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Screwball Serum

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A mysterious concoction, often made by a Lethal Chef, that probably should not be rated as fit for human consumption. Someone, intentionally or not, ingests some of it, and strange things happen to body and mind. Unfortunately, side effects may be permanent in some cases.

Somewhat similar in effect to Mushroom Samba, but the weird effects here tend to happen more literally than metaphorically. See also Intoxication Ensues and Gargle Blaster. May or may not contain Blazing Inferno Hellfire Sauce.


Not to be confused with Psycho Serum.


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  • A commercial from 8TV Malaysia's early days involves a skit where a tea lady offers all sort of strange concoctions which everyone except the sane nerd of the office orders. The tea lady then explains that 8TV is different from the other channels, and the sane nerd, still a little unconvinced, ends up ordering wasabi tea.

    Anime and Manga 
  • Anthy's curry in Revolutionary Girl Utena—not only explosive, but causes the people who eat it to swap bodies.
  • In one episode of Sgt. Frog, Keroro attempts to make a traditional New Year's soup by combining a bunch of different recipes, but the resulting concoction turns Angol Mois into a smiling maniac who forces the soup down everyone else's throats, even when it proves nearly-lethal to Keronians.
  • Akiko's special jam in Kanon, so much so that it received a nod in CLANNAD After Story.
  • Sadaharu Inui from The Prince of Tennis is infamous among his peers for making disgusting vegetable juices. He often uses them as punishment for players that fail their training exercises. One drink was even called "Penal Tea". The only two known survivors of these drinks are Tezuka and Fuji, though once even Fuji was KOed by one of the drinks and swore "never again" to be incapacitated by it by winning the next outing event.
  • In Martian Successor Nadesico, Megumi's opening gambit in winning Akito's heart through his stomach is an "energy drink" that's one of these, made from a nonsense list of horrible ingredients. She gives it to him as he's begging for something to wash the taste of Yurika's equally horrific Lethal Chef fare out of his mouth. It really, really does not help. In Japanese, the ingredients list is a combination of folk "potency" (prehistoric Viagra) remedies.
  • The ungodly "energy drink" seems to be a fairly common trope in anime, and even Super Robot Wars uses it, going so far as to include it as an item with very unusual effects.
  • The suicide sauce from Air Gear. From the ingredients we heard, we know it has ginger ale, coffee with milk, plum-flavored seaweed tea, chestnut juice, raw egg, spicy barbecue sauce (which, it should be noted, caused Kazu to freak out and say "He's gonna kill us dead!"), chipotle mayonnaise, oyster sauce, fish sauce, and habanaro pepper sauce. Then, upon losing a race, Ikki was forced to gulp it down while wearing something that forced his mouth to stay open. Yuck...
  • The Kamogawa energy drink in Lagrange: The Flower of Rin-ne is deadly to anyone who isn't Madoka.
  • In Future GPX Cyber Formula, Asuka made parsley and durian juice that is meant for Hayato, who she said that he's lacking in vitamins but he doesn't want want to drink because of the smell and she drinks the juice instead and a few seconds later, she faints from the bitterness of the drink.

    Comic Books 
  • Tintin: Formula Fourteen in Tintin: Land of Black Gold is supposed to be an additive to petroleum that makes it incredibly explosive, but the Thompsons mistake it for aspirin. Their hair starts growing very rapidly and in bizarre colors, and their mouths emit bubbles.
  • Asterix: the renowned Secret Potion that turns the Gauls into unstoppable fighters. Plus other druidic beverages.
    • Happens in Asterix and the Laurel Wreath, with the added twist that Obelix, who is an incredibly overweight Big Eater, complains that it was "somewhat insipid" while the rest of the house turns technicolour and incredibly lethargic. However, their owner's drunkard son is cured of his massive hangover by this concoction, which eventually led to the decline and fall of the Roman Empire.
    • After being whacked over the head with a menhir, Getafix starts producing these instead of the Super Serum in Asterix and the Big Fight. They mainly cause people to change colours and, in one occasion, fly.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The 1950's screwball comedy Monkey Business, where a scientist's lab monkey accidentally creates a youth serum (or at least, it makes the drinker act like a kid again).
  • The A-Team: Murdock's "special sauce". Two of the key ingredients are Cordite and anti-freeze, and it has been known to cause temporary facial paralysis.

