Ron Popeil

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Ron Popeil
Born Ronald M. Popeil
(1935-05-03) May 3, 1935 (age 79)
New York City
Occupation Inventor and infomercial salesman
Known for Ronco
"But wait, there's more!"
Spouse(s) Marilyn Greene (1956-1963; divorced; 2 children)
Lisa Boehne (divorced; 1 child)
Robin Angers (m. 1995; 2 children)[1]

Ronald M. "Ron" Popeil (/pˈpl/;[2] born May 3, 1935) is an American 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 the phrase, "But wait, there's more!" on television as early as the mid-1950s. He is also well known for making a pocket fisherman casting toy.

Personal life and career[edit]

Popeil was born in New York City in 1935. When he was 6 his parents divorced and he and his brother went to live in Florida with their grandparents. At age 17 in 1952, Ron went with his grandparents to work for his father (Samuel) at his company's (Popeil Brothers) manufacturing facility in Chicago. His grandparents later returned to Florida and Ron remained with his father. He learned his trade from his father, who was also an inventor and salesman of numerous kitchen-related gadgets such as the Chop-O-Matic and the Veg-O-Matic to major department stores. 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. The Chop-O-Matic was so efficient at chopping vegetables that it was impractical for salesmen to carry all 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. Ron initially operated as a distributor of his father's kitchen products and later formed his own company (Ronco) in 1964. He continued as a distributor for his father and later added additional products from other manufacturers.[3] Ron and his father (Samuel) became competitors in the 1970s for the same retail store business.

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"[4] 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, with plans to continue serving as the spokesman and inventor while being able to spend more time with his family. As of 2006, he lived in Beverly Hills, California, with his wife, Robin Popeil and two of his five daughters. Ashley Tisdale is his cousin.[5]

Although Popeil often receives credit for having been the first to use this phrase, "But wait, there's more," its origin is attributed to the State Fair JAM Auctioneers. The JAM Auctioneers also were the first to use the phrase, "How much would you pay?" Ed Valenti, founder and seller of the Ginsu knife added the word "Now" to that phrase in the 1970s. Like the JAM Auctioneers of past, each time that question was asked, another item would be added to the sale, thus enhancing the audience's and potential buyers' perceived value of the purchase.[citation needed]


The following is a list of notable products marketed by Ron Popeil. In many cases, memorable quotes from the advertisements are listed after the item.

  • Chop-O-Matic: a 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 (and very similar to a mandolin slicer). "Slice a tomato so thin it only has one side." "When chopping onions with this machine, the only tears you will shed will be tears of joy."
  • Popeil Pocket Fisherman: a small fishing pole. "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.)[6]
  • Mr. Microphone: a short-range hand-held radio transmitter that would broadcast over an FM radio. The nearby radio(s) would therefore amplify the sound coming from the Mr. Microphone. In the ad, a convertible rolls past with the FM radio turned up; a young man in the car transmits using a Mr. Microphone, "Hey, goodlookin', we'll be back to pick ya up later!" Mr. Microphone is also referenced in Police Academy 2.
  • Inside-The-Shell Egg Scrambler: (self-explanatory) "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.[6]
  • Six Star 20-Piece Cutlery Set: (self-explanatory)
  • 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!"
  • Solid Flavor Injector: 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. This product accompanied the Showtime Rotisserie.
  • GLH-9: hair in a can (Great Looking Hair Formula #9)
  • Drain Buster:[citation needed]
  • Smokeless Ashtray: a device which used an integrated fan to draw smoke away from the materials in the ashtray.
  • Electric Food Dehydrator: (self-explanatory) "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: (self-explanatory)
  • Ronco Rhinestone Stud Setter: "It changes everyday clothing into exciting fashions and you don't have to spend a fortune."
  • The Cap Snaffler: bottle opener. "Snaffles caps off any size jug, bottle, or jar ... and it really, really works."[7]

Popular culture[edit]

