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Two out of Three Ain't Bad

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"I want you,
I need you,
But there ain't no way I'm ever gonna love you.
Now don't be sad,

There are three things you should know about this page:

  1. This is a Stock Phrase often used in comedy.
  2. It is used for when there are three things that a character wanted and one or two of them didn't turn out the way they expected.
  3. This is TV Tropes Millionth Trope! Congratulations! You've won one gazillion dollars!


Okay, well, two out of three ain't bad.

Also, usually the one that went wrong was the most important one, e.g. "Well, he's got Super-Toughness all right, and he doesn't give up, but the controllable part... well, Two Out Of Three Aint Bad."

Two Out of Three Examples Ain't Bad

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  • A community college course list once had an English course called "Writing For Fun And Profit... Or One Out Of Two Isn't Bad".

    Anime and Manga 
  • Played with in the English dub of Martian Successor Nadesico, when Ryoko reports that two members of her three-woman squad are accounted for, and even says the line. She is immediately countered by the missing Izumi (who ended up in the giant toolbox Ryoko was towing), who chimes in: "It is if you're the third!"

    Comic Books 
  • Judge Dredd: In "America", the rebellious America Jara points out during a college lecture she's attending that the Judges of Mega-City One have taken away almost all the principles that the old America was founded on: "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness" has become a dark joke. The teacher sheepishly says that at least they're still alive, and 1 out of 3 isn't bad. And after the "Day of Chaos" arc, even that concession has become a bit questionable...
  • Laff-A-Lympics: The cover for the first comic describes the teams as "two teams of funtastic heroes and one team of these guys! (well, two out of three isn't bad)"

    Fan Works 
  • Dumbledore's Army:
    Snape: What do you want?
    Serena: Voldemort dead, a new Firebolt 1500, and to be the Potion Mistress here at Hogwarts. Voldemort will have to wait, as will the Firebolt. But hey, one out of three isn't bad to start.
  • In Fighting Back Sirius is brought from Azkaban to the Ministry for questioning after Pettigrew is captured.
    Madame Bones: Sirius Black.
    Sirius: Wassat. I was having the best dream I've had in years. There were no dementors and I was clean. [Looks at dirty hands] Well one out of two ain't bad.
  • In Harry's Dirty Little Secret the Ministry decides to forcibly marry Harry to the highest bidder so they can afford to pay settlements to all of the people who filed paternity suits against him. Ron comments that he hopes Harry's spouse-to-be is rich, good-looking and not a prat. When Draco wins the auction, Hermione comments that "Two out of three isn't bad".
  • In Harry's Guardian Angel Samantha looks up Harry's symptoms and announces that he has salmonella. When he tries to protest that he doesn't have all the symptoms listed, she replies that sometimes you only have six out of seven and that "six out of seven isn't bad".
  • Her Biggest Mistake:
    James: This is our daughter. She was born on April 1st, bringing a bit of joy to Uncle Fred on his birthday, but I'll tell you about that later. She's got her mum's wonderful eyes and my impossible hair. Poor girl, although one out of two isn't all bad.
  • In Let's Try Again Mr. Weasley wonders where he went wrong with Ron and Ginny's upbringing and Percy comments that five out of seven isn't bad.
  • In Mythic Alliance Draco thinks about how he expected to be a Slytherin, the most popular and best student, the best Quidditch player and the handsomest person at Hogwarts, then decides that two out of five isn't bad.
  • The N'awlins Connection:
    Hermione: I can't believe that Krum fired those curses after you told him that the dragons wouldn't fight too hard if they used indirect attacks.
    Harry: He doesn't really know me, you know. Also, his actions bit him in the butt since he was the most seriously injured. Cedric and Fleur played along just fine. Two out of three isn't bad.
  • Son of the Sannin: During the Fourth Ninja War, Edo Tensei!Kakuzu launches a fiery blast at Shino, Kiba and Tamaki. Shino manages to evade it, but the others seemingly don't, prompting Kakuzu to quote the trope (at least until it turns out the others slipped underground to save themselves.)
  • Played for drama in Thousand Shinji. When Asuka fights the nine MP-Evas she kills eight. While she dies at the hands of the ninth, she thinks that "eight out of nine isn't so bad."
    Eight out of nine... that's not bad...
  • In The Vanishing Cabinet of Time Harry is betrothed to four girls, each from a different Hogwarts House, and Hermione suggests this might be a prelude to House unity. Daphne replies that most of the other Slytherins would never go for it and "Three out of four ain't bad."

