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When Life Gives You Lemons...

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He makes a good lab assistant (or "lemon-aide", if you will).

"...don't make lemonade. Make life take the lemons back! GET MAD! I don't want your damn lemons! What am I supposed to do with these?! Demand to see life's manager! Make life rue the day it thought it could give Cave Johnson lemons! DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM?! I'm the man who's gonna BURN YOUR HOUSE DOWN! With the lemons! I'm gonna get my engineers to invent a combustible lemon that BURNS YOUR HOUSE DOWN!"
Cave Johnson, Portal 2 (famously subverting this trope)

...make lemonade!

A phrase said by some characters to show how optimistic they are. Even if something horrible has happened—being given the metaphorical lemons—one can still try to make the best of it. The original answer is to say "Make lemonade", but it can be altered for some casual humour. It can also be used to demonstrate that a character is cynical as they point out fallacies, and is very easy to turn into Metaphorgotten or [Popular Saying], But... to show a character is particularly unhinged.


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  • Powerthirst: "When God gives you lemons, you FIND A NEW GOD."
  • The 2021 Super Bowl commercial for Bud Light Seltzer Lemonade had a group of friends drink the beverage while remarking on how 2020 gave them a lot of lemons, illustrated with a montage of lemons falling from the sky and destroying people's events. One guy comes in saying, "Well, when life gives you lemons..." before his friend cuts him off, saying, "We know the saying, Mark."
  • One of Bud Light's Real Men of Genius ads salutes the "Used Car-Lot Auto Salesman." The last line is "When life gives you lemons, you sell them."


  • Ron White (from Blue Collar Comedy Tour Rides Again): I believe... if life gives you lemons, you should make lemonade. And then try to find somebody whose life has given them vodka, and have a party.
  • Bo Burnham:
    • "I'm a realist. I try not to romanticize reality. You know? When Life gives you lemons... you probably just found lemons."
    • He also used a straight version along the same lines: "And remember, when life gets you down... make a comforter."
  • Sarah Silverman: When life gives you AIDS, make Lemon-AIDS.
  • Henry Rollins: When life hands you a lemon, say "Oh yeah, I like lemons. What else you got?"

    Comic Books 
  • In an issue of Amazing Spider-Man where Spidey has to go to the Nevada desert and, naturally, there are no swinging points.
    But like I always say, when life hands you a lemon... squirt it in somebody's eye and run like hell.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (IDW): This trope is cited by Dr. Eggman during the Test Run arc. The Mobile Maze tower that Sonic, Tails, and Amy stumbled across wasn't meant to be a trap, instead being designed as a testing ground for Badniks. But, since the heroes inadvertently trapped themselves inside it, he figures he might as well take the opportunity presented to him in order to kill them.

    Comic Strips 
  • Red Meat:
    Bug-Eyed Earl: When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. When life gives you poop, make poop juice.
  • Calvin and Hobbes:
    Susie: When life gives you a lemon, make lemonade.
    Calvin: I say, when life gives you a lemon, wing it right back and add some lemons of your own!
  • Dilbert:
    Dogbert: When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.
    Dilbert: I'm allergic to citrus.
    Dogbert: When life gives you lemons, swell up and die.
    • Another one from a computer game adaptation: "When life gives you lemons, throw them at people."
    • Yet another shows complete lemonade ingredients mysteriously appearing in front of Ratbert who complains "No napkins?!"
    • Yet ''another'' one, from the Sourpuss.
  • Snuffy Smith:
    Snuffy: If life gives ya lemons, make lemonade!! If it gives ya apples, make cider!! punkins? Make pie!! Avacados? Make guacamole!! Cucumbers...
    Jughaid: Okay, okay, Uncle Snuffy, I get yore drift.
  • Get Fuzzy
    Bucky Katt: When life gives you lemons, chuck 'em at dogs.

