Dr. Shock

The ghoulish host of the Saturday afternoon horror show MAD THEATER seen on Channel 17 in Philadelphia during the 1970s. Once a week, Joe Zawislak, a former insurance salesman turned magician, slicked back his hair, donned a frock coat, an ascot with a gold spider, and a pair of white spats to become Dr. Shock, the part human, part vampire host of MAD THEATER.

Using the comic insult formulas created by “Ro-LAND” (a.k.a. “Zacherley”), a 1950s horror show host, Dr. Shock greeted his viewers with such beastly barbs of barbaric banter as “Greetings, My hokey hucksters of horror”; “Frog-faced fools of fright”; and “Nostalgic numbskulls of the night.”

Assisting the Doctor was Boris, a one-eyed, scar-faced hunchback who lisped and a delightfully pretty little girl (Joe’s daughter) named Bubbles, who often sat on his lap during the show. Dr. Shock’s sign off each week was “Let there be fright!”

Joe Zawislak hosted three different shows during his career including SCREAM IN (Saturday nights 1969-1972), MAD THEATER and HORROR THEATER (back-to-back double feature broadcast between 2-5 PM on Saturdays from 1969-1979.

Joe Zawislak, (aka “Dr. Shock”) died of heart failure on September 28, 1979. He was 42.

A few years later a vampish female horror show hostess named “Stella, Maneater from Manayunk” continued the tradition of late night tom-foolery on the horror movie program SATURDAY NIGHT DEAD on KYW-TV Channel 3.


Born in Philadelphia, Jerome Alphonse Holst worked 30 years as a librarian. He has since retired and lives in Greensboro, North Carolina. Mr. Holst is also the author of the children’s books “Norman the Troll,” "Norman the Troll and the Haunted House," and "Gretchen and the Gremlins." In addition, he penned the fantasy novel “The Adventures of Glinda Gale,” a retelling of “The Wizard of Oz" and the reference text “The Encyclopedia of Movie and TV Insults.” .

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Posted in Horror, Showbiz Nicknames

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