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Mars Attacks!: Shortly after Congress is blown up, the President (played by Jack Nicholson) reminds the American people that "we still got two outta three branches of the government workin' for us, and that ain't bad."
  • The tagline for the movie Made in America:
    She wanted a sperm donor who was tall, black, and handsome. One out of three ain't bad. (She got Ted Danson.)

  • Good Omens: the main female character finds out that the man she was fated to fall in love with, whom she hoped would be the proverbial "tall, dark and handsome" guy, is in fact only tall and dark. She tells herself, "Two out of three isn't bad."
  • Soul Music had the gag about Sex, Drugs and Music with Rocks In. "I haven't had sex." "My dad would kill me if I did drugs." "Well, one out of three ain't bad."
  • In Spock's World, a Vulcan asks if Kirk is ready for the referendum about secession. Kirk responds, "Ready, willing and able." McCoy comments, "At least two out of three ain't bad."

    Live Action TV 
  • Darren Stevens from Bewitched once said this after noting that while his mother-in-law hates him, his wife and daughter love him very much.
  • In The George Lopez Show, this is used when George finds out that Benny lied to him, and his dad is actually alive.
    George "I just want a muffin, some coffee, to know why you never told me my dad was alive."
    Benny [tosses him a muffin] "Here. One outta three ain't bad."
  • In the Gilligan's Island episode "The Hunter", the Castaways are trying to reassure themselves that Gilligan will escape from the eponymous character.
    Skipper: He'll never catch him. My little buddy is too fast.
    Mr. Howell: And cunning.
    Professor: And shifty.
    Skipper: And smart!
    Mr. Howell: Three out of four, that's not bad.
  • In one Magnum, P.I. Christmas episode T.C. refers to Magnum and his companions as freeloaders. Higgins replies that Robin Masters is perfectly willing to remunerate.
    T.C.: One out of three ain't bad.
  • Subverted in Queer as Folk (US), when Lindsay tells the others that her childhood dream was to fall in love, get married and have a baby. When Michael says that two out of three isn't bad, Lindsay says that three out of three is even better, since she and Melanie have decided to get married.
  • A skit on Saturday Night Live concluded with two representatives of the Gay Communist Gun Club endorsing George H. W. Bush for president because, while he did not support all of their positions, two out of three wasn't bad.
  • In the Voyagers! episode "An Arrow Pointing East", when Bogg leaves to get the gasoline so Lindbergh can fly the Atlantic, he's warned there's a guard dog on the premises. When Jeff tries to tell him to be careful, Bogg declares that he has a way with women, children, and animals. Jeff concedes to two out of the three.
  • The Wire: When Carcetti becomes mayor, he's told that if he wants to run for governor in a few years, his administration's policy goals should be to 1) authorize a major construction project he can put his name on; 2) lower Baltimore's crime rate; 3) not interfere in the city's schools, and for bonus points, 4) keep his "boyish good looks". When Carcetti recalls this exchange in a later season and mentions it to his aide Norman, Norman snarks that one out of four isn't bad.


  • NPR's This American Life once followed a Jewish advertiser who was working with a Muslim client. The client, in idle political conversation with the ad-man, quoted a prophecy that said "there will never be peace within Islam until Islam rules over the three holy cities of Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem". The advertiser responded "Two out of three ain't bad".