    Fan Works 
  • It Sucks to Be Weegie! includes the following line in one of The Teasers: "When life gives you lemons... be thankful it didn't give you rocks."
  • This is basically the life philosophy of the Apple Pie Family in the Pony POV Series Dark World Arc, especially Apple Pie. Their reaction to horrible circumstances (which, obviously, abound in Discord's Villain World) is to do their mourning and continue on, making the best of anything they can. She apparently learned this from her grandmother...before said grandmother was turned into a dragon (which in this world isn't THAT bad of a thing to happen actually).
    Apple Pie: When life gives ya lemons, don't throw 'em back, and don't try to burn life's house down with a combustible lemon. Ya'll be left with nothin' except yer pride, which ya can't eat. Or ya'll be hated by everypony who actually LIKES lemons. And ya'll only get squashed by the skyscraper sized angry mommy-lemon as it falls on ya anyway.
  • Better Living Through Science and Ponies includes the following line:
    GLaDOS: Life has been giving me lemons... and by letting you go I tried to make lemonade. A simple, sweet answer. Now... now I’m going to take life’s lemons, turn them into combustible lemons, and then burn you alive with them. Just like Cave Johnson would do... now that was a smart human.
  • In the Naruto Groundhog Peggy Sue fanfic Reload, Naruto acquires the mentality of a Mad Scientist (with the manga's chakra-based seals being his favored approach) with a flair for the dramatic, declaring himself a magician and performer of the impossible. His twist on the phrase? When life gives you lemons, squeeze them and make champagne. Let the morons around you gape like children in a circus and break their heads how the fuck you did it, while your sexy assistant robs them blind with a smile.
  • In the Discworld of A.A. Pessimal, a Rodinian character ponders this question, and replies "When life gives you limonka, you pull pin out and throw it back".note 

    Films — Animation 
  • In Hoodwinked!, Boingo tells the Wolf and Twitchy that he knows a shortcut to get to Granny's place:
    The Wolf: Yeah, big surprise party. You know how to get there?
    Boingo: Oh, yeah. In fact, I know a shortcut.
    The Wolf: [to Twitchy] You hear that? He knows a shortcut.
    Boingo: You go over the woods and through the river... no, you don't want to go through the river. You'll get all wet.
    The Wolf: You see, Twitchy? You get lemons, you make lemonade...
    [Cuts to the Wolf and Twitchy trudging through a dark, flooded cave]
    The Wolf: ....and then that lemonade turns bitter, ferments and turns to pig-swill. Never trust a bunny with directions, Twitchy.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Forgetting Sarah Marshall:
    Surfing Instructor: When life gives you lemons, just say "Fuck the lemons" and bail.
  • Home Room:
    Deanna Cartwright: "When life give you lemons... make lemonade."
    Alicia Browning: That is the biggest load of crap I've ever heard.
  • Dinner for Schmucks:
    Barry: When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. Unless you don't have any water or sugar. And then you just eat the lemons, and the rind will give you diarrhea.
  • Josie and the Pussycats:
    Josie McCoy: When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. And when the going gets tough...
    Melody Valentine: The tough make lemonade!
  • Sky High (2005):
    Layla: When life gives you lemons... [tries to grow a lemon, but produces an apple instead]
    Will Stronghold: Make... apple juice?
    Layla: I can't make lemons. I don't know why.
  • Hobo With a Shotgun:
    Drake: When life gives you razor blades... you make a baseball bat covered in razor blades!
  • The line is uttered by G2 in Inspector Gadget 2 when she receives Gadget's glitchy programming chip while fighting some mooks.

  • The one-liner:
    When life hands you lemons, squeeze them between your bitter fingers and then throw them at the wall.
  • Another variation:
    When life gives you lemons, squeeze 'em right in the bastard's eyes.
  • When life gave Chuck Norris lemons, he made orange juice.
  • When life hands you lemons, make grape juice. Then sit back and let the world wonder how you did it.
  • And one of the more cynical versions:
    When life gives you lemons, your lemonade will taste fucking awful, because some other bastard has all the sugar.
  • When life gives you lemons, rape it and give it lemon-AIDS.
  • When life gives you lemons...keep them, 'cause hey, free lemons!

