Svengoolie Offers New Tricks and Treats

Svengoolie on MeTV
Rich Kos as ‘Svengoolie’ (Image credit: MeTV)

Svengoolie’s Halloween BOOnanza event began October 1 on MeTV, and runs throughout the month. Svengoolie is a top hat-clad, coffin-dwelling host, portrayed by Rich Koz, with a taste for horror movies — both campy and classic. BOOnanza features a primetime special, a weekly movie showcase, a new season of spinoff Sventoonie, and Sunday mini-marathons of classic sitcoms’ most frightful episodes. 

Before and after the Saturday movie showcase’s commercial breaks, Svengoolie aims a few quips at the horror flick and shares details about the cast and directors. 

Svengoolie was initially played by Jerry G. Bishop on WFLD Chicago, starting in 1970, with Svengoolie writer Koz debuting as host of spinoff Son of Svengoolie in 1979. It was cancelled in 1986, and came back, as Svengoolie, on Weigel’s WCIU Chicago in 1994. 

Svengoolie went national on Weigel’s MeTV in 2011. The show is now looking for a Svengoolie sidekick with the campaign “Spawn of Svengoolie.”

Koz spoke about BOOnanza, Svengoolie going coast to coast and what he looks for in horror films. An edited transcript follows. 

B+C: You’re in costume and makeup on Svengoolie. How often are you recognized on the street?

Rich Koz: It happens all the time, actually. I’ve done several shows in Chicago as myself and people put together two and two. I get recognized all the time. Most of the time it’s a very positive experience. People come up to me and say how big a fan they are, and they thank me for doing the show. 

B+C: Your Halloween BOOnanza event began on MeTV October 1. How’s it going?

RK: So far, I think it’s done really well. There was a great turnout for [horror cult classic] Trilogy of Terror and [primetime special] Svengoolie Uncrypted and Sventoonie. And people are really into the sitcoms, too. 

B+C: What’s the highlight of BOOnanza for you?

RK: Having the Svengoolie Uncrypted special was a milestone for us. I was flattered that MeTV actually wanted to have a whole hour for me. That was very, very cool.

Trilogy of Terror we’d tried to get for several years. [Weigel vice chairman] Neal Sabin knows it is truly one of most memorable made-for-TV movies. 

B+C: Svengoolie went national with MeTV about a decade ago. Has that changed your life at all?

RK: It has, especially recently — the fact that it has been taken all over the country and our numbers are so high now. We get great feedback all over the country. I liken horror hosts to Doctor Who — the first one you saw is always your favorite, none can compare. And so I worried that people would think, you’re not as good as [a preferred local horror host] is. But I’m very grateful that people have taken to the show and really enjoy it. 

'Bride of Frankenstein' on MeTV's 'Svengoolie'

Among the horror classics set to air on Svengoolie in the coming weeks is the 1935 Universal Pictures classic Bride of Frankenstein. (Image credit: MeTV)

B+C: Who’s been an influence for you?

RK: The original Svengoolie who got me into the business and decided I should be Son of Svengoolie, Jerry G. Bishop. He was a radio and TV personality from the ’60s and ’70s. He would read jokes people sent in to Svengoolie. I sent some jokes in and he had me come in.  

B+C: Did you ever envision that this would be how your career played out?

RK: No, definitely not. I got the Son of Svengoolie gig in 1979. People say, ‘Did you think you still would be doing the show?’ I was not thinking toward the future that much. I had no plan to go this long. 

B+C: How many movies have you featured on Svengoolie? Have you ever counted?

RK: I haven’t. It goes back to when it was on WFLD [Chicago]. It’s gotta be over a thousand at this point.

B+C: Does one stand out?

RK: People ask me all the time what my favorite is. I tell them I like different ones for different reasons. The original Universal Classic Monsters — Frankenstein, Dracula, The Wolf Man. And there’s The Creature From the Black Lagoon

B+C: Is there a movie and episode that’s coming up that you’re particularly excited about?

RK: I have a couple. People love Vincent Price. We have one he did with [director] William Castle called The Tingler. He discovers, when people are afraid, there’s some sort of creature inside of them, in their backbone. The more afraid they are, the more vicious it becomes. 

The Bride of Frankenstein is coming up and Count Yorga, Vampire

B+C: What makes a good movie for Svengoolie?

RK: It depends. We go from the classics to real awful B movies, where it’s always fun to talk about the awful special efforts and the bad acting. But any movie works. We find ways to make any movie fodder for our programs and our segments. 

B+C: What are you watching for fun?

RK: I like the comedy show Ghosts. I recently watched the British version of Ghosts and found it really good and very charming. It’s genuinely funny and it’s a great idea. ■

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.