A Freakonomics Contest: What Do You Say to a Celebrity?

Earlier this week, I was sitting with my friend Bill poolside in Las Vegas.? (For the record, there are few things I like less than pools, but unfortunately there are few things my kids like more.)

Bill recognized an older gentleman sitting nearby and said to him, “I’m a big fan of your work.”

The man nodded and quietly thanked him.

The gentleman was Ron Popeil, who amassed a fortune by bringing the “pitchman” style to TV, direct-selling products like the Veg-O-Matic, Mr. Microphone, and the Ronco Food Dehydrator to a nation of consumers hungry to slice, dice, and, apparently, extract moisture from five trays’ worth of fruit.

As we walked away, Bill said, “That was so lame — I should’ve said something better.”

That got us thinking … what do you say to a celebrity??? I think the right answer is to say nothing at all and pretend you don’t recognize him.?? Others I’ve talked to disagree.

We haven’t done a giveaway in a while so for some Freakonomics schwag, what would you have said to Ron Popeil?

I’ll pick my favorite answer among those posted in the first 24 hours.

P.S.? If you were going to submit “Is that a Pocket Fisherman in your Speedo, or are you just happy to see me?,” my sister Linda beat you to it.

Addendum: You can see the contest’s winner?here.


Catchin' anything?

Amazon Deals

I'd say: "Hey you're on TV right? Aren't you Billy Mays?"

Sustoo.com Amazon Deals

I'd say: "Hey you're on TV right? Aren't you Billy Mays?"

David Harkleroad

What would you say to a non-celebrity?

Does the celebrity appear to want to engage? I was recently on Martha's Vineyard, where I say a recognizable celebrity, enjoying a take out meal with his wife and son. He was not seeking the limelight, so my wife and I smiled and let him enjoy some family time.

Point is, what do you really want to get out of the interaction? Let the celebrity know you're a fan? If so, then Bill did exactly the right thing. Get a free Veg-O-Matic? Probably requires a different approach... Engage in a conversation? In this case, to my lead question, ask how would you engage in a conversation with a non-celebrity, and you have your answer.

Lohan'd wins the pot.

"Lindsay, what a lovely ankle bracelet."


In NYC once, while waiting to cross an avenue, I heard a voice I recognized and turned to find Spike Lee crossing the street towards me, talking on his phone. He made eye contact, I nodded my head to him, he nodded his head to me, and we both moved on with our lives.

It was perfect. Without words I communicated my respect and was acknowledged.


"hey! You're Ron Popeil! Are those great abs a result of the ab-tronic, the ab-shaper, the ab-inator or just good genes?"


"I've purchased all of your products."


Set it and forget it


" Your GLH-9 Hair in a Can Spray was is wondrful"


Saying nothing, or just saying hello, sound about right. Celebrities get the adoring fan treatment often enough when they're in star mode or on the job. If he's at a setting like the pool, he just wants to relax, and not get the whole fame deal.

That said, if I were to run into one of my favorite authors (Pratchett, Dubner/Levitt, the ghost of Douglas Adams) I'd probably lose it, run to get the closest copy of their book(s) I could find, and demand that they sign it.

We can talk about how we'd keep ourselves under control all we want, but once we actually come face-to-face with our favorite author/celebrity/actor/whatever, its a different story.


"Love your hair."

Tea Partier.

Ron, would you consider selling the Obam-O-Matic, a device that keeps your TV tuned to any networks like FoxNews that are slicing, dicing and chopping Obama at that moment?


"You have a gift to captivate people - I try to muster up the same spark from your pitches in my 30 second elevator pitch. I don't know what you're working on now, but you have had a profound impact on marketing."

Dan O

I'd want to know who got to eat all the food that they always cooked on those infomercials Saturday morning.


If you just happen to see them, don't say anything. If the circumstances are such that you actually have eye-contact or interaction with them, a simple smile or "hey" is sufficient.

Celebrities are just 'other people', so treat them like you normally treat 'other people'.


I was just thinking about you!

Martha Garvey

That thing really did slice and dice. Thanks for saving my mother's sanity in the kitchen.


Don't you know who I am?


"Y'know, you look just like Ron Popeil. Nawh, but you couldn't be him. He's much better looking."