On top of a fantastic ensemble of lovable goofballs, Parks and Recreation has given us seven great seasons laden with brilliant quotes and phrases to live by. Some characters full of optimism, others dripping with cynicism and snark, each employee of Pawnee’s Parks and Recreation department has so much insight to offer. From gay penguins to loads of waffles, there’s a lot to digest—but we’re here to break down some of the very best quotes the show has to offer.
After airing on NBC from 2009-2015 (with a special 2020 reunion episode), the series lived on Netflix for quite awhile but has since moved to NBC’s streaming platform, Peacock—where it now resides alongside sitcom classics like The Office, 30 Rock, and Psych.
Let’s be honest, no matter how many times you’ve seen Mouse Rat perform, the series is a pretty great rewatch. Get your candle lit for Little Sebastian. Here are the best quotes from Parks and Recreation:
1. A New Acronym
“You get to BS-ing: brainstorming” —Leslie Knope, Season 6, “Anniversaries”
You never knew you needed this new definition of “BS”—until Leslie announces it in a planning meeting in Parks and Rec. To be honest, BS-ing is what this sitcom is all about: it’s around 50 percent brainstorming and 50 percent BS-ing (the original definition of the word). And it’s perfect.
2. The Tom in the Room
“I’m like an elephant, okay? If I walk into a room, it’s like, okay, he’s in there.” —Tom Haverford, Season 3, “The Fight”
This entire episode, labeled “The Fight” because there’s a big one between Leslie and Ann, is a true masterpiece. Tom invites the Parks and Recreation team to the Snakehole Lounge to help promote his new drink. Everyone ends up drunk, nearly obliterated, from the horrifying drink. This quote from Tom is just funny because, for once, he’s the only one who isn’t an elephant in the room.
3. Turning Pain into Art
“Do you think a depressed person could make this? No.” —Ben Wyatt, Season 4, “The Comeback Kid”
This quote has become a pretty popular meme, and rightfully so. After Ben loses his job at City Hall, he spirals into a wave of depression, turning to stop-motion animation to soothe his pain. Long live Requiem for a Tuesday, the criminally short, incredibly beautiful film he makes while he’s jobless.
4. On Going Outside
“Well, I am sorry. That I attended a public event.” —Ron Swanson, Season 7, “2017”
A well-worded apology is usually needed when one misses an event. In this case, it’s the opposite: Ron apologizes for attending an event. An event where, well, he was pushed into cake. Maybe this statement is actually accurate, for once, even though it comes from the agoraphobic Ron Swanson.
5. A Helping Hand
“I didn’t think you were gonna help.” “I still might not.” —Leslie Knope and April Ludgate, Season 2, “Freddy Spaghetti”
The brilliant Freddy Spaghetti (who later becomes Johnny Karate) debuts in this episode, but that’s not all. This exchange between Leslie and April summarizes their relationship to a tee: Leslie’s wide-eyed optimism, April’s frequent rejections. But April’s slight willingness to help is endearing, nonetheless.
6. The Three Pillars of Life
“We need to remember what’s important in life: friends, waffles, work. Or waffles, friends, work. Doesn’t matter, but work is third.” —Leslie Knope, Season 3, “The Fight”
Another banger from “The Fight” here, Leslie’s takeaway from the whole argument. Work should never come before friends, nor waffles for that matter. These are the three facets of Leslie’s personality—and, yes, they are incredibly important! Not just to her life, but to everyone’s.
7. The Men in Donna’s Life
“I have several men in rotation. One’s waiting for me in the car. Don’t worry, I rolled the window down for him.” —Donna Meagle, Season 4, “Operation”
Donna, always the voice of reason. When any of the ladies of the show need dating advice, Donna’s always the one to go to. With Donna around, being single has never felt so empowering! This episode also hosts one of Leslie’s iconic Galentine’s Day brunches, which makes the quote even better.
8. Kitchen Drama
“I tried to make ramen in the coffee pot and I broke everything.” —Andy Dwyer, Season 4, “The Comeback Kid”
Ah, sweet Andy. This quote puts his status as the lovable idiot of the series at full blast. Not only is he making ramen in the coffee pot (rookie mistake), but he claims he “broke everything.” What is everything? The entire kitchen? Did he also break the fridge and the microwave? This seems like something a young cousin would do at a family party, and it’s wonderful.
9. ...And More Kitchen Drama
“One time my refrigerator stopped working. I didn’t know what to do. I just moved.” —Tom Haverford, Season 5, “Article 2”
Seems that breaking “everything” is a curse when it comes to the Parks and Rec cast and their kitchens. Tom mentions his broken fridge here, claiming that he didn’t know what to do about it so he just moved. He just up and moved! Did he even ask a neighbor if he could store some stuff in their fridge?
10. Act Natural
“I like people. Places. And things.” —April Ludgate, Season 2, “Beauty Pageant”
While competing in the Pawnee Beauty Pageant, April announces herself with this absolute knockout quote. The girls are meant to present themselves, their jobs, their interests—and April just sums the whole thing up in one foul swoop. What more do the judges need? They have their winner right here.
11. Brutal Honesty
“And you can trust me. Because I don’t care enough about you to lie.” —Jennifer Barkley, Season 6, “Second Chunce”
Kathryn Hahn’s political pundit character is one of the more underrated parts of this show—she’s hilarious, but isn’t she always? A kid-hating political analyst with some of the funniest one-liners, this quote really introduces the heart of her character in under 15 words. We need to normalize this level of honesty, people!
12. Unscathed Work Ethic
“So it’s been three months of no work. No meetings, no memos, no late nights, nothing. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.” —Leslie Knope, Season 3, “Rainy Day”
Leslie’s work ethic is truly something to marvel at. This sounds like a dream! And yet, here she is, complaining about the work that could have been. This just sounds like a summer break to the rest of us—to her, it’s one long, long nightmare.
13. Deep Thoughts
“Windows are the eyes to the house.” —Andy Dwyer, Season 4, “The Comeback Kid”
This looks like something ripped straight from an inspirational wall poster. “Real eyes realize real lies,” or something along those lines. Isn’t the real quote supposed to be “eyes are the windows of the soul” or something? Who cares? Andy’s quote is best. Not sure what he’s trying to say, honestly, though that makes it all the better.
14. Musings on the Word ‘Bistro’
“I want to open up my own club one day, maybe call it something like Club a Dub Dub, or the Club Marine. Sort of a submarine-themed club. Or Tom’s Bistro. The word ‘bistro’ is classy as shit.” —Tom Haverford, Season 2, “Woman of the Year”
A lot to unpack here. Tom’s club ideas are brilliant, all worthy of real clubs in their own right. There has to be a submarine-themed club somewhere on this planet, and I’d like to go sometime in the near future. Then, there’s his take on the word “bistro,” which is true! Foreshadowing, because Tom eventually opens Tom’s Bistro, and it is indeed very classy.
15. Last, But Not Least: The Unforgettable Motto
“Treat yo’ self.” —Tom Haverford & Donna Meagle, Season 4, “Pawnee Rangers”
These three words have become less of a quote and more of a lifestyle for Parks and Recreation fans. The concept is so wholesome. Tom and Donna take themselves on a day-long extravaganza for no reason, and it’s an iconic moment in television history. So, what are we planning for Treat Yo’ Self day this year?
All seven seasons of Parks and Recreation are streaming on Peacock.
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