Ron Popeil

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Ron Popeil
Ronald Martin Popeil

(1935-05-03)May 3, 1935
New York City, U.S.
DiedJuly 28, 2021(2021-07-28) (aged 86)
Alma materUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Occupation(s)Inventor, infomercial salesman
Known forRonco, infomercials
  • Marilyn Greene
    (m. 1956; div. 1963)
  • Lisa Boehne
    (m. 1981; div. 1988)
  • Robin Angers
    (m. 1995)

Ronald Martin Popeil[1] (/pˈpl/;[2] May 3, 1935 – July 28, 2021), was an American inventor and marketing personality, and founder of the direct response marketing company Ronco. He made appearances in infomercials for the Showtime Rotisserie and coined the phrase "Set it, and forget it!" as well as popularizing the phrase, "But wait, there's more!" on television as early as the mid-1950s.[3]

Personal life and career[edit]

Popeil was born to a Jewish family[4] in Manhattan in 1935, the son of Julia (née Schwartz) and Samuel Popeil.[5] When he was six, his parents divorced and he and his brother went to live in Florida with their grandparents. At age 17 in 1952, he went with his grandparents to work for his father at his company's (Popeil Brothers) manufacturing facility in Chicago. His grandparents later returned to Florida and Popeil remained with his father.[6]

When he was 18, Popeil attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where he joined Alpha Epsilon Pi before withdrawing after six months.[7]

After returning from college, Popeil continued to work and learn 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.[8] The Chop-O-Matic retailed for US$3.98 and sold over two million units.[citation needed]

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 needed for the demonstrations over the course of a day.[9] The solution was to tape the demonstration. Once the demonstration was taped, it was a short step to broadcasting it as a commercial.

Popeil 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 added additional products from other manufacturers.[10] Ron Popeil and his father became competitors in the 1970s for the same retail store business.[citation needed]

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.[11] He was a past member of the board of directors of Mirage Resorts, where he served for 22 years under Steve Wynn, as well as a past member of the board of directors of MGM Hotels for seven years under Kirk Kerkorian.[citation needed] He became the recipient of the Electronic Retail Association's Lifetime Achievement award in 2001[12] and he is listed in the Direct Response Hall of Fame.[13]

Popeil was previously[when?] a member of the advisory board for University of California, Los Angeles' Business, Management, and Legal Programs. 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.[citation needed]

In 1956, Popeil married Marilyn Greene, with whom he had two daughters; they divorced in 1963. He married Lisa Boehne some time after this and had one daughter with her. He and Boehne divorced sometime before 1995, when he married Robin Angers, with whom he had two more daughters. Ashley Tisdale and Jennifer Tisdale are his cousins.[4]


Popeil died on July 28, 2021, at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center at age 86. He had been sent there a day earlier for a medical emergency.[14] No cause of death was given.[15] According to his half-sister, Lisa Popeil, the cause of death was a brain hemorrhage.[16]


Popeil is noted for marketing and in some cases inventing a wide variety of products. Among the better known and more successful are the 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."[citation needed]), the Dial-O-Matic successor to the Veg-O-Matic ("Slice a tomato so thin it only has one side."[citation needed]), and the Ronco Pocket Fisherman. Popeil is also well known for his housewares inventions like his Giant Dehydrator[citation needed] and Beef Jerky Machine[citation needed], his Electric Pasta Maker and his Showtime Rotisserie & BBQ. His Showtime Rotisserie & BBQ sold over eight million units in the US alone, helping Ronco's housewares sales exceed $1 billion in sales.[17] After retiring, Popeil continued to invent products including the 5in1 Turkey Fryer & Food Cooking System which he had been[when?] developing for over ten years.[citation needed]

Popular culture[edit]

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], The Daily Show[h], and The West Wing[i]. Parodies of Popeil's infomercials were done on the comedy show Saturday Night Live by Dan Aykroyd[j] and Eddie Murphy[18] and the "Veg-O-Matic" may have provided comedian Gallagher inspiration for the "Sledge-O-Matic" routine since the 1980s. The animated series VeggieTales once featured a parody of the "Veg-O-Matic" dubbed as the "Forgive-O-Matic".[k] "Additionally, the professional wrestling tag team The Midnight Express dubbed their finishing move the Veg-O-Matic.[19]

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.[20]

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 (and featured his sister Lisa Popeil on backing vocals). Ron Popeil later used this song in some of his infomercials.[21]

In the 2007 film Funny Games, one of the characters is channel surfing and briefly flicks past an infomercial for Ron Popeil's Vegetable Dehydrator. In the 1996 horror film Scream the catchphrase is said ("But wait, there's more!"), Itself in the tradition of a horror film's saying of a famous tv catchphrase, in 1980s horror filmThe Shining's saying of "Here's Johnny!"(Carson) by announcer Ed McMahon

In Malcolm Gladwell's book What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures, Popeil is interviewed and many of his products, most notably the Veg-O-Matic and Showtime Rotisserie, are discussed. Malcolm Gladwell's New Yorker piece "The Pitchman" about Popeil won Gladwell the 2001 National Magazine award. The article was first published in The New Yorker in 2000.[22]


  1. ^ In the episode "Beyond the Sea", Special Agent Dana Scully is shown sleeping with her television on 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.[citation needed]
  2. ^ In the episode "A Big Piece of Garbage", Ron Popeil is said to be the inventor of a fictional technology which allows heads to be kept alive in jars indefinitely. Popeil appears in the episode as one of the talking heads. (Bratskeir, Kate (December 6, 2017). "8 Reasons You Shouldn't Underestimate The Greatness Of Ron Popeil: 8 Things You Never Knew About Ron Popeil, The Greatest Inventor Of All Time". Huffington Post. Retrieved March 7, 2023.)
  3. ^ In the episode "The Luck of the Fryrish", Fry keeps his lucky seven-leaf clover in a "Ronco Record Vault".[citation needed]
  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".[citation needed]
  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.[citation needed]
  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".[citation needed]
  7. ^ Season 4 Episode 13 where the character Miranda is seen watching a Ron Popeil infomercial[citation needed]
  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 the War in Iraq.[citation needed]
  9. ^ Season 4 Episode 15 President Bartlet is zapping through the TV program and sees a glimpse of Ron Popeil jumping on the stage in an informercial.[citation needed]
  10. ^ The "Veg-O-Matic" was parodied as the "Super Bass-O-Matic '76". This parody is mentioned in the Biography episode on Popeil.[citation needed]
  11. ^ VeggieTales: "God Wants Me to Forgive Them!?!". Released October 1994[citation needed]


  1. ^ Schudel, Matt (July 29, 2021). "Ron Popeil, inventor, pitchman and TV infomercial star, dies at 86". The Washington Post. Retrieved June 2, 2023.
  2. ^ McGeehan, Patrick (December 11, 1994). "Profile: He's Back! The Amazing Human Selling Machine!". New York Times. Retrieved October 7, 2008.
  3. ^ "Ron Popeil - Inventor, Television Personality". Archived from the original on January 22, 2019. Retrieved June 20, 2015.
  4. ^ a b Interfaith Families: "Interfaith Celebrities: Why Pink is a Mixed Bag" By Nate Bloom. 2015
  5. ^ Samuelson, Timothy (2002). But, Wait! There's More! ...The Irresistible Appeal and Spiel of Ronco and Popeil. Rizzoli. ISBN 9780847824311.
  6. ^ Stern, Remy (2009). But Wait ... There's More! Tighten Your Abs, Make Millions, and Learn How the $100 Billion Infomercial Industry Sold Us Everything But the Kitchen Sink. HarperCollins. p. 11. ISBN 9780061260551.
  7. ^ "University of Illinois Alumni". December 13, 2013.
  8. ^ "Veg-O-Matic II". Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved July 12, 2022.
  9. ^ Gladwell, Malcolm (April 8, 2011). "The Pitchman: Ron Popeil and the Conquest of the American Kitchen". PEN America. Retrieved March 8, 2023.
  10. ^ Mateja, Andrew (2013). The Rise and Fall of the First Popeil Gadget Dynasty. Mustang, Oklahoma: Tate Publishing. p. 33.
  11. ^ "Ig Nobel Prize Winners". Improbable Research. August 1, 2006. Retrieved August 1, 2021.
  12. ^ "Lifetime Achievement Award". Electronic Retailing Association. Archived from the original on May 6, 2018. Retrieved May 22, 2017.
  13. ^ Haire, Thomas (April 2013). "Pearls of Wisdom" (PDF). Response Magazine. Cannella Response Television LLC. Archived from the original (PDF) on August 2, 2021. Retrieved December 15, 2021.
  14. ^ "Ron Popeil, Infomercial Tycoon, Dies At 86". Huffington Post. July 28, 2021. Retrieved July 28, 2021.
  15. ^ "Ron Popeil, inventor and king of TV pitchmen, dies at 86". The Associated Press. July 28, 2021. Retrieved July 29, 2021.
  16. ^ Daniel Victor (July 29, 2021). "Ron Popeil, Inventor and Ubiquitous Infomercial Pitchman, Dies at 86". The New York Times. Archived from the original on August 1, 2021. Retrieved May 8, 2022.
  17. ^ "Ron Popeil Infomercial King Dead at 86". TMZ. Retrieved July 29, 2021.
  18. ^ (September 25, 1982) Saturday Night Live commercial for the "Popeil Galactic Prophylactic".[citation needed]
  19. ^ Eighinger, S. (October 30, 2020). "Legendary 'hair in a can' remains all-time king of infomercials". Herald-Whig. Retrieved September 1, 2021.
  20. ^ "". Archived from the original on April 17, 2011. Retrieved April 16, 2011.
  21. ^ Cudmore, Libby (February 27, 2019). "'Weird Al' Yankovic's 'In 3-D' Turns 35 | Anniversary Retrospective". Albumism. Retrieved September 1, 2021.
  22. ^ Malcolm Gladwell, "The Pitchman" Archived November 15, 2017, at the Wayback Machine

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