asshole." He tells Jaune that Yang (a shameless Tomboy who spends most of her free time punching things) secretly loves formal courtship. So Jaune, rather than taking Yang to an arcade or something like Yang expected, instead calls his Uncle Watts, who gets them the most expensive reservation at the most expensive restaurant in the city. It's the kind of place people go on their fiftieth anniversaries. Yang ends up enjoying being treated like a princess for once, and while Watts went way too far, the mutual embarrassment also brings her and Jaune closer together.
    • The match between Teams CMEN and WJRP has this on both sides. CMEN don't want to win as that would require them to show their real skills. Meanwhile, Jaune of WJRP wants CMEN to win so that Cinder (its leader) will be chosen to become the Fall Maiden (though his teammates don't know about this and fight seriously). Complicating things further, Mercury of CMEN is briefly convinced to fight seriously thanks to his girlfriend's encouragement, thus showing off his real skills. In the end, the match ends with neither team's victory due to Cinder having to rescue a drowning Jaune.
    • Weiss's father Jacques sends her to negotiate with Ironwood to end the trade embargo with Vale, expecting her to fail so he can disown her and make Whitley his heir. Instead, she actually succeeds by both understanding Ironwood's motivations (keeping the White Fang from stealing more Dust) and coming up with an acceptable workaround, rather than just complaining about the lost profits and demanding he drop the embargo like Jacques would.
  • One step backwards and Three forwards: Felix makes skirting along the line of flagrant disobedience into an art form, defying and challenging his father at every turn while making his feelings about Gabriel's decisions very clear. To his horror, Gabriel actually seems impressed by his son's willfulness, showing more pride in him than he ever did in Adrien. Which is a problem, since Felix is Adrien — or at least, the part of him that remembers the original reality.
  • Error In Judgement: Bruce Wayne attempts to run for mayor of gotham city as part of his camoflage as an incompetent wealthy hedonist.
  • In Wings, Lucifer's plan hinges on making sure the Altar Diplomacy he set up between hell and heaven fails by deliberately chaining Octavia into it, hence making her likely to hate her future husband before the marriage even started, and forcing concesssions from heaven. However, he neglected to think of the possibility that Octavia and her husband could end up loving each other anyways.

    Films — Animation 
  • This kicks off the plot of Mickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers. Pete, upon being ordered by Minnie to find Musketeer bodyguards to protect her, deliberately picks Mickey, Donald, and Goofy, whom he considers to be completely unfit, and therefore making all the easier for him to kidnap her. It comes to backfire on him spectacularly when the trio actually starts becoming competent at their job.
  • In Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Miles purposely gets all the answers wrong on a quiz in an attempt to flunk out of the private school he got enrolled in and get back to his old school. His teacher, unimpressed, points out that getting a zero on a true or false quiz is astronomically unlikely, unless you actually know all the answers. She gives him a perfect grade.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Trope Namer is Mel Brooks' The Producers, in which two theatrical producers sell 25,000% of the production to investors and plan to create a play that will close on opening night, receiving almost no income, and therefore net them a substantial profit from the unused investment, since the IRS doesn't investigate flops. Their efforts to create a flop result in a blatantly pro-Nazi musical called Springtime for Hitler, a production starring a spaced-out hippie (or, in the musical and its 2005 film adaptation, a Camp Gay director) as Hitler. Unfortunately for the producers, audiences mistake the musical for a satire and love it. Because the play does not flop, the producers will be completely unable to pay back their investors, resulting in their exposure for investment fraud.
  • The 1964 movie starring Maurice Chevalier, Akim Tamiroff, and Mike Connors (later of "Mannix"), filmed in Italy as Operation Fiasco but released in the USA as Panic Button. This film is a comedy about a crooked producer who deliberately makes an inept movie so that he can get a tax write-off when the movie flops; he is stymied when the movie is an unexpected hit.
  • Another Mel Brooks movie, Blazing Saddles, finds Hedley Lamarr, a corrupt government official, trying to drive the settlers of an Old West town off their land so he can steal it. Forced to appoint a sheriff, he selects a random black man, expecting the racist townspeople to be so demoralized that they give up. He certainly didn't expect the sheriff to stop crime and win over the town...
  • A long-forgotten B mystery movie, The Falcon In Hollywood. A murder occurs on a movie set and in the end the killer turns out to be the film's producer, who had oversold investment shares and under-reported the cost, and was deliberately trying to make it a flop by doing things like hiring a director who had never directed the film's genre before, casting a motley assortment of has-beens and unknowns, etc. The producer turned to sabotage and murder when the film being made was turning out to be surprisingly good.
  • The Mouse That Roared features a tiny European nation planning to avoid bankruptcy by declaring war on the United States, then quickly surrendering and receiving post-war aid. Unfortunately, their military force happens to stumble upon a scientist working on an experimental continent-busting weapon of mass destruction, and captures him and the bomb just to be safe. The leaders of the country are horrified to realize that, not only did they fail to lose the war, but are now a legitimate threat to the United States.
  • Brewster's Millions (1985): Brewster is set to inherit $300 million, but in order to receive the full amount, he must spend $30 million within 30 days and have absolutely nothing to show for it by the end. Naturally, many of his attempts to lose money go haywire: he puts money on long-shots, and ends up winning. He lets his inexperienced friend run his investments, and succeeds spectacularly. He runs for Mayor, on his own dime, declaring that he's totally unqualified and has no ideas for the office, and the voters admire him for being honest and different from the established and corrupt politicians.
  • In G.I. Jane, a female senator establishes a program to admit women into the Navy SEAL program. We later learn that she expected her chosen recruit to fail, allowing her to use the prospect of shutting down the program as a political bargaining chip with the military. Instead, the recruit ends up sticking with the programs and meeting all the standards, leading the senator trying to sabotage her.
  • In the first Major League film, the new Indians owner wants desperately to move the team to Miami, but due to the terms of the lease the team has with the city of Cleveland, she will only be allowed to move them if attendance drops below a certain figure. To this end, she assembles the sorriest bunch of losers she can find, but her plans are thwarted when the team starts winning. (Primarily because they find out about her plan, and really don't like the idea of being used.) This is an Enforced Trope, as the original script had the owner do this as a Reverse Psychology Batman Gambit to turn the team around and do better and succeed. Executive Meddling turned the owner into a generic villain who wanted to sell off the team for petty gain.
  • In 1984, wildly popular Ronald Reagan was up for re-election. Knowing they couldn't win, the Democratic Party nominated a woman as vice president, to curry favor with female voters for the future. Inspired by this, the film Head of State has the hopeless party's leader select a minor black politician (played by Chris Rock) as their candidate, to win points with minorities and set himself up for a win in four years. Rock's character nominates his older brother as vice president and obviously they win, subverting the Mighty Whiteys' best attempt to sabotage their campaign. And of course, Hilarious in Hindsight today.
  • In Man of the Year, Robin Williams plays a Jon Stewart analogue who protests the corruption in politics by running for president himself as a joke. He wins due to a bug in the voting machines' programs that awards the most votes based on some obscure formula involving double letters.
  • This is the basic plot of the Spike Lee film Bamboozled, which stars Damon Wayans as a writer for a television network seeking to get out of his contract. He wants to create an intelligent television program about African-Americans, but the network won't go for his ideas. So to get himself fired he creates a show using the most offensive African-American stereotypes possible... and it becomes a runaway hit to the point even black audiences are dressing up as the racist characters.
  • In the boffo 80s flick Ruthless People, Danny DeVito's character's wife is kidnapped the day he was planning to kill her. He refuses to pay her ransom, hoping that the kidnappers will kill her and do his dirty work for him. Instead, she ends up forming a close bond with the kidnappers. It's based on The Ransom of Red Chief by O. Henry.
  • The Hudsucker Proxy wherein the board of Hudsucker Industries, hoping to temporarily depress the company's stock price so that they may purchase a controlling interest before the deceased president's shares are available to be purchased by the public, intentionally chooses the apparently incompetent Norville Baines as the new president. However, Norville's new invention proves so popular that the stock price reaches record heights.
  • The Big Lebowski has a ransom demanded of the title character after Straw Nihilists kidnap his wife. Instead of having the ransom money dropped off, the Big Lebowski sends a briefcase containing old phone books, hoping that the kidnappers would kill his wife, while giving him cover to embezzle funds from his charity. He also sends a bum known as "the Dude" to make the drop-off, knowing full well he'd screw it up. While the drop-off is, indeed, screwed up, nobody gets killed by the kidnappers because they never had Lebowski's wife to begin with.
  • The Jidaigeki film Harakiri has Motome, a desperate young ronin who needs money to provide for his family, approaching the local daimyo and ask his permission to commit Seppuku there so that he may have the honor of being buried on his land. He expects that the daimyo will refuse his request and instead give him a few coins to go away. Unfortunately, the daimyo calls his bluff and forces him to go through with the act. To make matters even worse, Motome is so destitute that he has already sold the metal blades of his swords, so he has to disembowel himself with a blade made of bamboo.
  • Al Pacino's character in S1m0ne tries to do this when the eponymous Simone (a movie actress who is, unknown to any but him, completely computer-generated) becomes too popular. His attempts include having her "direct" a movie that features her eating pig slop and going on a TV interview and saying she likes to eat dolphin meat. All of this just makes Simone more popular with people praising her for "speaking her mind" and taking artistic risks. Pacino's character eventually resorts to faking Simone's death and erasing the program which just gets him accused of murdering her. He tries to prove that she was fictional all along but by this point nobody believes a word he says.
  • This is the basic plot of Rambo: First Blood Part II. Rambo's superiors send him to Vietnam in order to search for US prisoners of war, in the expectation that he will find nothing, and in doing so free the United States from having to pay reparations to the Vietnamese government. As it turns out, Rambo finds the prisoners after all, and despite attempts by his superiors to abandon him in Vietnam, he successfully brings them back home.
  • Cold Turkey: Norman Lear's satirical film involves a tobacco company that, as a PR stunt, offers $25 million to any town in America whose entire population can give up their product for thirty days, reasoning that no town will be able to take them up on the offer... except, of course, one does.
  • Lobster Man From Mars. A Hollywood film producer screens a science fiction B-Movie in order to get out of paying millions in back taxes, only to go to prison when it's a great success.
  • The protagonist of What a Way to Go! hates money and wants to live a simple life with a man she loves. So she marries a poor man she loves very much. Through incredible good luck, he suddenly becomes rich, then due to incredible bad luck, he dies, leaving her a rich widow. Then, with another man, it happens again. Then again. And again. She finally lands one who keeps failing, and they live happily ever after.
  • In the 1972 film The Candidate, Marvin Lucas (Peter Boyle) is a campaign consultant hired by the Democrats to find a challenger for a U.S. Senate seat occupied by a very popular Republican incumbent. They figure they'll never win, but it would look too bad to let the incumbent run unchallenged. Lucas approaches Bill McKay (Robert Redford), an idealistic liberal activist and lawyer (and the estranged son of a popular former governor), for the role — he'll just lose anyway, Lucas says, so he can use the spotlight to gain attention for his causes. McKay agrees — and they both get so caught up in the election game that they end up winning. The film ends with a horrified McKay turning to Lucas on election night, just as the cheering crowds surround them, and asking, "...what do we do NOW?"
  • In Stuck on You, Cher's character wants to get out of a detective show she's starring in. Hoping to get the show canceled quickly, she insists on hiring a co-star (Greg Kinnear) who has been unable to find work as an actor in Hollywood due to being attached to his conjoined twin (Matt Damon). Her plan blows up when the show becomes even more popular, and her co-star ends up becoming the show's Breakout Character.
  • The entire plot of How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days revolves around this idea: a girl is writing an article that requires her to act like a horrible date/girlfriend and get dumped; Matthew McConaughey's character is trying to get a lucrative advertising account instead of his two female coworkers. Their boss offers to give him the account if he can make a woman of the coworkers' choice fall in love with him. Since the girl's boss has just told the two women about her article, they specifically pick her out of the crowd for him to woo.
  • In the 1942 Edward G. Robinson film Larceny Inc., three criminals open up a luggage shop next door to a bank so they can drill a hole through a wall in the basement into the bank's vault. But, the luggage shop actually starts turning a big profit and becomes successful, and later, the bank offers them thousands of dollars for the use of their basement so they can expand the vault, making the criminals wonder if it'd be better to just go straight.
  • Woody Allen's Small Time Crooks has the main characters buy a property next to a bank with the same MO. In order to make their front more convincing, the wife bakes cookies which prove so popular that, almost overnight, they become an immense multi-national corporation with seemingly no chance of failure. Then comes the second act where they have to figure out how to adjust to the wealthy lifestyle.
  • Ted:
  • A more dramatic version of this trope appears in the 1937 film Stage Door. Katharine Hepburn plays an aspiring actress who hopes to make it on Broadway, which is against her father's wishes. So her father invests in a play on the condition she star in it, and since she's not only a rookie but also questions everybody, it's thought the play will flop and she'll come back to her father. However, Hepburn finds out right before the curtain is to go up that The Woobie wanted the part she's playing and killed herself because she didn't get it. Completely heartbroken, Hepburn's character gives the performance of her life, critics love it, and the play becomes a smash hit, meaning she'll never go back to her father.
  • Blue Streak sees former jewel thief Miles Logan attempt to infiltrate the police station where he hid a valuable diamond during his original arrest by posing as a cop, but despite his attempts to get a desk assignment so that he can retrieve the diamond, his faked credentials and natural street smarts are so good that he ends up becoming the interim head of the department's burglary division.
  • All The Queens Men has an English Colonel sending his bumbling secretary, a disgraced U.S. soldier, a socially inept language expert, and a transvestite on a mission to steal an Enigma machine in 1944. The plan is to have them dress up as women and infiltrate the factory where the machines are made and steal one; unfortunately, the mission ends up going south from the beginning when the city they're supposed to airdrop near is just a façade. Attempting to radio command for help doesn't give them any help and nearly gives away their position. But in the end they infiltrate the factory and steal enough parts to make an Enigma machine thanks to the secretary's skill with repairing typewriters. But when the secretary comments that Germany won't even notice that a machine is missing since they only stole the parts, they realize what's really going on — the Allies already have an Enigma machine and have cracked its codes, so stealing one wasn't their mission. Their real mission was to attempt to steal one in such an obvious and ridiculous way that they'd be caught immediately — so that when the Germans interrogate them, they'll say that their mission was to get an Enigma. Thus the Axis would still think that the Allies didn't have one, so that the Axis powers would continue using the already-cracked codes. The secretary tries to give himself up out of a sense of duty to the Allies so that they can complete the real mission, but the others rescue him. While doing so, they make sure to try, and fail, to keep the Enigma machine. Final analysis: they subvert the trope by providing enough of a hint that they were after an Enigma machine to allow the Axis to believe it, fulfilling the true purpose of the mission while at the same time finding a way to escape captivity.
  • In the Danny Kaye movie The Court Jester, Kaye's character Hawkins (who is pretending to be a jester named Giacomo... it's that kind of movie) is challenged to a duel by Sir Griswold, aptly described as "a side of beef". The only problem is that Giacomo is not a knight and forbidden from taking part in a knightly duel. So the King, who favors Griswold, enlists "Giacomo" in a set of tests to determine whether he's worthy of knighthood or not. Giacomo/Hawkins attempts to fail the tests, but thanks to the king's guards cheating for him outrageously (challenged to "shoot a hawk in full flight", he doesn't even get his bow drawn before the carcass falls to the ground), "Candidate passes!" is the result of every one.
  • Nancy Drew: While Nancy and her dad, Carson, are staying in Los Angeles for a few months, two girls named Inga and Trish take her to a high-end clothing store in LA, under the assumption that the people at the store will ridicule Nancy for her old-fashioned style (at least in their opinion). Much to Inga and Trish's astonishment, the fashion expert instead criticizes Inga and Trish's clothes—saying that they're tacky and mismatched—and praises Nancy for her matching, preppy, sophisticated look, even photographing her for their magazine.
  • Invoked in Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie: at the beginning of the film, Mandi of Cockburn Incorporated discussed how the titular Nerd has made gamers foster Bile Fascination, buying and playing video games that are terrible and reviled. As such, she has developed a follow-up to the infamous Eee Tee, designed to suck even more than the original, thus causing copies to fly off the shelves thanks to the Nerd's influence.
  • Spies Like Us has the mission of Fitz-Hume and Milbarge. They were supposed to be decoys to attract attention away from the actual mission. However, the actual mission goes south when one of the spies is killed and the decoys end up having to assist the survivor. Then, the actual goal of the mission (testing an anti-missile system) fails and the duo have to prevent World War III.
  • The Charlie Drake movie Mister Ten Per Cent has a crooked producer putting on a terrible play by a writer/construction worker in order to have a deliberate flop that he can collect insurance on; naturally, it becomes a hit and the writer has to deal with the fact that he sold 110% of the profit. Naturally, his attempts to sabotage the play only end up making it more successful. Interestingly, despite having a very similar plot to The Producers, this film was made a year beforehand.
  • In Heroes Wanted, Minister Boyero wants the team to fail so that he can eliminate them and then implicate them as terrorists who stole the bomb. While they fail to secure the bomb, they succeed in foiling his plans.
  • In Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga, Victor Karlosson realizes that Iceland can't afford to win the Eurovision Song Contest and be required to pay for an expensive event the next year. So, he manipulates events to make Fire Saga Iceland's Eurovision entry, thinking that the group's ineptitude will make them lose the competition. Unfortunately for Victor, Fire Saga ends up being so endearingly bad that the group gets voted into the finals.
  • Ali G Indahouse: The Deputy Prime Minister plans to use Ali G as part of this sort of scheme repeatedly in order to cause a crisis of confidence and allow him to become Prime Minister: first he plans for choosing Ali G as their candidate to lose them a safe seat in a by-election, then when that fails he plots for Ali's incompetence to bring down the Prime Minister directly.
  • In the 2001 Japanese movie Waterboys, a boys' synchronized swimming club asks a dolphin trainer to help them train. Uninterested, he makes them do chores for him, drags them around various places and takes every opportunity to ditch them in hopes that they'll give up. He's shocked when the "training" actually improves their skills by leaps and bounds.
  • In Back to the Future, this happens with Marty's plan to get his future parents together. The idea is that Marty will hit on Lorraine, she will be repulsed, and then George will step in to "rescue" her. Well, it turns out Lorraine is actually receptive to Marty's advances, and since he knows that she's his future mother, he's the one who's repulsed.

