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Ronald M. Popeil (born May 3, 1935 in New York Citymarker; ) is an Americanmarker inventor and marketing personality, best known for his direct response marketing company Ronco. He is well known for his appearances in infomercials for the Showtime Rotisserie ("Set it, and forget it!") and for using Ed Valenti's (Ginsu knife creator) famous lines, "But wait, there's more!" and "Now how much would you pay?" Each phrase followed the addition of another item or feature to the catalog of a product's advantages or attachments. The advertisements frequently answered the "how much?" question with potential prices, followed by the dramatically lower actual price, which was also a Valenti creation.

Personal life and career

Popeil learned his trade from his father, Samuel, who was also an inventor and carny salesman of kitchen-related gadgets such as the Chop-O-Matic and the Veg-O-Matic. The Chop-O-Matic retailed for US$3.98 and sold over two million units. The invention of the Chop-O-Matic caused a problem that marked the entrance of Ron Popeil into television. It turned out that the Chop-O-Matic was so efficient at chopping vegetables, that it was impractical for salesmen to carry the vegetables they needed to chop. The solution was to tape the demonstration. Once the demonstration was taped, it was a short step to broadcasting the demonstration as a commercial.

Popeil received the Ig Nobel Prize in Consumer Engineering in 1993. The awards committee described him as the "incessant inventor and perpetual pitchman of late night television" and awarded the prize in recognition of his "redefining the industrial revolution" with his devices.

In August 2005, he sold his company, Ronco, to Fi-Tek VII, a Denver holding company, for US$55 million. He said he plans to continue serving as the spokesman and inventor, but wants to spend more time with his family. As of 2006, he lives in Beverly Hills, Californiamarker, with his wife, Robin Popeil and 2 of his 5 daughters; Ashley Tisdale is his cousin.


Some of his better-known products, and their original sale pitches, include:

  • Chop-O-Matic hand food processor. "Ladies and gentlemen, I'm going to show you the greatest kitchen appliance ever made... All your onions chopped to perfection without shedding a single tear."
  • Dial-O-Matic, successor to the Veg-O-Matic. "Slice a tomato so thin it only has one side."
  • Popeil Pocket Fisherman. "The biggest fishing invention since the hook...and still only $19.95!" (According to the program Biography, the original product was the invention of Popeil's father and only marketed by Ronco, but as of 2006, Popeil had introduced a redesigned version of the product.)
  • Mr. Microphone, a short-range hand-held radio transmitter that broadcast over FM radios. A convertible rolls up to a curb and an enthusiastic young man shouts out "Hey, good looking, I'll be back to pick you up later!" followed by the pitch "Broadcast your voice on any FM radio!!!"
  • Inside-The-Shell Egg Scrambler. "Gets rid of those slimy egg whites in your scrambled eggs." Popeil has said the inspiration for this product was his lifelong revulsion toward incompletely blended scrambled eggs.
  • Six Star 20-Piece Cutlery Set.
  • Solid Flavor Injector. This product accompanied the Showtime rotisserie grill and was used to inject solid ingredients into meat or other foods. A similar product, called the Liquid Flavor Injector, allowed for the injecting of liquid ingredients into meat (e.g., lime juice into chicken).
  • GLH-9 Hair in a Can Spray (Great Looking Hair Formula #9).
  • Drain Buster.
  • Smokeless Ashtray - "Does cigar and cigarette smoke irritate your eyes?" Commercials showed this device drawing smoke from burning cigarettes back into the ashtray itself.
  • Electric Food Dehydrator - "Instead of giving kids candy, give them apple snacks or banana chips. And it's great if you're a hunter, fisherman, backpacker, or camper. Makes beef jerky for around $3 a pound, and you know what went in it, because you made it yourself!"
  • Ronco Popeil Automatic Pasta Maker.
  • Showtime Rotisserie, a small rotisserie oven designed for cooking smaller sized portions of meat such as whole chicken and lamb. "Set it, and forget it!"
  • The Cap Snaffler - "Snaffles caps off any size jug, bottle, or jar… and it really, really works."
  • The Showtime Six Star Plus 25 Knife Set and the Solid Flavor Injector. "Three easy payments of $13.33!"

Impact on popular culture

  • "Weird Al" Yankovic recorded the song "Mr. Popeil" on his second studio album, "Weird Al" Yankovic in 3-D. The song was a "style parody" (i.e., not a direct parody of a specific song, but emulating a performer's specific style) of the early music of the B-52's (and bore a striking resemblance to their first hit single, "Rock Lobster"). The verses are structured as pitches for unnamed but easily recognizable Ronco products, and draws upon all the catchphrases associated with the Ronco infomercials, including the phrases "It slices! It dices!", "Take advantage of this amazing TV offer!", and Ed Valenti's more commonly heard phrase"Now how much would you pay?". One of Weird Al's background vocalists was Lisa Popeil, sister of Ron Popeil[4354]. This song is actually a tribute to Samuel Popeil, Ron Popeil's father, who was in the same business of inventing and selling products.

