WikEd fancyquotes.pngQuotesBug-silk.pngHeadscratchersIcons-mini-icon extension.gifPlaying WithUseful NotesMagnifier.pngAnalysisPhoto link.pngImage LinksHaiku-wide-icon.pngHaikuLaconic

Satirical "How To" guides. The instructions are faulty, or the person following them does it horribly, or the instructions are loaded with Irony about how not to do it. One sure thing, the point is to laugh, not to teach.

Compare Mockumentary, Little-Known Facts, Fauxtivational Poster, Faux Documentary. Contrast: Documentary.

Examples of "Faux To" Guide include:

Comic Books

  • Though the earliest issues of MAD sold poorly, by 1954 it had attracted a slew of imitators (one of them, Panic, published by EC Comics, MAD's own publisher). MAD took notice and showed its readers how to make a "typical-type lampoon" of Julius Caesar, with captions pointing out all the clichés routinely used (and in this case exaggerated) in such parodies.


  • The Robert Benchley "How To" shorts from the 1930s and 1940s (How to Eat, How to Sleep, etc.).
  • Also some of the Pete Smith shorts were How Tos. (How to prepare a meal for guests at the last minute.)
  • Tim Conway's straight-to-video Dorf on Golf.


  • The Compleet Idoit's Guied for Dumies (sic)
  • The Complete World Knowledge series includes hobbies for asthmatic children, how to tell the different types of werewolf apart, information on hermit crab racing, advice on cons, advice on de-lousing your children, advice on de-axolotling your plumbing (do not look for too long at an axolotl or you will become one), how to buy a computer, how to cook an owl, how to remember any name (especially the name John Hodgman), the secret of your identity and how you got that terrible scar, etc.
  • How Not to Write A Novel is a self-help book that is written like one of these.
  • How to Ruin Your Life by Ben Stein is an inversion, in that it actually describes how people ruin their lives to help people avoid such pitfalls.
  • The Zombie Survival Guide offers practical advice, albeit for a completely fictional situation.
  • Taming of the Screw by Dave Barry is a guide of this kind for DIY home improvement projects. He also used to write a recurring column called Ask Mr. Language Person which did this for grammar.
    • Also Dave Barry's The Only Travel Guide You'll Ever Need
  • How To Be A Superhero was part this, part satire of Superhero tropes.
    • Similarly, inversely, there is also How To Be A Villain.
  • The Action Heros Handbook—The information is fairly accurate, but it advises you for situations you'll probably never run into yourself, and it's not a good idea to try any of it yourself.
  • How to Succeed In Business Without Really Trying, though some of the advice seems like it might work.
  • In the computer world, Mr. Bunny's Big Cup o' Java(TM) and Mr. Bunny's Guide to Active X by Carleton Egremont, Jr. describes those technologies in the style of a children's book. Both are funny only to those who already understand how they work.
  • The Journal of Irreproducible Results cheerfully offered instructions for how you can build a thermonuclear device in your own home in ten easy steps.

Live Action TV

  • Dick Loudon in Newhart wrote how-to guides. They were straight how to guides, but one episode had the town ready to burn them because they thought it helped a man escape from prison. Then they read the books, and wanted to burn them because they were boring. Fortunately, they realized that that was setting a bad precedent.
  • "Stephen's Sound Advice" on The Colbert Report includes such advice as, "Wash your computer thoroughly to avoid viruses." The advice frequently focuses on BEES!, whether they're relevant to the situation or not.
    • All-purpose advice for any situation: FUCK 'EM!
  • Parodied in M*A*S*H, with a guide on how to disarm a bomb.

 Guide: Cut the blue wire.

Hawkeye: *Cuts wire.*

Guide: But first remove the fuse.


 Crow: (reading from bomb instruction manual) "Cut the blue wire."

Joel cuts the wire, and gets silly-stringed in the face.

Crow: "But first, cut the red wire. Got you, scrawny man." (gets a glare from Joel) But that's what it said!

    • Other instructions included "Most very kindly, find the Lookie Switch which is nice and sitting there with green label which leaves you singing" and "Carefully disregard and do not do the very wrong thing or much confusion will result...with sparks, flowers and loud report on some models."
  • The Monty Python's Flying Circus sketch 'How to Do It', which consisted of extremely vague instructions on how to do particular things, such as cure the world of all disease ('Well, first of all become a doctor and discover a marvelous cure for something, and then, when the medical profession really starts to take notice of you, you can jolly well tell them what to do and make sure they get everything right so there'll never be any diseases ever again.')
    • Also, there's "How Not To Be Seen", among others.
    • Also also, there's the little-known record "Teach Yourself Heath."
    • Pre-Python, John Cleese starred as the host of a short called "How to Irritate People".
  • The old sketch comedy show Out Of Control had a reoccurring segment called "How Not to Do Things".
  • A good deal of the humor on Look Around You involves startlingly unsound or dangerous procedures for science experiments.

Stand Up

  • One George Carlin comedy routine consisted of a list of nonsensical "how-to" books, including "How to Annoy Everyone" and "How to Kill a Rat With an Oboe".

Tabletop Games

  • Warhammer 40000: The Imperial Infantryman's Uplifting Primer. A tactical manual so chock-full of propaganda, misinformation, misunderstandings and outright lies, no-one in-'verse thinks of it as anything other than a glorified roll of toilet paper.


Video Games

  • It's possible to make one of these in the Fallout 3. When working with Moira, you can give her "evil" answers when she asks how your exploits went. Popular answers include heavy radiation poisoning actually feels quite good, and is healthy for you, and that disarming a mine is surprisingly easy if you just step on it. Needless to say, the resulting survival guide ends up being a how-to guide for killing yourself.
  • A fake guide to a video game is sometimes called a "FWAK".[1] See Urban Legend of Zelda for more information.

Web Comics

  • The Seventy Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries[2] from Schlock Mercenary, including such - admittedly sage - advice as "Pillage, THEN burn." and "A soft answer turneth away wrath. Once wrath is looking the other way, shoot it in the head."
  • Basic Instructions (as seen above) runs on this. The advice text is usually genuine, while the pictures usually show it applied badly.
  • DM of the Rings has author comments that occasionally do this, generally in a deadpan or sarcastic way.

Web Original


Western Animation

  • Classic Goofy cartoons used to do this with a number of subjects (mostly sports). It was given a Shout-Out in a Goof Troop episode, and there are several examples in House of Mouse (such as "How to Haunt a House," which begins with Goofy getting hit by a car and dying), and "How to Hook Up Your Home Theater" showed before National Treasure 2.
    • According to the story, the narrator for the original "How to" cartoons wasn't told he was doing voicework for Goofy cartoons, but instead voicing serious how-to films (out of a fear that he'd reject doing voicework for comedy). He supposedly got quite angry when he found out what he'd done the work for.
    • Goofy is not the only Disney character who has done this. Donald Duck appeared on "How to Have an Accident in the Home" and "How to Have an Accident at Work".
  • An entire episode of Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law ("Sebben and Sebben Employee Orientation") features the cast in a sendup of cheesy workplace orientation videos.
  • The SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Krusty Krab Training Video".
  • The Private Snafu cartoons prepared by Warner Bros for the Army-Navy Screen Magazine. A series of training films that show how to behave during wartime by showing how the worst soldier in the army gets it wrong.
  • 'Hi! I'm Troy McClure. You might remember me from such self-help videos as "Smoke Yourself Thin" and "Get Confident, Stupid"'
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.