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Also known as
  • Screaming Yellow Theater
  • Son of Svengoolie
Created byJerry G. Bishop
Developed by
  • Jerry G. Bishop (1970–73)
  • Rich Koz (1979–present)
Written by
  • Jerry G. Bishop (1970–73)
  • Rich Koz (1979–present)
Directed byChris M. Faulkner
Presented by
  • Jerry G. Bishop (1970–73)
  • Rich Koz (1979–present)
ComposerDoug Scharf
Country of originUnited States
Executive producersRich Koz
Jim Roche
ProducerChris M. Faulkner
Production locationsChicago, Illinois, USA
CinematographyMalcom Conyers
EditorChris M. Faulkner
Camera setupMalcom Conyers
Running time120 minutes
Production companyU-City Productions
Original network
Picture formatNTSC
Audio formatMonaural
Original releaseSeptember 18, 1970 (1970-09-18) –
RelatedSventoonie (2022–present)

Svengoolie is an American hosted horror movie television program.[3] The show features horror and science fiction films and is hosted by the eponymous character Svengoolie, who was originally played by Jerry G. Bishop from 1970 to 1973, before Rich Koz succeeded him in the role from 1979 on. Before and after commercial breaks, Svengoolie presents sketches, tells jokes, and performs parody songs related to the films being aired. The show is a long-running local program in the Chicago area and in recent years expanded nationally, airing Saturday nights on MeTV.


The show airs both low-budget and classic horror and science-fiction movies, with host "Svengoolie" – a telescoping of the words Svengali and ghoul – played by Rich Koz[4] (pronounced "Koze"), who wears thick skull-like makeup around his eyes and cheekbones, a moustache, goatee, and long wig, all black, and a black top hat with a tuxedo jacket over a bright red, open-collared, button-down shirt.

Just before and after commercial breaks, Svengoolie presents sketches, tells corny jokes, and performs song parody spoofs of the film being aired.[1] Some shows were presented in what was later dubbed "Sven-surround" – a pun on "Sensurround", a brand name theater audio system – in which Svengoolie would joke as the film aired sometimes with humorous sound effects.[1] (The creators of Mystery Science Theater 3000 cited Svensurround as an inspiration.) This stunt was discontinued for a short time, then brought back due to viewer request, although as a clip segment aired outside the film.

One relatively recent addition to the show is the simultaneous use of Twitter with the hashtag #svengoolie, allowing those watching to comment on the show.


In August 2006, it was reported that WCIU had obtained broadcast rights to the classic Universal Monsters films of the 1930s and 1940s.[2] These films had been requested since Svengoolie aired in the 1980s. By December 2006, the show featured four episodes of the Abbott and Costello "Meet" series, with Universal Studio Monsters and several Hammer Film Productions that were distributed by Universal-International. On May 5, 2007, Svengoolie presented Bela Lugosi's Dracula (1931), claiming that it was the first time the movie had been shown on local television in more than a decade.


The show opens with a reference to early radio broadcasting: "Calling all stations, clear the air lanes, clear all air lanes for the big broadcast." This is a sound clip from the preview "trailer" of one of the four "Big Broadcast Of .... (1932, 1936, 1937, 1938)" movies. In a running gag throughout the series, Svengoolie's mentions of the Chicago suburb of Berwyn are met with an audio clip of several people groaning "BERWYN?!?"[2] Another recurring gag involves rubber chickens thrown at Svengoolie after a weak joke, usually at the end of an episode's opening and closing sketches.[2] Visitors assist the crew in throwing rubber chickens during taping.[5] Frequently sound clips are used from Warner Bros. cartoons ("Oh we're the boys of the Chorus,"...etc.), radio broadcasts of The Stan Freberg Show ("Thank you for all those cards and letters, you folks in television LAND.....", "Wun'erful, Wun'erful" and "Ow, OW, OW!!!" from "The HoneyEarthers"), and other sources.