  • Soon I Will Be Invincible
    Doctor Impossible: When life gives you lemons you squeeze them, hard. Make invisible ink. Make an acid poison. Fling it in their eyes.
  • Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey gives us this one:
    If life deals you lemons, why not go kill someone with the lemons (maybe by shoving them down his throat).
  • From the Anita Blake series.
    Anita: When life gives you lemons, shut up and eat your damn lemons.
  • A variant of this happened with the March 1980 edition of Australian car magazine Wheels, when it controversially declared "No Car of the Year" for 1979, with the front cover featuring a giant lemon on four wheels. This prompted Ford Australia to hit back with an advertisement for its then-latest model Falcon, depicting a page full of literal lemons with popular car brands printed on them and declaring, "There are times when being a lemon is not a bitter experience at all".
  • In The Romulan Way, Leonard McCoy quotes the saying to Arrhae t'Khellian, who is actually a surgically altered Federation Deep Cover Agent on Romulus. Arrhae says she prefers the Romulan version because it has more dignity: "When a sword is shattered, take the fragments back to the forge."
  • A variation appears in Star Trek: Hollow Men. Ferengi Rule of Acquisition #183: "When life hands you ungaberries, make detergent."
  • Used in effect by Hu Chang in Catherine Ling: What Doesn't Kill You. When a triad burns down his folk medicine shop in Hong Kong, the ever-optimistic Hu's first response is to go digging through the ashes to see what new and useful compounds the fire turned his stock of herbs and chemicals into.
  • The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants: Tibby's father, Henry Rollins, stated "When life hands you a lemon. Say. 'Oh yeah. I like lemons. What else ya got?'"
  • Aeon 14: The Woman Who Seized an Empire has a Hold Your Hippogriffs twist on it between 5th millennium Fish out of Temporal Water Katrina and her 9th millennium lover Juasa.
    Juasa: Stars... this is surreal. Yesterday you were slaving in the fields. Today you're promising me a starship.
    Katrina: I've made some lemonade.
    Juasa: What? What does lemonade have to do with anything?
    Katrina: When life gives you lemons... Nevermind, I guess it's an old saying. I thought that one would have stuck.
    Juasa: Sounds a bit like, "when the universe flings mass at you, you accrete it into something useful".
    Katrina: That's so awkward.
    Juasa: Yours just sounds weird. What does fruit have to do with daily life?

    Live Action TV 
  • 3rd Rock from the Sun
    Harry Solomon: You know, Dick, when life gives you lemons, just shut up and eat the damn lemons.
  • Veronica Mars, episode "Look Who's Stalking"
    Veronica: So my Grandma Reynolds was always saying, "when life gives you lemons, make lemonade." I wish she was still alive because I'd really like to ask what she suggests for when life gives you chlamydia.
  • NewsRadio:
    Bill: Dave, haven't you ever heard the expression, "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade, and then throw it in the face of the person who gave you the lemons until they give you the oranges you originally asked for"?
  • Malcolm in the Middle:
    Hal: I always say, when life gives you lemons - make lemonade. You got any lemonade?
    Waiter: No, sir.
    Hal: [disappointed] Aww. [brightening up] Got any lemons?
  • The original, KTMA public-access version of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 theme used this phrase verbatim.
    • Crow also used "You find a new God" variant listed in the advertising section.
  • Modern Family:
    Phil: When life gives you lemonade, make lemons. Life will be all like "What?!"
  • My Family (no relation):
    Susan: When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.
    Ben: What do you make if life gives you crap?
    Nick: Crap mice. (they look at him like he's crazy) Put a toothpick in, and you've got a little tail.
  • In the theme song to The Andy Milonakis Show, whenever life gives him lemons, he makes beef stew.
  • It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: Frank's life lesson is, "If you’re dealt a bunch of lemons, you’ve got to take those lemons and stuff them down someone's throat until they see yellow!"
  • The Big Bang Theory: Invoked in "The Comic Book Store Regeneration".
    Sheldon: That's all you have, tired expressions like "Don't sweat it" and "Let it go"? Gee, Penny, I have a bunch of lemons, what shall I do with them?
    Penny: You could shove them up somewhere.
    Sheldon: See? Now you're being creative.

