''Horror people are the nicest people in the world'': Svengoolie and Joe Bob Briggs at Flashback Weekend '23 pt. 4
Two broadcasting legends discuss the difficulties of a career on TV.
August 2023 saw a historical horror summit, as Flashback Weekend once more turned Rosemont, IL into the spooky capital of the world. Fans who were lucky enough to attend were delighted by Q&A panels with horror icons like Dick Warlock (Michael Myers, Halloween II), Kane Hodder (Jason Vorhees, Friday the 13th pts. VII - X), and Rose McGowan (Scream, Planet Terror).
However, the highlight of the event, the crown jewel of Flashback Weekend was a panel hosted by horror legends Svengoolie and Joe Bob Briggs. Together, the hosts regaled guests with tales of TV, from their onscreen lives to their hopes for the future of horror hosts. With attendance limited to seating capacity, the intimate conversation will be fondly remembered by everyone in the room. Luckily for those of us fans who could not make it to Rosemont, the conversation has been lovingly recorded and transcribed here for posterity. Enjoy!
As the evening progressed, Joe Bob and Sven shifted their focus to some of the networks they once called home, and the S&P headaches they brought.
Joe Bob: Let me ask you this one, Sven. Excepting MeTV — we’re not including MeTV in this question — what’s the stupidest note you ever got from the network or the station?
Sven: Well, that’s so hard to say… One thing was — when I was at a previous station — the program director would always show me the movies for the next few months. He would have a little tray and their names were on Post-It notes on it. And he’d offer it like you’d offer an hors d'oeuvre tray to someone. So, I’d look at them and go, “No, I don’t want to run that one. No, I don’t want to run that. No, I don’t want to run that.” And he’d go, “But that one’s in color!”
Joe Bob: At TNT, they had a list of words and phrases that can’t be used on the air. Like an official list. I used to make up nonsense words. If you had to say something — you’re not supposed to say anything indicating the sexual act. So I would say “aardvarking.” Over the years, I built up quite a vocabulary. One year, three of my words show up on the official TNT list. I said, “These are not words! You have to show me where these are in some dictionary.” We actually had a heated phone call. I said, “You can’t prevent me from saying nonsense words. This is what third graders do. You can do this even in third-grade class!” A lot of my humor is sort of like a third grader’s.
So that’s how serious TNT got to be about any indication of any kind of– you know how your mother would say “Your mind is in the gutter?” It wouldn’t be anything specific you said or did, but “Your mind is in the gutter.” They had a “Your mind is in the gutter” person at TNT Standards and Practices.
Sven: I think they have that at most broadcast stations, seriously. Because they worry about the FCC. And the FCC is certainly not as strong as it was at one time, but still, it’s a threat. Because you could get sued, you could get the license taken away, all these things, so… You’re kinda bound by it. On cable, I think, you get a little more leeway. But on broadcast TV, you need to be real careful.
It’s funny because a station can get literally one complaint and they’ll be up in arms. They’ll be like “Oh my gosh! We’ve got to do something! We’ve got to check on this.” A lot of times, there’s nothing to it, really. There are times when people think they hear things or see things. They’ll raise a ruckus about it, and of course, that gets filtered down to guys like us, and we have to come up with ways to prove we didn’t do that.
Joe Bob: One reason I admire Mae West so much is that when the Breen office came in and clamped down on suggestive content, she just said “Give them all my scripts, I don’t care. You know why? It’s not what I say. It’s the way I say it.”
Sven: Did you want to take some questions?
Joe Bob: Yeah!
[QUESTION FROM THE AUDIENCE] "So, next month, I am finally marrying my girlfriend of ten years. So, I thought it would be fun to ask if you had any advice for the soon-to-be newlyweds."
Sven: After ten years? You probably already learned to keep your mouth shut! I would say that every Saturday night, make sure you watch MeTV, and every Friday night, you watch Shudder. Because the family that watches these things together stays together. At least for a few hours.
Joe Bob: I would actually go along with that. Because one thing I’ve learned about horror people– genre people in general, but especially horror people– they are the nicest people in the world. Something about horror makes them tolerant. It’s the most tolerant people in the world, even though they’re watching death and destruction and hatred and violence, all the time. And yet, if you look at the lives that they share with me at the signing table, they’re the most loving people I’ve met in my whole life.
Sven: It’s very true! Yeah, same thing. People come up to me and they’re so nice and so kind, and they thank me for still doing this. That’s amazing to me, that it means that much to so many people. It’s true. Everybody, for the most part, that’s involved as fans of this stuff, they’re really nice people! So, you can’t say “Oh, he likes horror, he’s terrible.”