  • Brewster's Millions, written in 1902 by George Barr McCutcheon. Brewster is set to inherit a vast fortune, but in order to receive the full amount, he must spend a large portion within a time limit and have absolutely nothing to show for it by the end. Many of Brewster's feverish attempts to waste money wind up unexpectedly making a profit.
  • The Leonard Wibberley novel (later adapted into a Peter Sellers movie) The Mouse That Roared. Set in the years immediately following World War II, it's about a minuscule European nation, the Duchy of Grand Fenwick, that declares war on the US, planning to surrender and accept a bounty of post-war aid. Instead, the dozen-man invasion force accidentally wins the war by capturing a newly-made superweapon and its creator while strolling through a Manhattan evacuated for a nuclear drill.
    • In one of the sequels, The Mouse on Wall Street, Fenwick has become wealthy due to part of the settlement of the aforementioned war. However, the Duchess feels that this newfound wealth is corrupting Fenwick's idyllic lifestyle, so she sets out to lose it all on the stock market by picking stocks at random (by throwing darts at the financial section of the paper). However, when other Wall Street traders notice Fenwick is investing heavily in a particular stock, the traders conclude the Duchess must have inside information and immediately invest themselves, driving the price of that stock higher and earning Fenwick even more money. In the end, she sells off all the stocks for cash, has the cash shipped back to Fenwick, and secretly burns it.
    • Really, The Mouse fill-in-the-scenario book/film series ran on this trope. In The Mouse on the Moon, the Prime Minister of Grand Fenwick, desperate for indoor plumbing, tries to milk aid out of the US after their main export of wine has turned explosive by asking for cash for a space program. The US, seeing a cheap way to look like they are helping to make space international without doing something as stupid as actually helping another nation get an advantage over them in the space race by funding someone competent gives them a million dollars. Keen to top this, the Soviets send them an old rocket, which the PM plans to turn into a boiler for the new hot water system. The scientist from The Mouse That Roared discovers how to make an anti-gravity mix out of the explosive wine and without telling the PM that he is what he's doing, takes off successfully with the PM's son as co-pilot and beats the US and Soviets to the moon!
  • In The Fountainhead, a client hires Howard Roark to design a really far-out type of resort, something really wild and different. The client had actually oversold shares in the resort, and because Roark had a reputation for having plans so unconventional that the public would never accept them, hired him with the intent of having the motel fail and thus be able to keep the money. However, Roark's design for setting up the motel as a camp with individual cottages becomes a tremendous success, ruining the unscrupulous promoters.
  • Joked about in an exchange from the New Jedi Order: Enemy Lines duology,. Wedge Antilles is commanding the defense of a strategically important planet. He knows they can't hold it forever, so the strategy is to string along the enemy commander as long as possible by waging battles over unimportant goals, and make the Vong commander's moves predictable. However, during one of those battles, reinforcements for Wedge arrive ahead of schedule, resulting in the near-total annihilation of the Vong fleet along with their commander. This results in the Sorting Algorithm of Evil spitting out a far more competent leader to replace him, who will not be easy to predict, along with an even larger fleet.
    Wedge: Tycho, we're about to achieve a tremendous victory we don't want.
    Tycho: We'll put that in your biography. General Antilles was so good he couldn't fail when he tried to.
  • The O. Henry story The Cop and the Anthem focuses on a hobo who intentionally tries to get arrested so as to go to jail during the winter by committing various petty crimes, all of which he fails to get arrested for. In the end when he contemplates cleaning up his life, a cop asks him what he's doing, and he responds "Nothing" which results in his being arrested for vagrancy and spending three months in jail.
  • In Mrs. 'Arris Goes to Parliament, by Paul Gallico, the heroine of Mrs. 'Arris Goes To Paris decides to run for Parliament on the platform of "Live and let live". The (fictional) Center Party nominates her as part of a back-room deal, on the assumption that her candidacy is a joke and couldn't possibly succeed. Of course, she wins.
  • The first book of the Jesse Stone series by Robert B. Parker has the aldermen of Paradise, Massachusetts, attempting the same gambit by hiring the self-destructively alcoholic Jesse Stone to be the new police chief, believing he will be easy to control. Unfortunately for them, he sees the new job as his last chance before his life gets completely ruined (as well as being self-aware enough to be suspicious that they hired him after he was drunk for the interview), and takes the opportunity to bring down their entire right-wing militia and swing the rest of the police force to his side.
  • The first Jack Reacher novel, Killing Floor, features this trope. The chief of detectives in Margrave, GA, Capt. Finlay, was going through a messy divorce when he interviewed for the job, and looked utterly incompetent. Since the Mayor and Police Chief are involved in the plot that's the centerpiece of the book, he's hired. Unfortunately for them, he's quite competent.
  • In the Gordon Korman book Radio Fifth Grade, the school bully begins reading stories on the school's student-run radio show as part of an English project — horrific stories about pet kittens violently fighting each other. The student running the show is too intimidated to say they're terrible. When he finally gets the courage to say so, the bully admits he was intentionally writing bad stories and wanted someone to say so, so he could stop writing them.
  • The P. G. Wodehouse story Peril at the Tee involves two crappy golfers playing a round with each other. As the consequences of winning would be to neither's liking, both of them attempt to throw the game. However, the methods they employ actually improve their technique. As an example, one of them is wearing a tight-fitting jacket, figuring it will restrict his swing into total ineffectiveness. Instead, it ends up correcting his chronic overswing.
  • In another P.G. Wodehouse story an honourable young man comes to believe there is insanity in his family. He must therefore end his engagement (since he cannot condemn the woman he loves to marriage with someone who may go mad), but cannot say why in order to protect his family. He decides to behave outrageously so that his fiancee will break off the engagement herself or her family forbid it. Everything he does to this end causes him to be admired all the more for manly frankness. It being Wodehouse, the fact that this potentially tragic scenario ends happily for everyone is possibly the most pointless concealment of a spoiler in the history of TV Tropes.
  • Emil of Lonneberga frequently gets sent to the tool shed as punishment for pranks. His little sister Ida eventually gets jealous, and decides that she wants to go to the tool shed, too. However, most of her attempted pranks backfire into nice actions, and when she eventually manages to commit one, it (of course) gets blamed on her older brother.
  • In Don DeLillo's Libra, the Kennedy assassination is portrayed as a plot set in motion by an ex-CIA agent who intended it to fail so that the United States would be steered into a war with Cuba. Due to postmodernist confusion, somewhere along the line the "failing" part fell out of the equation, but the facts are so fractured and disjointed that no one will ever know for certain how that happened.
  • Happens in How NOT to be Popular by Jennifer Ziegler. Maggie attempts to make everyone hate her (or at least think she's weird) so that she won't form any attachments in her 10th high school. However, everything she does makes people like her more. For example, she decides to dress in ugly clothes from her parents' thrift shop, but ends up starting a new trend. Her parents come to school with her one day and her mother talks about how to keep your vagina tight, but all her female friends think she's cool for being so open minded. A guy even asks her on a date, and she starts political arguments with him over dinner, only for him to think it's interesting. She ends up being more of a Blithe Spirit to the school and a Manic Pixie Dream Girl to the guy.
  • Ender's Game: Tired of being built into a hero and having the fate of all humanity on his shoulders, Ender opts to win the final test by crossing the Moral Event Horizon, believing his superiors will never let him take command on a real battlefield after he does. Turns out that not only was this exactly what his superiors were hoping he would do, but the "test" was actually a real battle being fought by humanity without Ender's knowledge, and he just unknowingly won the war for the humans, committing genocide against the buggers in the process.
  • Percival Everett's novel Erasure has this after an avant-garde black novelist sells out. Infuriated by the roaring success of awful ghetto fiction that turns black people into caricatures, he writes My Pafology, the true story of Van Go Jenkins, a youth in the ghetto. He intended it to be a blatant parody: the book itself is incredibly awful, reproduced in its entirety and written completely in Ebonics. And then it hits the bestseller list and people start wanting to meet the (completely fictional) author who wrote such a "raw and stunning work." Oops.
  • In one of the later Legion of the Damned books by William C. Dietz, the insectoid Ramanthians have invaded a world in the Clone Hegemony. The entire thing is meant as a distraction, to draw forces away from the true objective, Earth. However, to the surprise of everyone, the clone general in charge of the planet proves to be hopelessly incompetent, leading to the Ramanthians not only surviving, but holding the world against enemy attack. At one point, the Ramanthians even call the clone general "The best General we have."
  • Canadian political satire The Best Laid Plans by Terry Fallis follows Daniel Addison, a Liberal Party political strategist who wants to leave politics and start teaching at his alma mater. Daniel attempts to destroy his credibility by convincing Angus McLintock, his new colleague/landlord, to run for Parliament for the Liberals even though he is considered unelectable (and doesn't actually want to be elected, and is only running in order to get out of teaching an English course to first-year engineering students, his most hated class) in the strong Conservative riding where they live. (Exacerbating the hopelessness of the Liberal cause is that the incumbent Conservative MP is also the nationally popular Minister of Finance.) Even though Angus refuses to participate in the campaign, or indeed to let Daniel do much, he wins by a narrow margin after the incumbent gets caught doing something very stupid three days before the election, rendering him unelectable in the riding. Upon learning he was elected, Angus admits he never wanted or planned to become an MP. When he rolls with his election, he follows his head and rejects "politics as usual", and becomes popular with the voters.
    • The sequel, The High Road, averts this trope by having Angus actively run for re-election, and win a close contest.
  • In Pyramids, protagonist Pteppic is about to graduate from the Assassins' Guild school, but he realizes that he can't kill, so he attempts to fail his exam stylishly by aiming his crossbow at some completely random spot and firing. The shot richochets a couple times and hits the (dummy) target anyway, and the examiner passes him with a personal aside that he disapproves of these flashy modern methods.
  • Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency:
    • Dirk plans to make a completely wrong prediction of the contents of a university exam as part of a scam. He intentionally cultivates a reputation as a psychic by firmly denying that he is one, and dismissing rumors of the contrary as lies. Which rumors? The ones he started, of course. This is all so he'll get a chance to "prove" he's not psychic by predicting what will be on the exam, writing it up, having it sealed, and then revealing it after the exam has taken place. Then he fakes a family illness that requires raising a lot of money, and people start giving him "donations" for a peek at the predictions. In reality he just took a wild guess with the bare minimum of research, which he figures will be close enough to retain his mystique while avoiding any problems. Instead it turns out he was exactly right. To the very comma. He winds up going to jail.
    • By the sequel, his attempts to be a Phony Psychic becoming all too genuine are a Running Gag, as he tries to make vague pointless predictions and gets them all right. This ends with him standing on a rooftop, shaking his fist at the sky and yelling "Stop it!"
  • In Good Omens, Newton Pulsifer's ineptitude with electronics is such that when he tried to put together a joke electronics kit that wasn't supposed to do anything, the result started picking up Radio Moscow.
  • Double subverted in the Psych novel A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Waste as a former high-school enemy of Shawn and Gus, now a millionaire, wants Shawn to use his "psychic" gifts to pick out good investments. Shawn does, but every investment goes bad and the guy reveals that he planned it this way in order to expose how Shawn is a fake psychic. This backfires on him, however, as his loyal assistant, who had believed Shawn's predictions, lost all his money investing in them and discovering that his boss did all this for a prank makes him murder the man.
  • In Warbreaker, Lightsong plays a game that he doesn't know the rules to, but manages to win every time. He considers trying to throw the game, but realizes that would be identical to what he was already doing.
  • In book 1 of The Magisterium, The Iron Trial, the main character's father convinces him to fail on the entrance exam to the Magisterium, a school of magic. Unfortunately, he fails at failing.
  • In The Report Card by Andrew Clements, the main character Nora is a genius, but deliberately gets Ds on her report card, partly because she doesn't want to stand out, but also partly because she feels that report cards are a poor way of measuring the talent of students and is trying to prove a point. This strategy works great for her, until a man named Dr. Trindler has her take an I.Q. test. She tries the same tactic, not realizing that on this test answering just enough questions to get what would be considered a D on a school test is enough to make her a certified genius. She then later has to admit that she only got most of those questions wrong by doing so deliberately, revealing that she's far more intelligent than even what the test revealed.
  • In MYTH Inc in Action, Guido and Nunzio infiltrate the Possiltum army to try and slow its aggressive expansion down. They get assigned to run a supply depot, where they use teamsters to ship things (which turn out to be faster and cheaper than the army's internal logistics division), send summer gear in response to a unit that had requested winter gear (turns out, the order was six months old so they needed summer gear by that point), sent propaganda material to a unit that requested toilet paper (considerably improving the unit's morale), and refused to do any paperwork (considerably increasing the amount of actual work they accomplished).
  • A variation in the Olivia Goldsmith novel The Bestseller. Gerald Ochs Davis Jr. is the son of a powerful publisher who part-owns Davis & Dash Publishing. He has dreams of being a great writer but can't quite make it. So he regularly cooks the records to take the sales of other novels and attribute them to his own books so they appear to sell better. For his latest, he decides on A Week in Firenze, reasoning that no one will miss any numbers from a novel about a bunch of old ladies vacationing in Italy written by a first-time author. Gerald is as shocked as everyone when Firenze is soon topping the bestsellers lists. It doesn't take long for the auditors to realize something is off about Davis & Dash claiming the biggest hit of the season isn't selling more than 30,000 copies and Gerald's scam is exposed with his own father firing him.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In 30 Rock, after Tracy stars in a serious, Oscar-winning movie, he starts feeling pressured to be a more serious actor and role model, which he doesn't want at all. With Liz's guidance, he does a series of publicity stunts to get people to stop looking up to him, but either people think he's in character or forget what he was doing when he stops (at one point, he saves a man from drowning). In the end, he realized (with the help of Jack Donaghy) that all he had to do to lose respect was resume working on television.
  • Inverted in an episode of All in the Family, where Archie is determined to do everything he can to avoid being forced into retirement (including dyeing his hair jet-black). Oddly enough, it works...but turns out at the end that if he had taken the retirement deal he would've gotten a severance package worth more than his salary.
  • The Basil Brush Show episode "The Pitz Hotel" Zigzags this trope. Every attempt Basil and Steven make to drive their hotel guests away so that they can get their flat back only makes them more popular. Eventually, they realize that they can make a fortune using the Reverse Psychology approach; only to discover that the landlord is charging them £100 per night for every guest who stays with them. They eventually get things back to normal using a Failure Gambit; hiring Anil to cook the food, sending most of the guests to hospital (they were the lucky ones).
  • Batman (1966): Penguin's Get into Jail Free efforts in "The Penguin's Nest/The Bird's Last Jest." When he's put on trial, he launches into an intentionally absurd Insane Troll Logic argument, only for the judges to buy it and let Penguin go.
  • Being Human: Annie is trying to play matchmaker between Hugh and his ex, Kirsty, so she gets George to date Kirsty and be the world's worst boyfriend. Unfortunately, Kirsty likes everything they think will drive her away, from German Expressionist films to kebabs, and she even likes George's terrible poetry.
    Annie: [as Kirsty dives into George's arms] Sod it, maybe you two are meant for each other!
  • In an episode of Big Time Rush Gustavo pays a girl to date Carlos and then get him to break up with her. Unfortunately, when she tries to break up with him he's okay with her spending all his money and being demanding and emotional. The kicker is when they date for real he breaks up with her because she doesn't like corn dogs.
  • In the first series of Blackadder, Blackadder resorts to an increasingly desperate set of measures to get out of an arranged marriage including dressing up as a stereotypical Camp Gay of the period. The plan backfires when his betrothed believes he has dressed up as a Spanish nobleman to impress her.
  • Boston Legal:
    • Early on, the partners decide that Denny is beyond control and that the best way to get rid of him is to have him fail publicly and spectacularly in a high profile case. Brad Chase wants him gone as much as anyone, but he's disgusted by the intended means. He warns Denny, but Denny is convinced he can't fail. Denny has one of his intermittent moments of brilliance during his closing argument and gets a generous settlement for his client, scuppering the plan.
    • Denny gets arrested for possessing a concealed handgun and tries to get found guilty so the Supreme Court can overturn the conviction and destroy Massachusetts handgun laws. Despite the most ridiculous closing argument by his own lawyer, he's found not guilty.
  • This is the usual plot of the Bubble Gang skit called "Cheche Bureche". Bureche, good Cheche's mean half-sister, wants to mess up Cheche's life, hoping she will fail. However, it backfires as Cheche gets the win due to the mess caused by Bureche, who screams and wails in agony.
  • In an episode of Caroline in the City, Richard tries to make his clingy girlfriend break up with him by picking his nose in front of her. This backfired when she takes it as a sign that he's comfortable enough her to indulge in bad habits...and then promptly goes to get her toenail clippers.
  • Played with in an episode of CHiPs. Newly-transferred CHP officer T.C. can seemingly do no wrong; he's so good at his job, the other officers start a pool on when he'll finally screw up. T.C. finds out, and enters the pool himself...just to show that he's a good sport about the whole thing. At the end, Sgt. Getraer points out that he missed an important clue during an investigation, finally making a tangible mistake. But guess who wins the pool?
  • Community: When making a commercial for Greendale, Jeff is forced to play the role of the Dean and wants to get out of it. He first tries making an over-the-top performance of him, but the actual Dean loves it. He then tries getting his scene filmed in front of the Luis Guzman statue, planning for it to get cut because the commercial would be using Guzman's image without his permission, and calls his lawyers about it. To Jeff's surprise, Guzman accepts being a part of the ad, and this kicks off the rest of the episode's plot as the Dean becomes a Prima Donna Director over that.
  • In one episode of Covert Affairs, Annie is trying to make herself look like someone Trapped by Gambling Debts so her mark will have a reason to believe she needs a way out, and incriminate herself in providing one. She bets her last chips on an event with extremely low probability... and it comes up, winning her thirty thousand dollars.
  • Taking the self-referentiality up another level, in season 4 of Curb Your Enthusiasm, Mel Brooks casts Larry David in the lead of The Producers, believing that he will make the show a flop and therefore never have to deal with revivals of it again. Of course, it's a success. Brooks and his wife Anne Bancroft imitate the scene in The Producers in which the two heroes commiserate at the theater bar.
  • Dexter, "Si Se Puede". Now that Dexter has Miguel Prado very interested in his... extracurricular activities, he suggests a target that would be impossible to get to through his means — an Aryan Brotherhood leader in a maximum security prison, giving out kill orders to his gang on the outside — in the hopes that Prado will leave him alone. Instead, Miguel goes for the plan whole-hog, arranging for the victim to get transferred into county for testimony so Dexter can spring him and kill him. In retrospect, Dexter should have known that an Assistant District Attorney, especially one as popular as Prado, may have enough pull to do this.
  • An episode of Diagnosis: Murder has a race car promoter doing her spin on the scheme: She sponsors a driver with a terrible race record and sells the various backers for nearly three times the money she'd ever get with him winning, confident that after a terrible race season, she'll make a profit on the backings. Of course, the driver suddenly has the best winning streak of his career, driving her to murder.
  • In an episode of Drake & Josh, Drake wants to break up with his girlfriend Ashley because of her Annoying Laugh. However, he can't because Ashley's mom is his English teacher. So he takes her on a textbook Springtime for Hitler date.
  • Another blatant example was on Elementary where an undersea treasure hunter discovers the location of a sunken Spanish galleon but his research reveals that the ship held nothing valuable when it sunk. Thus, he sells investors on funding his expedition with the promise that each of them would get half the gold he finds, overselling them by about 1500%. The explorer would then spend a small portion of the money to dive down to the wreck, "discover" that it is empty, meaning that he wouldn't have to give the investors anything, and then pocket the remaining $14 million with no one the wiser. Just as he's about to set sail, however, a shady researcher appears with a pirate captain's log that indicates the ship really does have gold on it but not enough to cover his promises (he'd have to pay out $100 million if he found $10 million). He thus tracked the researcher down to kill him and then arranges for a rival explorer to get the log so he'll get to the wreck first, clean it out and give the hunter an excuse for his investors why there was no gold there. Holmes and Watson actually show the key clip from the movie to cite how he was running the exact same scheme as he's arrested.
  • The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin:
    • When Reggie Perrin decides to tank his hyper-successful Grot stores, he hires the three most incompetent people he knows, along with a random manual laborer, and puts them in jobs completely outside of their experience. All four of them reveal unsuspected talents for their positions, and Grot's profits soar even more.
    • Most things about Grot embody this trope. The company was founded as a resounding fuck you to the business world and was intended to be an embarrassment that died quickly. It became a multinational.
  • In Father Ted, Ireland, desperate to lose the Eurovision Song Contest so they don't have to host it again, send Father Ted and his really, really bad song "My Lovely Horse" to the competition. It's an aversion, though: it worked.
  • Frasier:
    • One episode has Niles being forced to act like an ass in front of his wife's friends so that she will have an excuse to break off the marriage while maintaining her social image (It Makes Sense in Context). One attempt has him rudely criticise a man's drinking problem. Instead of being insulted or offended, he has an epiphany and realises that he needs to stop drinking. Everyone ends up thanking Niles and praising him as a good person.
    • In another episode, the brothers Crane desperately try to sabotage the performance of a truly abysmal actor, to save him (and themselves) from humiliation. The show goes on anyway.
  • The premise of VH-1's Free Radio is that a radio station's shock jock leaves for satellite radio. The station gives an idiotic intern his own show, to keep 'em afloat. His show becomes more popular than the original shock jock's.
  • Friends:
    • In one episode Joey is making ends meet by giving acting classes. Then just as gets an audition for a boxer role, he learns that one of his students is also up for that, and decides to give him the advice to play the role "supergay". The next class has Joey lamenting that "they liked the stupid gay thing and cast him".
    • Another episode has Joey attempting to intentionally set Ross up on a terrible blind date. However he selects an intelligent woman he once dated who loves puzzles and foreign films. Only once he describes her to Phoebe does he realize that he's accidentally set Ross up with his perfect woman.
    • In another episode, Phoebe learns that her apartment is fixed from the fire, but worries that Rachel is too happy living with Joey and wouldn't move back in with her. So she tries to drive Rachel into moving out by giving Joey a drum set and then a spider, both of which Rachel enjoys. It gets even worse when it was found out that the apartment was rebuilt with only one bedroom instead of two, meaning that Rachel couldn't have moved back anyway.
  • One episode of The Games had Gina attempting to make a strike situation worse in order to teach the Minister a lesson. It backfired, and she ended up saving millions of dollars in wage demands and single-handedly bringing financial stability to the Games. Everyone was shocked.
  • Get Smart:
    • In the episode "Double Agent", Maxwell Smart needs to lose a lot of money gambling so that KAOS will think he has gambling debts and is willing to defect. Naturally, he ends up winning. He even discards a poker hand of four kings, only to be dealt four aces.
    • In the episode "The Whole Tooth And...", Smart has planted a tooth containing secret plans on microfilm in the mouth of someone who turns out to be a criminal. He needs to get arrested and jailed to retrieve it. Attempting to get arrested by not paying his restaurant bill results in the waiter and manager making excuses, expressing sympathy, offering to let him pay later, and finally they and a half dozen other customers all pay out of their own pockets.
  • Good Luck Charlie:
    • In "Double Whammy", Teddy tried to purposely mess up her tryout to avoid the embarrassment of becoming the school mascot after Amy forced her to try out as a "family heiratage". However, she ends up getting the role by default due to being only the one who showed up.
    • In "Wentz' Weather Girls", Tedy and Ivy try to get fired from the newly opened weather-themed restaurant run by Ivy's father by causing havoc. Unfortunately, the customers love it.
    • In the fourth season premiere, PJ and Emmett want to move into a bigger apartment. However, since their apartment lease limits them to staying for at least five years, they aren't allowed to move out and instead try to get the landlord to kick them out by doing illegal acts in the building. Unfortunately, the landlord actually loves their antics and joins them. So the two eventually give up and choose to stay.
  • In the first season of The Good Place, Michael's neighborhood starts randomly becoming a World of Chaos because Eleanor was sent there by mistake. When Michael works out that something there doesn't belong, he employs Eleanor to help him find it. To avoid being found out, Eleanor convinces Michael that the best thing to do is stop working and do anything to take his mind off of work...which leads him to realize that humans are spontaneous and unpredictable, so it must be a person that was placed in his neighborhood by mistake.
  • In Hellcats a law professor is trying to teach his students the meaning of failure by assigning them to research the fake case Koramatsu vs Tennessee but he didn't count on two of his students finding a guy named Koramatsu and convincing him to sue the state.
  • House: After Chase claims that women aren't shallow enough to be attracted to him solely based on his looks, House bets him $100 that no matter how undesirable Chase acts during a Speed Dating event, he'll still get no fewer than twelve out of twenty women who want to go out with him again. After one night of trying as hard as possible to turn women off, the Mr. Fanservice is $100 poorer.
    Chase: [wth a stereotypical Surfer Dude accent] I play video games.
    Speed Date: [genuinely impressed] Wow! Professionally?
    Chase: [snorts] I wish, bro.
  • Not exactly intending to fail, but certainly not intending to win. In the Australian Dramedy House Rules, a suburban housewife puts herself as a protest candidate for a by-election caused by the death of the local member of parliament. However, when the candidate for the party for whom the electorate is a safe seat fails to lodge his application in time, she finds herself standing essentially unopposed and is elected to state parliament.
  • iCarly: In the episode "iGot Detention", Carly tries to get detention in order to film an episode of her webshow in their alongside her best friend (and co-host), Sam. Her first attempt, via triggering the school's fire alarm, fails because it turns out there really was a fire (the microwave in the eatcher's lounge had just burst into flames) and the teachers are thankful to her for doing it. She later accomplishes her goal by total accident.
  • A serious example from I, Claudius, a favor-seeking senator informs an ailing Caligula that he'll gladly offer the gods his own life in exchange for that of the Emperor, if only the gods would take it. Caligula soon recovers from his illness and of course, being Caligula, insists that the senator commit suicide since "obviously" the gods have taken the man up on his offer, in exchange for restoring Caligula's health.
  • I Love Lucy:
    • In one episode, the girls start making Aunt Martha's Old Fashioned Salad Dressing, only to find it costs more to make than they can charge. In the second commercial, a randomly picked studio audience member (Lucy) disses the product. But this effort to "un-sell" the salad dressing only increases orders to a level three times as much. Lucy and Ethel even get notes saying "Keep up the comedy bits making fun of the product! We love it!".
    • In another episode, when Lucy and Ethel exceed their shopping allowance while in Florida, Lucy comes up with a plan to ask Ricky and Fred to take her and Ethel fishing with them. Knowing they'd say no, the two would use it as an excuse to shop and show the boys the purchases when they got back, with them being unable to get upset about the expense. Unfortunately, Lucy's plan hits a snag when Ricky agrees with the idea (having decided to take the girls fishing so they couldn't shop).
  • In the third series of The IT Crowd, Jen is elected Employee of the Month, and has to make a speech. The geeks plot to make her the laughingstock of the office by feeding her a bunch of complete nonsense about IT to use in the speech — like, for instance, the "fact" that the entire Internet resides in a small black box. Unfortunately, it turns out that nobody else attending the speech is even remotely computer-literate either. Though it does end up causing an embarrassment when the "Internet" is destroyed through a fight spilling over from next door...
  • Parodied on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, featuring a skit where Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom (played by Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick) try to make money off the 2016 US Presidential race, and bank their chances on the man they feel is the worst possible candidate. Hilarity Ensues.
  • In L.A. Law, Gwen Taylor rejects a prosecutor's light sentence for her drug addict client so that he'll get a wake-up call by doing more time. To her shock the prosecutor shrugs and gives her a deal with no jail time at all. The client's father, the one who wanted him to do hard time in the first place, is so angry he tries to get Gwen fired, and she's only spared by the surprise intervention of Rosalind Shays.
  • In Las Vegas, a man heads to Vegas after being dumped by his girlfriend and tries to gamble all his money away (not trying to lose on purpose, but intending to keep gambling until he does lose it all), after which he plans to kill himself. He ends up winning millions of dollars, which prompts the casino's management to investigate him. After learning his story, they call his girlfriend, who, taken aback by how hard their breakup hit him, agrees to give him another chance.
  • In the third season Made in Canada episode "Beaver Creek: The Movie", Pyramid Productions CEO Alan has written a TV script called Water on the philosophy that many successful television series revolve around water in some way. Production heads Richard, Veronica, and Victor all know the script is terrible and, dreading the idea of Alan holding incessant production meetings for the series, try to kill it by sticking it in Development Hell. Richard also gives a copy of the script to Mandy Forward, who played the title character in Adele of Beaver Creek in the 1980s and is reprising the role for a TV movie, but who also wants revenge on Alan for making a pornographic parody of Beaver Creek using the same sets, and looks forward to telling him to his face that his pet project is awful. However, to everyone's surprise, she loves the script, and offers to make two more Beaver Creek movies if she can play the female lead in Water. Veronica, Victor, and especially Richard are not sure whether to be delighted that the full Beaver Creek trilogy (essentially a licence to print money) can now be made, or frustrated that their efforts to strangle Water at birth have failed.
  • One skit on MADtv had Bill Cosby (played by Orlando Jones) try to "better capture the black experience" with "Cosby's Crib", where the parents actively dissuade their son from becoming a doctor by explaining how selling crack renders a FAR higher profit-margin. It got picked up for eight seasons, and was a critical darling for showing how real black people act.
  • Malcolm in the Middle:
    • An episode features Francis playing Commandant Spangler at pool. If Francis wins, the other cadets will beat him to a pulp because they fear if Spangler loses, he will pettily take it out on the entire school. However, Spangler threatens to punish Francis personally if he doesn't play at his best. Eventually, Francis makes the decision to half-ass his game, but Spangler catches on and tries to make Francis win by intentionally playing badly. Francis returns the favor. In a downplayed example of this trope, it escalates until no-one cares about the score; everyone is just too impressed by the amazing trick shots both players are making to lose the game and once they're done Francis and Spangler congratulate each other on their feats.
    • Another episode had two members of Dewey's special needs class running against each other in a school election. Realizing that the campaign was costing their friendship, one of the kids tried to throw the election by deliberately triggering his Tourette's syndrome during a big speech. Naturally, dropping a Cluster F-Bomb in front of the whole school makes him so popular that he wins anyway.
  • In the Married... with Children episode "Luck of the Bundys," Al is hit with an incredible string of good luck. Al, of course, knows this is trouble because of the "Bundy Curse," where any good luck a Bundy has will later be offset by an equal amount of bad luck. It gets to the point where he's dealt a royal flush in a poker game. He immediately discards it, knowing that if he played that hand, he was doomed. Of course, he ends up with four aces and wins the hand anyway.
  • The premise of the 2017 comedy The Mayor is a young rapper runs for mayor of his small California town just to get publicity for his new album. He acts up majorly in debates, no sense of decorum, rants about how normal folks really feel and slamming his opponent, convinced this will get him in the limelight and make his album a hit. On election night, guess what happens...
  • In the first episode of Mr. Belvedere, Kevin's grades on his report card is lower than the deal his parents made for him to get his drivers license. Despite not getting high enough grades, his father decides to let him have his drivers license anyway, since his mother is busy with school. Kevin later admits to Mr. Belvedere that he had changed his grades from B's to D's because he was afraid of handling the responsibility of driving.
  • One episode of the TV series Monk featured a killer who developed a rather ingenious method of mailing bombs to his siblings (so he could cut them out of an inheritance), which involved breaking into US Postal Service drop boxes and gluing the bombs to the roof, before setting himself up to deliberately lose a traffic court case and end up in jail, where he'd be when the glue finally weakened, and the packages dropped into circulation; he even took the precaution of mailing a bomb to himself. Unfortunately for him, on his way to commit his traffic infraction, the future killer instead ends up in a head-on collision and in a coma, effectively giving himself the perfect alibi and removing any ability to actually use the money he's murdered his sister for.
    • Even better, Monk and Sharona begin visiting the dead woman's relatives, which include her comatose brother, her killer, staying in a hospital. Monk accidentally makes a mess and then unplugs the killer's life support to clean it up with a vacuum. When they visit the other brother the next day, Monk and Sharona learn this jolt was just enough to bring the brother out of his coma; this interview also coincides with the other brother getting his mail bomb, which Monk is able to prevent from detonating, and which ultimately leads to the comatose brother being identified as the killer.
  • In The Munsters episode "Herman Picks A Winner", after Eddie is caught gambling at school, Herman decides to teach him a lession by taking his ten dollar savings and deliberately betting it on a losing horse. Much to Herman's shock, however, the horse ends up winning, bringing in three hundred dollars. Thinking it was just a fluke, Herman decides to try again, only for the other horse to win again, resulting in 14,364 bucks. Unbeknownst to Herman, it's revealed that Grandpa had used his magic to make the horses win due to thinking Herman was making a mountain out of things. Unfortunately, the bookie joint Herman had placed his bets at thought he was Born Lucky at picking horses and abducted him to pick winners for them, under threat of wearing a cement overcoat if he was wrong.
  • In NCIS, it's revealed that Leon Vance was initially recruited in 1991 for this type of operation. His superior set him up for a very messy failure in order to boost his own career. Thanks to a hotshot Mossad operative named Eli David (Ziva's father), Vance not only survives but ends up being noticed by the higher-ups. The superior's further attempts aren't much better (for him, that is). Vance's career eventually leads him to become NCIS director, while the superior is relegated into obscurity.
  • One Neighbours storyline saw Lou Carpenter setting up a restaurant named Little Tommy Tucker's which he intended to make a loss so he could declare it a tax write off. He had the staff dress up in embarrassing Victorian street urchin style costumes and required the patrons to "sing for their supper" by doing a turn up on a stage. Inevitably, the whole thing was so kitsch that the restaurant became a success.
  • NewsRadio:
    • In the episode "Pure Evil", Dave has been demoted to being Bill's producer while Lisa has taken his job as news director. In an attempt to be fired from his job and hopefully restored to his previous one, he lets Bill do a fake interview with President Bill Clinton. Unfortunately, Dave is not fired, as Bill's routines garner the station its best ratings ever.
    • Taken up a notch in the "Who's The Boss?" two-parter.
      • In Part 1, Lisa (recently promoted to station manager) gets sick of Bill constantly doing as he pleases, which Dave can relate to. They get the idea to make Bill boss—assuming he'll do an awful job and learn a lesson. Instead, he proves to be a magnificent boss, everything runs perfectly for the first time ever, and he abdicates his position after rubbing Dave and Lisa's noses in it.
      • By the end of Part 1, Lisa doesn't want to be station manager again due to the pressure and craziness of the office. She's willing to let Dave takeover again, but he doesn't want the job by this point. (He reasons that since his demotion, he's happier and actually enjoys coming to work.) So, the trope really kicks into gear in Part 2, where Jimmy decides to hold an election for station manager. Both candidates actively try to fail (openly expressing their desire to lose, giving ridiculous answers to questions, etc.). Ultimately, Lisa wins the election, but Jimmy declares Dave "the new boss"—much to everyone's confusion. note  Though he failed at failing, the trope is subverted when Dave accepts what happened and even likes it.
  • The Office has an episode where Jim tries to sabotage Dwight's speech by giving him a bunch of quotes from Mussolini, Hitler, etc., but in the end, Dwight's speech is a huge success. Jim apparently forgot that those leaders rose to power with the help of stirring rhetoric (which was how Dwight got through to the audience).
  • In the Only Fools and Horses 1985 Christmas special "To Hull and Back," the owner of a boat rental company agrees to let the Trotters hire one of his boats, thinking that they're certain to sink or otherwise badly damage it, which will result in a hefty insurance payout. In a subversion, while the Trotters fail to sink the boat, the owner's scheme doesn't backfire on him in any way, meaning that he still ends up with the rental fee that Del paid him, and can try the scam again at some point.
  • In Power Rangers Wild Force episode "Fishing For A Friend", in order to revive Toxica from the org spirit world, Jindrax needed to have her horn charged by the forced that destroyed her, namely the Wild Force Rangers' Jungle Blaster. Not wanting to fight the Rangers himself, he was instead fortituous to find them fighting Locomotive Org, deciding to wait until the Rangers formed the Jungle Blaster before jumping out and letting the horn get blasted. Unfortunately, Locomotive Org ended up being too much for the Rangers to handle and were soon on the verge of actually losing. As such, in order to get what he needed to revive Toxica, Jindrax had no other choice but to help the Rangers defeat Locomotive Org.
  • In season 8 of Red Dwarf, Cat tries to get himself sent to the infirmary (as part of a plan to break out of prison) by picking a fight with the biggest, nastiest inmate on the ship, by openly disrespecting him before declaring the inmate his bitch. The inmate presumes that the Cat must be even tougher than him to speak to him so brazenly and agrees, much to Cat's dismay.
  • Blatantly used in an episode of Remington Steele as Steele and Laura investigate attempts on the life of a bad singer who, to their surprise, is headlining a sold-out music tour. Going over the books of her bosses, they realize the two have been selling the rights off to various backers for 50 percent each, figuring with the woman's lack of talent, they'd only do a couple of shows before ending the tour with a fortune. Sadly, they never counted on a millionaire becoming so obsessed with the singer that he bought out every one of her shows. In keeping with a running theme of the show, Steele openly cites the movie as the inspiration for the scheme.
  • In the Reno 911! episode "We Don't Want the Pope," the Catholic Church is considering Reno as a possible city to visit, and the police have to make it look as bad as possible to prevent that from happening. It seems like this trope is in effect when the Pope's representatives say they're impressed by the way the police didn't hide their city's problems, and that they're in desperate need of help from the Church. Then it's subverted when they laugh at the idea that the Pope would ever go to Reno, spit at them, and take off in their Helicopter.
  • Rumpole of the Bailey: "Rumpole and the Heavy Brigade" has Rumpole hired in one of these by a pair of gangsters, convinced that his reputation as Incompetence, Inc. following a run of poor cases in district court will ensure their stuttering brother will go down in order to cover up their own crimes.
  • Seinfeld:
    • In the episode "The Millennium", George is approached by headhunters from the Mets who want to hire him for a more lucrative position than he currently has with the Yankees. However, due to his contract, he cannot quit his job to take the new one, he must be fired. No matter what he does, he, of course, cannot get fired. Some of his attempts include: dressing in Babe Ruth's uniform and spilling food all over it, and "streaking" on the field during a game wearing a flesh-coloured nylon bodysuit (he was too embarrassed to actually go naked). All of these end up getting him praise from Steinbrenner (who starts wearing Lou Gherig's pants until he worries he might contract ALS) or being massively popular with the fans ("HEY! BODYSUIT GUY!"). When he finally commits an offense bad enough to get fired for (driving around the parking lot in his car while insulting Steinbrenner over a megaphone, and dragging the World Series trophy from his bumper), Mr. Wilhelm steps in and takes all the blame by claiming the whole thing was his idea and George was Just Following Orders, getting himself fired instead. After Steinbrenner leaves, Wilhelm gleefully reveals that he was after the same Mets job George was.
    • In "The Visa", George gets a new girlfriend who thinks he's the funniest guy out of all his friends. He then convinces Jerry to try not to be funny at all so the girl won't realize that George is actually not that funny. Jerry takes it to extremes and acts like a Straw Nihilist around her. This backfires, as George's girlfriend ends up becoming very attracted to Jerry's "dark and disturbed" persona and says she wants to break up with George. Of course, when George tries to prove how disturbed he is by coming clean about the whole thing, she breaks up with him anyway.
    • In "The Switch", Jerry wants to break up with his current girlfriend Sandy, who never laughs, and date her roommate who laughs at everything he says, or in other words, do "the switch". George and Jerry spend hours coming up with a plan, until eventually George comes up with this: Jerry will ask Sandy to do a menage a trois with the roommate. This will disgust her, causing her to break up with him and tell the roommate all about how disgusting he is. The roommate will then be flattered by the request. Jerry will call at a time when he knows Sandy is at work and the roommate will go out to dinner with him. Later on, Jerry ends up trying the plan, and it backfires because both Sandy and the roommate are up for the three-way, while Jerry himself isn't "an orgy guy".
    • In a later episode, George is very worried when he discovers his new girlfriend has a male roommate who looks quite a bit like him. He figures they must be sleeping together on the side, as the two of them are so similar she must have a type. After successfully getting the roommate out of the way, George discovers to his dismay that all of the apartment's velvet furniture (George loves velvet) belonged to the roommate, and went with him when he left. Considering this a deal-breaker, he attempts to get out of the relationship by proposing a threesome. This time, not only are the girlfriend and roommate both into the idea, they had the idea first and were going to ask him.
    • "The Strike" also features a variation of this trope. George hands out cards for donations made to "The Human Fund" to his co-workers so he can get out of buying them gifts. Unfortunately, he also mentions the past, which includes the celebration of Festivus, and George having to pin his father in the "Feats of Strength" which he hates. This intrigues Kramer and easily gets George's father Frank to revive the holiday and a celebration is hastily arranged on the 23rd of December. When Mr. Kruger finds out that "The Human Fund" is a fake charity, he is invited to the festvius dinner where he is nominated for the Feats of Strength but passes. Guess who does the Feats of Strength?
  • An episode of Sliders, "The Weaker Sex", was set in Lady Land where women are the dominant gender and no man has ever held public office before. Cue Prof. Arturo running for mayor. He gets far, but he realizes he doesn't want this life, nor can he back out without setting back mens' rights in this dimension. So he plans to throw the election by faking an emotional breakdown during a mayoral debate to make himself look weak. However, the plan ends up backfiring. As it turns out, the reason men do not have equal rights on this world is because they are regarded as aggressive and insensitive, and Arturo's display of emotion caused many women to change their views and support him.
  • A Square One TV episode of Mathnet was a remake of The Producers from the audience's point of view. An over-the-hill former Broadway starlet, Lauren Bachanall, raises $2 million and puts up another $2 million of her own money for a revival of her ancient breakout hit, "Anything Went." George Frankly and Kate Monday see the show since Kate's college roommate, Eve Adams, is the number two actress. At Sardi's, the reviews come in saying that while Lauren was horrible, the play was saved by Eve's powerhouse performance. The next day, Lauren can't be found, so Eve, as understudy, takes Lauren's lead role to even greater critical acclaim. Unfortunately, the search for Lauren turns up a ransom note for $5 million and a taped message implying that Eve was in charge of the kidnapping. When Lauren is found a couple of days later, she confirms that Eve kidnapped her to take the lead role — and that Lauren gave her $2 million to the kidnappers to temporarily pacify them. After doing a little digging, the Mathnetters realize that Eve couldn't have kidnapped Lauren, because she was performing a matinee at the time. Further, the account for the show only ever had the backers' $2 million (which was withdrawn before Lauren was kidnapped). It becomes clear that Lauren wanted the show to fail so she could take the backers' money and run. When the show became a hit, she faked the kidnapping so that she could explain why her non-existent $2 million was missing. And, of course, since this is a Broadway show, the explanation is given during an "ad-libbed" musical number. The episode's title: "The Case of the Un-Kidnapping."
  • In Star Trek, Cardassians are very much practitioners of the Kangaroo Court, where the sentence is predetermined and the Conservator, the Cardassian Equivalent of a defence lawyer, is more or less there to help the accused to come to terms with their sentence rather than to defend their client, and are heavily invested in making sure the outcome is what the court says it will be because the Cardassian government values stability over justice. So, in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Tribunal", Conservator Kovat accidentally wins his case for Chief O'Brien when Commander Sisko brings in a captured deep cover Cardassian agent that framed O'Brien with the implicit threat of exposing them. Upon realizing he managed to get an "Innocent" verdict, Kovat says aloud "They'll kill me." He is very likely not being hyperbolic.
  • An episode of Stitchers has a Senator's son murdered and the investigation leads to the tech company whose app he was publicizing. It turns out the CEO of the company has a history of setting up companies, getting investors to pony up to 3000% more capital than he needs, putting out an app designed to fail and when the company quickly goes under, he pockets the money and shrugs it off as just another bad tech move. For once, his app actually becomes a major success, the investors wanting their money and pushing him to commit the murder in order to have the excuse to close the app down. Too bad the team figures out the truth to confront him at his press conference.
  • The premise of Ted Lasso is Rebecca, the new owner of a British association football team, wanting to destroy it to get back at her abusive ex-husband since the team was the only thing he loved. So she hires the titular character as the new American football coach who doesn't know anything about association football. Despite his ignorance of how the sport works, Ted is undaunted and starts pushing the team into becoming winners though kindness and positive reinforcement. This ends up being subverted by the end of the first season, as Rebecca realizes how many people will be put out of work if the team goes under and she refuses Ted's resignation so they can both build the team into real winners.
  • Top Gear had one epic race where the three were tasked to get from Basel (Switzerland) to Blackpool (England) with only a single tank of fuel and no refills allowed. Jeremy Clarkson, believing that the whole thing was impossible and that he could at least run out as he passed his home, decided on a hugely powerful, gas-guzzling Jaguar and intentionally wasted fuel by driving fast and powering the gadgets in his car (including using the heaters on the back seats simply because he could). While the other two presenters, Richard Hammond and James May, made more sensible choices for their cars and were extra-careful to save as much fuel as they could, Jeremy's car didn't die as planned, and as he passed by the exit where his house would be, Clarkson noticed that the Jaguar still had over 130 miles of range and finally decided to take the race seriously. Jeremy finished less than a minute after the winner, so if he hadn't been trying quite so hard to fail, he would've won.
  • Happens in an episode of Touched by an Angel where a professional basketball player accepts a large sum of money to throw a big game. He takes a bunch of ridiculous shots trying to miss on purpose, but thanks to the heavenly intervention, he makes every bucket.
  • In Veep, Dan fears he'll eventually run afoul of hotheaded CBS This Morning anchor Jane McCabe and that she'll fire him and destroy his career, so he tries to get fired by intentionally screwing up before it ever comes to that. He gets his nemesis Jonah Ryan on as a guest and baits the already volatile Jonah into dropping a Cluster F-Bomb; this of course makes for compelling TV and gets him promoted to co-anchor.
  • WKRP in Cincinnati: After the station's changeover to Rock finally turns a profit, Carlson's mother announces yet another format change. Johnny reasons it out: WKRP is meant as a tax-write-off, meant to lose money. Rather than destroy her son's dreams, Mrs. Carlson relents and accepts the profitable station — poor thing.
  • Xena: Warrior Princess did a Whole Plot Reference to The Producers in "The Play's the Thing". Gabrielle loses one of her scrolls, and it's found by Zehra. It's talky and preachy, so Zehra figures she can con people into making big investments for a guaranteed failure. She convinces Gabrielle to produce it as a play, but while she gets those investments, Joxer, Minya, and the rest of the cast chafe at Gabrielle's peaceful vision. They start to make things Bloodier and Gorier, which Gabrielle initially opposes, until it occurs to her that her message is worthless if no one goes to see the play. So, she goes all in for the violence—making the play entertaining and worrying Zehra to no end (especially as she took investments from warlords).