  • Atmosphere's album, When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold.
  • In Tyler, the Creator's song Goblin:
    Life's a cute bitch full of estrogen. And when she gives you lemons nigga throw them at pedestrians.
  • "GM Hold Music": And remember, if life hands you lemonade, kick it in the balls and say, I wanted a beer... bitch.
  • Brad Paisley's "Limes" extends the metaphor, talking about throwing your troubles in a blender with some salt and tequila:
    When life gives you limes, you make margaritas.
  • Beyoncé's sixth album Lemonade, references this phrase in the title, appropriately so as a concept album revolving around themes relating to salvaging the positive from a nasty situation (in her case, the infidelity of her husband). On a meta level, this album was a major commercial and critical success, and made an instant cultural impact, so she made lemonade aplenty from her marriage troubles.
    "Take one pint of water, add a half pound of sugar, the juice of eight lemons, the zest of half lemon. Pour the water into one, then to another several times. Strain through a clean napkin. Grandmother. The alchemist. You spun gold out of this hard life. Conjured beauty from the things left behind. Found healing where it did not live. Discovered the antidote in your own kitchen. Broke the curse with your own two hands."

  • Something Rotten!'s "Make an Omelette" has Nick's character remark on his father giving him the "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade" advice, before putting his own egg-themed spin on it for the song.
    You make wine from sour grapes
    You got a flat pancake, hey, call it a crepe
    When life gives you eggs, make an omelette
    You get cola from a nut
    A dirty worm makes silk from out of his butt
    When life gives you eggs, make an omelette!
  • In the musical Kimberly Akimbo, Kim's Aunt Debra shares her philosophy in the song "Better":
    When life gives you lemons, you gotta go out and steal some apples, 'cause who the fuck wants lemons?

    Video Games 
  • Penny Arcade Adventures: The prison guard in number 2: "When life gives you dungeons, you make dungeonade." Your character takes time to reflect on how awful this joke is.
  • Portal 2:
    • Aperture Science's Cave Johnson says the original cliché line in response to his fatal illness. Then, after thinking about it, he realizes he's got a better idea:
      Cave Johnson: All right, I've been thinking. When life gives you lemons, don't make lemonade.
      GLaDOS: Yeah.
      Cave Johnson: Make life take back the lemons back!
      GLaDOS: Yeah!
      Cave Johnson: Get mad!
      GLaDOS: Yeah!
      Cave Johnson: 'I don't want your damn lemons! What am I supposed to do with these?!'
      GLaDOS: Yeah, take the lemons...
      Cave Johnson: Demand to see life's manager!
      GLaDOS: Yeah!
      Cave Johnson: Make life rue the day it thought it could give Cave Johnson lemons! Do you know who I am? I'm the man who's gonna burn your house down! WITH THE LEMONS!
      GLaDOS: Oh, I like this guy.
      Cave Johnson: I'm gonna get my engineers to invent a combustible lemon that BURNS YOUR HOUSE DOWN!
      GLaDOS: BURN HIS HOUSE DOWN!... Burning people! He says what we're all thinking!
    • You can rescue a "different" turret from the "Turret Redemption Line". She foreshadows much of the game- among her lines is "Get mad" and "Don't make lemonade".
  • Guild Wars 2's "Hey Bookah!" fake advice column has a letter from an engineer saying he invented a "Lemonade Turret." Problem is, the lemonade tastes like gunpowder and machine oil. Bookah, a member of the often-arrogant Asura race, insists that only the "small-minded and pedantic" would insist lemonade taste like "outmoded versions". He further recommends proper marketing; it's not a lemonade turret, it's a turret with "fresh, lemon-scented ammunition".
    When life gives you lemons, shoot them back at life at high velocity.
  • Kid Icarus: Uprising:
    Hades: When freaky aliens give you lemons, make freaky alien lemonade! (cue Star Fox: Assault reference)
  • Monster Prom: According to Vera, when this happens, "you gotta squirt lemon juice in someone's eye." According to Zoe, you "compare those lemons to the all-consuming void. The void is way worse than a couple of lemons!"
  • In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, when you're sent to go deal with Cicero, Festus Krex has this to say.
    "When life gives you lemons... Go murder a clown."
  • One of the possible messages displayed by the fortune-telling machines in The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth:
    When life gives you lemons, reroll!
  • In the prologue of Project × Zone 2, Reiji was distressed that another enemy popped up. Xiaomu's response?
    Reiji! When life gives you lemons, you close the bedroom door and read them all!

