"Mr. Mainway, your company manufactures the following so-called harmless playthings: Pretty Peggy Ear-Piercing Set, Mr. Skin-Grafter, General Tron's Secret Police Confession Kit, and Doggie Dentist. And what about this innocent rubber doll, which you market under the name Johnny Switchblade? Press his head, and two sharp knives spring from his arms. Mr. Mainway, I'm afraid this is, by no means, a very safe toy."
Portrayed by Dan Aykroyd
on Saturday Night Live
sketches, Irwin Mainway is the president of Mainway Toys
, a company that produces fun for those on a budget. Mainway, a crass entrepreneur with the moral fiber
of a doorknob in a cheap suit
, has often been accused of purposely manufacturing dangerous toys
and the SNL
sketches featuring him often revolve around Mainway appearing in court
or on a consumer affairs
show (typically with cast member Jane Curtain
) to explain himself and his terrible toys. Some of his products include a home tattoo kit (unsanitary needles and a bag of dark ink), a "Johnny Space Commander Mask" (a plastic bag and a rubber band for securing the bag over the head), high-jump shoes (sneakers with firecrackers embedded in the soles), and other such hazardous items. The satire behind the sketches are based on the many consumer recall
s in society as childrens' toys that were honestly thought to be harmless turned out to be small enough to block a child's windpipe, contained lead paint
, or other such hazards. Mainway's toys are blantantly dangerous, containing knives or obvious suffocation hazards, and that's the gag.
The punchlines of the sketches are that each product that Mainway is asked to explain becomes increasingly more and more dangerous and difficult to defend, and yet Mainway always has a plausible explanation for each item. The character appeared mostly in the late 1970s when Dan Aykroyd was a member of the cast, however the character did appear in the 1990s when Aykroyd did an unannounced guest appearance on the show as part of a Judge Judy parody in which Irwin was sued by an outraged mother for selling his horrible "toys". He's largely been forgotten over the years, which is a pity. Imagine all the "toys" the writers of SNL could create with today's modern advances and all the clever explanations to defend them.
"He's the ultimate urban businessman--the true hawker," explained Aykroyd in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine in 1979, "Have you ever been to one of those joints where they auction appliances off the street? The guy has a mike around his neck and he talks a five-dollar clock radio up to thirty-three bucks? This is how Mainway started. He was one of those barkers and most his goods were hot. Now he's evolved into a business executive and he goes on talk shows for publicity and to push and defend his really bad, harmful products; fur coats made from near extinct animals, a kid's toy called Bag O' Glass..."
Rolling Stone magazine #285 interview conducted by Tim White