  • The chewing gum meal in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which works wonderfully until the blueberry dessert stage...
  • George's Marvellous Medicine, also by Roald Dahl is essentially built around amusing instances of this trope.
  • There's an Australian poem about 'Feral Mixed Grill', made from virtually every creature in the Australian outback (and probably illegal, given many of them are endangered or protected). It tends to turn the consumer into an outback animal themselves, temporarily.
  • Discworld:
    • Nanny Ogg's chocolate pudding in Maskerade. All you need to know about its effects is the phrase "My boots caught fire on the second lap."
    • Most of her cooking seems to have a somewhat... enhancing effect. It's never explicitly stated what the Surprise of her "Bananana Soup Surprise" is, but apparently glancing at a ruler will help you visualize it.
    • And the Carrot and Oyster Pie; carrots to let you see in the dark, and oysters to give you something to look at.
    • "Wellll, they starts out as Maids of Honor... but they ends up as Tarts."
    • The Uberwaldean heroic remedy, splot, which is a strictly herbal drink containing mineral extracts and therefore health-giving and invigorating. note . It is non-alcoholic because no alcohol can hope to survive in it.
    • The non-alcoholic cocktails created by Willikins the butler certainly mimic the beneficial effects of alcohol for the recovering alcoholic Sam Vimes.
    • Moist von Lipwig, who knows about splot the hard way, is given a goblin beverage in Raising Steam that turns him into a fearless berserk warrior for just long enough.
    • Before that, King Verence had also been turned into a berserker thanks to a beverage of the Nac Mac Feegles in Carpe Jugulum.
    • And Klatchian Coffee would certainly qualify as a Screwball Serum: it not only induces instant sobriety, it pushes the drinker a long way out on the other side into the Knurd state of being anti-drunk.
  • George MacDonald Fraser's Flashman gets one of these from a lover who needs him not to be a coward for just long enough.
  • Ms Mush's mushroom surprise in the Wayside School series.
  • In one of the bad endings to Twistaplot #12: Journey to Vernico 5 your character, having accidentally ended up piloting a ship full of dangerous contraband from the planet Japponn, decided to sample some Choco-Raspberry Lunch Meat that was two years out of date and mutated into a giant green and purple celery-like plant that smelled exactly like a chocolate-raspberry milkshake.
  • The ton-tongue toffee in Harry Potter, and numerous other so-called sweets made by the Weasley twins. Caused Dudley's tongue to continuously grow until Arthur got it under control.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Toddlers & Tiaras has a somewhat troubling example. Alana's mother routinely gives her "go-go juice" at the beginning of pageants, which is Pixy Stix dissolved in a mixture of Mountain Dew and Red Bull. As expected, the child goes a little bit nuts.
  • The cast of Mystery Science Theater 3000 invented the Killer Shrew, a drink that combined about twelve different types of sugar in a blender (chocolate ice cream, Captain Crunch with Crunchberries, peanut M&Ms, Mrs. Butterworths syrup, circus peanuts, Mr. Pibb, Marshmallow Peeps, Sweet Tarts, vanilla cake frosting, Good'n'Plenty, and "garnished with a wind-up shrew"). Joel had one taste, went into diabetic shock and passed out; Frank, on the other hand, had one sip and went hyperglycemic, singing "Ladies' Night" and attempting to dance with Dr. Forrester.
  • In The Young Ones, Vyvyan invented a potion "where when the patient drinks it he turns into an axe-wielding, homicidal maniac! It's basically a cure. For not being an axe-wielding, homicidal maniac. The potential market's enormous!" He stores it in a Coke can in the fridge "so nobody'd drink it by mistake". Neil leaves it on top of the fridge, observing " I just bet a bit later on somebody does drink that and turns into an axe-wielding, homicidal maniac!" Later on, someone drinks it and turns into an axe-wielding, homicidal maniac.
  • Top Gear has made what James May dubbed the "Bloody Awful" (Jeremy Clarkson, who came up with the recipe, called it "a man's V8 smoothie", while Hammond suggested "A Desperate Shag in a Skip"). It consists of several pounds of beef (raw, with bones), a dozen chillies, a half-gallon of bovril, what looks to be about two cups of Tabasco sauce, and, for extra bite, a BRICK. It was all mashed together with a V8-powered 'blender' of Clarkson's design. James May drank some down, because he is A MAN. Apparently, it wasn't particularly pleasant - May would admit in a much-later interview that he felt like it took years off his life.
    Clarkson: That'll put testes on your chest, that will.
    Hammond: It's put hairs on my eyeballs!

    Newspaper Comics 
  • In Bloom County Oliver's father mistakenly drinks the extract of dandelions that Oliver was about to experiment on. It causes him to hallucinate that Erik Estrada is coming out of his belly button and later, while chewing Oliver out, envisions Brook Shields' head on his son's body.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In the Scarred Lands supplement Shelzar: City of Sins, one of the locations examined is a bar called Cheny's that's infamous for its coffee. Despite it tasting like oil, it's guaranteed to put hair on your chest. The only downside is that it seems to do so regardless of race, sex, or species.