  • In the second part of Alice's Restaurant, a young Arlo Guthrie tries to get out of going to Vietnam by appearing psychologically unstable during his draft meeting. When he gets to the psychologist, Arlo says "Shrink, I wanna kill." He eventually starts jumping up and down, screaming "Kill! KILL!" All that does is impress the sergeant, sending Arlo further down the hall, with the sergeant saying "you're our boy!"

    Print Media 
  • This was the subject of an article in MAD called "The Rejection Slip", written and drawn by Saturday Evening Post cartoonist Tom Hudson. The premise of the gag is that Hudson has been rejected by so many other publications, but has not been rejected by MAD, so he submits a bunch of tired old gags to the magazine in hopes of getting a rejection slip. The editors instead end up approving every single one. Inspired by their approval to run his gags, he gives up on his pursuit of rejection slips, discards his entire collection, and submits ten gags to MADonly for them to reject every single one.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • After Ric Flair assumed leadership of the WWFnote , Vince McMahon had an episode long Villainous Breakdown, where he finally reveals that he intends to pull this trope and kill the business. He plans to inject a lethal dose of poison and do what killed WCW: bring in the nWo. He should have fired wrestlers like Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock.

    Puppet Shows 
  • Sesame Street:
    • In the direct-to-video release The Alphabet Game, contestant Gary Grouch participates on the game show "Alphabet Treasure Hunt" because he wants to lose (being a grouch), but keeps getting points by accident (when he's supposed to bring in something that begins with the letter B, for example, he decides to trash the place and brings in a trash can, which he points out does NOT start with the letter B, but inside the can are bugs, which DO start with B).
    • Similarly, in an earlier segment, Guy Smiley comes to Oscar's can to make him a contestant on "The Anything-In-The-World Prize Game". Oscar doesn't want to do the game, but his remarks following each question are mistaken for correct guesses.

  • Our Miss Brooks: In "School on Saturday", Mr. Conklin sends Miss Brooks to quell a mass student protest that arises when he opens Madison High School on Saturday, and demands everybody attend . . . .
    • Mr. Conklin hears from head of the board, Mr. Stone, that Conklin would be in trouble if he dared open the school Saturday. Stone was going to investigate, personally . . . .
    • Too bad for Mr. Conklin, Miss Brooks' speech to the angry teenagers convinced them to come in and attend class.
    • Mr. Conklin has Miss Brooks make another speech, to send the students home . . . .
    • Mr. Stone calls up, saying he's not going to inspect the school after all . . . .
    • Miss Brooks is sent to make yet another speech, and the students attend classes for the day. And stay in detention until 4:00 p.m.
    • Mr. Stone comes by late in the afternoon . . . more Hilarity Ensues.
  • In the Absolute Power episode "Healthy Eating", Martin's friend Roger is a tax lawyer who opens a restaurant in Devon to lose money. However, he's relying on the out-of-the-way location to achieve this, since he's too proud of his cooking to actually offer bad food. Out of sheer mischief, Martin neglects to mention this to Charles, who surprisingly decides he wants to help (he thinks) a decent, honest man with a failing business. It's only after the wheeze is successful that he learns the truth.
    Charles: Let me get this straight. I've been slaving my guts out to get customers into this restaurant, and I've been wasting my time? You swine!
    Roger: You! You're responsible for these ghastly punters and peasants all over my tax dodge? You swine!
    Both: Martin!!
  • In The Navy Lark, Sub-Lieutenant Leslie Phillips has a reputation of having done more damage to Royal Navy ships in one peacetime year (particularly HMS Troutbridge) than the Germans did during the entirety of World War Two. So, naturally, when Commander Povey needs a distraction to get away from his domineering mother in law, he strong-arms the Troutbridge crew into A Simple Plan: Let Phillips drive the ship and have him get intentionally into a minor nautical fender-bender, so that Povey would be compelled to go out and "investigate" (read: have a few too many pints). The one time, the sole time, Povey wants Phillips to do his usual bang-up job of navigation, this trope ensues. Phillips pilots the ship flawlessly, including circling another destroyer 42 times trying to ram it, failing even when the rest of the crew tries to sabotage the ship's steering to make a crash "inevitable". Then, Povey's mother-in-law gets laid up with the flu, and he is free to go. At this point, Phillips (still bringing the ship home) finally crashes full-speed into the dock.
  • Bleak Expectations: When Bungling Inventor Harry Biscuit is turned into a (reluctant) evil zombie (It Makes Sense in Context), he begins inventing devices for Mr. Benevolent, but his friends and family are reassured because Harry's previous inventions have all inevitably failed. Unfortunately, this time around, all of Harry's inventions work perfectly.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In a published scenario for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & Other Strangeness, a pair of villains try to reproduce The Producers scam, but by selling shares in a research facility with only one researcher, and he's a Mad Scientist. Unexpectedly he creates a successful bionic man.
  • In Warhammer, a dwarf that is dishonored becomes a trollslayer. His goal is to die in glorious battle going all-out against a troll (dwarfs take everything as Serious Business and cannot throw a fight). If he fails in this, because trolls are too small a threat, he becomes a Giantslayer. If he fails at that, the next step is The Dragon Slayer. The absolute bottom of the barrel for a Slayer is the path of the Demonslayer. All the while cursing because he keeps failing to die. Gotrek, the famous dwarf slayer of the Gotrek & Felix series, is a monstrous badass simply because the series would end if he ever fulfilled his oath. Fittingly, it took the end of the world to actually kill him. And then he promptly fought his way out of Hell, revealing even THAT didn't do the trick. And he's pissed.