Ron Popeil's success in infomercials, memorable marketing personality, and ubiquity on American television have allowed him and his products to appear in a variety of popular media environments including cameo appearances on television shows such as the X-Files,[a] Futurama[b] [c] King of the Hill,[d] [e] The Simpsons,[f] Sex and the City[g] and The Daily Show.[h] Parodies of Popeil's infomercials were done on the comedy show Saturday Night Live by Dan Aykroyd[i] and Eddie Murphy[8] and the "Veg-O-Matic" may have provided comedian Gallagher inspiration for the "Sledge-O-Matic" routine since the 1980s. Additionally, the professional wrestling tag team The Midnight Express dubbed their finishing move the Veg-O-Matic. In the upcoming MMO Wildstar, the Engineer class is described as the "Ron Popeil of classes".[9]

Popeil was voted by Self Magazine readers as one of the 25 people who have changed the way we eat, drink and think about food.[10]

Popeil has been referenced in the music of Alice Cooper, the Beastie Boys, and "Weird Al" Yankovic. Yankovic's song "Mr. Popeil" was a tribute to Ron's father, Samuel Popeil (and featured Ron's sister Lisa Popeil on backing vocals). Ron Popeil later used this song in some of his infomercials.

In Malcolm Gladwell's book What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures, Ron Popeil is interviewed and many of his products, most notably the Veg-O-Matic and Showtime Rotisserie, are discussed. The article was first published in The New Yorker in 2000.[11]


  1. ^ In the 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 $39.92. 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.
  2. ^ In the episode "A Big Piece of Garbage", from the television series 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).
  3. ^ In the episode "The Luck of the Fryrish", Fry keeps his lucky seven-leaf clover in a "Ronco Record Vault".
  4. ^ In the episode "Won't You Pimai Neighbor?", 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".
  5. ^ In the episode "The Perils of Polling", Dale Gribble asks if Hank got him a cap snaffler while Hank and Dale are being escorted to the polling place by the police.
  6. ^ In the episode 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".
  7. ^ Season 4 Episode 13 where the character Miranda is seen watching a Ron Popeil infomercial
  8. ^ The famous line "Set it and forget it!", from the Showtime Rotisserie commercial, was used after showing the "catch phrase" discussions of the Senate debating over the War in Iraq.
  9. ^ The "Veg-O-Matic" was parodied by in an episode of as the "Super Bass-O-Matic '76". This parody is mentioned in the Biography episode on Popeil.


  1. ^ Neill, Mike (2000-10-23). "Pitcher Perfect". People (magazine). Retrieved 2014-05-24. 
  2. ^ McGeehan, Patrick (December 11, 1994). "Profile: He's Back! The Amazing Human Selling Machine!". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-10-07. 
  3. ^ Mateja, Andrew (2013). The Rise and Fall of the First Popeil Gadget Dynasty. Mustang, Oklahoma: Tate Publishing. p. 33. 
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ "Ashley Tisdale Biography". Archived from the original on 2013-01-25. Retrieved 2009-06-30. , expand bio on other side of link.
  6. ^ a b Ron Popeil, Biography, aired August 15, 2006
  7. ^ John, Jory; Monsen, Avery (2011-05-27). I Feel Relatively Neutral About New York. Chronicle Books. p. 22. ISBN 9781452105628. Retrieved 2014-05-24. 
  8. ^ (September 25, 1982) Saturday Night Live commercial for the "Popeil Galactic Prophylactic".
  9. ^ "The Engineer Class Devspeak" on YouTube
  10. ^ "". Retrieved 16 April 2011. 
  11. ^ Malcolm Gladwell, "The Pitchman"

Further reading[edit]

  • Timothy Samuelson (2002). But Wait! There's More!. Rizzoli. ISBN 0-8478-2431-4. 
  • Rob Popeil (1995). The Salesman of the Century. Delacorte Press. ISBN 978-0-385-31378-0. 
  • Malcolm Gladwell (2009). What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures. Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 978-0-316-07632-6. 

External links[edit]