David Letterman Steamer Product Prank Costs Richard Simmons Dearly

Back in 2006, Richard Simmons decided to launch a new product. This time Simmons was going to promote a steam cooker called “Steam Heat.”

Richard Simmons even taped an infomercial to promote the Steam Heat steamer. I’m not sure if the infomercial ever aired on TV but until recently the clips were available on the official Richard Simmons website.

Here are two clips from the infomercial. These clips aren’t that interesting in themselves, but they do prove that Steam Heat was a real product that Richard Simmons was serious about marketing—it was not a “gag” product he made up for his appearance on Letterman:

Then in one of the least financially fruitful appearances anyone has ever made on a national talk show this happened:

If you watch this video closely, it is clear what occurred: Letterman set up Richard Simmons. The tray (which is not a “go-go kart”) that perplexed Simmons had been rigged to make it look like the steam cooker was malfunctioning. When the tray started to emit steam Simmons suddenly realized what was happening (“Oh, this is funny…This is why.”) However, he was still genuinely startled by the explosion. (You can see that Letterman, who took it all in stride, knew what was coming.)

Soon after this incident first happened I vaguely remember seeing a clip of it somewhere, and I wasn’t sure if it was all a set up or if the steamer genuinely malfunctioned. Now, after having watched the clip twice—the second time closely—it is obvious the Steam Heat product did not malfunction. But I’m sure that the majority of people who just saw this scene once on TV or caught the video on the Web will think the steamer really did explode. And Richard’s target market of middle-aged Quacker Factory-wearing QVC viewers are the least likely to understand that it was a prank; they will definitely not buy such a “dangerous” product, even if their favorite fitness guru is endorsing it.

Now Steam Heat is no longer featured on Richard Simmons’ own website. Most likely it flopped in sales and I’m sure the Letterman incident is a big reason why. The Letterman prank on Richard Simmons may have been one of the most financially costly practical jokes of all time.


  • 7 Responses to “David Letterman Steamer Product Prank Costs Richard Simmons Dearly”

  • the most financially costly practical joke of all time was with the one and only klee irwin. He was promoting the dual action cleanse on late night television. He took one supplement of dual action cleanse on the show to show how easy it was to swallow. The producers had taken out the dual action cleanse and put in laxative. Klee immediately started wildly pooping on the show. He pooped so much at once that the poop ripped his pants. Klee, who was completely embarrassed, took out a banjo and started playing it.

    Obviously this story is made up, but a guy can dream, right?

    Comment by dan on February 21, 2008 at 12:17 pm

  • The producers here have mixed the scenario of the Magic Bullet infomercial with the slogan of the Popeil Showtime Rotisserie’s “Set It and Forget It” by coming up with “Turn It On and You’re Gone.” Oy.

    Comment by Scott Mercer on March 9, 2008 at 10:13 pm

  • I bought the Richard Simmons steamer and love it, it was one of the best items I have purchase. All my in laws own one as well. The features it has are one of the best. I view David Lettermen as a very inmature host. If someone did this to him and cost him millons of dollars I just bet it would not been so funny by his views. I stopped watching the show after I found out it was rigged by the show. I refused to watch him because degrading someone and interviwing someone he has not learned to desifer yet. He is a sad excuse as a talk show host.

    Comment by margaert ashe on November 1, 2008 at 9:23 pm

  • If you have not tried one of these steamers do so before making your decision. If your decision is based on watching a tv show that has admitted to rigging this item then you are watching to much tv. So please do not make an informed descision unless you have one. My whole family is eating right. We do meat, potatos, fresh veggies and they are the greatest. I have even purchased one for a backup or family gathering. Steaming shrimp, scallops, and fish is wonderful. Setting three different times for three different dish is so handy. While the other trays are still cooking the steamer automaticly keeps the ones that are finished warm. I love this steamer.

    Comment by margaert ashe on November 1, 2008 at 9:33 pm

  • Have it! Love it!! no better steamer in the world!!!

    Comment by Jan Stephens on September 23, 2010 at 7:14 pm

  • Bollocks! Lettermans prank had nothing to do with it! Everyone who watched it knew it was a prank, and not a malfunction!
    Richard Simmons is a legend and can handle himself, he’s a big girl, he can deal with it… alot of “new products” don’t cut it… I personaly don’t buy crap products… the steamer is one of them! I mean come on… you have a pan, fill in with water, put a colander on it and a lid!!! Why buy the steamer? Because… americans are obsessed with junk, and novelties that the rest of the world wont buy!

    If its itchy scratch it!
    If its bleeding cover it!
    If its an American leave it alone… they have creams for that sorta thing!

    Comment by Garry Hibbert on December 9, 2010 at 5:25 pm

  • After the Letterman feature, Simmon’s Steam Heat was completely sold out in the 72 hours following the show. Simmon’s later said they had a total of 125,000 units and although there was a high demand, Simmons instead executed an early launch of the Fat Zapper Grill which sold half a million units in its first month and offered a much higher profit margin. Make no mistake, Richard Simmons #1 talent is his business acumen. All the rest is just flawless promotion.

    Comment by skip bo on July 19, 2018 at 1:47 am