    Video Games 
  • In A3, Itaru 'helps' Masumi with his love life (as Masumi has a huge crush on the director) with a dating sim. Said game is rigged in such a way that the wrong and perverted choices will make the love interest's (who Masumi changed to resemble the director) 'Affection level' go up. So when the actual director sees Masumi again, he tries out all of the wrong choices in real life, which was what Itaru was going for...only for the director to see it as hilarious and even asking if it's a new improv game.
  • Big Boss, in the original Metal Gear, sends Solid Snake on a mission which he's assumed to fail. He doesn't, and Big Boss gets a couple rockets to the face for his trouble.
  • In The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind's Tribunal expansion, Tribunal deity Almalexia, who is also the Big Bad of the expansion, tries this by sending the Nerevarine to Sotha Sil's Clockwork City to die as a martyr for her cause, which is to establish a monotheistic state where only she is worshiped and only she is the savior of the people. This fails, she dies, and this failure leads to the eventual fall of the Tribunal Temple entirely.
  • In The Legend of Kyrandia Book 3, the protagonist Malcolm is summoned by the Fish Queen for a game of Tic-Tac-Toe. Despite her enthusiasm for the game, she is exceptionally bad at it, and will always demand a rematch if Malcolm wins. Thus, you have to go out of your way to lose.
  • Similarly, Episode 106 of Sam & Max: Freelance Police requires you to lose a game of Tic-Tac-Toe against a bunch of computers trying to create the most intelligent A.I. ever. Turns out the A.I. is actually very good — it just deliberately plays to lose, and the challenge is in forcing it to win against you.
  • Mass Effect:
    • Thane, the dying repentant assassin of Mass Effect 2, willingly joins what is by all accounts a suicide mission to perform The Last Dance — he's dying of a terminal illness and wants to die doing something right for the galaxy. If you play your cards right, Thane can come through the suicide mission unharmed. If you take the time to gain his loyalty (and play your paragon cards right), you can reconnect him to his estranged son, giving him a reason to want to live till the end, if he survives. Subverted in the next game; if he survived the mission he gets his heroic end after all.
    • In Mass Effect: Andromeda, you at one point meet a guy who deliberately got himself assigned to a small, out-of-the-way chemistry lab due to being an introvert who wanted to be left alone. Unfortunately for him, people found out he has a bit of talent for brewing, leading them to think he was actually trying to set up a bar in said lab and bringing stuff to help get it up and running. Word spread about this “bar” and now the quiet, awkward introvert is spending all day serving drinks, placating drunks, and talking to people. He’s not happy about it.
  • In RuneScape, there's a low-level quest that basically gets you to fetch 3 odd items. Among them is a piece of burnt meat. You get burnt meat if you have unfavorable luck while trying to cook meat. Meat is one of the easiest things to cook successfully, and if your cooking level is above 10-20, there's a very slim chance to burn meat, which leaves many mid-high level players stuck and forced to buy burnt meat from someone else.
  • In Medieval II: Total War, unlike its predecessor Rome, it is not possible to change your Faction Heir, presumably for historical accuracy. If the game decides that your Faction Heir is going to be that greedy, incompetent governor in the middle of nowhere instead of your kickass, utterly loyal and upright general, your only option is to arrange for your heir to die in a Uriah Gambit. However, if he survives, there is a good chance that he'll come away with a trait that will make him even harder to kill in the future. Good luck with that...
  • Dead Island One the Playable Characters Sam B. is a rapper who is this trope in a nutshell. His one hit song "Who Do You Voodoo Bitch" was written on Halloween as a joke. Conversely all the songs he writes seriously fail miserably. Naturally he is very unhappy about this fact.
  • In Town of Salem, the Jester's goal is to get lynched, so they try to spend the game looking as suspicious as possible. One common method is posing as an Investigator and randomly accusing another player of being evil, the idea being that once they're lynched and prove to be innocent, you'll look like a mafia member for trying to frame them. However, Jesters don't know who the mafia is either, so it's entirely possible that the person you choose actually is evil, meaning now people are convinced that you're important and should not be lynched, while the actual Mafia starts to gun for you (and the Jester loses if killed at night).
  • Diona from Genshin Impact is such a good bartender that any drink she mixes is guaranteed to be exceptionally delicious, which is very at odds with her goal of ruining the wine industry by making terrible drinks. As shown in a particular route in her Hangout event, even when she deliberately messes up all the mixing steps and does the exact opposite of what a winemaker (i.e. Connor) did, the resulting beverage is anything but terrible; in fact, aforementioned winemaker has to admit the drink is a "true display of craftsmanship". It turns out she's stuck making supernaturally good alcohol because she was blessed by a fairy when she was a child.
  • In the Nancy Drew game The Deadly Device, it's revealed that the killer is the same person who hired her. When asked why he hired her, he explains that Deirdre claimed that Nancy was an extremely incompetent detective, making him think that if he simply pointed her in the right direction, she'd half-ass her way through the investigation and arrest one of the other researchers whilst he got away scot free.

    Visual Novels 
  • Alita Tiala in Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney hires the title character, thinking he would be incompetent enough to lose and get Wocky Kitaki convicted, due to Apollo being a rookie in the employ of a dubious "Anything Agency". Apollo manages to get his client off, and pin Alita as the real murderer.

    Web Animation 
  • Battle for Dream Island: Lollipop’s Failure Gambit backfired when she tried to create the worst party for Four. Her party ended up becoming the best party instead.
  • Homestar Runner:
    • Part of the surprise ending of the cartoon "A Death-Defying Decemberween". After sledding down the Steep Deep, Homestar complains about his success, revealing that he had hoped to die in the attempt, so he could get out of visiting Marzipan's parents. And he only survived because Strong Bad, attempting to sabotage Homestar, removed the mattress Homestar had hidden at the bottom of the Steep Deep... not realizing that Homestar had filled said mattress with "hammers, broken glass, and candy canes sucked down 'til they're all pointy".
    • Strong Bad is sent an email from someone named "Sibbie" requesting that SB write a song about him. Strong Bad reacts badly, announcing "I will never ever ever ever ever write a song about Sibbie!", only to suddenly notice a hip-hop beat playing in the background; the Cheat is actually setting his rant to music. Soon Strong Bad finds that the "song" is a hit, being sung by Strong Sad and even played on the radio. SB loses his temper and screams "I freaking hate Sibbie!". Not five seconds after that, "I Freaking Hate Sibbie" starts playing on the radio.
  • In the Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse episode "Bad Hair Day", Barbie takes her bad hair day and tries to turn it into a full-blown fashion disaster, in hopes of giving her rival Raquelle a spot in the sun for once. Being Barbie, she instead ends up starting a fashion trend.
  • In 2010, Yahtzee suggested that Square Enix were deliberately trying to tank their video game division and become a movie studio by releasing Final Fantasy XIII, which notoriously featured an an extremely linear story and limited player interactivity. It also sold millions of copies, was beloved by fans and showered with critical acclaim.
  • Puffin Forest: In the Last Orders at the Yawning Portal Tavern video, Ben talks about a time when he was a dungeon master for a Dungeons and Dragons Epic, which is a game where multiple tables of players and dungeon masters all run the same adventure at once and work together to complete the story. Ben didn't like the fact that the game was partially competitive, with each table scoring a point whenever they found a clue to completing the story, because he thought that this would discourage tables from roleplaying and decided to avoid having his table be the one to win by running the game slowly and doing stuff to waste time. Somehow, Ben's table won by a very wide margin despite his efforts to slow his players down. Ben is very surprised and is unsure if they won because he is a fast DM, or if his players simply did a better job of working together than all the other tables.
  • In Red vs. Blue, Project Freelancer intended the Reds and Blues to be too incompetent to accomplish anything but stalemate to serve as a training ground for the Freelancers. They probably weren't expecting the Blood Gulch Reds and Blues to succeed in killing three Freelancers (Two, Tex and Wyoming, while they were still Simulation Troopers, and the third, Maine, later after Project Freelancer was disbanded).

  • The Bruno the Bandit plot "Skeleton Crew" reports the writer's real life experiences at a software startup run as an investment fraud scam.
  • An interesting part fiction/part real example occurred in Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures, when a donation-war was declared between Bishōnen Incubus Abel, and enigmatic demoness Regina, with a full backstory going to the winner. Abel does NOT want to win. He REALLY doesn't. And for a while, he seems to be succeeding at failing. But some tension remains, and when the finally tally is revealed... well, let's just say that you can find the latest chapter of Abel's Story here. And considering the content, you really can't blame him for wanting it to remain private.
  • El Goonish Shive:
  • DM of the Rings features a D&D version of this: Aragorn is attempting to fall off the animal that he is riding. The GM rules that he needs to make a Riding roll to dismount. Aragorn rolls a critical failure, and assumes that this means he fell off. The GM decides that, since Aragorn was trying to fall, his failure means that he stays on the creature's back and rides it over a cliff (the in-game explanation is that his foot became entangled in the stirrups). This is discussed in the comments, where the author notes that if the player pisses off the DM enough (as Aragorn did, not long ago), anything they try to do tends to end up badly for them. This is also a Brick Joke, as earlier the DM had made a mental note to send Aragorn off a cliff.
  • Dinosaur Comics: T-Rex tries to do something funny and instead accidentally finds himself with a job as a florist.
  • Something*Positive has an arc where a man applies for a job at Aubrey's nerd phone sex line, expecting to be rejected out of hand and gaining material for a sex discrimination lawsuit. Aubrey promptly hires him to deal with Nerdrotica's growing gay male customer base. This outcome is a bit of a subversion, as the reason he was attempting this scam is that he had been unable to get a regular job, and this was all he could figure out to do. While it isn't exactly his dream job, it's a decently-paying job, and he sticks with it.
  • In Life (2012), to Lex's consternation, when he sends 'Edward' to go ask Madison out, Madison doesn't say no.
  • Karin-dou 4koma: Kinka challenges Tamaryu to a Yu-Gi-Oh! card game with the intention of going easy on her, but she ends up crushing Tamaryu because her hands instinctively cheat. Ginka—who doesn't even know how to play and makes a deck out of whatever catches her eyes—takes over to cheer Tamaryu up, but also ends up crushing Tamaryu because her great luck keeps giving her good cards.
  • In 2000, Llewellyn of Ozy and Millie ran for president on the People With Nothing Better To Do ticket on a lark. Since he doesn't actually want the job, he then runs the most idiotic campaign imaginable — his running mate is a stack of pancakes, and his platform centered around banning bread and selling Arizona and New Mexico to Mexico and using the money to buy British Columbia from Canada. Thanks to confusing ballots, he ends up neck-and-neck with Bush and Gore, and is ultimately forced to withdraw from the election in order to get out of becoming president, causing the papers to announce "CANDIDATE DOES NOT ACT LIKE TWIT: We picked the wrong one, say voters."
  • In Drowtales, the side story of The Flower Queen explains how the titular queen, a dark elf in a kingdom made up mostly of drow, was prejudiced against the drow and tired of their attempts to woo her, so she set out an Impossible Task for a particular flower that existed in the ravaged old world, never expecting anyone to actually find it. However, one such knight did find a similar, but not exact, flower, but she was impressed enough by his tenacity that she kept her end of the bargain, and the two seem to have been quite happy for a time. Unfortunately, said flower turned out to be a parasite that eventually killed her and the entire city, and the Knight's last known actions were trying to track down the person who directed him to the flower so he could take revenge on them, and then murder the sentient tree that gave him the soul parasites instead of letting him adopt her children. Oops.
  • Freefall has a case of two separate parties trying to make the other suffer this trope. Florence has saved the Pointy-Haired Boss known as Mr. Kornada from a collapsing building, along with his robots Qwerty and Dvorak; in the process, she's ended up in the water, during a hurricane. Sam initially intends to take Kornada where he wants to go for a fee, but Helix's suggestion causes him to get hit with a sudden strike of conscience, and he decides to go save Florence. When Kornada hears about this, he "convinces" his robots that he's suffering a heart attack, and as he's human and Florence is not, the robots' safeguards prioritize saving him, even if they have to wrest control of the ship from Sam. The robots win, Kornada's fake heart attack gets revealed, and Sam doesn't get paid.
    Qwerty: We've got to get Mr. Kornada to the spaceport!
    Sam: That's what I want to do! But I have to rescue Florence before she drowns!
    Qwerty, Dvorak, Helix: That's what we want to do!
    [cut to Sam holding onto the captain's chair while Qwerty and Dvorak try to pull him away and Helix pries at his fingers]
    Helix: [thinking] This battle would be much more intense if both side weren't trying to lose.
    Qwerty: Oh no! I've got his legs! Hurry, get Sam a wrench so he can club me!

    Web Original 
  • In the Achievement Hunter series GO! episode #74, the mission is to see who can fly the longest in Grand Theft Auto. Ryan Haywood made his intent known to be the first to lose due to an infamous meme of his note . However, not only does he win, the first thing out of anyone's mouth is Michael screaming "RYAN'S STILL IN THE AIR!"
  • Mega64 created a video detailing a fictional history of video game developer Hironobu Sakaguchi's attempts to bomb the Final Fantasy franchise in order to follow his true passion: becoming a rap star. The only thing that works? Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within.

