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Surrounded by Smart People

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Bob has just been invited to attend the Elaborate University High for the Gifted. He himself is only a normal guy, but his common sense with an experiment involving mutant beavers running amok in his hometown caught the attention of the prep school. Bob now finds that his roommate is a ninth-degree black belt and can build a nuclear reactor with a paper clip and a rubber hose. The classes here are based in nanotechnology and xenobiology, and physical education involves math problems in Ancient Egyptian. Bob now has to deal with all this weirdness and may or may not have to fix whatever this group of geniuses throw at him.

Bob is now Surrounded by Smart People.

While the Only Sane Man is usually Surrounded by Idiots, this guy is an Everyman who finds himself in a group or place filled with people smarter and/or more skilled than he is. The Only Sane Man usually has to deal with the fallout of all that smartness in one place, often being the voice of reason in the group. This person may have a military or police-based background, serving as the badass among the smart folk.

The cop of the Cop and Scientist is often this trope. See also Only Sane Employee, which frequently overlaps with this trope. For when an already genius-level character ends up in this setting with characters who are as equally smart as they are, see Normal Fish in a Tiny Pond.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Haruhi Suzumiya, Kyon is the only non-superpowered member of the S.O.S. Brigade, and many of the events they get caught up in, tend to be over his head. As such, he often has to rely on Yuki's Technobabble explanations, or Koizumi whenever he can't understand Yuki, to get a handle on things. Mikuru also chips in, as much as regulation will allow since most of what she knows is "classified".
  • Zenkichi from Medaka Box. While the people around him are certainly quirky, their abilities can't really be denied. Akune and Kikaijima are both scholarship students and specials, Medaka herself is talented at everything as an abnormal. Plus the Class 13, who are all incredibly talented in one area (though at a price). He is able to keep up with them with his abnormal amount of determination.


  • In Rama II all the astronauts are 1 in 100 re intelligence or more, and Nicole, the viewpoint character, is around 1 in 1000. However, Wakefield's score of +5.58 on an intelligence test indicates he is one in 10^5.58, that is, in a group smaller than one in 100,000 of the population, which puts him near the top, and fellow cosmonaut Sabatini is 1 in 10,000, and so is Officer Brown, leaving Nicole in the middle of the pack, though she puts little stock in the tests per se. This series follows the trend where three of the brightest are the most irascible, while Nicole is a heart, and a foil for the most antagonistic of the lot, though the crew is mostly agreeable people. The cosmonaut team is well educated, highly trained for these particular jobs - see pilot, engineer, historian of the spacecraft, and this impresses Nicole and gives the sense of a competency filled place, notwithstanding the mild personal troubles. As life science officer, Nicole herself is skilled in the use of robots to monitor the cosmonauts' condition and shares the education gained from graduating from the cosmonaut academy with this cohort.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Syfy show Eureka, Sheriff Carter often has to deal with the weirdness caused by the geniuses living in the town. The sheriff himself is a former U.S Marshal.
  • In Knight Rider, Michael Knight is friends with an educated British man, a Wrench Wench, and an artificially intelligent car.
    • This also occurs in the 2008 Knight Rider series, where the main character is surrounded by an AI expert, a woman who can speak six languages, a computer whiz, and a Deadpan Snarker Ford Mustang.
  • Sherlock: John, definitely. Wife's an assassin, best friend's a detective, and....well, yeah. He doubles as an Only Sane Man due to the fact that Sherlock's weirdness gets him into trouble and the like.
  • The whole concept behind Head of the Class.
  • Penny in The Big Bang Theory qualifies, being the only non-science geek in the group. That's pretty much the entire basis for her character, really.
    • Also Howard, to a lesser extent. Sure, he has an MSc in Engineering, but that's still poor compared to Sheldon, Leonard, Raj, Amy, and Bernadette (ie. the entire remaining main cast) who all have PhDs in their fields.
  • Booth in Bones, as the only non-scientist in the main cast.
  • Steve Harrington in Stranger Things. A lot of the heroes in the show are nerds or geniuses, while Steve is a Book Dumb jock. This is most apparent in Season 3 when he's grouped with three of the smartest characters: resident science nerd Dustin, Cunning Linguist Robin, and math and politics prodigy Erica.

    Video Games 
  • James Vega from Mass Effect 3. James is a self-admitted grunt on a team of scientific experts, technical geniuses, proven leaders and tacticians, and galactic saviors in general. James is also the only member of the team with no experience fighting Reapers.
  • Danganronpa:
    • Makoto Naegi of Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc. An average Joe by his own admission, sheer luck gets him into Hope's Peak, where everybody else is the "Ultimate" in their chosen field.
    • Played with in Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, where this role is filled by Hinata. As the designated "???" Ultimate, he doesn't know what his talent is while everyone else is certain of theirs. He's also the only kid in the group that was a Reserve student, i.e. from the part of the school where Average Joes are admitted if they have enough cash. This is also inverted with his Kamukura personality, who was modified into the most talented person in Hope's Peak— but thanks to his lack of emotion, he considers himself Surrounded by Idiots.

  • In Girl Genius, Moloch von Zinzer is surrounded by incredibly intelligent "sparks" who can dream up wonders of science before breakfast. However, when an experiment goes horribly awry, he's the only one to think of pulling the plug instead of panicking and shouting, "Nothing can stop it now!!!"

    Western Animation 
  • Mega Man: Fully Charged: Aki's father, sister, and best friend are all robotics experts. Even his crush excels at school, whereas he struggles to the point that his family has even hired tutors for him several times. Given that he's a robot, one has to wonder why it would have been a good idea to program him like that, other than to make him seem more human.
  • In the first regular episode of The Simpsons, "Bart the Genius", Bart is mistaken for a genius after he cheats on a test and is enrolled in a school for prodigies.

    Real Life 
  • Go to any Mensa event in real life.
  • Visiting the campus of a university or college can feel this way.