Svengoolie: The Best Horror Host?

For 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.

A little history...

The 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. 

What 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 film itself.

Svengoolie 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 hosts.

*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) cinema.

Berwyn.  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.

The sound 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, dirty bird!"

Rubber chickens!  Silly as it is, these are an integral part of the show.

He does 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.

Anatomy 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 the show.

More info:
Episode list for Screaming Yellow Theater (The original Svengoolie show.)
Episode list for Son of Svengoolie (When Rich Koz took over from Jerry G. Bishop.)
Episode list for Svengoolie (His later series.  Lists episodes before the show went national.)
About Svengoolie:


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