    Western Animation 
  • In The Addams Family episode "The Day Gomez Failed", Gomez intentionally tried to fail at something, just for a change of pace. Naturally, his every attempt at failing actually succeeded. At the end of the episode, Morticia managed to cheer Gomez up by pointing out he had actually failed at failing, so, in the end, he succeeded in his goal. Well, his goal was to fail. He succeeded at failing by failing to fail, which itself is still a failure to succeed. Really, this could go on forever.
  • Examples from Archer...
    • In one episode, a cardinal hires ISIS to protect the pope under the assumption that their less than stellar track record would cause them to get him killed instead. They successfully protect him, and the cardinal is arrested.
    • Back in the very first episode, the title character tries to convince everyone there is a mole in the office in order to get access to the mainframe and cover up his Hookers and Blow adventures. None of them bite, but all the gossip about it scares the real mole into revealing himself.
  • Prince Zuko from Avatar: The Last Airbender has something like this in his Smite Me, O Mighty Smiter! moment. He's trying to learn how to bend lightning, or at the very least, redirect it so it doesn't hurt him. Since he knows the universe hates him, he climbs a mountain during a storm and tries to goad the universe into striking him with lightning. He's trying to get struck by lightning so he can practice redirecting it, but the lightning doesn't even go near him.
  • Beavis and Butt-Head once nursed a wounded baby bird back to full health... even though they were trying to get it killed. They were mistakenly under the belief that the bird would only die after it had eaten, so they made sure to make sure it was properly nourished so this would happen, with Beavis even feeding it like a mother bird would. Naturally, this winds up having the opposite effect and helps give the baby bird to a fighting chance to live.
  • Double subverted in the Bob's Burgers episode "The Quirk-ducers", a straight-up homage to the Trope Namer film. Louise tries to sabotage the pre-Thanksgiving Weekend school assembly that negates the half-day they're supposed to get by staging a production of Tina's turkey-themed erotic friend fiction since it's offensive enough for Mr. Frond to shut down after the first scene. In an ill-conceived move to guarantee a shut-down, Louise has the turkey slaughtering scene involve blasting real turkey guts all over the audience. She gets the play shut down, but she and the other kids she involved in the project have to spend their half-day cleaning up turkey guts as punishment.
  • Bojack Horseman: In "Bojack the Feminist" Mr. Peanutbutter is upset that he isn't considered tough enough to play dangerous characters or get cast in anything dark or gritty, so he spends the whole episode trying to get in a fight but everything he does ends up helping people in some way. In the end it's because of his clean, nice guy image that he gets cast in the gritty detective series Philbert after their original choice, Vance Wagner, created too much controversy.
  • In The Cleveland Show, the members of the Hip Hop Illuminati have Cleveland make Kenny West completely fail at his next big concert because they're sick of his big ego offending them. Kenny ends up enlisting Cleveland Jr. and his rejected school marching band members for a polka band concert...except Keny ended up mixing rap with it, which won over his fans.
  • Dan Vs.: In "Dan Vs. Art", Dan seeks to ruin the reputation of Art Artstein by breaking into the museum and defacing Art's latest exhibit the night before it opens. However, critics think the vandalism is deep and symbolic, and Art rolls with it because he's only in it for the money. Dan is furious to realize that he just made Art more successful.
  • An episode of Daria had Mr. O'Neill assign his class a project in which each student must attempt something they know for sure they'll fail at. Most succeed, with disastrous results, and even those who fail end up harming themselves somehow in the attempt. The point of the project was O'Neill's misguided idea from a teacher's learning lecture simply put that, failure is not a bad thing and can provide learning opportunities. What he failed to realize was that failure was not the goal itself, but the ability to learn from that failure; not just any failure would do. Later, when Daria attempts to cheer him up/get him out of his funk of seeing himself fail at something he was sure would work by saying he should complete the assigned project himself, he promptly calls it a load of hooey.
  • Launchpad's inability to properly land a plane is a Running Gag in Disney's DuckTales (1987). In the Grand Finale, during a Race Against the Clock to stop a cursed artifact from turning the entire world (and everyone in it) to gold, Scrooge orders Launchpad to "just crash!" into the temple — Launchpad instead makes a perfect three-point landing, and even complains how he "had a chance to crash on purpose, and blew it."
  • In a Dudley Do-Right cartoon, Dudley tries to get kicked out of the Mounties so that he can go undercover as a member of Snidely Whiplash's gang, but his efforts at committing crimes backfire. At one point he burns down a building, only to find that the building was scheduled for demolition, and is lauded by the government for saving them a fortune in taxpayers' money. Then he blows up a dam, but discovers that this solves the city's irrigation problem. He ultimately gets kicked out of the Mounties for eating peas with his horse's knife.
  • In one episode of The Fairly OddParents, Timmy's parents get arrested due to being mistaken for a pair of criminals called the Turnbaums. To free them, Timmy needs to get the Turnbaums arrested, so he sets up a Batman Gambit to get them to steal the Sacred Silver Sharpener so they'd be caught it in the act. To aid them, he uses an attractive woman to lure away the guards, helps the Turnbaums get through the museum's booby traps, and gives the password for the door to the chamber the Sharpener's in. Unfortunately, just when Timmy thinks the Turnbaums will be busted by the Mounties, they manage to make an escape in a rubber raft due to the Mounties being distracted by the attractive woman from earlier, forcing Timmy, Cosmo, and Wanda to go after the Turnbaums themselves.
  • In one episode of The Flintstones, Fred gets a second job working as a custodian in the Bedrock Towers apartment complex. Unfortunately, his job at the quarry has a strict no moonlighting policy and Mr. Slate intends to rent an apartment at the complex. Fred disguises himself with a wig and mustache and tries to dissuade his boss from moving to the apartment building. Unfortunately, every one of Fred's discouraging attempts backfires and make Mr. Slate more intrigued in the apartment to the point that he takes it after all.
  • Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends:
    • Bloo attempts to get banned from supper to avoid eating the disgusting-looking food being offered, referred to only as "It". He attempts massive amounts of pranks to get banned, but it backfires on him spectacularly as everyone else except him gets banned instead, and his punishment is being forced to eat all of It. Just to give context, that episode's A-plot is about Mr. Herriman being paranoid over others finding out about his carrot addiction, leading him to punish everyone except Bloo because he was afraid they were "onto" him. It ended with Herriman (and Wilt) going to jail for stealing Madame Foster's jewelry (It Makes Sense in Context).
    • Bloo wants to get removed from the house so he doesn't have to fight "the new guy". To get himself banned from the house, he tells Mr. Herriman about pranks he has done, such as flooding the house, setting off 1000 lawnmowers on the grass and breaking every clock in the house. Everything is going well until Bloo mentions he's getting in a fight "with the new guy" (a huge bruiser who would surely kill Bloo), prompting Mr. Herriman to refuse to sign the release forms, forcing Bloo to fight the new guy, in the hopes that it would finally rid Herriman of Bloo and his shenanigans. Herriman's letting Bloo get away with his pranks so he will get beaten also backfires, when it turns out the new guy just wants to show Bloo his comedy routine. And then Double Subverted when Bloo gets himself beaten up anyway.
  • Goof Troop: Pete wins ownership of a race horse that appears to be incapable of winning a race, so he instead offers shares of the horse's ownership in order to sell his used cars, giving away more percentages than are actually available. Goofy then discovers the only problem was a bad nail in the horse's shoe and, despite Pete's efforts to sabotage the horse (which Goofy thwarts by replacing Pete's sabotaged gear with a whole new set, then riding the horse himself instead of the overweight jockey Pete hired), rides the horse to a come-from-behind victory and ends up sending Pete to jail.
  • Hey Arnold!: Helga is selected by a fashion expert to be a model and proves to be a hit. She eventually grows tired of all the publicity and acts as rude and obnoxious on the catwalk as possible to get fired, but her "rebellious" behavior only causes her to become even more popular. It isn't until she follows Arnold's advice to act nice instead that she successfully gets herself fired.
  • The Jetsons: One episode had Judy entering a lyric contest where the prize was a date with her favourite musician, who George hated. Trying to sabotage her chances, George swapped her entry for a list of codes Elroy had made with a friend, assuming they would be too nonsensical. She still won the date.
  • Jimmy Two-Shoes: In order to escape an Arranged Marriage to the Weavil Princess, Beezy attempts to fail at the challenges he must pass to win the right to marry her. Unfortunately the weavils, who arranged the marriage entirely to get rid of her, makes sure he passes.
  • In one episode of Kaeloo, Kaeloo deliberately tries to lose a game so Stumpy can win for once. Due to Mr. Cat's interference, Kaeloo wins anyway.
  • King of the Hill:
    • "Suite Smells of Excess": Hank and his friends sneak into the box seats at a Texas-Nebraska football game, only to discover it belongs to a famous Nebraska player. Late in the game, the Nebraska coach calls the box to ask for advice, and Hank (pretending to be the player) gives him a terrible suggestion so that Nebraska will lose — only for it to work perfectly against all odds, costing Texas the game. Specifically, Hank called for Nebraska, who was in possession of the ball and losing to Texas with only seconds to go in normal play, to run a "quick kick," which would turn the ball over to Texas (despite Texas already being ahead). However, the play is only complete once the ball comes to a stop, and a Texas player accidentally touches the ball, turning it into a fumble (and thus a live ball) into Texas' endzone, where a Nebraska player quickly pounced on it, scoring a touchdown and winning the game.
    • In "Cops and Robert", Dale comes up with a Zany Scheme where he applies for a job at the local Hooters equivalent, gets rejected, and sues for sexual discrimination. Much to his shock he gets hired anyway, and he actually does pretty well — the customers appreciate having a guy to talk to about sports and beer, so he gets even more tips than his busty, scantily-clad co-workers. Then Hank, Boomhauer, and Bill come running in from the B-plot, chased by an enraged man who trips and accidentally yanks down Dale's shorts. When he tries to sue for emotional damages, the boss agrees but still fires Dale due to the fact he was giving customers free appetizers which is employee theft.
  • In My Life as a Teenage Robot, Sheldon, who has a one-sided crush on Robot Girl Jenny, creates a robot suit that he uses to pretend to be a Jerkass robot that will put Jenny off dating other robots and hopefully get her to consider dating humans like him instead. To his dismay, Jenny falls head-over-heels for "the Silver Shell" and no amount of jerkass behavior Sheldon performs while in the suit diminishes her crush any. Clearly, he was unaware that All Girls Want Bad Boys.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • In the episode "Green Isn't Your Color", the Shrinking Violet Fluttershy accidentally becomes a famous model. Fluttershy dislikes the attention and would quit, except for the fact that she doesn't want to disappoint her best friend Rarity, who's encouraged her to take the job. Secretly, though, Rarity is jealous of Fluttershy's newfound success, and almost wishes her failure out of spite. Twilight Sparkle, being the confidant for both secrets but finding the stress of keeping both parties unhappy too much to bear, comes up with a plan to make Fluttershy's next runway event be as ungraceful as possible using Twilight's magic. This works, initially, except that Rarity, being utterly disappointed in herself for her own feelings and completely unaware of Fluttershy's, decides to support her friend with cheerful applause. This, combined with Rarity's great fashion sense convincing the fashion-critical crowd that her opinion has weight, ends up making Fluttershy more popular than ever.
    • A minor example in one scene of "Spike at Your Service". In order to stop Spike from helping Applejack, Rainbow Dash has him do what she believes to be an impossible task: build a large rock tower for her to smash through. To her surprise, Spike actually succeeds at the task, forcing her to smash through it.
    • An extremely dramatic example occurred in the final season. To help Twilight gain the confidence needed to rule Equestria in Celestia and Luna's place, Discord, in his Trickster Mentor way, posed as the ancient monster Grogar and gathered together Tirek, Chrysalis, and Cozy Glow into a Legion of Doom for Twilight and her friends to defeat. He had planned to act as a "safety net" to ensure things didn't get out of hand and believed there wasn't any real danger. What he didn't count on, however, was his recruits banding together behind his back, succeeding in actually finding Grogar's Bewitching Bell but keeping it for themselves, and using it against him. As such, he ended up creating an actual threat to Equestria.
  • In one episode of Over the Garden Wall, Beatrice encourages Wirt to replace the bassoon player in the hopes of getting the boys and herself thrown off the boat. Instead, everyone on the boat loves the performance, and Beatrice sadly admits that Wirt is "good".
  • In the Robot Chicken episode "We Are a Humble Factory", Star Trek: The Next Generation producer Rick Berman responds to Wesley Crusher's anti-fandom by creating Snerkles, a character intentionally designed with all the worst characterization traits possible. He ends up becoming a hit among the Star Trek fandom, instead.
  • Rocko's Modern Life:
    • In "Wacky Delly", Rachel Bighead (who was still closeted as "Ralph" at the time) wants to get out of a contract for a second show, so she uses Heffer's idea of making a cartoon about "deli meats", and even lets Rocko and his friends help her make the cartoon. Rachel hopes the resulting mish-mash will be canceled quickly and she can get on with a career as a serious artist. Unfortunately for Rachel, Wacky Delly becomes a hit. Rachel then attempts to sabotage production, which includes episodes that are overexposed film, a still image of a jar of mayonnaise, and nothing at all, each of which gets the show praise from people who think the show is some sort of high art. Finally, Rachel attempts to flood all of Holl-o-wood by melting the ice caps with an orbital laser, and that doesn't work either. A speech from Rocko inspires Rachel to make the show "real art," so she makes a high-brow Fantasia-like episode, which gets the show promptly canceled like Rachel wanted.
    • In "Camera Shy", though by no means done intentionally, the strange "edits" that Rocko's home movie receives winds up making it a worldwide phenomenon. Unfortunately, he does not want his parents to see the video... and naturally, they do, but for some reason, they love it. He even wins an award for the video. Of course, it still showed him nude, but that's beside the point.
    • In "Teed Off", Ed Bighead has been asked to deliberately throw a golf match against the CEO of his company. In fact, he has confederates in this plan secretly (but not-so-subtly) dropping pianos on the balls after Ed hits them. It works well at first, but then Heffer discovers that Ed's allies are cheating and starts cheating in Ed's favor. Like with the pianos, no one notices Heffer doing anything (despite him being extremely conspicuous), and Ed gets blamed for every successful shot.
  • In an episode of Sabrina: The Animated Series, while on their way to school on a rainy day, Harvey falls through a hole in a 100-year old wooden bridge into the river and eventually washed up on shore. Upon Sabrina reaching him, Harvey comes to and is convinced that Sabrina saved his life, and the rest of the town believes this is so, too. Unable to handle the guilt of having undeserved praise, Sabrina and Salem go back to earlier during the day to prevent Harvey from falling in the river and thus Sabrina being pinned as a hero. This works, only for the school bus to get caught in the hole and for Sabrina to indirectly save the bus, so now she's believed to be an even bigger hero. Not wanting this, Sabrina goes back to even earlier in the day with an incantation to destroy the bridge before anything bad can happen to anyone because of it. The incantation destroys a nearby dam, forcing Sabrina to warn and get everybody out of Greendale before it's flooded. After this, she's considered to be such a hero that among other things they'll rename the school after her and she gets a call from the President. With even more undeserved praise, Sabrina decides to go back 100 years in the past when the bridge was brand new and use an incantation to turn it to stone, only for some men to see her actions and when she gets back to the present, Sabrina isn't hailed as a hero, but as a god, with the town renamed Sabrinaville and everyone in it named Sabrina (even the males). Realizing that her efforts were for naught, in the normal present, Sabrina does what she should have done in the first place and tell the reporter that Harvey just assumed she saved him and that she's no hero.
  • Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated: In the Hex Girls' first appearance in the show, the culprit for their trouble reveals he'd previously tried sabotaging their careers by deliberately writing bad songs for them. He just didn't count on the Hex Girls being so good at their craft that not only did they not notice, it didn't matter - they made the songs good anyhow.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In "Homer the Smithers," Mr. Burns pushes Smithers into taking a vacation. Worried that someone might overshadow him, Smithers decides to find someone so incompetent that he'll have to return early (and after 714 matches, decides just to have Homer take over). Unfortunately, Homer is so terrible that Mr. Burns quickly learns how to do everything himself, allowing him to fire Smithers once he returns.
    • In "Homer's Enemy", Frank Grimes tries to humiliate Homer Simpson and show the world how much of a buffoon Homer is by tricking him into entering a power plant model-designing contest for kids. Except Homer wins the top prize. This pushes Grimes far off the edge, and he goes on a rampage resulting in his own death.
    • In "Team Homer", Mr. Burns's performance is dragging down Homer's bowling team, so Moe says Burns might end up having a little "accident". As Burns limps into the bowling alley, complaining of a knee injury and saying he'll have to withdraw, Moe leaps out (in a ski mask) and bashes his knee with a tire iron, popping it back into place and allowing him to stay on.
    • In "Homer Scissorhands", Homer becomes a successful hairdresser, but soon tires of having to hear his female clients going on and on about their lives while he cuts their hair. In an effort to drive away business, he deliberately attempts to cut a client's hair badly...and ends up giving her a spectacular haircut that wows everyone.
    • A Played for Drama example comes up in "Bart the Mother" when Nelson dares Bart to shoot a bird perched up on a nearby tree with his new BB gun. Not wanting to be thought of as a coward, Bart agrees, but decides to deliberately miss as to not harm her. Unfortunately, the gun has crooked sights, and his "miss" causes him to perfectly shoot right through the bird's neck and kill it instantly to his horror. To make up for killing the mom, Bart does nurse the two eggs to hatching, but they are Bolivian Tree Lizards which end up populating themselves in Springfield and kill off the pigeon population.
    • In "Bart on the Road", Bart chooses to stay home with Marge on "Go to Work With Your Parents Day", insisting that it's his way of showing support for women in the workplace. After Marge reads that being a housewife makes her ineligible, Lisa slyly notes that Patty and Selma are two professional women, resulting in Marge deciding it would be good for Bart to spend a day at the DMV. Bart, of course, is horrified.
  • Skunk Fu!:
    Baboon: Even when I win, I lose!
    • "The Art of Stealing" has Skunk steal a magic crystal, which Rabbit tells him that it’s a bad thing since it’s a source of Dragon’s power and threatens to tell Panda about it if he doesn’t act as his servant. When Panda finds out about the crystal, he congratulates Skunk for the exact reason Rabbit told him.
  • South Park:
    • In the episode "The Death Camp of Tolerance", Mr. Garrison attempts to get fired by acting in a grotesquely Depraved Homosexual manner so he can sue the school for discrimination. However, everyone in town is primed to be politically correct towards him, so when the students raise their objections to his behavior, their parents merely assume that their kids are being homophobic and end up shipping them to the title camp to teach them a lesson. Chef suffers the same fate for reporting Mr. Garrison's behavior to the principal. Much to his horror, however, Garrison finds his "bravery" being applauded by everyone in town to the extent that he receives an award for it. Instead of accepting, Garrison and his 'assistant' demonstrated the kind of behavior that scared the kids, only to be further applauded for his 'courage'. He screams at the assembled crowd that he should have been fired for his behavior regardless of his sexuality, and actually asked to be fired so that he could sue. While it made the parents realize their kids weren't homophobic, just disgusted with Mr. Garrison, and didn't deserve to be sent to tolerance camp, Garrison ended up sent there; while the reason given was that "[he] isn't tolerant of [his] own behavior", the real reason was punishment by the principal for trying to bilk money from the school. (Of course, Mr. Slave thinks the camp sounds really fun).
    • In "Jakovasaurs", the town stages a fake game show for Jakov to "win" the prize of airfare to somewhere that isn't South Park. The problem is that Jakov is too dumb to win a contest that's rigged in his favor, and Officer Barbrady is too dumb to let him win.
      Mayor: What color is blue?
      Jakov: I DON'T KNOW!
      Barbrady: Blue?
      Mayor: What?!?
      Barbrady: Blue is blue?
    • At the beginning of "The Wacky Molestation Adventure", after Kyle asks to go to a concert where the band's name alone tips them off that they shouldn't let him, they say he first needs to clean out the garage, shovel the snow out of the driveway, and bring democracy to Cuba. This results in Kyle writing a letter that moves Fidel Castro to tears and decide to fufil his wish, because he didn't know that the last one was supposed to be impossible. Although shocked, Kyle's parents still refuse to let him go to the concert, this time outright admitting that "you can't go because we were never going to let you go".
    • In the episode "The Losing Edge", the boys deliberately try to lose all their baseball games because they find the sport extremely boring and don't want to go regional. Turns out every other team feels the same way, and they're all "better at sucking". The teams' losing strategies even developed over time, feats like hitting the ball right into the opposition's hand shows that losing can actually be more impressive than winning.
    • Yet another episode had the boys write a book called "The Tale of Scrotie McBoogerballs", which would be so inhumanely disgusting it would be banned. They put the blame on Butters, but everyone loves the book despite making them vomit regularly. Butters then writes a follow-up called The Poop That Took a Pee, which the boys find so stupid it will get Butters banned, but readers love this as well. However, someone is inspired to kill the Kardishans because of the book, which finally gets Butters's work banned. Also subverted in that The Poop That Took a Pee was implied to only be successful because no one would admit that the book wasn't as 'good' as the previous work.
    • The episode "Sarcastaball", has Randy Marsh complain about football becoming too safe by sarcastically claiming the game should be played wearing bras and tinfoil hats, while hugging instead of tackling. This being South Park, they take him at face value and create the sport. The more sarcastic Randy gets, the more seriously the world agrees.
    • "Member Berries": As Mr. Garrison leads the polls leading up to the presidential election, he realizes he doesn't actually have a plan for what to do when he wins. He doesn't want to look like an idiot by dropping out, so he decides to deliberately sabotage his campaign so he won't win. Unfortunately, his opponent is Hillary Clinton and everybody hates her so much that they still want to vote for Garrison no matter what he does, including flat out saying he is in over his head, he isn't qualified for the job and that people should vote for her instead. Ultimately, echoing Donald Trump's surprise upset of Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Presidential Election, Mr. Garrison is elected President of the United States, due to interference by the Member Berries.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • Played with in the episode "Bossy Boots". Pearl gets a part-time job at the Krusty Krab which she quickly decides she doesn't want, and since her father won't just let her quit, she instead tries to get fired by transforming the restaurant into a hip teenage hangout at great expense. The restaurant ends up more successful than ever, but her ruse has the desired effect on the employees: SpongeBob wants the old grease trap back, and Mr. Krabs is unhappy at all the money being spent. Krabs still can't bring himself to fire her, though, and it's only when Pearl breaks down and confesses she's been trying to get fired that SpongeBob finally sacks her on Krabs' behalf.
    • In the "House Fancy" episode, Squidward can't stand when his snobbish rival, Squilliam Fancyson, has a Big Fancy House with at least four stories on House Fancy (with guest voice Alton Brown as Nicholas Withers), so he claims to have a fancier house than Squilliam's, even though he doesn't stand a chance of outdoing Squilliam after his bluff is called. After discovering a faded spot on his wall when he moves the portrait after moving some of the furniture around, he desperately hires Spongebob to paint the wall, which backfires when SpongeBob covers the entire living room in paint, and SpongeBob leaves the vacuum turned on, which explodes from vacuuming up the entire living room and turns Squidward's house into debris, which Withers sees as an Accidental Art sculpture, and Squidward's "masterpiece" ends up being featured on "House Fancy", with Squidward's ruined house knocking Squilliam out of the spotlight.
  • In one episode of Talespin a disguised Thembrian named Wally tricked Baloo into delivering a package to the High Marshall, with it actually being a bomb. The plan was for the bomb to be discovered at the checkpoints, where Cape Suzette would be accused of attempting to blow up the High Marshall, who would then declare war on them and put Wally's bomb factory back in business. Unfortunately, Wally underestimated Baloo, who managed to finagle Colonel Spigot into helping him get through the checkpoints before the bomb was discovered. Needless to say, the High Marshall actually being blown up is not part of Wally's plan.
  • On Total Drama World Tour, thanks to his animal-hurting curse, DJ begins trying to lose, only to finally turn around the Curb-Stomp Battle that Team Victory had been suffering. Naturally, when he starts trying to win again, he's eliminated.
  • 2 Stupid Dogs:
    • The Dogs appear on a take-off of The Price Is Right, and try to lose in order to get a dog food consolation by deliberately bidding low on an expensive rug. Somehow, they go on to play the pricing game after the closest contestants are both fifty cents away from the actual price of the rug. Said pricing game has them guessing everything at one dollar, and winning every prize, save one: dog food worth ninety-nine cents. Then it's the wheel spinning bit where the smaller dog shoves the wheel away from the winning space to the five-cent space, but is told by the Bob Barker wannabe that he cheated, so they "win" yet again.
    • In another episode, the Dogs are in Vegas waiting for a hot dog buffet to open. But just before the doors open, they happen to pull a slot machine that wins the jackpot. Now the owner tries to get the Dogs to keep playing so they'll lose the money, but the Dogs keep winning, draining the casino's funds. Finally, the owner begs the dogs to call off one last roulette bet, but too late. Instead, he offers to take over the bet, and when the dogs insist on 100 trips through the hot dog buffet and a limo ride out of town, he agrees. The trope averts right there as the roulette spin loses, but it simply means everyone's happy: the casino has its money back and the Dogs finally get to eat.
  • Zeke's Pad: In "A Little Sketchy", a miniurized Zeke and Jay take control of Rachel's brain, so that she will plow her rehearsal for a minor part in a play, and thus not spoil Zeke's vacation. They make Rachel look like an absolute fool by making her do animal noises, walk into the wall, and say inappropriate things. By the time she auditions, she's a wreck. But it backfires when Rachel's emotional performance winds up earning her the lead role.

Real Life examples

    Anime & Manga 

  • The Sokal affair was a watershed moment in academia when physics professor Alan Sokal got a whole bunch of gibberish published in a real academic journal. Sokal, alarmed at the academic world's increasing and unquestioning acceptance of postmodernism, wrote a paper littered with fashionable postmodernist buzzwords — and nothing else of substance — hoping to prove his point by getting it rejected in peer review. But the journal, Social Text, didn't reject it. Not only was it published, it was praised and circulated through several other academic journals. This in spite of the fact that, among other things, it argued that gravity was a social construct. Sokal eventually had to admit it was a hoax.
  • Taking a page from Sokal, James A. Lindsay, Peter Boghossian, and Helen Pluckrose decided to try their own experiment by making up twenty completely bogus academic papers. Like Sokal, they set out to make them as ridiculous as possible, loaded with buzzwords, politically fashionable language, and an ideological bent. By the time they admitted the hoax, only six were rejected. Four had been published, three had been accepted for publication, seven were still under review. One of the published papers had won special recognition in its field. Another one was Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf with a bunch of liberal buzzwords added.

  • In 1924, as a way of mocking an art exhibition jury for rejecting his wife's paintings, Paul Jordan-Smith submitted an intentionally bad painting under the false name "Pavel Jerdanowitch", claiming that it represented a new art school called "disumbrationism". The painting ended up being very well received by critics, and he went on to paint several more before revealing that the entire thing was a hoax.
  • The Dada movement of the 1920s was a potshot at man's unquestioning admiration of anything labeled "art". Dadaists such as Marcel Duchamp used things like urinals, postcards of the Mona Lisa with a mustache painted on it, and objects intended to be destroyed, offensive and otherwise without any major artistic qualities. Most surviving Dada works are considered genuine art, if only as a commentary on the definition of art.
  • Back in 1937, while Nazi Germany was promoting art glorifying Nazi ideology, they also decided to stage a show of "proper" German art alongside another of "degenerate art", to allow people to be properly disgusted by the supposedly perverse, anti-religious, "Jewish-Bolshevist" modern art. The exhibition of "degenerate" art attracted over two million visitors, almost four times as many as the Nazi-approved art, making it one of the largest modern art shows of the 20th century.

    Board Games 
  • This sort of thing happened to a player at the World Scrabble Championship Tournament. The first letters he drew only needed one extra letter added to make an 8-letter word. In Scrabble, using all seven tiles in a player's rack at once awards the player an additional fifty points. There was no seven-letter word that could be played using the letters on his rack, so if he wanted the 50-point bonus, he needed to play his 8-letter word. Unfortunately, he had the first move. So, he decided to give up his turn by playing a word which he believed was not real, getting his opponent to challenge it off the board so that he could use all his letters on his next turn. Unfortunately, his "non-word" was actually a real word, so it stayed on the board and he lost his chance at getting fifty extra points.note 

    Card Games 
  • In one of his Poker books, Dan Harrington briefly talks about the practice of tournament poker players selling "pieces" of themselves (essentially, letting people buy or trade for a percentage of their winnings). He recounts the story of someone who accidentally sold more than 100% of himself in a tournament, meaning that any winnings would cost him money out of pocket, and the most profitable course of action would be to let himself be eliminated without winning anything. He won first place.

  • The 2018 Netflix comedy special Nanette was the product of Tasmanian stand-up comedian Hannah Gadsby, who got briefly famous thanks to a comedy routine which was basically a full, hour-long set about quitting comedy, crammed full of deconstructions of comedy itself, details of her own history with trauma and internalized prejudice, and an explanation of why she's quitting — she can't stand to make herself and other minorities the butt of jokes anymore. In her words, it was meant to divide audiences and get her removed from the Australian festival circuit.

    Comic Books 
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was originally created by Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman as a joke — specifically, a parody of Frank Miller's Daredevil. They self-published it, not knowing that it would end up becoming one of America's biggest Cash Cow Franchises.
  • According to this podcast, the Iron Dominion arc of Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics) was a joke pitch from Ian Flynn, one that was inserted among his actual pitches for the comic's two-hundredth issue to make the rest look better. The Iron Dominion arc was the one that got approved, leaving Flynn having to scramble to write it in a way that made it work.
  • At the dawn of The Silver Age of Comic Books, DC Comics was having a blast with its successes, which led to competitors trying to catch up with imitations. One particular writer was forced by his publisher to follow in Justice League of America's footsteps and create a team book to compete. However, the writer was fed up with being forced to write along with what was popular at the time and decided he had enough of the business. At the encouragement of his wife, he plotted to create a team book like his publisher wanted, but instead of what was conventional at the time, he'd fill the book with all kinds of Author Appeal. Believing that nobody would want to read what he'd like to read, the writer expected for the book to be a major flop so he can bail out of the comics industry and pursue screenwriting for Hollywood. That writer was Stan Lee, and the book was The Fantastic Four — and that's how we got the Marvel Universe.
  • Venom's iconic More Teeth than the Osmond Family and Overly Long Tongue design was because of Erik Larson. As the artist of Amazing Spider-Man at the time, he was not fond of Venom at all and, to pass the time, he drew him with more teeth than he had and a long, slobbering tongue. Somehow, it caught on with the fandom and it has been an iconic look for him.

    Comic Strips 
  • Bloom County creator Berke Breathed attempted to troll his audience by introducing an anti-Garfield, the most unappealing cat character he could devise. This character was Bill the Cat — who unexpectedly proved very popular with the comic's fanbase and soon within the fictional world as well.
  • This is how Zippy the Pinhead was syndicated. Alan Priaulx, the comics editor for King Features at the time, called Bill Griffith, who has been drawing the strip for the San Francisco Chronicle, and offered him a syndication contract. Being an underground cartoonist, Griffith was wary of having his strip distributed by a mainstream company, so he made a list of 20 demands, figuring they wouldn't go for it. To his shock, Priaulx said yes to all. Griffith later found out why Priaulx was so accommodating when he quit his job at King Features a few months later: he was unhappy with his job at King and wanted to leave, but he wanted to leave with a bang. Zippy was picked up as a "ticking time bomb" for the syndicate. This trope also applies to Priaulx, as the strip is still running in newspapers to this day, the "bomb" not exploding.

    Eastern Animation 

    Fan Works 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In 1955 somebody got the idea to adapt a popular episode of a TV anthology series to film. Burt Lancaster and his business partner decided to fund it, figuring the low-budget picture wouldn't make any money (who would pay to see a film they could watch for free on TV?) and they could use the expenses as a tax write-off. Compounding this plan was their casting of some fat, ugly guy best known for playing villains as the romantic lead. The film? Marty, which became a huge box office smash and ended up winning four Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Actor, along with the Palme d'Or at Cannes. Cracked's 5 Classic Movies Made by People Who Wanted Them to Fail describes its production as having "literally started out as the plot of The Producers."
  • Battlefield Earth was the subject of a $121.7 million lawsuit, possibly in an attempt to pull one of these.
  • As relayed by Ahmed Ahmed, an Arab-American actor and stand-up comedian in one of his routines in the mid '90s, he went in to read for a stereotypical Arab terrorist role in Executive Decision. Since his stand-up comedy career was starting to flourish, and because he considered the role an offensive stereotype, he decided he'd go in and treat the audition as a complete joke, completely mocking the role and the producers. Ahmed proceeded to read the part as the most crazed, screaming ethnically offensive Large Ham stereotype he could manage. The casting director loved it and promptly offered him the part. He was going to turn it down but then saw just how much he was going to be paid for a few weeks' work.
  • Robert Pattinson has been very vocal about his outright hatred for the Twilight series and the characters, particularly his own character Edward Cullen. In interviews he's said that he portrays Edward as a pathetic, socially maladjusted loser, just the way he imagines a 100-plus-year-old virgin would be. Unfortunately for him, this only seems to have encouraged the crazy fangirls.
  • Elizabeth Taylor, who was uninterested in playing the main character in Cleopatra, said she would do it only if she were paid a million dollars, an obscene sum for the early 1960s. But they said yes, and the rest is history. Only problem was that the film's Troubled Production led to it being one of the biggest Box Office Bombs of all time.
  • Dennis Miller didn't want to do Bordello of Blood despite producer Joel Silver's insistence that he do so so he demanded a salary of a million dollars. Silver did exactly that, taking the bulk of the money from the movie's special effects budget, which also contributed to its Troubled Production and poor reception.
  • Jaye Davidson similarly decided to retire from acting after his starring role in The Crying Game, but the producers of Stargate just kept pestering him to take the role of Ra. So to get them to go away, he demanded the most outlandish salary he could think of for the role ($1 million)... and they said yes.
  • Animal House featured a scene where a college student has sex with an underage girl. Originally, the director wanted the girl to be 16 (in-story — the actress playing her was 19 at the time), but was concerned that the censors would object due to the Unfortunate Implications of statutory rape. They decided to change her age to 13, figuring the censors would reject it and they could come back with 16 as a "compromise". To their shock, the censors allowed the scene with no objections.
  • Director Robert Altman couldn't come up with lyrics "stupid enough" for M*A*S*H's theme song "Suicide Is Painless", so he gave the job to his 14-year-old son Michael, who wrote the song in five minutes. Instead of "stupid" lyrics, the song turned out to be tremendously moving. The royalties from an instrumental version of the song being used as the theme music for the later TV show meant that Michael made a lot more money off the movie than his father did.
  • Zack Snyder accused some Warner Bros. executives of deliberately wanting his Justice League movie to fail when they proposed him to release it with unfinished special effects. He was then allowed a $70 million budget for the finishing touches, and the movie ended up much better received than most people would have predicted. It did so well that it spawned a social media movement for a continuation of it (#RestoreTheSnyderVerse), something WB and DC Films executives didn't expect (they also deliberately practiced Invisible Advertising regarding this film).
  • Gorilla, Interrupted: After the film's one-week deadline for principle photography expired, there were still many alien scenes that needed to be filmed. Director Mike Stoklasa was so dispirited and embarrassed by the way the film was shaping up that he put zero effort into the remaining scenes, deliberately making them as stupid and fake as he could. But the film is a comedy, and the scenes' Stylistic Suck is widely seen as the funniest part of the film.

