Season 3 Episode 4
Season 3 Episode 4
Liz Johnson cooks up an ode to her favorite pastime: the culinary infomercial 🍗🔨🎥
Words by Liz Johnson
Posted April 2, 2021
“I AM RON FUCKING POPEIL!”
He screamed at his reflection while slamming his palm against the full-length mirror. He stood in the green room of a live production studio in Santa Clarita, surrounded by his team. They were gathered to film the infomercial pilot of their new product, Showtime™ Rotisserie & BBQ Oven™ Pro.
He checked his wristwatch, “How? dare? she?” he barked into his tanned foreman, causing the woman touching up his foundation to jump.
Normally a rational man, Ronald, “America’s Inventor” had become increasingly short tempered ever since She came into the picture.
His new co-host. A peaky-looking woman with a gelled, prickly, pixie cut. She ended up in the Ronco circuit after a run-in with Ron’s agent at the Von’s on Sunset (she was out of her beloved Boboli). Lil had been in need of a new gig since her character, Party-goer #2, had been written out of the next 7th Heaven episode. This new opportunity seemed like it could be her big break, so she dropped the pizza crusts in her basket, and shook on the offer.
Her predecessor had left big shoes to fill. Steven, Ron’s former co-host was quick-witted, light on his feet, and connected with the senior crowd in a way that she could never hope to. He had been with the ‘Co through waves of innovation. It was Steve who suggested using V8 juice in the Ronco™ Popeil Automatic Pasta Maker™, creating a tomato rotini so pure – so clean in flavor. Some even say it was Steve, not Ron, who coined the phrase, “Accept no substitutes”, during a debate over Antz vs. A Bug’s Life (Steve was team Antz).
The harmony between R and S was that out of a storybook. Their working relationship was all business but when they got on that stage, their routine was nothing short of a ballet. They twirled around the cabinets with ease, grinning playfully to their guests and injecting their warmth using casual conversation (and a little help from the Showtime BBQ™ Flavor Injector™). Their emerald-green aprons lay snug on their chests, clean and crisp, with not even a drop of flavor injectulate to soil them. They were professionals.
“She’ll get them going soon, want a drink?” said a staffer as she plunged her hand into an ice bath. She fished around for a Diet Coke, snapped it open, and offered it to Ron.
He looked disgusted, “Diet Coke? Are you new here?” he replied. “Did you even read my rider??”
Ron’s Rider™ consisted of the following.
— 10 bags - Smartfood white cheddar popcorn
— 4 racks - baby back ribs, unsauced and rotisserie-d
— 1 dozen - hard-boiled eggs, peeled, yolks removed
— 8 ounces - Country Crock
— 4 ounces – Zachy’s chicken schmaltz, lukewarm
— 6 cans - Diet Pepsi
— 1 bottle - Canadian Club
— 1 pound - See’s candies, soft-centers only
— 1 canister - crystal light citrus blend flavor, non-mixed, with a spoon
His disgust continued with, “And stop leaving these pizza crusts in my area!”
Everyone knew Ron didn’t eat carbs on the job, let alone on a performance day. It was Lillian who had left her half-eaten Boboli laying out.
See, if Steve were here, the crowd would be roaring right about now. His opening set began with a light jog around the stage while mouthing “I can’t hear you”, as he pumped his arms up and down, beckoning everyone to get excited. He would transition into emotional 1-on-1’s with the Showtime™ Rotisserie Diet Program™ participants. Steve would finish it out by making everyone do the wave, followed by an explosive callback chant:
Steve, “What’s that?”
Crowd, “Set it!”
Steve, “A little louder!”
Crowd, “And forget it!”
Steve, “Is that all you got?”
Crowd, “SET IT!”
Steve, “There it is!”
Crowd, “AND FORGET IT!”
He was a hype man that could put ‘Lil Jon to shame. Lillian, neither hype nor man, was struggling to find her voice out there.
“Circle up!” Ron called to the group. The crew laid their arms on each other’s shoulders and huddled together, listening intently to his commanding tone, “We’re going to have to come out strong. We edged out Billy Blanks [of Tae Bo] for the NBC 2:00 AM slot, so I can’t afford anyone messing this up. I didn’t get on the cover of Good Housekeeping to fu----"
In burst a man wearing a headset, “They’re ready for you, Boss!” he exclaimed.
“Let’s have a good show, Mazel everybody” Ron said, seeming a bit crest fallen – should he call it all off? Was he tempting fate? The door to the stage remained ajar, and there was no excitement to be heard. He caught some of Lillian’s faint ramblings and could have sworn he heard her mention the Non-Stick Multi-Purpose Basket™. “No, that couldn’t be right” he thought – it was far too early in the program to introduce the accessories? Ron bent over and wiped a spec of dirt off his stark white K-Swiss tennis shoes, he was as ready as he would ever be.
Enter Ron stage right. He garnered a decent reception, one of the hired audience “Chefs” nearly knocked over her chair in excitement. A couple from Oregon, who originally had signed up to be in the crowd of “Who’s Line is it Anyway?”, seemed intrigued and even high-fived the people sitting next to them. A 56-year-old mother from Tecate, Mexico brought her 30-year-old daughter, and their personal Six-Star 20-Piece Cutlery Set™, in hopes of getting it signed after the demonstration.
Ron surveyed the audience and thought to himself, “This crowd is ripe…”
“Whoomp, there he is!” Lillian exclaimed, timed as if she knew it would directly interrupt his thoughts, as she mimed ‘bowing down before him’.
“What the fuck does whoomp mean?” As he regained control of his thoughts, “It’s official, I hate her more than George Foreman. Is that-----” He focused in on her stupid face: pizza crumbs flecked the crook of her mouth. Stunned, he knew had to keep his composure. As he had the tendency to be hotheaded, Ron often practiced centering himself with the helpful use of a mantra.
“Cchaarr ruuub™™™. Chaaar rrrub™™. Ron’s Char Rub™.” he repeated in his head, and again – he found himself at center once more.
So began his dance.
Salting & skewering. “Ask the operator to hear about the accessories,” steaming & basting, Iit makes a great gift,” Liquid Flavor Injecting™ & Solid Flavor Injecting™, “Not available in stores!”
The scent of spring garlic and rosemary filled the air. His skilled hands, enrobed in the Showtime™ Rotisserie heat resistant BBQ gloves, glided a serrated knife through glass-like chicken skin. Plump sausages glistened under the red-hot heating element. Lillian slid her tongue along her lips in anticipation. Sweat beaded on top of his bald spot.
“Tell me Ron, what else can you do in this incredible machine?” Lillian asked Ron with an overexaggerated look of intrigue. “Could you do a pizza?”
During his strength demonstration, the hammer Ron was taking to the front of the oven pierced the shatter-proof glass. This had never happened before. His head throbbing, he caught her gaze with a look of horror. White-hot rage came over him.
Through gritted teeth he wheezed, “Get the fuck off of my stage.”. Lillian retreated to the exit door, not before ripping the pope’s nose out of a rotating Cornish hen and popping it into her mouth.
Ron faced the audience.
“But wait, there’s more!”