They came to us via the live action Saturday morning adventure show Land of the Lost.
Most of the villains in my work back then were based on teachers and administrators of our unruly middle school, as well as my enemies in the student body. The shuffling, "my blood hasn't warmed up yet" Sleestaks made ideal henchmen for them, as they were even dumber than their masters.
The Sleestaks had their Aristotle in the form of Enik, who spoke English and wore a sparkly vest. But Enik collaborated with the humans, creating political tensions.
There was a period of my life when I judged whether I should ask a girl out based on her knowledge of Sleestaks and her appreciation of them as a humor source. With careful selection of the TV reference, this fabulous technique could probably be extended to any era.