  • According to legend, this is how we got potato chips. Some guy at a restaurant kept sending his potatoes back, complaining they were too thick, too soft, and not salty enough. So the cook, George Crum, got frustrated and sliced them super thin, fried them to a crisp, and poured on the salt. The customer loved it, and a new snack food was born.
  • This is reportedly the origin of hot fried chicken or more popularly known as Nashville hot chicken. It is generally accepted that the originator of hot chicken is the family of Andre Prince Jeffries, owner of Prince's Hot Chicken Shack. Although impossible to verify, Jeffries says the development of hot chicken was an accident. Her great-uncle Thornton was purportedly a womanizer, and after a particularly late night out, his girlfriend at the time cooked him a fried chicken breakfast with extra pepper as revenge. Instead, Thornton decided he liked it so much that by the mid-1930s, he and his brothers had created their own recipe and opened the BBQ Chicken Shack café. What began as breakfast revenge is now considered to be a staple food for late-night diners.

  • Ernest Hemingway wanted to break out of his contract with Horace Liverwright for a better deal with a new publisher, so he wrote The Torrents of Spring as a mocking parody of the style used by Liverwright's favorite author.
  • Chuck Palahniuk wrote Fight Club when his novel Invisible Monsters was rejected by his publishers for being too disturbing. He intended to make Fight Club even more disturbing to give them something they would at least remember. The publishers liked it, and it was published.
  • Once upon a time, an unsuccessful author of High Fantasy novels was told by the teacher of his writing class that, seeing as he liked Anita Blake and Buffy the Vampire Slayer so much, he should write a novel like those using the teacher's method of novel creation.
    Jim Butcher: When I finally got tired of arguing with her and decided to write a novel as if I was some kind of formulaic, genre-writing drone, just to prove to her how awful it would be, I wrote the first book of The Dresden Files.
  • In the Inheritance Cycle, ever since the first book, both fans and anti-fans latched onto the villain Murtagh, seeing him as cooler, more sympathetic, and more moral than the main character. Time and again, the author tried to write him as an unlikable prick. Unfortunately, his turn to evil due to terrible circumstances beyond his control (he is literally forced to be evil) makes him The Woobie and gives him more of a character arc than the main character. After the fourth book where Murtagh makes a Heel–Face Turn, Paolini appears to have capitulated somewhat.
  • According to crime novelist Val McDermid, the author of Wire in the Blood, this is basically what happened when she wrote her children's picture book My Granny is a Pirate. For a while there was a trend of celebrities writing children's books, and McDermid's publisher wanted her to write one too, and refused to listen when she said that this was a particular skill she didn't possess, so she sent her a poem she had made up for her son when he was younger.
    McDermid: But eventually, she just kept going on and on and on, and the only way I thought to shut her up, was to send her something. [...] So I had written this, well, I had made up really, I hadn't even written it down to begin with, this poem about my granny being a pirate. You know: "My granny is a pirate! She sailed the seven seas. She's captured many pirate ships, but was always home for tea." And I sent this off to my publisher thinking; at least she'll shut up and leave me alone now, but no. No no no. She called me and said, "Darling, we love it! We want to publish it, darling!" And I'm like, Oh, for Christ's sake...
  • Ern Malley is a fictional poet created by conservative Australian writers James McAuley and Harold Stewart as a reaction to what they felt was the poor state of modernist poetry in the 1940s. They wrote sixteen deliberately bad poems under the pseudonym, which they then submitted to the popular modernist magazine Angry Penguins in an attempt to embarrass its founder Max Harris. Naturally, Harris fell for the hoax and devoted the next issue to Malley. When the con was revealed, he was humiliated and subsequently fined for publishing the poems on the grounds that they were obscene, and his magazine ceased publishing in 1946. While the hoax proved to be a major setback for the cause of Australian modernist literature, it was not long before the Ern Malley poems became celebrated as a successful example of surrealist poetry in their own right in spite of their well-known status as a forgery.
  • The book Real Men Don't Eat Quiche was written by Bruce Feirstein to satirize views on masculinity in America, however it became popular with men using it as an unironic guide on "how to be a man" completely missing the satire altogether. "Quiche-eater" has even entered the lexicon for an unmasculine man and in A View to a Kill, James Bond is shown cooking quiche as a subtle Take That! to this view, bringing it full circle.

    Live-Action TV 
  • SCTV's Bob and Doug McKenzie were created as a Take That! to CBC; after the program moved to the network, CBC requested that they add two minutes of "distinctively Canadian content" as Padding since it was running shorter due to having fewer commercials. The show's staff felt that the request was ridiculous; in particular, performers Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas jokingly suggested that they should just put up a map of Canada and act as stereotypically Canadian as possible. Moranis and Thomas ended up doing exactly that, and wound up creating the most popular characters in the show's history, as Canadians loved the mocking stereotype of themselves.
  • During the first season of WKRP in Cincinnati, CBS wanted more broad, kid-friendly comedy in the show. Producer Hugh Wilson wrote "Fish Story" as a Take That! to the executives, a broad farce with silly costumes (Herb in the WKRP "carp" costume fighting the WPIG pig), pratfalls, and contrived explanations. Wilson hated the episode, and wrote it under a pseudonym as the last episode in CBS's initial 13-episode order. It got great ratings, and has always been one of the fans' favorite episodes.
  • This was what happened behind the scenes of the original Battlestar Galactica. ABC only greenlit it because they were hoping it would flop — they figured so many people were playing Follow the Leader after the success of Star Wars that people were going to sour on sci-fi sometime soon. They had the numbers to back it up — no sci-fi series since Star Trek had lasted longer than one season. They figured they could air Galactica as a loss-leader for their cheap sitcoms, which the audience would demand after they got bored with the sci-fi. But Galactica proved to be a huge hit, leaving ABC with a show that was too popular to cancel — but too expensive to continue producing. They resorted to screwing the show over, hoping to drive down viewership without losing face with an up-front cancellation. And the stunt didn't help ABC's sitcoms at all; none of that season's new series were hits, and last season's big hit Mork & Mindy bled ratings thanks to a bad Retool.
  • Star Trek:
    • William Windom, who played Commodore Matt Decker in the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "The Doomsday Machine", thought the entire episode was just silly and decided to ham it up, treating it as if he was in some cartoon. This ended up making his character very memorable due to the captain's unhinged state, and today it's said that this was one of his most memorable roles.
    • Avery Brooks, who played Captain Sisko in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, supposedly didn't want the part originally, but was talked into it by his wife, who was a Star Trek fan. Consequently, he came across in his audition as grumpy and not entirely wanting to be there — which was exactly how the producers envisaged his character. The show managed to find its place as a Darker and Edgier look at the universe at the time and drew viewers for that alternate perspective. It ran for seven seasons, and despite wanting to leave the show, Brooks stuck it out because he wanted to teach his son a lesson about honoring one's commitments.
    • Robert Beltran, who played Chakotay in Star Trek: Voyager, got so fed up with the Unfortunate Implications of his character and the quality of the show as a whole that he demanded an extraordinarily large pay raise in order to stay on the cast, hoping that his bosses would ditch him rather than pay such a huge amount. They simply forked over the money. Voyager managed to find its legs and ran for seven seasons as well.
  • Power Rangers:
    • When Jason Narvy tried out for the role of Skull in Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, he was tired of the entertainment industry, and proceeded to act as obnoxious as possible during the audition so he'd be sure to bomb it. Seeing as how Skull was one of Those Two Guys and a total bully in-universe, this ended up getting Narvy the part.
    • Barbara Goodson was stunned when despite her performance having been well received in the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers pilot, she had to reaudition for the part of Rita Repulsa. Feeling humiliated and frustrated at the producers' comments that she didn't sound "angry enough", she decided to screech at them as loudly and angrily as she could, fully knowing she would fail the audition. And thus Rita's iconic voice was born.
    • Much of the continued success of the franchise can be attributed to this trope. When Haim Saban managed to get his adaptation of Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger greenlit, Fox expected to run the show for one 40-episode season and be done with it. Then the ratings and toy sales came in, and Power Rangers was the biggest hit of its time. They quickly commissioned more footage from Toei and renewed the show at the last minute, hurriedly editing the intended finale.
    • After the disappointment of Power Rangers Turbo (which suffered for trying to adapt the footage from parody Sentai Gekisou Sentai Carranger into a serious storyline), the budget was severely cut and the show was entering its intended final season. The footage from Denji Sentai Megaranger turned out to be technology-based. Judd Lynn decided to move forward with a Power Rangers series based on a space story. Not only did the resulting series, Power Rangers in Space save the franchise, it turned out to be the Growing the Beard moment for the series and the standard for future Power Rangers seasons.
    • The bulk of Disney's ownership of the show is this. Disney acquired the rights in their purchase of Fox Family and related assets. They weren't interested all that much in Power Rangers, so they intended to end the series with the expiration of Saban's original deal with Toei after Power Rangers Wild Force (even titling the finale "The End of Power Rangers", meant as just that). Then, two former Power Rangers writers and producers then elsewhere at Disney talked them into moving production to New Zealand for tax benefits, and the show continued to be a success... until Disney's apathy towards the show became more apparent. After Power Rangers Jungle Fury, Disney tried to end the series again, but Bandai convinced them to do another season because of toy sales often outperforming the show itself in that time. The Sentai footage was from another parody Sentai, Engine Sentai Go-onger. Executive producer Eddie Guzelian (replaced midstream by Lynn due to Executive Meddling) adapted it into a serious storyline, which is what they tried to do with Turbo, only this time it worked. The resulting series, Power Rangers RPM, is incredibly well-regarded for its story, and could have been the most successful series since In Space. Most ABC affiliates, including Disney-owned stations and stations in nearly all major markets, ended up screwing the show over to a graveyard early-morning slot or not airing it at all, which finally ended the series, save for the 2010 re-version of MMPR. Then, Saban bought the rights to the franchise again, moved airing to Nickelodeon, and Power Rangers returned to being a top-rated TV show and best-selling toyline.
  • The cast of The State was pressured to write more catchphrase-driven comedy like Saturday Night Live, so they wrote a Take That! sketch starring "Louie, the Guy Who Says His Catchphrase Over and Over Again." In it, Louie repeats his catchphrase, "I wanna dip my balls in it!" over and over again to a crowd who find it hilarious every single time, while the Only Sane Man criticizes the concept. The skit was pretty popular and the character made at least one reappearance.
  • The success of The Waltons was a complete accident; it was a show that would've fallen victim to the "rural purge" had it been broadcast any earlier. CBS put it in the Friday Night Death Slot in a deliberate attempt to sabotage it. Needless to say, it backfired spectacularly, and it became one of the network's biggest hits of the '70s instead.
  • For The Gong Show, producer Chuck Barris regularly brought in acts that were overly sexually suggestive on purpose to act as Censor Decoys. On at least one occasion, one of these acts actually made it to air.
  • In 1993, when Cologne-based station Viva TV prepared for launch, local musician Stefan Raab paid them a visit intending to produce jingles for them, but somehow found himself at a casting for presenters. He didn't want the job, so he completely misbehaved, only to end up with his own comedy show. This did give his music some nice exposure, but his shows eventually became so successful that he presumably became too tired to record more than just the occasional, infrequent single. Even after retiring from TV in 2015, he hasn't recorded any new music since 1997 (though he did mastermind Germany's Eurovision 2010 victory).
  • Dean Martin had no intention of doing a weekly variety show, so he asked NBC for an enormous salary and insisted that his contract include clauses that allowed him to skip rehearsals and refuse to do retakes, among other outrageous demands. NBC agreed to every single demand, and Dean felt honor-bound to do it. The show ended up running for 9 years, followed by the Dean Martin Celebrity Roast specials that ran for an additional 10 years. True to his word, however, Dean refused to rehearse or shoot retakes and was usually in his car and well on his way home before shooting even wrapped for the day.
  • When Dwayne McDuffie created the Tommy Westphall Universe Hypothesis in 2002, he did so as a joke, meant as a Deconstructive Parody of how seriously fans of comic books take continuity by applying that same Serious Business attitude towards crossovers and Shout Outs to the world of television. The idea that "thanks to St. Elsewhere's Gainax Ending, vast swathes of modern television exist purely in the mind of an autistic boy" was meant to be a wholly unsupportable and ridiculous conclusion... one that was, indeed, taken seriously by some people, who have expanded on McDuffie's hypothesis to link (as of this writing) 419 shows back to little Tommy Westphall.
  • Joss Whedon has joked that he fully expected Dollhouse to get cancelled after one season, and that Fox only renewed the series for a second season to spite him.
  • The Father Ted episode about Ireland trying to get out of hosting the Eurovision Song Contest was based on a real life example. RTÉ allegedly selected an inferior song for the 1994 contest so they wouldn't have to face the daunting (and financially crippling) task of hosting a third consecutive contest. Not only did "Rock 'n' Roll Kids" win, it became the highest-scoring song in Eurovision history up to that point.
  • After the sixth series of Red Dwarf in 1993, co-writer Rob Grant departed the show, leaving his writing partner Doug Naylor to continue the series by himself. Despite pressure from the BBC, Naylor was reluctant to carry on solo, and he asked his agent to put in a deliberately ridiculous budget request for the seventh series which the BBC would reject. His agent ended up putting in a request for a "sensibly ridiculous" budget — i.e. one so large he thought the BBC would definitely still reject it, but not so obviously unrealistic that the BBC would realise they were deliberately trying to get it turned down. The BBC agreed to fund it.
  • In 1993, Noels House Party introduced the character Mr. Blobby, a deliberately ridiculous parody of children's TV characters who only speaks in the repeated phrase "blobby blobby blobby!", for their "Gotcha" segments. He was intended to particularly embarrass the celebrities and arguably mock them for not realising that such a moronic character would never get his own show. He then became massively popular with children and he became a serious children's show character, and even got his own merchandise.
  • Vladislav Ivanov aka Lelush is a Russian model who served as a translator for the Chinese singing talent show Produce Camp 2021. After the producers of the show noticed his good looks he was signed up as a contestant. Lelush quickly regretted the decision, finding the weekly training sessions and isolation to be grueling, but couldn't leave the show without breaking his contract. So he deliberately performed badly in hopes of being voted off the show. But instead, fans found his grumpy, defeatist attitude to be endearing and managed to vote him to stay until the final episode.

  • Neil Young was in the midst of a creative dispute with his label Geffen Records, due to his 1982 experimental techno-rock album Trans, which had flopped. Young recorded and had intended to release the straight country album Old Ways next, but it was rejected by Geffen, who requested Young to release a rock album instead. Not one to take such executive meddling in stride, Young recorded Everybody's Rockin', an intentionally silly rockabilly album in hopes to anger Geffen enough to get out of his contract. The result was a lawsuit and counter lawsuit from both parties.
  • Marvin Gaye was coerced by his record label to record a "Disco Song". Gaye, not a fan of the Disco Genre by any stretch, went to do an intentionally bad song (singing in falsetto lampooning The Bee Gees), hoping it would fail and his label would leave him alone. Got To Give It Up ended up being one of his biggest hits.
  • The quintessential example is Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music, a double album consisting exclusively of layered feedback from multiple instruments. It became a minor success, selling over 100,000 copies, singlehandedly invented the Noise genre of music (which is particularly popular in Germany and Japan) and strongly influenced Industrial music. Most people assumed that Reed made it as a big middle finger to the record company, but Reed has denied this, saying that he was completely serious at the time, but was also on a lot of drugs.
  • The Beach Boys' Party, an album of covers thrown together quickly, was born from Capitol Records' demand to have a new album in time for Christmas — and their planned album Pet Sounds wasn't going to make it thanks to Brian Wilson's perfectionism. The last song on the album, a cover of Fred Fasset's "Barbara Ann", became a surprise hit, charting at #2, although not initially released as a single, while the album itself hit the top 10 at #6.
  • The Beatles wrote the song "Helter Skelter" in the hopes of making a really manic, distorted, unpleasantly noisy song. The song however received substantial praise, and is considered an example of an early template for heavy metal, punk rock and grunge.
  • Lampshaded with Monty Python's Contractual Obligation Album, which was originally released with the tagline "Now a Major Lawsuit". The album actually was produced to finish out a contract, and listening to it, it's clear that the Pythons didn't put much effort into it. Over half the album is songs and brief spoken word pieces by Eric Idle, and the rest is new recordings of old material that the Pythons had written for other projects. But because it's Monty Python, it's still hilarious.
  • Mike Oldfield's Amarok album includes "fuck you rb" in Morse code, targeted at Virgin's boss Richard Branson. Since Virgin had been pressing him to produce more tracks that could be released as singles, Amarok was deliberately constructed as a solid 60 minutes that is impossible to cut into a single. Many consider it his best album. Oldfield's page has an entire section of Take That! examples dedicated to showing all the different ways Amarok is a big middle finger to Branson.
  • Love and Rockets (post-punk/synth-rock band consisting of former Bauhaus members) did one of these with their side project "The Bubblemen" — a single release consisting of "The Bubblemen Are Coming", "Bubblemen Rap", and "Bees", and featuring the band dressed in bee costumes — as a "blowing off steam" variation of this trope. The project quickly became a cult hit, and they often performed as the Bubblemen as part of their regular concerts.
  • In the late '60s, Van Morrison recorded an entire album of deliberately unreleaseably awful songs ("The Big Royalty Check", "Ringworm", "Here Comes Dumb George") in order to get out of his contract with Bang Records. This ended up backfiring on him in the early '90s, when the cash-strapped rights-holders began licensing them out... on "Greatest Hits" compilations, no less.
  • Sara Bareilles was forced by her record company to write a love song for her album Little Voice. So, Writer Revolt kicked in with "Love Song", which specifically goes "I'm not gonna write you a love song". Ironically, it was her first hit. Same story with her second hit "King of Anything"... so which party gets to say "I told you so"?
  • British extreme metallers Cradle of Filth were sick of their then-current label Cacophonous Records, yet were pigeonholed into making a new release before they could leave the label. The result was the EP Vempire (or Dark Faarytales in Phallustein), which many fans of the band consider to be their best release.
  • The power chords to REO Speedwagon's "Keep On Loving You" were a reaction by guitarist Gary Richrath to singer Kevin Cronin's song, which Gary thought was sappy and uncharacteristic of the hard-rock group. The combination became an early example of the '80s Power Ballad, and their first number one single.
  • Todd Rundgren's The Ever Popular Tortured Artist Effect is one of these. He intentionally wrote "Bang The Drum All Day" to be as stupid as possible, and it's quite possibly his most recognizable hit.
  • The Residents originally intended their album Duck Stab! to prove that even if they released an album of songs that actually followed traditional song structure, still no one would buy it. It became one of their most popular.
  • The Turtles, a surf band turned folk-rock band from The '60s who had cheery bubblegum hits like "Happy Together" and "She'd Rather Be With Me", was having problems with their label, White Whale, who wanted them to keep churning out more commercial product while the band wanted to move into more progressive music. So they wrote the most deliberately banal pop song they could, "Elenore". It obviously was not taken as such, and became a Top Ten hit.
  • Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash was "joking around" with a riff. He hated it. Axl Rose loved it. Over objections within the band, the track was recorded for their album-in-progress. The result was "Sweet Child O'Mine", a song Slash reportedly "really fucking hated to play" during their gigs. Slash had to spend a month recording that riff in the studio to get it just right for the album.
  • Steam's "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye", intended as a throwaway B side, instead a #1 hit. In fact, the overly-long chorus repetition at the end was specifically intended to be annoying. The plan was to encourage disc jockeys to only play the A side. The plan didn't work.
  • "Barely Breathing" by Duncan Sheik was similar, intended to be a filler song to bring the album up to proper length; it became his only hit (unless you count the music he did for "Spring Awakening").
  • This was what happened to Carl Douglas' "Kung Fu Fighting". After spending over two hours on A-side song "I Want to Give You My Everything", he recorded his immortal one-hit wonder in a little more than ten minutes.
  • German Krautrock band Neu!'s budget ran out during the recording of their second album after completing one side of an album. Short of material, they included the previously released single sides "Super" and "Neuschnee", and decided to fill the rest of the second side with sped-up and slowed-down versions of those two songs. In the process, they pretty much invented the remix.
  • Mudhoney were asked to contribute a fast, driving song for a scene of the film With Honors wherein one of the characters runs through the snow. They offered up an instrumental they'd already written and recorded, but the studio insisted on a song with words. So the band added minimal throwaway lyrics to their instrumental, called the result "Run Shithead Run", and sent back both this version and the original, figuring the studio would either reject them outright or just use the instrumental after all. The version of the song with lyrics still ended up in the movie and its soundtrack album. The band did note that they were never asked to contribute music to a major motion picture again.
  • In 1976, amateur musician John Trubee, then a teenager, found an ad in a tabloid for a song poem companynote . He submitted a deliberately offensive, nonsensical poem titled "Peace and Love", hoping he'd get a humorous (and rather offended) rejection letter.note  He did not. 80 dollars and a quick change to the lyrics later, a comically godawful, upbeat country march was set loose upon the world, where it would later gain a marked cult infamy.
  • Kurt Cobain wanted to make Nirvana's third album, In Utero, a noisy punk album in an attempt to get rid of the mainstream audience and massive fanbase they'd picked up with Nevermind. It still shot to number one on the Billboard charts.
  • The metal band GWAR got its start this way. Originally, the members were in a different band called Death Piggy, but in a few concerts, they tried a publicity stunt in which they posed as a Fake Band dressing up in Conan-esque barbarian costumes (borrowed from a film they were making at the time) and running around screaming obscenities in the idea that after the audience was subjected to this, Death Piggy's arrival would come as a relief. To their surprise, many fans would stay for GWAR and leave when Death Piggy made their entrance, so they decided to play as GWAR full-time.
  • During the height of Psychedelia, The Hollies (particularly Graham Nash) tried hard to develop a more elaborate, "serious" sound. The results, namely the single "King Midas in Reverse", were met with commercial indifference, prompting the label to demand something more marketable. In response, the band recorded the deliberately cheesy bubblegum song "Jennifer Eccles". It was a Top Ten hit, much to Nash's dismay.
  • As a joke, The Four Seasons recorded a version of Bob Dylan's "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright" with intentionally silly, self-parodic falsetto vocals, which they never intended to actually release. Their record company liked it enough to release it as a single anyway: Even though it was released under the name The Wonder Who? for contractual reasons, it reached #12 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and sold a million copies.
  • Dylan, he has often claimed that his much-reviled Self Portrait album from 1970 was intended as one of these.
  • Anal Cunt attempted to make the worst music ever with music so abrasive it's difficult to tell what notes are even being played. They coupled this with lyrics that were frequently misogynistic, racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic, or otherwise offensive. Their singer, the late Seth Putnam, even admitted sending copies of their albums to reviewers who they knew would dislike it solely so they could get negative reviews. They wound up being admired by people who saw through the Stealth Parody and are one of the most influential bands of the grindcore genre. They even attempted making an album that even their fans wouldn't like, Picnic of Love. The album is the opposite of their usual output, featuring acoustic songs with Seth Putnam wailing in an obnoxiously high-pitched falsetto about respecting women. Many fans consider it their funniest and even critics gave it much more favorable reviews than their usual output.
  • Quiet Riot were asked to do a cover of the Slade song "Cum on Feel the Noize" as a demo for their record company. Kevin Dubrow hated the song, refused to do more than one take, and put zero effort into it (there's an audible sound error at one point — he demanded the band keep playing because he didn't want to have to start over). The song made their entire careers.
  • Similarly, Sammy Davis Jr.'s version of "The Candy Man" was his biggest hit, spending three weeks at #1. This is in spite of his recording it in one syrupy, sanctimonious, and condescending take, and then grumbling about how the song would "take his career down the toilet". Seeing as he was probably still bitter over being passed up for the role of Bill the candy store owner in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, it really could have.
  • According to designer Steve Joule, this is how Black Sabbath's Born Again cover art came to be: Joule was known for designing Ozzy Osbourne's album covers, and was asked by Sabbath's management to submit some rough designs for the band's next album. Fearing he might lose his main gig if he worked with Ozzy's former band, he decided to throw together some intentionally silly, hideous artwork in the hopes of getting rejected (but still collecting a fee for submitting his ideas). One of these designs was a stock photo of a crying baby crudely altered to look like a demon, which of course actually ended up being on the cover — Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, and Black Sabbath manager Don Arden reportedly approved of the design. On the other hand, then-vocalist Ian Gillan didn't see the artwork until it was already in stores, and was famously quoted (in a 1984 Kerrang! interview) as saying “I looked at the cover and puked!”
  • Johnny Cash was one of a number of established artists who found the transition to the 80s difficult. Cash blamed it on poor promotion by his record company and recorded the intentionally awful "Chicken in Black" in attempt to get out of his contract. It actually worked, but it also became his biggest hit in some time.
  • Australian pop singer Marty Rhone thought he was going to die in Vietnam and recorded "So You Want to Be a Pop Singer" as a Take That! to the music industry. The song, which references then Countdown host Molly Meldrum, Russell Morris's hit "The Real Thing" and Elvis Presley, is pretty tame by today's standards and didn't come across as particularly scathing in 1970 either. It failed to chart, but it didn't sink Rhone's career either.
  • As an experiment, "The Most Unwanted Song" was created by combining a whole bunch of themes and instruments that people claimed to hate. Not surprisingly, it's hilarious.
  • Norwegian comedy duo Ylvis, comprising brothers Vegard and Bård Ylvisåker, made "The Fox", an intentionally nonsensical little ditty destined to go viral. They had done a favor for production team Stargate, and in return asked that Stargate produce "The Fox" to promote the new season of Ylvis' TV talk show I kveld med YLVIS, the joke being that they had a chance at finally becoming pop stars but they did a nonsensical song that was destined to flop instead. Contrary to what they predicted, the song very quickly caught on and ended up being immensely successful on the charts instead of staying the joke Ylvis had originally created. The fact that another foreign novelty, "Gangnam Style", was still fresh in many peoples' minds probably helped too.
    "The whole humor is that we didn't succeed and had lots of obstacles. The obstacles generated the comedy. Then suddenly we're on this trip to America, the place people want to go, and there's no obstacles. Every doorway is open... and there's no comedy."
  • Australian Post-Punk band The Birthday Party wrote their single, "Release the Bats", as an over-the-top joke. It became their best known song.
  • With the New York Dolls, vocalist David Johansen didn't achieve any commercial success, as his band was mostly a cult favorite as a forerunner of both American punk and glam rock. It was only when he launched his lounge singer alter-ego Buster Poindexter in 1987 that he became a commercial success, with "Hot Hot Hot" nearly cracking Billboard's Top 40. Johansen is now back with the Dolls, having long grown his hair back and ditched the suits he used to wear as his Poindexter alter-ego. In an interview, Johansen referred to "Hot Hot Hot" as "the bane of my existence", suggesting that he never intended for the song to become so popular.
  • Famously, the "crunch" sounds in Radiohead's "Creep" were an attempt to sabotage the song. The band left it in, and in part because of the crunches (which made an otherwise mellow song sound much harder, creating a dissonance that synergized well with the subject matter (intense personal self-loathing)), it became their first hit.
  • Sir Mix-a-Lot recorded "Baby Got Back" as an intended parody of the then-popular Miami Bass genre, not expecting it to chart. Twelve weeks after debuting on the Hot 100, it went to #1, going on to become the second-biggest hit of 1992 and one of the 90s' most iconic songs.
  • The early rock and roll song "Little Darlin'" by the Diamonds was originally meant to be a parody of rock and roll. It's regarded as a classic.
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic's "Albuquerque", which clocks in at 11 minutes, was written to frustrate listeners by being a long, meandering story that didn't go anywhere, ending with a Brick Joke about how the narrator hates sauerkraut. It became a fan favorite.
  • Nick Lowe wrote "Bay City Rollers, We Love You" to be as bad as possible in the hopes that his label would drop him. Instead, it turned out to be so catchy that it was released worldwide. It flopped everywhere except Japan.
  • Michael Sembello was asked to provide a song for Flashdance. Not liking any of the results, and frustrated by the lack of progress, he recorded the musical equivalent of a tasteless joke by making up a song celebrating the antics of a Slasher Film maniac carving up victims. His wife accidentally sent it to the film producers. Sembello got a call, saying the producers loved the song. Understandably, a lyric change was needed. It ended up a Number One hit.
  • Feeling pressure to deliver a hit, Throwing Muses wrote "Dizzy" in an effort to show how stupid it is to consciously try to write one. "We hated it even while we were recording it", Kristin Hersh said. "We expected them to get the point and they didn't at all, they loved it."
  • When The Church were recording "Under The Milky Way Tonight", vocalist/bassist Steve Kilbey waited until everyone else left the studio and added a backwards bagpipe sample to an instrumental section of the song as a joke. The producer and the band loved it and it was left in the final mix of the song, which became a Signature Song for the group.
  • Gus Lobban, one-third of indie pop trio Kero Kero Bonito, participated in a remix contest in 2014 for Tiga and Audion's house track "Let's Go Dancing", but submitted a messy joke entry filled with clunky, offbeat MIDI instrumentals, and under the name "kane west" (no relation to Kanye West). Surprisingly, he was among its selected winners (the contest holders interpreting his track as "free-jazz"), and after receiving additional positive (and somewhat ironic) reception from fans, Lobban decided to keep up Kane West as a side project, releasing similarly jokey MIDI material through PC Music.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Pastafarianism (a.k.a. the church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster), originally an in-joke among agnostics regarding the "man in the sky" interpretation of religion, wound up going memetic enough that it has a following equal to a practiced religion and has legally recognized priests.
  • Several decades before Pastafarianism, Discordianism, an intentionally absurdist faux-religious tract achieved such a large cult following that it persists to this day.

