Svengoolie: The Best
reasons owing to nostalgia and
personal tastes, I have other favorite horror hosts (especially
Zacherley, and I grew up with Morgus the Magnificent), but the one I
most admire is Svengoolie.
current Svengoolie has been played by Rich Koz since the '70s.
The original Sven was invented by Jerry G. Bishop who only played the
character for the years, hosting a program known as Screaming Yellow
Theater. Rich Koz was a fan of the Bishop show who became a
series writer after sending in ideas. When Bishop left the
station planned to resurrect the series, Bishop recommended Koz, and
the character was called the "Son of Svengoolie." After several
years the "son of" portion was dropped, and Koz became Svengoolie (with
Bishop's blessing, stating that he "believed he was grown up enough now
to no longer be just the Son").
The series aired off and on WFLD 32 in the
Chicago area. The "Son of Svengoolie" show ran from 1979-1986.
This was canceled when WFLD joined the FOX network but was restarted on
WCIU Chicago, now as "Svengoolie." As of 2011, Sven now airs
nationally on METV.
makes the show great
The balance. Many hosts focus
exclusively on sketch comedy (e.g., Stella, Morgus, etc.) or entirely
on the movie (e.g., Joe Bob Briggs), but Svengoolie mixes a reverence
for the films with sketches and silly jokes, most of which play on the
is the Robert Osborne of horror hosting. He's been around
(off and on) since the '70s, and the show has evolved over time to
something of the TCM of horror and sci-fi films. His commentary
and reverence for film history is completely unparalleled among horror
*The range of movies, both in style and
era. The series has primarily focused on the classic Universal
monster movies, but he also shows bad films from the '50s through the
'70s. You don't see a lot of trashy movies or slasher films the
way Joe Bob Briggs' "Drive-In Theater" did, but there are plenty of
campy films. The show tries to stay family-friendly, but other
than that parameter, you see a broad range of horror (and some sci-fi)
Much as horror host Ghoulardi did with "Parma" during his run, Sven
uses the neighborhood of Berwyn as something of an in-joke/catch phrase.
effects. For years we've heard from a library of classic
lines that are delivered up like the Wilhelm scream. Something to
listen for in every episode is the classic "Ow! Ow! OW!" or "You dirty,
chickens! Silly as it is, these are an integral part of
everything. Every voice you hear is Rich's, including
impressions of Pee Wee Herman, Mr. Rogers, Groucho Marx, etc. He
writes the show. Not only the show, but he also blogs, writes the
newsletter, and he makes countless appearances: judges costume
contests, shows up at conventions. He literally worked himself
nearly to death. Rich had a heart attack in 2012 at the end of
the grueling Halloween season.
of a typical show
Just to give you an idea of all the components that make up a typical
show, here's a list of many of the features Sven includes. Not
all of these may appear in every episode (e.g., the commercial parodies
are relatively rare, and they might take the place of a song parody if
they appear), but all these have been done at one time or another on
(CG animation with the them song)
of the movie (including spoilers, unfortunately)
you know them from - The most notable roles of actors are
highlighted, particularly in films from the same genre. In some
cases the director or other crew are spotlighted as well.
commercial - A farcical spot for a product appropriate to some
aspect of the film.
parody - A Weird Al-style reworking of a popular song into a
humorous commentary on the film.
comedy - These segments are rare, but occasionally Sven
(sometimes accompanied by puppets or other actors) will launch into a
short sketch such as a Star Trek parody.
mail (Sing it: "Thank you... for all your cards and letters!")
the Road with Sven" - Coverage of convention appearances or
- Portions of the film (or even the entire film in a few rare cases)
are completely re-dubbed with new dialog and sound effects with Sven
playing all the characters.
bumpers - Sven makes a few comments which turn out to be a
set-up leading to a punchline constructed out of the first bit of the
film's dialog as they return to it.
of the week" closing segment - Sven always acts like he's going
to give a teaser about what they're showing next week, when he is
interrupted by the doorbell. He goes over and listens to a corny
joke told my an unseen visitor (although you do get to see his hand).