  • Svengoolie – the title character and host of the show, who introduces the film, tells jokes and relates trivia about the movie. The character was originally portrayed by former WCFL personality Jerry G. Bishop, who held the role from 1970 to 1973.[5] When the show returned in 1979, Rich Koz took on the role of "Son of Svengoolie", which he portrayed until 1986, when the show was cancelled. In 1995, Koz was set to bring the show back and Bishop told him he was "all grown up" and could drop the "Son of" from his character name. Koz has been playing "Svengoolie" ever since.[6]
  • Doug Graves – Svengoolie's accompanist, shown frequently at the piano or keyboard, though equally adept at the trumpet; Graves is played by professional musician and Svengoolie crew member Doug Scharf.[7]
  • Zallman T. Tombstone (voiced by Rich Koz) – a smart-mouthed, disembodied skull that often acts as a foil for Svengoolie during comedy skits,[3] with a voice based on Bill Saluga's Ray J. Johnson Jr. character.[8]
  • Kerwyn (voiced by Rich Koz) – a smart-aleck rubber chicken puppet who helps Svengoolie review viewer mail and photos.
  • Zelda (voiced by Jerry G. Bishop) – a smart-mouthed, disembodied skull (much like her successor, Tombstone) with a voice modeled after Flip Wilson's Geraldine Jones character.
  • Anita X. Orcist – saxophone player, appearing infrequently; portrayed by Natalie Scharf, Doug's daughter.
  • Durwood the Dummy (voiced by Jerry G. Bishop (1970-1973), Rich Koz (1979-present)) – a wooden ventriloquist's dummy featured on the original series (1970–73), later carried over to the Son of Svengoolie series and retained from then on, though featured infrequently in recent years.[9]
  • Boddy Sorrell (voiced by Rich Koz) – the face on Svengoolie's coffin lid.[10]

Many other incidental characters throughout the show's run have been voiced by Rich Koz and — during his tenure — Jerry G. Bishop, as well as WFLD staff announcer Jim Barton (during the "Son of" years).


Rich Koz did most of the artwork for the show when he revived it as Son of Svengoolie at WFLD.[6] For every episode, Koz researches the film to find interesting facts, then writes each episode, spending about four hours doing so.[5]

The camera shots and audio effects are handled by director Chris Faulkner and Kevin Reisberg, the show's assistant director.[5]

In 2014, the original casket prop used by both Bishop and Koz on camera was retired and donated to the Museum of Broadcast Communications in Chicago.[11] Segments showcasing the original casket continued to be rebroadcast on the MeTV schedule. Rebroadcasts often will use improved prints of the films if they have become available, while keeping the old comedy skits.

Broadcast history[edit]

Jerry G. Bishop as the original "Svengoolie"

The show's original title was Screaming Yellow Theater with host Svengoolie.[9] The title was derived from Screaming Yellow Zonkers, a yellow, sugary glazed popcorn snack, first produced in the 1960s. It wasn't until the revival[clarification needed] that the show was titled after the host's name. It debuted on September 18, 1970 on WFLD (Channel 32) and ran until late summer 1973. Svengoolie was played then by Jerry G. Bishop.[1][2] In later seasons, Rich Koz – a fan who sent in sketch ideas – became a show writer. In 1973, Kaiser Broadcasting took over WFLD from Field Communications and Screaming Yellow Theater was cancelled and replaced with The Ghoul from Cleveland.[9] The Ghoul lasted until 1974 when it was taken off the air.[9] Field Communications took WFLD back from Kaiser Broadcasting in 1978, which led Jerry Bishop and Rich Koz to discuss the show's resurrection.[9]

On June 16, 1979, Son of Svengoolie debuted on WFLD, with Koz in the title role.[5][6] The show also aired on Field Communications-controlled stations in Philadelphia, Boston, San Francisco, and Detroit. The series ran until WFLD, then owned by Metromedia, was sold to Rupert Murdoch's Fox Television Stations Group in 1986 as part of the newly created Fox network.[6] New management canceled the show, deciding that it did not fit the new programming direction.[6] After 334 shows, the final episode aired January 25, 1986. Koz returned to WFLD in various capacities, mainly as the host of Fox Kids Club and The Koz Zone weekday afternoon children's programming, and appearing as an announcer on the Fox network's 1988 New Year's Eve broadcast.

Neal Sabin, the executive vice president of Weigel Broadcasting, brought the show back on December 31, 1994 on WCIU[2][6] (Channel 26), using "Svengoolie" as the name;[1] Koz took the role of Svengoolie[2] when Bishop told Koz that he "believed he was grown up enough now to no longer be just the Son."[6] Koz also hosts a weekly Three Stooges Stooge-a-palooza show on WCIU.[6]

The series was aired on Chicago's WWME-CA, Milwaukee stations WBME-CD and WMLW-TV, and occasionally on WMYS-LD in South Bend, Indiana. These stations are owned by Weigel Broadcasting. Beginning on April 2, 2011, Svengoolie's show became available nationally on the MeTV network through the efforts of Neal Sabin.[2]


A spin-off of both Svengoolie and MeTV's morning cartoon block Toon In with Me, entitled Sventoonie, premiered on MeTV on March 26, 2022. Sventoonie is hosted by Toon In with Me's Kevin Fleming as his puppet character Toony the Tuna, in character as "Sventoonie". In the series, Sventoonie reviews classic horror films and takes part in comedy sketches with his own cast, including occasional appearances by Svengoolie himself.[12]


Between 1979 and 1986, Son of Svengoolie won three Chicago Emmys at station WFLD.[5][6] For its 25th anniversary in 2004, Svengoolie was presented with the Silver Circle Award by the Chicago/Midwest Chapter of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences[6] for "outstanding contributions to Chicago television."