  • "Springtime for Hitler" cannot be mentioned without the monster himself, who ascended to power in Germany in 1933 in much this way. He was appointed Chancellor of Germany by President Paul von Hindenburg, who had the real power and was trying to promote Hitler to a position where he couldn't do any harm. However, Hitler knew the loopholes and was able to attain "emergency powers", which eventually led him to become the monstrous dictator we know him as today. After Hindenburg's death in 1934, he combined the powers of President and Chancellor and declared himself Führer of Germany.
  • When John F. Kennedy became the Democratic Party's nominee for President of the United States in 1960, there was growing concern that his more progressive values and agenda would lead to a low turnout from Democrats in southern states during the election. To pacify said southern Democrats, he took on Lyndon Johnson as his running mate and eventual Vice President, as he was a Democrat from Texas, and would help retain that demographic of voters, while being in a position that wouldn't affect JFK's progressive agenda. However, when Johnson became President after JFK was assassinated in 1963, he ended up pursuing an even more progressive agenda than JFK had, which eventually resulted in many of said southern Democrats to jump ship to the Republican Party.
  • In 1970, Earl Brydges, majority leader of the New York State Senate (and thus one of the three most powerful politicians in the state), wanted to head off attempts to legalize abortion in the state. Some were before the legislature, but he decided to supersede them all by writing his own bill, even more liberal than any introduced by more liberal legislators, with the idea that it would be too liberal to pass and thus he could put off the reformers by pointing to the failed bill. However, it passed, and after a tense moment when an upstate assemblyman changed his vote after they had been counted, allowing the governor's veto to be overriden, New York became the first U.S. state to legalize abortion, three years before Roe v. Wade.
  • Many joke political parties and candidates end up doing this as they become more popular:
    • The Monster Raving Loony Party, having for decades contested elections in which they stood no chance, stood for the Bootle by-election in 1990, and placed higher than the SDP candidate. Screaming Lord Sutch was so disturbed by this result that he effectively killed the SDP off. History repeated at the Brecon and Radnorshire by-election in 2019, when the Monster Raving Loonies managed to win more votes than UKIP.
    • The Polish Beer-Lovers' Party managed to win sixteen seats in the Polish Parliament. The result forced them to drop their joke image and become a serious group, the Polish Economic Program — a failure at failing if ever there was one.
    • Possibly the most successful political example of this trope is Jón Gnarr, who ran for mayor of Iceland's capital city Reykjavík in 2010 as head of the satirical "Best Party"note . Iceland had just gone through a major financial crisis, and Jón mostly created the party to satirize establishment politics. To everyone's surprise (including his own), he and his party won the election, and he suddenly found himself mayor of a coalition government — even after he famously vowed not to enter into a coalition with any politician who had not seen his favourite TV show, The Wire. (Well, they could learn something about politics if Iceland was anything like Baltimore.)
    • In 2002, in the first mayoral election in the town of Hartlepool in north-east England, Stuart Drummond, better known locally as H'Angus the Monkey, the mascot of the local football team, stood as a joke. In character, as the monkey. He did no real campaigning, he didn't turn up to any hustings or debates, and his only policy was to provide free bananas for schoolchildren. To his astonishment, he won. Once he'd actually become mayor, however, he started taking it seriously, abandoned the monkey persona, and did good enough job to serve three full terms before the town voted to abolish directly-elected mayors. And he did succeed in giving local schoolchildren fresh fruit, albeit not specifically bananas as they were too expensive. He even became a finalist for the World Mayor prize while he was in office.
    • A city in Ecuador was holing a mayoral election with two equally unlikeable candidates. Seeing a marketing opportunity, a foot deodorant company decided to put up signs telling people to vote for a can of their foot powder instead of the candidates. The voters elected the can of foot powder.
    • In 1983, restaurant owner, Pungeon Master, and notorious troll Ivar Haglund, already nicknamed the "mayor" of the Seattle waterfront, put his name in the hat for Port Commissioner, a job he actually didn't want; it was merely an extended practical joke on his part. Unfortunately, he got elected. Even more unfortunately, he died of a heart attack the first day he was supposed to clock in for the new job.
  • The 2001 UK Conservative Party leadership election was the first in which the candidates would be narrowed to two, who would participate in a separate runoff among all the party's members. Kenneth Clarke figured he could win the first stage of the vote but was worried about facing Michael Portillo, who was much better known and had just returned to Parliament. He did some calculations and got some of his supporters to vote for Iain Duncan Smith as a spoiler candidate, and it worked — he faced off against Duncan Smith in the runoff. Only problem being that the ex-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher didn't like either Clarke or Portillo (they weren't conservative enough for her) and was delighted that Duncan Smith was an option, so she publicly endorsed him. That caused his popularity to skyrocket and led him to the party leadership.note 
  • Everything about the Brexit referendum of 2016 — by which the UK formally voted to leave The European Union — seems to have been a plot of this kind Gone Horribly Right:
    • Prime Minister David Cameron called for the referendum despite not supporting Brexit himself. He was on the outs with the more conservative elements of his party, particularly after he legalised same-sex marriage, and he worried that the rival UK Independence Party — with more or less an all-Brexit platform — would siphon votes from the Conservatives and cost them their majority. He promised a Brexit referendum before the 2015 general election thinking he wouldn't win a majority and have to form a coalition with the pro-Europe Liberal Democrats (as had happened in 2010). But the Conservatives did win their majority, and he couldn't back down from his word. Cameron was still so confident that Brexit wouldn't pass that he basically staked his position on it, and when it did pass, he resigned almost immediately.
    • One of the big early Brexit supporters was Boris Johnson, who was cynically believed to be feigning his support to try and win the harder right wing of the party and wrest the leadership from Cameron. Much like Cameron, he also suspected the referendum would fail — however, his popularity among the electorate was credited with swinging the referendum in favour of Brexit. It's telling that after Cameron resigned, Johnson didn't even contest the subsequent leadership battle. (It is speculated however that the real reason Johnson didn't stand was due to another prominent Brexiter Michael Gove backstabbing him and trying to become Leader himself.) And that didn't work either, as Cameron's successor Theresa May made such a hash of the negotiations with the EU that she was forced to resign, and Johnson was tapped to be PM — and was thus in charge of negotiating a course of action he didn't even really want.
    • Brexit was also part of how outsider candidate Jeremy Corbyn gained the Labour leadership in 2015 — Conservatives who were afraid of losing their majority lobbied hard for Corbyn, even encouraging readers to join the Labour Party (it cost just £3) to vote in the leadership election for Corbyn. The idea was that Corbyn was hard-left and so unpalatable to the electorate that people would vote in the Tories just to avoid him. Once the referendum came down, Theresa May called a snap election in 2017 hoping to take advantage of the distaste for Corbyn and pick up an electoral mandate to make Brexit happen. It backfired on her, as the Conservatives did lose their majoritynote . The Tories lucked out in 2019, once the popular (or at least more popular then Jeremy Corbyn) Boris Johnson was the PM and they battered Labour in their worst defeat since Margaret Thatcher, due to the Tories running a very successful smear campaign against Corbyn and many people in the country just wanting Brexit to be completed at any cost.
  • The Affordable Care Act, popularly known as "Obamacare" after the President who introduced it, has seen a lot of attempts to curb or sabotage it go this way. While Republicans have an incredible distaste for the government spending money on things, it turns out that American health care is so expensive, tedious, and scam-riddled that even Republicans who need medical care (of whom there are many) came around on Obamacare. At one point, U.S. House Speaker John Boehner tried to demonstrate what a shitshow Obamacare was by making a show of trying to enroll through the website — only to be fully approved in 45 minutes. Every attempt by the Republicans to scuttle Obamacare — which ramped up significantly once Donald Trump became president — was thwarted by the program's growing popularity.
  • In November 2011, the Australian Labor Party managed to get Liberal Party member Peter Slipper appointed as the Speaker of the House of Representatives because doing so would effectively neutralise Slipper and increase Labor's "wafer-thin" majority in the House. The Party's motives turned out to be the least of their problems with Slipper, who was forced to take a leave of absence in April 2012 when he was investigated from misuse of cabcharge vouchers, before eventually resigning as Speaker in October over sexual harassment allegations by James Ashby, a member of his staff. His Deputy Speaker who eventually succeeded him was Anna Burke, a Labor member.
  • In 2012, Republican lawmaker Mitch McConnell introduced a bill that would allow the president to raise the debt ceiling. It was intended as a bluff to prove that Democrats were so split on the issue that they would vote against it. Instead, the Democrats agreed enough to it for a straight up or down vote, which forced McConnell to filibuster his own bill.
  • Part of the reason why the 2016 United States Presidential election was so attention-grabbing and memorable was because it contained two examples of this trope:
    • According to author Michael Wolf's insider view, Donald Trump's 2016 presidential victory is this trope writ large. Trump only ran for president to bolster his brand and springboard new business opportunities; he and his campaign team were expecting to narrowly lose to Hillary Clinton. Instead, his surprise upset derailed their hopes, with Trump himself "looking like he'd seen a ghost" when the results were announced. This left the country with a highly unprepared presidential transition team.
    • It's known in hindsight that this trope applies to Bernie Sanders' 2016 Presidential run. Since Hillary Clinton spent years working the backrooms to ensure she wouldn't run into another poison pill that would again foil her White House ambitions, Sanders feared that she would utilize her easy victory in the election to pursue neoliberal policies that would completely sell out the party's progressive wing. Thus, Sanders sought to organize a primary challenger on Hillary's left to protect their interests. However, he couldn't find a candidate as everyone he approached feared that running against her would be career suicide. Left with no other choice, Sanders made himself the candidate.note  However, Sanders would up amassing a massive following among economically disillusioned young people and inadvertently tapped into a seething backlash among the party's base against the idea of Hillary Clinton being shoved down their throats as an "inevitable" candidate they have no chance of stopping. Hillary's cakewalk to the nomination wound up being a bruising battle that lasted into the summer, with both campaigns going to the convention, though it was more-or-less mathematically impossible for Sanders to win by then.note  Sanders would up emerging from the campaign as one of the most famous and popular politicians in the country, the undisputed leader of the Democratic Party's progressive wing and having a left a unquestionable footprint in popular culture. Insiders of his campaign believe that if he had been actually running to win from the beginning, he may have been America's 45th President. Now of course this trope doesn't apply to when he ran again in 2020, because he was running to win from the very beginning that time.
  • This may have been how women were included as a protected class in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the legislation famous for protecting the civil rights of American blacks. Democrat Howard W. Smith, who opposed the already controversial bill, added the provisions protecting women, thinking the whole package would be so overwhelming that it wouldn't pass — but it did. While historians are divided on whether Smith was actually ambivalent toward women's rights, they agree that he opposed the bill and wanted it to fail.
  • In 1887, a group of men against women in politics put Susanna Salter's name in the ballot list for Argonia in Kansas, for humiliation purposes. However, despite not even knowing she was a candidate until the ballot day, several defections and supports in her favor ended up securing her a large majority, hence making her the very first woman to be elected as mayor in the United States.
  • In some elections it is possible to not only vote for a party list, but also for individidual candidates on that list, in effect re-arranging the order of candidates on the list. This system is known as panachage, because Everything Sounds Sexier in French. In some elections, the last place on the list (having no realistic chance of winning a seat, but still prominent on the ballot as most humans pay attention to the first and last elements of a list more than those in the middle) is deliberately filled with someone known and beloved by the (local) public but not necessarily a "career politician". In the Netherlands this practice is known as "Lijstduwer" ("list pusher" in analogy to the Lead Candidate beig the "Lijsttrekker" or "list-puller" - in essence Dutch party lists operate in a push-pull configuration). While in the Netherlands the "job" of the Lijstduwer is to attract votes to their party (votes for individual candidates on a party list still count toward the vote total of that party in many systems with Panachage), it is generally understood that they are not supposed to actually take office if elected. However, there Ain't No Rule saying they can't. And in many local elections in Germany where people have been brow-beat by fellow party members to run on the last spot of their party list, they suddenly find themselves elected due to being well-known and beloved locally (and thus receiving votes from friends or acquaintances who otherwise vote straight-ticket of an opposing party) and feel duty-bound to actually serve. A six year term in many cases. Oops.

    Print Media 
  • In his book Antifragility, Nassim Taleb recalls a colleague from his Wall Street days, a trader who disliked his firm and decided to get himself fired from it by making big, high-risk bets. Some of them, however, paid off... and since the risk had been high they paid off big. He wound up getting a huge bonus out of it.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • "Hollywood" Hulk Hogan was supposed to be the ultimate Heel when he joined the nWo. Unfortunately, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash, the originators of what became the nWo, were obsessed with seeming "cool", so WCW cranked out a ton of nWo merchandise that fans seemingly snapped up without a second thought. Thanks to Executive Meddling, they became enmeshed in the company's inner workings, to the point that Nash got to be made head booker and use his newfound powers to kill Goldberg's huge undefeated streak and beat him for the WCW World Heavyweight Title. This led to the Finger Poke of Doom and the demise of the company two years later. So they failed at what they set out to do, found success, but ultimately planted the seeds of their ultimate demise.
  • The WWF decided to pull a practical joke on Fit Finlay by making him the women's trainer, without doing their homework and realizing he had been running a wrestling school for years and that he had taken a few women through it, nationally renowned Macaela Mercedes among them. The end result was the most success the women's division had had since Alundra Blayze. WWE still found a way to nearly kill the division and stuck Finlay on TV, grooming him to become a jobber, but fans invested too much in him for their tastes. So they stuck him with a little bastard to make him less popular. This made the little bastard popularnote . Eventually WWE just made Finlay a jobber in spite of his popularity and then removed him from the active roster, claiming he was too old. Finlay would then leave WWE to wrestle on the independent circuit and returned about a year later as a full-time road agent.
  • IWA Puerto Rico introduced Sensational Carlitos in 2005 as a parody of Carlos Colon, founder of rival promotion CSP/WWC and of his son Carlito Caribbean Cool, was an illiterate, barefoot Rummage Sale Reject of a cabana boy who thought of himself as a patriotic Boricua. Fans didn't laugh at him; they loved him, putting IWA PR in the awkward position of having to push a knockoff presented to make their competition look bad. But at least they made money. WWC itself was only too happy to sign and push Carlitos after IWA PR folded.
  • There is a belief that WWE's writers and John Cena are attempting to have him pull a Face–Heel Turn by making his opponents (except The Nexus) look good, but the female and younger male members of the WWE Universe just kept eating this up and cheering for Cena even more, preventing this from happening.
  • Nothing CM Punk could do, be it his holier-than-thou attitude or attempt to flee the company with the WWE Championship, would keep half the WWE crowd from cheering for him. The feud between Randy Orton and Christian was between two guys who will always get huge pop no matter how heelish they act (Christian being the nominal heel), but for CM Punk — he was in his hometown of Chicago on the night he won the world title. And he was also feuding with Triple H, who was actually loathed by WWE fans outside of Kayfabe. If you can't recognize Draco in Leather Pants (fans in the post-territorial era tend to cheer for wrestlers they think are good before booing wrestlers for being assholes) and don't consider how to counteract it if you're dead set on fighting it, it will always lead to this.
  • Beth Phoenix and Natalya turned heel and supposedly formed an alliance to stop WWE from being taken over by "the Barbie doll Divas". They still got more pops than Divas Champion Kelly Kelly. What makes the last scenario all the more absurd is that Beth was friends with Kelly literally one day before Kelly won the championship. Her abrupt heel turn only came about because Kelly's scheduled feuding partner, Kharma, had to take a year off from wrestling after becoming pregnant.
  • Damien Sandow was given a stupid gimmick where he would impersonate other people, including Vince McMahon, culminating in him becoming The Miz's stunt double. You can imagine how perplexed the suits at WWE were when "Damien Mizdow" ended up more over than the man he was impersonating.
  • Mick Foley repeatedly came up with ideas with the purpose of them being stupid but which turned out brilliant and succeeded despite Mick's best efforts. These include the Dude Love entrance video, the debut of "Mr. Socko" and the "Rock, This Is Your Life" segment from the September 27, 1999 Raw, which drew a whopping 8.4 quarter hour rating.