    Video Games 
  • Akiko's 'special' jam in Kanon. Its contents and recipe known only to her, side effects on non-Akiko eaters include a distorted sense of reality, a visible aura of discolouration, and the violent urge to run away screaming at the sight of more of the stuff. To be completely fair, though, she's otherwise a very good cook.
    • Akiko's jam even makes an appearance in Eternal Fighter Zero as Akiko's Final Memory attack. Characters from Kanon that already know how horrible her jam is have special reactions during the attack; other characters simply eat it unwittingly.
  • World of Warcraft gives us the Nogginfogger Elixir diet drink—as in, it shrinks the ingester, makes them lighter than air, or turns them into a skeleton.
    • Then you have Deviate Fish (no, not THAT deviant) , which can heal or buff the ingester—or shrink him, make him sleepy, or make him feel like throwing a party. Savory Deviate Delights, which are cooked versions of this fish, turn one into a pirate or a ninja.
  • Making one of these to escape the Forced Transformation inflicted on you by the eponymous Doctor Q is the entire point of The Secret Island of Dr. Quandary. The ingredients you might have to find could include frog eggs, candle wax, sunscreen, and/or tax papers.
  • In the RPG Dungeon Crawler Class of Heroes, where food items (riceballs, bacon, french toast, prosciutto, etc.) replace the usual findings of health potions and the like, despite the dish not being "mysterious," per se, finding the delicacy of frog liver and consuming it will cause the party to "escape the dungeon."
  • Rune Factory 4 features the "Mood Reversal Medicine" Town Event in which you're given a potion which flips a person's personality by scent. You're tasked with delivering it to Arthur so he can properly dispose of it, and while you are told to avoid other people you can still talk to other people before doing so. If you do they'll become affected, resulting in general hilarity: one girl starts acting like a robot, for example, while the resident tough guy declares his love for you.
  • inFAMOUS: Sasha's black tar. It is later found out that this is how Reapers are made. Besides the original drug dealers, every day citizens are taken hostage, get black tar poured on them and then go insane and become Reapers.
  • In The Elder Scrolls series, the most popular means of becoming a lich is to drink a potion made with numerous rare and powerful magical ingredients. Some of the rumored ingredients in the potion include the tongue of a dragon, blood-tainted herbs, Akaviri poison, dust from saints, sheaves of human skin... The result is a transformation into an extremely magically powerful undead wizard.
  • Call of Duty: Zombies has the Perk-a-Colas. The first map they debut in confirm they have been chemically altered, and grant the player a number of useful (though sometimes not so useful) perks and abilities, such as increased health, increased reload speed and so on. The system was switched up in Black Ops 4 to focus on those added abilities rather than standard stat increases. The tastes of the drinks varies from Perk to Perk, though they all supposedly taste awful by Black Ops 4.
    • Black Ops 4 also introduces Elixers, a creation of the Chaos Story and a replacement of the Gogglegums from 3. Instead of perks, they grant the drinker a number of effects (spawning a powerup, changing your gun, allowing purchases for free and so on), and also are repeatedly noted to taste foul.

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • Dr. Zitbag's Transylvania Pet Shop — the doctor mixes up a potion with "enough E-numbers to drive anybody loopy" so that Zombunny will actually get up and go deliver Easter eggs,instead of just sitting there. It works a little too well, as it's transformed into an egg-throwing whirlwind that pelts everyone with chocolate.
  • To transform into cartoon hero Super Chicken, millionaire playboy Henry Cabot Henhouse ingests Super Sauce (served up by sidekick Fred from a martini glass) - he goes through wild contortions in the 'transformation', but doesn't make any notable change.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In an episode, Bart and Milhouse drink a Squishee "made entirely of syrup". It is treated exactly like a Gargle Blaster, and even leads to a Drunken Montage.
    • And there's the episode where Bart and Milhouse are in the Flanders house unsupervised, and they discover Ned's Beatles collection; they each down a can of 40-year-old Beatles-themed novelty soft drink, and Bart's causes him to briefly hallucinate about Milhouse as John Lennon.
  • In the Buzzy The Crow cartoon, Cat-Choo, Buzzy makes a concoction of mustard, black pepper, hot sauce, and other spicy foods for a "remedy" for Katnip's cold. When Buzzy finishes stirring it, the spoon has completely melted. After drinking it, Katnip's tail shoots out fireworks like a cannon.
  • Regular Show:
    • Rigby's homemade Rig-Juice. It's the counter to an overdose of Genius Serum they took that made them too smart to understand anyone.
    • "The Mississippi Queen". A concoction so absurdly spicy that Mordecai, Rigby, and Benson spent the rest of the party they were attending experiencing a Disney Acid Sequence played to the tune of "Mississippi Queen" by 70's rockband Mountain. It even came with a little umbrella.