Lovers Lane
Copernicus Center

October 2022: Media • Svengoolie Spooktacular

| September 30, 2022

Svengoolie (aka Rich Koz)

Did Rich Koz think he’d be doing the character of Svengoolie this long?

“Not at all. That wasn’t even in my mind when I got the show at WFLD in 1979,” he says. “I just thought, ‘wow, this is really cool, I got a job, and I’m on TV.’ I never thought, ‘yeah, I’ll still be here 43 years later.’ Nonetheless, I’m still here.”

Not only is he still here, he’s everywhere. Svengoolie went national eleven years ago on the Me-TV network, and he’s become a big deal all across the country. How big? The Wall Street Journal recently profiled him. Mr. Bigshot realizes we still consider him ours, right?

“Chicago is my home base and takes precedence over anywhere else, really,” he agrees. “Although it’s pretty overwhelming at times to see how the show has done so well nationally. I always say that everyone grew up with some sort of horror host in their town. I equate it with Dr. Who, where the original one you saw first is always your favorite. I’m happy to say that people all over the country have taken to the show and are big fans. It’s pretty humbling.”

Luckily for Koz, very few accommodations needed to be made when they took the show nationally.

“We still bring up Berwyn,” he points out. “The great thing is there are other Berwyns in America. The people in Pennsylvania think we’re talking about their Berwyn. For the most part, we just dropped some of the local references like local news and weather folks or local sports teams, but that’s basically the only thing that changed. It’s pretty much the same content we’ve always done. Unfortunately, the rubber chickens will never leave. I’m constantly being pelted by them. The office people come in and really get into it, sometimes a little too much.”

Svengoolie even managed to adapt and navigate through the difficulties of the pandemic.

“It’s still sort of a hybrid thing,” he says, explaining his work process these days. “I do a lot of my screening and writing at home. I screen the film, figure out the breaks, write the bits and decide where to fit them in, and while I’m doing that, we’re working on post-production. We really only tape three times a month, and we cram a lot of taping into those sessions. It is kind of hectic in that while you’re working on something new, you’re also working on something you’ve already done. It’s a constant cycle.”

Luckily, the bit ideas keep on coming.“You train yourself to keep your mind open because you never know what will trigger something. And obviously, with the movies, there are certain things to jump out right away to me as far as what kind of bits I can do.”

After writing bits for television and radio for over 50 years, I was curious if Koz had any idea how many bits he had written. “Oh my God. I could not tell you how many bits I’ve written. Somewhere in my basement, I have all the scripts. Someday I’ll go through them and be able to answer that question. Between WFLD and here and my radio career before that (with Jerry G. Bishop & Dick Orkin, among others), I can’t even begin to count them all. It’s been quite a trip.”

During the month of October, it’s going to be a “Sven-tacular” trip. If you love Svengoolie, you’ll love October on Me-TV. “We’re calling it Svengoolie’s Halloween BooNanza,” he says, “and I know that sounds like we’ll have a Zombie Lorne Greene, but this is pretty cool. We have a Svengoolie special airing on October 1st. We had a crew come in from elsewhere to shoot this. It’s like a documentary. We went out on location to shoot. We have various guest stars. Some might surprise you. We will have footage from our Svengoolie Day in Berwyn. And we’ll have a special crypt-shaking reveal that will happen at the end, and I think a lot of Sven fans will find that interesting. That night of the special, we also have the second season premiere of Sventoonie (15 new episodes on the way), and we’ll be showing the famous Karen Black made-for-TV movie Trilogy of Terror. And then, the night before Halloween, we’ll have the classic film Count Yorga-Vampire. Plus, every Sunday will have a big block of horror-based episodes of shows like Leave it to Beaver,’ Gilligan’s Island, and The Brady Bunch and blocks of shows like Kolchak and the The Addams Family. During the regular schedule, there will also be horror-based episodes of the regular sitcoms we show, and I’ll be popping up now and then directing traffic through all of it.”

If you think that sounds exhausting for Sven, you aren’t alone. But he doesn’t plan to slow down anytime soon. “Not in the near future. I’ve always said I’ll keep doing it as long as I’m healthy enough to do it and as long as it’s still fun to do. It’s work, and it’s a lot of work. But it’s also so much fun. And it’s very rewarding when we go out there all over the country, and people come up to us and say ‘Thank you for doing this’ and tell us how much it means to them. I can’t tell how much that means to me. That’s what keeps me going.”

-Rick Kaempfer



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