  • On his 1983 album, Affordable Art, Steve Goodman sings Vegematic. It is a narration of a man who falls asleep with the TV on and orders from every infomertial that airs, he then awakes, believing it was a dream. After 4–6 weeks, he does actually receive every single product he dreamt about, revealing that it was no dream. Most notable in the song are the Vegematic, Ginsu knife, Pocket Fisherman, and numerous items from/for Six Flags (theme park) Over Burbank.

  • In the X-Files episode "Beyond the Sea," Scully is shown sleeping while Ron Popeil touts the wonders of his Spray-On Hair (Great Looking Hair Formula #9) for only $39.95. The ad continues for a few seconds, displaying the product's fabulous abilities before shifting to show Scully awakening to the ghost of her recently deceased father.

  • Lemon Demon references Popeil in their song, "Hyakugojyuuichi 2003", off of the album Clown Circus with the line, "Props to Neil, he’s the real deal, His friends all call him Mr. Popeil."

  • Twiztid makes reference to him on their album Mutant Vol. 2 on the song Stardust claiming "We're gonna be the new Ron Popeils" after it is made clear they will market a product of unknown details.

  • The "Veg-O-Matic" was parodied by Dan Aykroyd in an episode of Saturday Night Live as the "Super Bass-O-Matic '76". This parody is mentioned in the Biography episode on Popeil.

  • "Dodge Veg-O-Matic" is a song by Jonathan Richman from the album Rock N Roll With The Modern Lovers (1977).

  • The "Veg-O-Matic" provided the inspiration for the "Sledge-O-Matic" routine used by comedian Gallagher since the 1980s.

  • In the film Major League, while hazing rookie Rick Vaughn, Roger Dorn asks if he had cut his hair using a "Veg-O-Matic".

  • In the book The Slacker Confessions, Tommy Campbell writes, "... all while watching any infomercial starring the genius himself, Ron Popeil."

  • In the episode "A Big Piece of Garbage," from the television series Futurama, Popeil is said to be the inventor of technology that allows heads to be kept alive in jars indefinitely (Popeil's own head, voiced by himself, appears in the episode). In the later episode "The Luck of the Fryrish" Fry keeps his lucky seven-leaf-clover in a "Ronco Record Vault"

  • In the episode "Won’t You Pimai Neighbor?," from the television series "King of the Hill," Dale Gribble states that if Bobby Hill incorrectly chooses from among the items possibly owned by the late Lama Sanglung, Bobby Hill will win a cap snaffler and that the cap snaffler, "Snaffles caps of any size jug, bottle or jar...and it really really works.".

  • In the episode "The Perils of Polling" from the television series "King of the Hill," Dale Gribble asks if Hank got him a cap snaffler while Hank and Dale are being escorted to the polling place by the police.

  • In the episode of The Simpsons entitled "Radio Bart", Bart Simpson receives a "Superstar Celebrity Microphone" for his birthday. The toy and the TV advertisements for it were modeled after Ronco's "Mr. Microphone".

  • In the movie Old School during the morning-after hangover scene, Ron Popeil is on the TV; Vince Vaughn and company are watching.

  • During a scene in Elizabethtown, you can see Popeil showing his knives on Orlando Bloom's television. (Bloom's character was having suicidal thoughts.)

  • The Daily Show featured a clip with the famous line "Set it and forget it!" — from the Showtime Rotisserie commercial — after showing the "catch phrase" discussions of the Senate debating over the War in Iraq.

  • The Beastie Boys reference him in their song 'Crawlspace', when Adrock says "I got more product than Ron Popeil".

  • The character RJ Raccoon in the film adaptation of Over the Hedge uses a Popeil Pocket Fisherman several times throughout the film.

  • In 1993, the Ig Nobel Award for Consumer Engineering was presented to Ron Popeil, "incessant inventor and perpetual pitchman of late night television, for redefining the industrial revolution with such devices as the Veg-O-Matic, the Pocket Fisherman, Mr. Microphone, and the Inside-the-Shell Egg Scrambler."

  • In "X2: X-Men United", Popeil is playing on the television briefly when the school is attacked.

  • In "The Kingdom", Popeil is playing on the television while Jamie Foxx is interviewing a family after the terrorist attack.

  • In the film Little Miss Sunshine Ron Popeil is shown doing a Showtime Rotisserie Grill commercial on the TV in the background as the family is in the hospital waiting room.

  • In the book "What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures", by Malcolm Gladwell, Ron Popeil is interviewed and many of his products, most notably the Veg-O-Matic and Showtime Rotisserie, are discussed.


Further reading

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