Visiting the Set of Svengoolie

I recently had the privilege of visiting the the set of Svengoolie in Chicago (no, not Berwyn) and wanted to write about it. But first, some history!

Svengoolie (Rich Koz) with Christopher Jones

You never really know a man until you’ve walked a mile in his coffin. (Photo by Kevin Reisberg)

I first met Svengoolie (aka Rich Koz) in 2014 at the Chicago Comics and Entertainment Expo (C2E2). I’d been familiar with the concept of late-night horror hosts on TV since I was a kid, but it was only when Svengoolie’s show went national with the Me-TV network a few years back that I finally had one I could regularly watch, and I quickly became a fan.

After hitting it off at C2E2 2014 I decided to create a portrait of Svengoolie which I presented to him as a gift at C2E2 2015. Sven seemed sincerely surprised and delighted by the portrait, and I has hugely flattered that it was added to the TV show’s set! I wrote about all this and the story behind the portrait in more detail here: “A Portrait Worthy of Svengoolie”.

Svengoolie and me at C2E2 2014.

Svengoolie signs my personal copy of the portrait at C2E2 2015. (Photo by Gregory Parks)

I had done my best to keep in touch with Rich and his producer Jim Roche since then and had been extended a generous offer to come visit the set some time. I finally managed just a few weeks ago to make it to Chicago at a time that coincided with Svengoolie filming a few weeks ago and got to make my long-awaited visit.

The set is smaller than you’d expect, but is densely filled with ghoulish, geeky detail. It is lavishly stocked with statues, figures and props, and most fans have likely noticed that it gets redressed for each episode with figures specific to that week’s movie. Many of those figures are pulled from the personal collections of the crew and staff that makes the show happen, and when not drafted into on-screen use most of those figures reside around the desks and cubicles of those crew members! The craftsmanship on Sven’s gimmicked-out coffin is as impressive in person as you’d hope, and the cameras are automated so they can be run from a control room down the hall!

   

I got to watch Sven and his crew record intros and outros for four upcoming episodes while I was there, and also recorded an interview with Sven that will be included with the Svengoolie episode “The Black Cat” on March 2, 2019. But most importantly, I got to throw rubber chickens. Watching the show I always think of the chickens that pelt Sven during these segments as coming in from beside the camera, but actually the chicken throwers are sitting on rubber mats on the concrete floor in front of the camera, lobbing the rubber chickens up in the frame, trying to get *close* to Sven without a) smacking him hard, b) their hands coming up too high were they’ll be seen by the camera, or c) having a wild throw take out any of the collectible nik-naks displayed around the coffin. All these things can happen – and have!

I was kicking myself after the day was over that I got photos with Svengoolie but not with Jim Roche or any other members of the crew I met that day who were all so gracious and made me feel so welcome. Oh, well – next time!And yes, if you’d like your own copy of the Svengoolie portrait, they are for sale. If you can’t get if from me in person at one of my convention appearances, you can always purchase it from my Etsy store.

Updated: Here’s the interview segment from the episode.

Keep an eye out for my live tweets during episodes. When I’m at home I’m watching I’m usually commenting as @chrisjonesart. See you online my fellow Sven-fans!