Svengoolie is not only keeping the classic horror host tradition from being dead and buried but he’s also proven the format can still thrive. For our younger readers, a horror host is like your quirky guide to horror films and low-budget B movies. The concept became a mainstay in the 1950s and 60s when older horror films were sold regionally to air on television. The horror hosts provided a way to pad the air time so the often short films could fit a two or three-hour block of programming.
The eccentric hosts don a horror-themed persona with a dash of campy humor. Picture them as your snarky companions who provide witty commentary during breaks in the movie. Of course, horror host shows aren’t complete without hilarious skits featuring the hosts, their trusty sidekicks, and other colorful characters.
Rich Koz Has Portrayed Svengoolie Since the 70s
Rich Koz, the legendary Chicago TV personality, has been spooking audiences for decades as the horror movie host on Svengoolie. With his quick wit and delightfully cheesy style, Koz concocts and performs sketches that playfully interact with the show’s classic horror films. He fearlessly embraces the tradition of having rubber chickens hurled at him while delivering his trademark hilariously corny punchlines, a cherished hallmark of the show.
Born in Chicago, Koz has been portraying Svengoolie since 1979, taking over from Jerry G. Bishop, a popular radio and television personality from the same city. At 19, while attending Northwestern University, Koz started sending jokes to Bishop as a dedicated Svengoolie fan. This led to Bishop requesting him to write specific songs and parodies, forging a bond between them. Eventually, Bishop selected Koz as his successor, bestowing upon him the title of The Son of Svengoolie.
He portrayed the character until 1986 when the show was discontinued by the new management. It remained off the air until Weigel Broadcasting revived it in 1994, and during that time, Koz shed the “Son of” title. In 2011, the show was picked up by MeTV, ensuring fans of classic horror (and cheese) could tune in from all across the country. Sven even has his own tribute song penned and performed by veteran rocker Freddy Cannon (with Sven, himself), “The Svengoolie Stomp“.
In the past year, MeTV has extended its show to two and a half hours. Due to its remarkable success, this extension will continue. In June, Svengoolie will celebrate an impressive 45-year milestone in portraying this beloved character. However, last fall, some new blood was injected into the show.
Svengoolie is Joined by a Trio of New Horror Hosts
Last year, the word was sent out onto the Internet, seeking talent for the prestigious “Spawn of Svengoolie” talent search. Countless quirky audition videos flooded in. However, after careful consideration, two standout stars emerged, joining the esteemed ranks of the newly formed Sven Squad. But the trio was not yet complete! A seasoned performer was enlisted to add the final touch of ghoulish flair.
Sarah Palmer plays Gwengoolie. Palmer works as a character actor at Universal Studios Hollywood theme park in California and an Instagram influencer. Scott Gryder plays the mischievous IMP. Gryder is a stage actor originally from West Texas.
Introducing the Sven Squad’s final member: Bill Leff, is the immortal Nostalgiaferatoo. He’s a vampire with 800 years of mischief under his cape. Unlike the mere mortals, Leff skipped the audition process, thanks to his eternal friendship with Koz that has endured for two decades. With a knack for entertaining from his Second City theater days, Leff brings his comedy chops and Chicago radio charm, often summoning Koz as his frightful Halloween guest.
Koz reportedly has no plans to retire as Svengoolie. However, the Sven Squad ensures the horror host legacy will continue.
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