Fishbone, 43, whose St. Louis-based On the Wall Productions has sold 100,000 of the inflatables in the last three years, mainly through catalogs and museum shops, thinks the dolls are perfect emblems of our angst-ridden times. "A lot of people have a certain level of panic in their lives," he says.
Fishbone and his wife and partner, Sarah Linquist, 42, weren't always into Munchie-see, Munchie-do. They are actually serious muralists. In 1991 they created a series of cutout displays based on famous paintings—including Munch's. "Everyone said, 'That's great,' " says the New Jersey-born Fishbone, who uses only his surname professionally.
Soon, he says, "the idea of an inflatable just popped into my head." The initial run of 12,000 dolls was a hit—and sales soared when the actual Munch painting was stolen for three months earlier this year. "We've done somewhere between $1 million and $1½ million gross in a little over 2½ years," says Fishbone, whose other offerings include the Mona Lisa, a Pin the Ear on Van Gogh party game and a Little Happy Guy inflatable, an antidote to the Scream. "Moneywise, we do much better than we could do painting murals."
TENSE? ANXIOUS? TREMBLING WITH existential dread—or just O.D.-ing on caffeine? Maybe what you need is a good scream. Or better yet, the Scream. You can buy one for around $28. These Screams aren't loud; they are tasteful and suitable for home or office. They are the inflatable Scream dolls of Robert Fishbone, 4½-foot high simulacra of Edvard Munch's famous 1893 expressionist painting. (Scream Jr., which sells for $10 and is meant for desktop shrieking, stands just 19 inches tall.)