    Puppet Shows 
  • Spitting Image made "The Chicken Song" as a Take That! to catchy summer pop tunes, only to have the song reach #1.
    From the shores of Spain
    To the coast of southern France
    No matter where you hide
    You just can't escape this dance

  • When Humphrey Lyttelton originally auditioned for the Radio 4 panel game I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue, he was apparently in a bad mood and really didn't want the part, so he spent the entire show being irritable and sarcastic. Everyone else loved this, and so he ended up hosting it from 1972 up until his death in 2008. Apparently he was the only thing people liked about the first show, and Tim Brooke-Taylor and Graeme Garden felt they'd done so badly that they turned to each other afterwards and said, "Never again." When it was picked up and became the BBC mainstay that it is, they made this a good-luck ritual.


  • In draft systems for professional sports, teams choose players in reverse order of their record. The team with the worst record gets the first choice, then the second-worst team picks, then the third-worst, and so on up to the champions (who have to pick last). The idea is to allow struggling teams a way to restock with new talent and compete for the title again. The problem is that this encourages teams that are clearly not going to be contending for a title to lose on purpose in order to get better draft positions. The process is known as "tanking", named for a metaphor in which the sports league is a big tank full of water; a team that's losing on purpose is trying to sink to the bottom of the proverbial tank. Some leagues use a "draft lottery" system which determines the first few picks in random order so that tanking is discouraged, and that might lead to the Springtime for Hitler trope in full effect. A team deliberately tries to fail in order to get the first pick in the lottery, only to have that pick go to someone else, rendering their efforts at tanking All for Nothing.
    • Basketball:
      • The NBA first implemented the draft lottery in 1985. The previous year, the Houston Rockets were accused of tanking hard to win the first overall pick in a very deep draft (they got Hakeem Olajuwon, who helped them win two titles in 1994 and 1995, but the third-overall was a guy you might have heard of named Michael Jordan). And then, in 1985, the NBA was accused of rigging the lottery in favor of the New York Knicks, allowing them to draft Patrick Ewing.
      • 2013-14 was a very weird year for NBA tanking, as even a quarter of the way into the season, only two teams in the Eastern Conference (Miami and Indiana) had a winning record — the rest were trying to tank. This led to the oddity of the Toronto Raptors, who had been trying to tank earlier in the season, giving up on losing, getting to the playoffs (with a winning record), and taking the much more experienced Brooklyn Nets down to the wire before losing Game 7 by a single point. ...Win?
    • American Football: The NFL season is only 17 games and has no draft lottery. As such, a bad team winning one game can have disastrous consequences at a franchise-changing pick. And even a team that expected to be good might have their season turn irreversibly sour after only a handful of games. Tanking is thus particularly rampant and obvious in football:
      • In 1968, the Philadelphia Eagles started 0-11 and had their sights set on USC's Heisman-winning running back O. J. Simpsonnote  — except that they surprisingly won their next two games, with no hope of actually making the playoffs, giving the Buffalo Bills the opportunity to finish with a worse record and snap up Simpson. To add insult to injury, the pissed-off Philadelphia fans packed the stadium for the Eagles' final game (which they lost) and took their frustration out by pelting snowballs at Santa Clausnote , an event which is brought up to this day when describing Philadelphia sports fans. To add more insult to injury, the Eagles' 2-12 record tied them with the Atlanta Falcons, necessitating a coin flip for the second overall pick — which the Falcons won. To add even more insult to injury, the Eagles' pick, Leroy Keyes, was a draft bust — and right after them at #4, the Pittsburgh Steelers picked "Mean" Joe Greene, a cornerstone of their defense who would help them win four Super Bowls in the 1970s.
      • Teams that have decided to tank have been known to trade away important players in a bid to lose games. The weirdest version of this came in 2019, when the Miami Dolphins traded away basically everyone of note (including safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, who promptly turned his new team the Pittsburgh Steelers into one of the league's best defenses) and ate up $66 million in dead cap space (i.e. spent on players not on the roster), only to be out-sucked by the Cincinnati Bengals, who weren't even tanking — they just sucked.note  A variant happened in 2011, when the Indianapolis Colts' star quarterback Peyton Manning missed the entire season with a neck injury which observers suspected may have been exaggerated to give the Colts a chance to draft Manning's successor in Andrew Luck. In both cases, their draft chances were nearly jeopardized by their replacement-level quarterbacks actually playing pretty well, effectively auditioning for a job elsewhere the following season.
      • Tanking teams can have such a dire reputation that highly touted draft picks may refuse to play for them. In 1983, John Elway was drafted by the Baltimore Colts but refused to play for them — he was traded to the Denver Broncos, where he made it to five Super Bowls and won two of them. In 2004, Eli Manning refused to play for the San Diego Chargers and was traded to the New York Giants, where he won two Super Bowls. And in 1986, Bo Jackson (he of Game-Breaker status in Tecmo Bowl) attributed his refusal to play for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers partly because of thisnote  — he re-entered the NFL's supplemental draft in 1987 and was picked by the Los Angeles Raiders.
    • In Baseball, the biggest failed tank came from the 2008 Seattle Mariners, who had their eye on top pitching prospect Steven Strasburg. With two games left, the Mariners had the worst record in the league, one loss more than the Washington Nationals. But the Mariners won both of their last two games thanks to the usually uber-terrible Yuniesky Betancourt having the best two games of his career, and the Nationals finished last and picked Strasburg — who helped them win the World Series (considered a nearly impossible prospect for that franchise) in 2019.
    • The NHL uses a draft lottery system, but it doesn't prevent tanking very well. 2015 was probably the weirdest year, in which the bottom two teams — the Phoenix Coyotes and the Buffalo Sabres — both tried to tank to pick up once-in-a-generation phenom Connor McDavid, leading to a game between the two teams in Buffalo where the fans actively cheered against their team. The Coyotes won in overtime, and the Buffalo fans roared as if their own team had scored. Neither team got McDavid, as the Edmonton Oilers won that year's draft lottery.
  • This happens in Olympics in Sailing, owing to the scoring system used, as with Ben Ainslie taking Gold in the 2000 Sydney Games. Ainslie led going into the final race knowing that if Brazil's Robert Scheidt finished 22nd or lower, he would win gold. Ainslie thus tacked and tacked upon Scheidt's wind to stall his rival and subsequently push him down the fleet. Ainslie finished 37th, but Scheidt was 22nd, giving Ainslie the gold. Scheidt failed to realize that he needed to accumulate points on his own.
  • This happened in the last round-robin group match of the 1998 Tiger Cup soccer tournament was between Thailand and Indonesia. Regardless of the outcome of the game, both were already guaranteed to advance to the semi-finals, but whichever team won that game would face Vietnam while the loser would face Singapore. Both Thailand and Indonesia thought Singapore would be the easier opponent. This led to both teams playing to lose, culminating in Thailand deliberately kicking the ball into their own goal while Indonesia tried to stop them. Ironically, they'd both proceed to lose in the semi-finals, while Singapore would go on to win the whole tournament.
  • In the 2012 Summer Olympics, the badminton rounds were changed from a knockout format to a round-robin one, meaning that the winner was more often decided based on who won bigger against the worst team in the group. This meant that it served the teams just fine to lose the first game. Cue an Epic Fail match between the Chinese and South Korean teams trying to one-up each other in hilariously poor serves with the Chinese ultimately proving to be better at losing. And then both teams got disqualified for basically making every other badminton player hide their faces in shame, so everybody lost in the end.
  • Algerian sprinter Taoufik Makhloufi was ejected from the 2012 Olympics for not trying in his 800m event (Algeria failed to withdraw him on time, forcing him to compete), instead choosing to save his energy for the 1500m event. Makhloufi was reinstated in time to win gold. An outcry of a Double Standard followed, as a French sprinter did the same exact thing as Makhloufi but faced zero consequences.
  • In baseball leagues without designated hitters, it's accepted that a pitcher might just take a strikeout without even attempting to hit, out of fear that actually trying to swing at the ball might result in an injury. This was the case on August 14, 2011, when Giants reliever Santiago Casilla came to the plate for his first career at-bat in eight seasons. He stood as far from the plate as he could, with the bat down. This threw off Marlins pitcher Jose Ceda so badly that he failed to throw a single strike and walked Casilla on four pitches. In other words, a batter who deliberately tried to strike out was awarded first base without doing anything.
  • Donald Crowhurst entered the 1968 Sunday Times Golden Globe Race, which gave a a £5000 prize to whoever was the fastest to sail around the world solo without stopping in order to drum up publicity for his failing business. Crowhurst had to mortgage his home and said business as collateral for sponsorship with the condition that if Crowhurst didn't finish, he would lose everything. When the race started, Crowhurst realized his boat was not ready for the rigors of sailing around the world, so Crowhurst started dithering around the Atlantic while reporting fake positions on his journey. Crowhurst knew that he would be exposed if his logbook was scrutinized, so he planned to come in last place. With nearly every other competitor dropping out, Crowhurst's last hope was to finish behind the only other remaining contestant, Nigel Tetley. Unfortunately for Crowhurst, Tetley drove himself too hard to "catch up" and capsized his boat, meaning Crowhurst was going to get the speed record prize by default, wherein his logs would be examined and he would lose everything he owned. Facing utter financial ruin, Crowhurst killed himself by jumping over his boat.
  • This is how Formula One racer Kimi Räikkönen nearly bankrupted Lotus' racing team. For the 2012 and 2013 seasons, they signed him with a bonus of €50,000 per point he scored, thinking that, having just come out of a two-year retirement from Formula One to compete in rallying, he would be rusty and would wind up near the middle of the pack. Instead, "the Iceman" proved that he was still one of the best race car drivers of his generation, winning €19.5 million off the points bonus alone over the course of his two years with Lotus to the point that the team was struggling to pay the bills, and reacted with dread when he showed up to race in the 2013 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix after initially seeming like he wouldn't. Lotus breathed a sigh of relief when Räikkönen left their team in 2014 to return to Ferrari. To this day, Lotus still owes him money.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Gary Morley, former sculptor for Games Workshop, is responsible for the infamous original Nagash model from Warhammer. A suit had rejected his original (much better) head sculpt, so Gary created the "Bobo the Evil Skeleton" head in the belief that the cartoonish job would get rejected and he could go with the one closer to the artwork. It was approved.
  • Princess: The Hopeful began as a parody, with the author reasoning that no-one could take a game about Magical Girls in the Crapsack World that is the Chronicles of Darkness seriously. The fans thought it had serious potential and after expansion and a few Cerebus Retcons it became one of the most popular and acclaimed fan gamelines.

  • The Marx Brothers were originally struggling as a primarily musical act before an appearance in Texas, where the audience left the theatre during a performance to go watch a mule. This outraged the team, and they began breaking from their script to abuse the audience with pointed jokes. Instead of getting angry, the audience ate it up, and the family realized that their real talent lay in comedy.

    Video Games 
  • Ian Bogost created Cow Clicker as a satire of social games like Farmville. The idea was to distill the games down to core mechanics to expose how ridiculous they are. However, not only did Cow Clicker actually became popular (with some people even paying real life money to click their cows more often), but it ended up spawning an entire genre of similar games.
  • Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty could have been titled "You want me to make a sequel even though I don't want to? Here you go. It's about how much the player sucks. I hope that teaches you a lesson" if that weren't so cumbersome. Supposedly, Hideo Kojima has kept this up for the entire franchise, repeatedly trying to sabotage his own games so that he never has to make another one. The fact that he's up to the fifth numbered Metal Gear Solid game (plus a handful of side games), after vowing that the first, second, and third Metal Gear Solid game would be the last Metal Gear game he would ever direct, should indicate roughly how successful this had been. Unfortunately, there had been alleged death threats involved each time he tries to quit. The aforementioned fourth Metal Gear Solid game, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, was filled with "there, happy now?" moments, like Doing In the Wizard of Vamp's unexplained powers in a deliberately unsatisfying way. It got to the point where Kojima wanted to have Snake and Otacon brought in for terrorism charges and executed at the end of Metal Gear Solid 4. His staff refused to work with him until he changed the ending. The way he finally succeeded was not on happy terms — right as the fifth game was finishing up development, he just up and left Konami, fed up with their unfair treatment of employees.
  • Divekick was meant as a spoof to poke fun at the Fighting Game genre and the EVO pro-gaming scene. Instead of being a complicated fighting game with many buttons and combos, the game simply has two commands: Dive and Kick. The game became a huge hit in the EVO scene, because of its simple yet hard-to-master concept — creating many competitive matches. As a result, the creator of the game, in 2013, started heavily promoting it for release on the PlayStation Network and the PC, and it became a main tournament feature at the EVO Championships.
  • This is apparently the story behind the ZX Spectrum version of SQIJ!, widely regarded as one of the worst Spectrum games of all time. The author, Jason Creighton, signed a contract with the publisher to make the game, but later got into an argument and wanted to cancel the contract. He couldn't, so he decided to make use of one of the clauses, and deliberately create the worst game imaginable so that it would get rejected. It was accepted for publication, despite being literally impossible to play due to a Game-Breaking Bug.
  • Because Naughty Dog was sick of Crash Bandicoot for a myriad of reasons, they tried to Torch the Franchise and Run in Crash Team Racing by making the antagonist an alien. They believed people wouldn't take the game seriously and would turn their backs on the game, but instead, it's fondly remembered as one of the best PlayStation games, and the alien in question, Nitros Oxide, became a pretty popular character.
    Jason Ruben: We actually tried to kill Crash. In CTR, we said "What won't anybody believe?" Because this was our last game. "Let's put aliens in. We'll bring in an alien, no one will like Crash after that 'cause there's an alien. This'll be the end, we've jumped the shark, the alien came into CTR." Everybody loved it!
  • By the account of one of the designers of the Nokia N-Gage, he was so sick of Executive Meddling that he decided to submit a joke design based on the infamous Shock Site Goatse. It not only passed, but became the N-Gage's finalized design.

    Web Animation 
  • The cast of Red vs. Blue originally didn't want Becca Frasier to voice Sister, so they sabotaged her audition in an attempt to discourage her by giving her increasingly more and more vulgar lines to see how far she could go before she refused to say them. To their surprise, Becca had no limits at all, and she ended up getting the part.
  • This video theorizes this is what happened with Cat Face and The Annoying Orange. Both started out as darkly comedic satires of saccharine kids shows and loud and obnoxious tween comedy, respectfully. Then the audience for both series ended up consisting of mostly children who unironically liked said content, and they ended up transforming into the very thing they were mocking.


    Web Original 
  • 4chan:
  • The Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris (in which Islamist terrorists attacked a satirical magazine that had printed cartoons of The Prophet Muhammad) led to the proliferation of the Twitter hashtag "#jesuischarlie" ("I am Charlie") in support of the magazine. It grew to be so mawkish and "slacktivistic" that a Twitter user, taking advantage of the death of a police dog in a raid on a terrorist safehouse in Paris, started the hashtag "#jesuischien" ("I am dog") to mock the phenomenon. It was then taken up by many Twitter users who thought that it was sincere.
  • In 2014, a writer for Cracked attempted to create the "Worst Online Dating Profile Ever" on dating website OKCupid. It included such nuggets as claiming her occupation was "partying lol my parents think I'm in law school so they pay all my bills lmao!", "I convinced my ex I was pregnant and he still pays me child support, lolol", and a typical Friday night of hers was "knocking the cups out of homeless people's hands, it's so funny". But the profile picture was one of an attractive friend of the writer. The profile was still deluged with messages from hundreds of men, many of whom still begged for a date after she responded with complete nonsense or repeated insults.

    Web Videos 
  • The Cinema Snob and Phelous teamed up to review Troll 4, a movie that doesn't exist. During the review they put in a lot of cameos from other That Guy with the Glasses contributors, a known Berserk Button for the Fan Dumb, including JewWario's sole line being leaping out of an elevator and declaring "CAMEO!" The creators were surprised when people actually enjoyed the video. This ended up having long-reaching effects, since it broke the back of the Vocal Minority in the fandom who hated crossovers by revealing how small it actually was.
  • TotalBiscuit made an Angrish and exaggerated rage filled WTF Is... video for I Wanna Be the Guy: Gaiden both to make fun of similar videos and to see if his fanbase would recognize it as stupid and dislike it. It became one of his highest rated videos.
  • The Runaway Guys:
    • The LP of Mario Party 4, in Episode 2 of Goomba's Greedy Gala: Chuggaaconroy and ProtonJon are neck and neck for first place, with one star each and Chugga just ahead of Jon by four coins, while the AI player is right in front of the Boo house with enough coins to steal a star from one of them. Aware that the AI will only choose to steal from whoever is officially in first place, they both try to lose as much money as possible before the AI's turn. Chugga loses eight coins by playing the lottery and losing, then landing on a red space, putting Jon ahead of him. Jon goes to the roulette, bribes the Goomba manning the wheel twenty coins to change the outcome... and wins all those coins back, cementing his "lead" and the AI stealing his star.
      Chugga: Even when you are incredibly lucky, you still have shit luck.
    • In Boo's Haunted Bash (Part 2): Chugga, Jon, and the AI are in front of a star. Chugga knows he can't get it, but Jon might be able to before the AI. So during the next mini-game (which is a coin-collecting game), Chugga, who is teamed up with Jon, tries to get Jon away from as many coins as possible. This fails miserably as they not only get enough coins for the star, they actually end up getting more coins than Tim and the AI!
  • The Two Best Friends Play feature Shitty Games Done Slow is pretty much what it sounds like — an Affectionate Parody of Awesome Games Done Quick that focuses on not-so-awesome games and plays them not-so-quickly. But the very first game in the feature was MindJack, and they accidentally beat both their predicted time and the only existing record they could find. They concluded that this was because the game was so unpopular that there was just no competition to Speed Run it.
  • All over the place in Twitch Plays Pokémon:
    • In the original Twitch Plays Pokémon Red, the Mob went right up against the Elite Four without grinding (they tried doing it in the Burned Mansion, but it was time-consuming and too dangerous) — they'd keep losing, but they'd gain a lot of XP in the process. In one such run, they got all the way to Lance's last Pokémon, but their Mons were all so banged up that they figured they didn't have a chance — so they sent out their underleveled Venomoth "ATV" against Lance's powerful Dragonite in an attempt to get wiped out quickly. But Pokemon Red's programming meant that Dragonite would spam whichever move had a type advantage over Venomoth — which, in this case, was Agility, a status-enhancing move that does no damage. This allowed Venomoth to beat Dragonite through Death by a Thousand Cuts and win the fight. Then they got shit-stomped by Blue — but when they returned, things were far different.
    • Twitch Plays Pokémon Red Anniversary was a challenge run where they had to catch all 151 Pokémon. To get money for Poké Balls, they went up against the Elite Four to grind for money, then planned to lose to teleport them back to the entrance with some of the earnings. Instead, they beat the Elite Four and ended up back in Pallet Town.
  • When LoadingReadyRun first moved to YouTube, they did a disconnected bunch of fake viral-bait videos completely unlike their usual sketch comedy as a joke tied into their sitcom series. Then one of them, Nunchuck Jousting, happened to go into rotation as one of those random Internet clips late-night shows run sometimes. The result is that more people have seen this deliberately lowbrow nut-shot gag than everything else they've done put together.
  • Youtuber Let's Game It Out, fond of Videogame Cruelty Potential, decided to run his company into the ground when playing Smartphone Tycoon. He created unergonomic, underpowered, overpriced, ugly phones that were produced in the greatest numbers the game would allow, while working with only the cheapest employees possible, and made every succeeding model identical to the last. Unfortunately, it turned out that the game was so poorly programmed that the phones still sold out regardless; in only a few years, he owned a Mega-Corp worth 993 quadrillion dollars. Variations on "won the game despite deliberately playing as wrong as possible" happen in his videos so often that a lot of his fans suspect the main reason creators keep sending him early access codes is for bug testing.

    Western Animation 
  • When Max and Dave Fleischer were approached by Paramount to produce Superman Theatrical Cartoons, they tried scaring the company off by suggesting that they needed an enormous $100,000 budget for each film, four times what Walt Disney spent on his films. To their shock, Paramount compromised at $50,000 and the Fleischers were committed to the biggest-budget animated Short Film series in Hollywood history.
  • The Powerpuff Girls: Craig McCracken supposedly wrote the "City of Clipsville" episode, which featured one "skit" with the Girls as teenagers dating the Rowdyruff Boys, because he didn't like how overused the plot was becoming in fanfics and wanted to show how absurd it was. The episode actually became one of the most popular in the show's run.
  • Chuck Jones created the Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner cartoons as a way of mocking and satirizing overly-formulaic "chase" cartoons, such as Tom and Jerry. They wound up being some of his most popular cartoons.
  • Aaron McGruder created Uncle Ruckus, an original character, for The Boondocks animated series. He was a Boomerang Bigot meant to be the most hated character on the show. Instead, he became one of the most popular, for all the wrong reasons (and occasionally for the right ones too).
  • Even fans of Clone High who know that the episode "Litter Kills: Literally" is meant to be a harsh satire on shows that introduce a new character just to kill them off for the sake of cheap drama have said that it plays JFK's brokenness so straight that it goes from the show's typical parody of the Very Special Episode to an actual VSE about grief.
  • When approached by the producers of The Simpsons to guest-animate a Couch Gag, John Kricfalusi wasn't entirely enthusiastic, having been a vocal detractor of the show since its earliest days, and his first instinct was to tell them to go jump off a cliff. However, he was intrigued enough by the creative possibilities of doing a couch gag to tell the producers that he'd make one for them, but only on condition that he would have total creative control, that he would produce it himself with a hand-picked selection of animators, and that the producers could not alter one frame of what he sent them. His past experiences with Executive Meddling led him to believe that they'd probably turn him down right away, so he naturally ended up surprised when they actually agreed to his conditions.

  • "Lord" Timothy Dexter (1747-1806) was an eccentric American businessman who owed his success to the fact that people kept giving him deliberately bad advice for business ventures in order to embarrass and financially ruin him, only to be frustrated when he actually followed their advice and made huge profits through sheer dumb luck. For example, he actually sold coal to Newcastle (a coal mining town) at a profit because there just happened to be a miner's strike when he arrived.
  • The City of Pasadena was founded in part by a bankroller who wanted to capitalize on medical tourism, which was popular at the time, and short-sell the land, believing it to be a fad vacation spot. Then the railroad came and it is now one of the biggest cities in California.
  • The Girl Scout detailed in this article wrote a brutally honest and negative review of her organization's cookies. ("The toffee-tastic is a bleak, flavorless, gluten-free wasteland. I'm telling you, it's as flavorless as dirt.") The result? Her sales have skyrocketed, nearly hitting the group's record.
  • Shorting a stock can become an example of this, if the buyer is unlucky. Here's how it works: someone borrows shares of stock from someone else with interest, sells the stock at a high price, and then hopes the stock price goes down so they can buy the stocks back cheap, ultimately making a profit. However, if the price of the shorted stocks goes up, it forces the person who shorted the stock to buy it back at a loss. In short, you lost money because the stock you wanted to fail ended up succeeding.
    • A notorious example occurred in January 2021, when GameStop was one of the most shorted stocks, particularly by hedge funds who were certain of the chain's collapse. This was noticed by a number of Reddit users (specifically the subreddit r/wallstreetbets), who started buying up GameStop's stock en masse, forcing the value of the company's stock through the roof. Because the hedge funds had to buy back massive amounts of stocks all at a loss, this effectively cost the hedge funds billions of dollars, benefitted GameStop in the process (to the ire of those who betted on GameStop failing), and got those who bought the stock just to sell it later a massive amount of money.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Failure To Fail, Fail At Failing, Failed At Failing, Accidental Hit Wonder


Which Answers Are Right

Miles Morales failed a true/false quiz with a shocking score of "0." But, as his teacher points out, realistically the only way someone could get all the answers wrong on a true/false quiz is to have known which ones were right. She changes his score to a 100, telling him he's trying to quit and she's not going to let him.

How well does it match the trope?

4.95 (65 votes)

Example of:

Main / SpringtimeForHitler

Media sources: