feature image via youtube
Ron Popeil is many things. Entrepreneur, inventor, “As Seen on TV” phenomenon, 90’s cultural icon, salesman, and most importantly, a man named Ron who named his company RonCo, which is so pure and moronic I feel with him a spiritual connection. If you don’t remember Ron Popeil and his reign over an infomercial empire, then you’re probably under 25, and in which case, a sincere congratulations.
Those of us who do remember Ron do so with five words in mind: “Set it and forget it!” It’s a catchphrase that was meant to sell slow cook rotisseries – oh, and it did, over 8 million of them – but soon it became a nation’s chorus. When he said, “Set it,” we said, “forget it!!!!!!!!”
Ron has since left the spotlight, but his legacy remains. He has over 15 patents to his company’s name and continues to invent well into retirement. And while they aren’t all winners, none of them are MyPillow, which is literally just a pillow someone named Mike Lindell claims to have “invented” 10 years ago, and that’s something to celebrate.
As we’re all looking for a distraction from the nightmare that continues to rain down upon us, here are all of RonCo’s inventions ranked.
15. Solid Flavor Injector
This is a device that lets you inject solid food into other solid food, which sounds like something a bible verse denounces. The name is also… not great.
14. RonCo Popeil Automatic Pasta Maker
All of the self-referential names in this feels desperate. I trust many a pasta can be made with it, but at what cost?
13. Drain Buster
Just clears drains. This one feels uninspired, like Ron was going through a rough time and just needed to crank out another product. It’s not last because this made me feel sad for Ron.
12. Electric Food Dehydrator
A strictly business name for a strictly business product. I’d actually use this, maybe even daily, but I’d absolutely hate knowing it existed somewhere in my kitchen. It’d be like the broom in the closet, but for your cabinets. Like you need it, but it’s always in the way and there’s really no way to conceal it.
11. The Cap Snaffler
“Snaffles caps off any size jug, bottle, or jar… And it really, really works.” The insistence at the end is suspicious, and the listing of various things that have caps is unnerving to me. This is like when you’re trying to lie about something and you overdo it on the details when really something casual like, “Got caps? It’ll uncap it,” would really do the trick. Points for the name.
10. Six Star 20-Piece Cutlery Set
Ron invented a new star-ranking system for this cutlery set, which is a hilarious thing to do, and even more so because he wasn’t trying to be funny, and so it absolutely deserves our respect.
9. Showtime Rotisserie
Here we are at the invention that made Ron a household name. Set it and forget it y’all. Anyway, good product.
8. Mr. Microphone
This one is a radio transmitter that, if I’m understanding correctly broadcasts through the FM radio, so it’s like you’re the one singing on the radio. This is channeling some selfie stick steez decades in advance.
7. Smokeless Ashtray
This ashtray has an integrated fan that blows the smoke in another direction. This feels like he thought it was going to be super revolutionary but then realized later he just tried to recreate the concept of wind. The fact that they went ahead with it anyway is commendable.
This was SlapChop before there was SlapChop. It was hailed as the “greatest appliance ever made” and personally I love the confidence.
This is a mandolin-style slicer and promised the only tears you’ll be crying while cutting onions will be “tears of joy.” An incredible selling point and an even more incredible image brought to life.
4. Popeil Pocket Fisherman
This is legit just a tiny fishing pole, and the shrinking of an item that is like the very last thing that needs to be shrunk has Total Ron Move as well Top Five written all over it.
3. GLH-9 : Hair In a Can
Ron really went off the rails here in the name department and I’ll be honest I’m into it! Also if you’re such a good salesman that you can convince someone to spray paint their head under the guise of an acceptable alternative to hair loss, you deserve all the success that comes your way.
2. Ronco Rhinestone Stud Setter
“It changes everyday clothing into exciting fashions and you don’t have to spend a fortune.” The thought of Ron enabling millions of women to ruin entire closets of clothing is iconic.
1. Inside-The-Shell Egg Scrambler
Ron invented this because of his “lifelong revulsion toward incompletely blended scrambled eggs,” which is so idiosyncratic and unnecessary and fully Ron that it deserves the number one spot.
My grandma still has a Chop-o-matic, and insists that I use it every time I cook at her house. Ron could make a product.
This is the best thing I’ve ever read, thank you so much, especially for #5 which may have elicited some actual tears. Of joy and hilarity, not onionness! It also makes me nostalgic for the fake TV show trappings of the Magic Bullet, which I will now go find on youtube and watch over and over again, brb.
Thank you for the laugh. I needed it. Actually, thanks for all the laughs, Erin, because your pieces bring em consistently. <3
Erin pls marry me
It must be noted that no less than Weird Al Yankovic has a song called Mr. Popeil on his In 3D album about this amazing man.
Well now I know the word “snaffler” exists. Definition: one who snaffles. To snaffle is to grab or seize, but ALSO to purloin or obtain by devious means.
Good stuff very educational, got me in the mood to snaffle a rotisserie chicken.
I thought that was a made-up word!! Or like, some Ron-specific colloquialism.
My favorite thing about this is learning that the “set it and forget it” guy also invented the pocket fisherman :)
Lol! Until reading this list I had no idea the “set it and forget it” guy invented anything else ?
The only way this list would have been better is, if it would have been about Ilene Chaiken and her top 15 TV characters ranked by offensive plot lines.
Also, more pictures.
Some of us are blondes, you know.
Whoa, there, I am scandalized by the unjust placement of the food dehydrator at the back end of the list!
Nothing was marketed more heavily on my local tv station than the food dehydrator and I know several people who actually bought them. That thing made some legitimately edible dried apricots!
Erin this is sooooo goooood
Also, am I to understand that Ron basically invented some mishmashy version of the Bedazzler + the EZ 2 Do? (ie. the Ronco Rhinestone Stud Setter) ???
For your enjoyment:
The EZ 2 Do
“This is a device that lets you inject solid food into other solid food, which sounds like something a bible verse denounces.”
Watching that infomercial footage so many times as a kid may have turned me away from heteronormative penetrative sex. Is a bottom-of-the-barrel kitchen gadget my kink root??
This is the best biography anyone has ever written.
There was a gallery exhibit of RonCo products at the Chicago Cultural Center several years ago and it was great. I took all of my design students to see it.
It also had a video of the SNL skit Bass-o-matic playing. That may have been my favorite part.
I do think Mr. Microphone deserves a higher ranking. I remember seeing this ad all the time.
BTW the guy that says, “Hey, good lookin’. We’ll be back to pick you up later.” improvised that line while sitting next to his girlfriend (Ron’s daughter).
Oh, but this is the very first RonCo product I remember. The bottle and glass cutter.
Erin, this brought me miraculous joy all day. Thank you.
The problem Popiel Pocket Fisherman has to be no 1. Classic Popiel goodness.
A close 2nd has to be the food dehydrator- perfect for all your mushroom related needs. Ahem.
No idea where that extra word came from. Must be the dehydrator!
My family had the food dehydrator and the roaster back in the day. I would totes still make my own jerky if I had the time/space for it.
This was wonderful, I’m all misty eyed and shit from the wonderfulness.
I once hiked like three hours to a small subalpine lake with two people who carried their long-ass fishing rods all the way there up a mountain through a forest because they heard there was good fishin’ to be had, and they complained the whole way there and back about how unwieldy it was to carry long-ass fishing rods for three hours up a mountain through a forest. They would have been all over that Pocket Fisherman. In fact, come up with any unlikely item that could possibly be shrunk, and I will find you a backpacker who would use it.