Svengoolie is also a consistent winner of the "Best Horror Host" award from the Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards.[13]

Svengoolie appeared as a supporting character in a storyline in the Dick Tracy comic strip that started in April 2017.[14]

A special four-part crossover story in two-page parts featuring Svengoolie with the various DC Comics superheroes ran through the month of October 2019. DC Comics editor Dan Didio said the idea for this was a "fun mash-up" featuring the Justice League alongside elements of the Svengoolie show.[15]



  1. ^ a b c d e Johnson, Steve (February 1, 1997). ""Sventennial": Before there was Joe Bob Briggs, before..." Chicago Tribune. Chicago, Illinois, USA: Tony W. Hunter. ISSN 1085-6706. OCLC 60639020. Archived from the original on June 23, 2015. Retrieved March 16, 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Hageman, William (April 1, 2011). "Svengoolie scares up a national show". Chicago Tribune. Chicago, Illinois, USA: Tony W. Hunter. ISSN 1085-6706. OCLC 60639020. Archived from the original on September 10, 2015. Retrieved March 16, 2013.
  3. ^ a b Watson, Elena M. (November 1, 2000). Television Horror Movie Hosts: 68 Vampires, Mad Scientists and Other Denizens of the Late-Night Airwaves Examined and Interviewed (reprint, illustrated ed.). Jefferson, North Carolina, USA: McFarland & Company. ISBN 9780786409402. OCLC 44693959. Retrieved March 16, 2013.
  4. ^ Collo-Julin, Salem (October 22, 2019). "Still Ghoulin' After All These Years". Chicago Reader. Archived from the original on October 25, 2019. Retrieved October 23, 2019.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Serrano, Elliott (December 31, 2008). "Fun for all the boys and 'gools', 'Svengoolie' a staple for B-Grade horror movie fans". Chicago Tribune. Chicago, Illinois, USA: Tony W. Hunter. ISSN 1085-6706. OCLC 60639020. Archived from the original on September 9, 2013. Retrieved March 16, 2013.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Darnall, Steve (June 18, 2004). "25 years of Svengoolie's humor, Television academy honors Rich Koz with Silver Circle Award". Chicago Tribune. Chicago, Illinois, USA: Tony W. Hunter. ISSN 1085-6706. OCLC 60639020. Archived from the original on September 22, 2013. Retrieved March 16, 2013.
  7. ^ Herguth, Bob (December 5, 1994). "Rich Koz". Chicago Sun-Times. Chicago, Illinois, USA: Tim Knight. p. 26. ISSN 1553-8478. OCLC 51500916. Archived from the original on June 23, 2015. Retrieved March 16, 2013.
  8. ^ Okuda, Ted; Yurkiw, Mark (2016). Chicago TV Horror Movie Shows: From Shock Theatre to Svengoolie. SIU Press. p. 114. ISBN 9780809335381.
  9. ^ a b c d e Stach, Chris (October 30, 2007). "Horror story, Love of classic flicks and comedy result in soon-to-be-published book about horror shows on Chicago TV". Riverside Brookfield Landmark. Oak Park, Illinois, USA: Wednesday Journal. OCLC 40109363. Archived from the original on October 7, 2013. Retrieved March 16, 2013.
  10. ^ "Svengoolie". Archived from the original on 2022-02-15. Retrieved 2022-02-15.
  11. ^ "Museum of Broadcast Communications, Svengoolie Exhibit". Archived from the original on 2019-01-20. Retrieved 2019-01-19.
  12. ^ Feder, Robert. "MeTV expands 'Svengoolie' franchise with fishy friend 'Sventoonie'". Daily Herald. Archived from the original on 21 June 2022. Retrieved 21 June 2022.
  13. ^ "The Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards – Honoring the best in classic horror research, creativity and film preservation". Archived from the original on 2019-03-21. Retrieved 2022-08-20.
  14. ^ "Dick Tracy by Mike Curtis and Shelley Pleger for April 14, 2017 - GoComics". Archived from the original on 2022-08-20. Retrieved 2021-12-22.
  15. ^ Elfring, Mat (October 9, 2019). "How DC Comics Integrated A Horror Movie Host Into The Justice League". GameSpot. Archived from the original on October 9, 2019. Retrieved October 9, 2019.


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