They literally don't.

    Web Original 
  • The story Take A Lemon, takes its title from this phrase. It's the Arc Words recited between two sisters when something really bad happens and they then do a little speech about how they will make what ever lemon into lemonade. Story contains no Lemon though.
  • Homestar Runner: In the Strong Bad Email "other days", Strong Bad is seen acting as a motivational speaker, giving out the advice "When life throws pies at you, you make yourself a tall, cool glass of pie-monade!" Coach Z and Strong Mad seem to find it inspirational, at least.
    Coach Z: I'm a new man!
    Strong Mad: I'M THE HUMP!
  • From Part 69 of the Game Grumps Let's Play of Sonic the Hedgehog (2006):
    Arin: Well, you know, when life gives you lemons...
    Jon: What, Arin? What?
    Arin: Uh, you kill yourself.
  • One Photoplasty entry on Cracked offered up an especially subervsive variation: "When life gives you lemons, you better hope life gives you sugar too, because lemonade tastes like shit without it."
  • Neurotically Yours:
    Foamy: When life gives you lemons...
    Germaine: ...rub them in the eyes of your enemies.
  • Grumpy Cat has been used in several macros that twist this comment. An example:
    Grumpy Cat: Unless life also gives you water and sugar, your lemonade is gonna suck.
  • When life gives you lemons, BLOOD FOR THE BLOOD GOD!!!

    Western Animation 
  • Clone High, episode "A.D.D.: The Last 'D' Is for Disorder"
    Scudworth: When life gives you lemons, you clone those lemons and make super lemons.
  • Rugrats
    Angelica: When life gives you lemons, make applesauce.
  • In the finale of Kim Possible, Ron thinks Drakken is being too negative:
    Ron: Oh, complain, complain. You know, when life gives you lemons—
  • In one episode of The Brak Show, Brak gives us this advice:
  • The Amazing World of Gumball: When Nicole tries to make Gumball a winner in "The Fridge", she gives us this line:
    Nicole: What does a winner do when life gives him lemons?!
    Gumball: Uhh....make lemonade?
    Nicole: No, he squeezes them right back into life's eyes!
    • She then orders him to squeeze those lemons in her eyes.
  • These quotes are attributed to the Pines family of Gravity Falls;
    Dipper: "When life gives you lemons, extract the juice and use it to draw a treasure map in invisible ink. That really works! Seriously!"
    Mabel: "When life gives you lemons, draw faces on those lemons and wrap them in a blanket. Ta-daaa! Now you have Lemon Babies."
    Grunkle Stan: "When life gives you lemons, call them 'yellow oranges' and sell them for double the price."
  • The Hey Arnold! episode "Eugene, Eugene" had Eugene play a character in a musical also named Eugene. One of the musical numbers went a little something like this:
    Eugene: (singing) When life gives you lemons, dance! Dance like there's a muskrat in your pants!
  • One episode of What's New, Scooby-Doo?, Shaggy and Scooby are on the run from a monster (As per usual) and run into a stable in hope of finding horses to escape on. Instead they find golf carts:
    Shaggy: Well, when life gives you lemons...
    (Cut to them driving away manically on a golf cart)
    Shaggy: those lemons the heck out of here!
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
  • When the line is quoted at ever optimistic Rapunzel in Tangled: The Series, she confesses that she knows many other uses for lemons and doesn't like the taste of lemonade, so she doesn't get the point of the saying at first.


Video Example(s):


"...don't make lemonade."

Cave Johnson says the original cliched line at first. Then, after thinking about it, he realizes he's got a better idea...

How well does it match the trope?

5 (37 votes)

Example of:

Main / WhenLifeGivesYouLemons

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