  • In 2003, Australian Rules Football team the Brisbane Lions were going for their third consecutive premiership. At the Grand Final Breakfast, when Lions coach Leigh Matthews was introduced, they played Meat Loaf's "Two Out of Three Ain't Bad". The Lions won.
  • In 2011, FC Barcelona lost the Copa del Rey to arch-rival Real Madrid, but then they won both the Spanish League and the UEFA Champions League, defeating Real in both competitions. Needless to say, Barcelona's fans were very satisfied by these results.

    Video Games 
  • Cake Mania 5: Lights, Camera, Action!:
    Risha: When I was a little girl I dreamed of running a trendy boutique when I grew up. Of course, I also dreamed of being an Olympic gymnast... a Nobel laureate... a film director... and a forensic anthropologist. Hey, four out of five isn't bad!

    Web Animation 
  • Ultra Fast Pony: "Rocks, Clocks, and Two Stupid Ponies":
    Rainbow Dash: Aw dammit! I really wish my wings weren't broken right now. [Her wings magically heal.] Like, omigosh! My wish came true! I really wish someone out there loved me! [Chirping Crickets] Eh. One out of two ain't bad.

    Western Animation 
  • Cro: During "Here's Looking at You, Cro!", at one point Cro and Pacca spy on Ogg using a periscope while he's roasting some mung over a fire:
    Ogg: Ogg just can't let Gogg win. Gogg good guy but, not brave like Ogg. Not strong like Ogg. Not smart like Ogg. (touches the mung and burns his hand) Ouchie!
    Cro: Two out of three ain't bad.
  • Dennis the Menace: In "Ruff's Hat Trick", Dennis and Ruff are being chased by a police officer. Two workers are seen carrying a Sheet of Glass when Ruff and Dennis approach them. Though the workers manage to avoid having having the sheet of glass shattered by both Ruff and Dennis, they're not so lucky when the police officer comes across them.
    Worker: Well, two out of three isn't bad.
  • Gumby: One short had Prickle and Goo getting the names of the presidents on Mt. Rushmore.
    Goo: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Teddy Bear.
    Prickle: Well, three out of four's not bad.
  • House of Mouse: In "Pete's One-Man Show", Mickey and the gang create a fake audience to humor Pete when nobody shows up to see him perform, which ends up backfiring when Pete announces that he's starting his own club and invites his non-existent audience to go there.
    Mickey: Hey, y-you can't steal our audience!
    Pete: You ain't the leader of the club no more, mousie. The audience loves me. I am a big, fat HIT! (knocks Mickey into a wall with his belly)
    Mickey: Well, two out of three ain't bad!
  • The Legend of Korra: Bolin guesses that his captor, Ghazan, was raised by an older sister, started growing his mustache at ten, and has an unspoken attraction to his partner-in-crime Ming-Hua. Ghazan replies with this trope, and though he doesn't state which two are correct, given their glances, it would seem the first two are correct.
  • Scooby-Doo: A witch tried to turn Scooby Doo, Scrappy and Shaggy into frogs. Shaggy was the only one she hit and the witch invoked the trope to show how satisfied she was for having at least one frog.

  • "Good. Fast. Cheap. — Pick any two."
  • "Good grades. Enough sleep. A social life." Although for most students, it's more like one out of two.
  • On jobs: "Fun. Well-paying. Legal. Pick two."
  • On game development: "Make games, play games, have a life—pick any two."
  • Rule of thumb for warship and tank design: "Speed, Armor, Firepower". Notwithstanding Game-Breaker tech advancements that screw up the play balancing, such as torpedoes.
  • An old joke (generally seen on t-shirts and bumper stickers) plays with this: "Filthy Stinking Rich? Well, Two Out of Three Ain't Bad."
  • This quote:
    "Life's not fair. When you're a kid, you have time and energy, but no money. When you're an adult, you have money and energy, but no time. And when you're old, you have time and money but no energy."
  • Lou Gottlieb of the folk group the Limeliters would quip at a concert "Clean mind, clean body...take your pick."