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Two characters compete for a slot at a talent show or something else requiring concrete perceivable skills. One is very talented; the other is, as far as anyone can tell, hopeless.

When the pick is made, the "hopeless" person gets the slot.

This is always the case when someone is Bested At Bowling.

See Also: Crack Defeat, Dark Horse Victory

Examples of Ironic Inversion include:


  • In Turk 182!, the titular character is persuaded by his new girlfriend to go to a local TV broadcast station to tell his story to the public of why he's been waging his clandestine graffiti-based political smear campaign. The thing is, by that time, Turk 182 has become something of a hero in New York City, so when he arrives at the station, there are already at least twenty other men there, of a wide variety of sizes, ages, and garbs (including a balding middle-aged man dressed as a caped "Super Turk"), each claiming to be the elusive vigilante. A news reporter watching things unfold in the lobby from behind a large potted plant is able to identify the real Turk because, not only is Turk not going out of his way to hog the proverbial spotlight for himself, he clearly doesn't even want to be on TV at all.

Live Action TV

  • Saved by the Bell: Zack receives a 1500 SAT score and is accepted by Stansbury (an obvious Shout-Out to Stanford) ahead of straight A student Jesse, who had 1205 on hers (the exact opposite, of course, of criteria that many colleges and universities use for judging "overachievers" and "underachievers").
  • The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air: Will and his never-seen-before-or-since comedian friend go to an interview for a comedy club. Will gets the gig by accident (then bombs leading to An Aesop).
  • 8 Simple Rules: Bridget and Kerry try out for cheerleading. Bridget is the clear favorite, but Kerry gets the spot.
  • In an episode of Ready or Not, Busy got the opportunity to audition for something Amanda wanted after a talent scout found her little bit of silliness during a set mishap more entertaining than the actual play Amanda was in.

Western Animation

  • In Sixteen, when Caitlin wanted to apply for a job at Albatross & Finch, Jonesy comes along for moral support. She gets passed over in favour of Jonesy for his blase attitude.
  • Hey Arnold! did something similar, with Stinky sitting out an audition for a soda commercial and cheering Arnold on, but the powers that be end up rejecting every single auditioner and pick Stinky. Of course, there's a reason behind that. (And they would do it again with Helga, the only kid in class who doesn't want to try out for modeling, ending up getting picked by a model scout over those who actually wanted to get the job.)
    • Also in "Cool Party": Arnold is on classmate Rhonda's "Cool List" (and has thus received an invitation to her party), yet his best friend Gerald, "the definition of cool", is on her "Geek List". (Rhonda's explanation: he ran for class president against her.)
  • Kim Possible, "Job Unfair" does it with a twist: At a career fair, Ron and Kim get assigned jobs. One of them gets secret agent... which bewilders Kim, since she got janitor. It turns out that the janitor acting as her mentor was trying to teach her to deactivate a weather machine and was also Ron's mentor.
  • The Simpsons; A flashback scene shows that Sideshow Bob got his job as Krusty's right-hand man during his brother Cecil's failed audition - waiting offstage, aloof in a three-piece suit, Krusty threw a pie at him to show that "pie takes are only funny if the sap's got dignity", and was so amused by his reaction that he hired him.
  • The Weekenders, "Talent Show": Lor The Ditz has been selected for a local talent show with an act involving her playing guitar and singing "Home on the Range", yet artistic girl genius Tish, with a dulcimer act, wasn't. The snub is never explained, but may have something to do with the Crack Defeat at the end.

Real Life

  • Christine "Moose" McGlade went to a Canadian TV audition only to support a friend only to become one of the stars of You Can't Do That on Television.
  • Gene Simmons--a.k.a. "The Demon"--from KISS tells the story of the band's rise to stardom and the famous fire-breathing bit. He notes that when asked who wanted to learn how to do it, he got picked because he was the only one who didn't jump at the opportunity.
    • American Idol winner David Cook went along with his brother to cheer for him as he auditioned. Obviously, it didn't go so well for his brother.
  • Would you believe that this was how Johnny Depp's career launched? He was driving his buddy Jackie Earle Haley to an audition when Wes Craven saw him and asked him to do Nightmare. The rest is history.
    • Apparently that's just an urban legend. Jackie Earle Haley himself says that isn't true and has no idea how that rumor got started.
    • There's a similar story about Mel Gibson - his friend was auditioning for Mad Max, and Mel was just his ride, but, owing to the fact that he'd been in a barfight the previous night, Mel was pretty bruised and messed up, which got him an audition of his own since it fit with the theme.
    • Michael Clarke Duncan was bodyguard of Bruce Willis. and was hired when accompanying him to the set of Armageddon.
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