This story was originally published by DNAinfo Chicago in 2017. Block Club Chicago has updated it.
DOWNTOWN — It’s not Christmas, but it is the most wonderful time of the year for one Chicagoan: Svengoolie.
The TV host is known for dishing out lovably corny jokes and skits alongside horror movies every Saturday on “Svengoolie.” Sven, played by Rich Koz, has become a national celebrity since the Chicago-based show went national on MeTV in 2011.
But October — which, let’s admit it, is just one long buildup to Halloween — is particularly busy for Sven and his horror-loving fans. In fact, he said it’s sort of his version of Christmas.
Scroll down for a video with Svengoolie
“I’m always amazed by the large range of ages that watch the show,” Koz said. “One of the nicest things I hear is, ‘I used to watch you when I was a kid, and now I watch you with my kids.'”
Though Halloween is Svengoolie’s busy season, he makes year-round appearances that draw thousands of fans. In fact, an action figure of Svengoolie that went on sale in September was so popular it sold out within a week.
People even dress up as Sven for Halloween and at conferences, going to “extremes” — like trying to hunt down his custom rubber chicken necklace and skeleton pin — to be as accurate to the host’s look as possible, Koz said.
The popularity is an honor, Koz said, especially since people outside of Chicago have become his fans despite having local horror shows of their own.
“The fact that people watched me as a kid and liked it, and as they’ve grown up they haven’t outgrown me,” Koz said. “I’ve been a part of people’s lives. It’s funny because, when I do appearances, people come up to me and they thank me for doing this and for still doing it.
“To be known nationally now is just pretty amazing to me.”
Watch the interview:
The show, known as “Screaming Yellow Theater” in its first incarnation, got its start with Jerry G. Bishop as Svengoolie in 1970. Koz was a fan and eventually became a writer for “Screaming Yellow Theater,” which went off the air in 1973.
Years later, in 1979, Koz resurrected the show as “Son of Svengoolie.” This version of the show lasted until 1986, when it went off the air.
But in 1994, Koz came back — this time as just “Svengoolie.” The show’s been on TV since then, and it gained national popularity when it was picked up by MeTV in 2011.
“Svengoolie” airs at 7 p.m. Saturdays on MeTV.
If you’re trying to celebrate Halloween with Svengoolie, you can catch him on WGN Radio (720 AM) 11 p.m.-1 a.m. Oct. 29, at 11:30 a.m. Oct. 31 and at that night’s Bulls game at the United Center. His old coffin and TV set are also on display in the Museum of Broadcast Communications.
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