Svengoolie X Joe Bob Briggs: Flashback Weekend '23 pt. 5

They look at horror hosting's future by pointing to its past.

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 wound down, Joe Bob and Svengoolie fielded one final question and gave their thoughts on what's yet to come in the world of horror hosts.

[QUESTION FROM THE AUDIENCE] "My big question is, what do you guys see as the future of horror hosts, and what do you think will change over time?"

Joe Bob: The future of horror hosts is the same as the past of horror hosts, meaning they can be fired at any time and they don’t last very long.

Sven: We’re the exception to that rule, quite honestly!

Joe Bob: We’re sort of the exceptions to that rule. There have been gaps. Sometimes, people say to me “How can I be a horror host?” And I say, “Well, you can go on YouTube and be a horror host tomorrow.” Be a horror host! I encourage you to be a horror host. Are you asking how to get a paying job as a horror host? There are probably five of them. Five or ten. We’re in the weirdest profession I know of. I was doing real things before I was doing this. It’s very strange… What would you say to somebody that wants to be a horror host?

Sven: Well, I get that question all the time. What I tell them is, “Don’t try to imitate somebody else, do your own thing. Don’t expect to make money. Do whatever you can to get experience, and see if that leads anywhere. A lot of times, it does not.” One thing we’ve noticed though, is– since we’ve done really well nationally– there are a lot of smaller markets that thought “Hey, we can do that!” And they’ve actually brought on hosts in their local markets. So that’s probably all five of them that we were talking about.

Joe Bob: That’s great! That’s sort of what happened with the original horror host, in my opinion, Zacherley in Philadelphia. So many bought the same package of films that he showed, and had a local host, that for a time, between 1958 and 1968, there was a plethora of horror hosts. Not just horror hosts– there were movie hosts in general. Afternoon hosts. After-school hosts. Saturday hosts.

Sven: Morning movie hosts.

Joe Bob: It was sort of the golden era of hosting, right? But often those guys that would agree to take the hosting job were the ad salesmen at the station. Because they were trying to find gimmicks to sell the local ads. There was a guy–I loved this guy–an afternoon guy in Dallas, when I was a very young kid, he was called Icky Twerp. Have you heard of Icky Twerp?

Sven: Oh, sure, yeah!

Joe Bob: Icky Twerp had a sledgehammer and two gorilla assistants, and he would discipline them by hitting them over the head with the sledgehammer.

Sven: So it was subtle humor?


Joe Bob: That was the afternoon host, and everybody loved him! And years later, he couldn’t live down the name Icky Twerp while he was trying to be a serious businessman. He couldn’t get it going again, because everybody knew him as Icky Twerp. Would you say that was the golden age of hosting?

Sven: I think definitely it was. Because right at that time, the three main ones were Zacherly, Vampira–was it?

Joe Bob: Well, she was before that, actually. She was short-lived.

Sven: Was she? And in Chicago, we had a guy who was a beatnik sort of horror host, Seymour.

Joe Bob: Yup.

Sven: It was so funny, that started there and went on into the ‘60s. And I’d say, yeah you’re right, somewhere around 1968, it all kinda started to fall apart. When my mentor, Jerry G. Bishop, started the Svengoolie thing, that was around 1970. There weren’t too many other people doing it at that time, I don’t think. There were a handful, a lot of them in Cleveland, I understand.

Joe Bob: Well, Ghoulardi was the first guy in Cleveland. And he was on after school, and he got fired for telling the children to blow up their toys. He ended up being the ABC announcer.

Sven: He was the guy that said ‘The Love Boat.”

Joe Bob: Ghoulardi ended up in L.A. Years later we were doing a horror host month, and I asked Ghoulardi–and he had not done Ghoulardi in probably 25 years, he had not put on the beatnik makeup– so he agreed to do it. And when he got to the studio, he got stage fright. He was afraid he wouldn’t remember how to do Ghoulardi. And I said “You’re Ghoulardi, man! You can do no wrong! All you have to do is do that voice. Do the Ghoulardi voice, and everybody’s gonna love it.” And he was great.

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