One of the smartest things you can do with your smartphone is play HQ Trivia, an app that once or twice a day serves a live quiz show.
Answer the 12 questions correctly, and you share a cash jackpot with your fellow winners. (A sample easy one: "Which '80s film shares its name with an electrical weather phenomenon?" a. St. Elmo's Fire, b. Red Dawn, c. Blue Velvet.)
Answer wrong, and you're out.
HQ's face — its most popular host — is Scott Rogowsky, a bearded, pun-loving stand-up comedian. Nattily dressed in a suit, Rogowsky channels the game-show greats — Trebek, Marx, Stein, occasionally Martindale — in one of the fastest-paced 15 minutes of your day.
After a year of watching him on your phone, you can see him in the flesh, Sept. 15 at the Trocadero, with a show called Running Late with Scott Rogowsky.
I caught up with Rogowsky, 33, one recent afternoon. (Oh, and that answer is a. St Elmo's Fire.)
For a lot of people who don't know me outside of the app, a lot of it is autobiographical — transcending a very loving and pleasant childhood to become a total miscreant comedian. It's a lot of dealing with my affliction, which is Judaism. I was born with this rare disease and having to overcome the flare-ups of Judaism over the years. You know, I get into, certainly, the vicissitudes of dating as a late 20s/early 30s person. Millennial, is that what they call us?
Well, I'm in my late 20s. I'm 33. That's one of the jokes you'll get. I've got a lot of stories about dad [Marty] and now that HQ has sort of blown up, I have a whole kind of chunk about HQ. I have a rejected HQ question segment, which is going to be fun, very exclusive. Only people who go to the show can see some of the questions that I submitted to HQ that have been rejected. I'll explain why.
And the coolest part about this show is that it's an interactive, live, trivia show. We're going to have teams of players from the audience. I think we'll have 30 all together. We'll get two games, so 30 people who show up will be randomly selected to participate and win actual prizes. We're going to be giving away gift certificates to restaurants in the area. So that's another incentive to come. It's a chance to participate live, with the Quiz Daddy himself on stage in front of others testing your wits.
I started [while a student at] Johns Hopkins, and that was my first time on stage, 2005, January. It was one of my best shows ever. It was my first time on stage, and not many people can say that. I've been sort of chasing that dragon ever since to get back to that. It was right before the new semester started and this place was packed. It was like a stand-up comedy class. The final project to get your two credits was to do five minutes of original stand-up material, so I had to perform. The teacher put me on last and I crushed in front of this standing-room audience.
I'd never had an experience like that, which maybe says a lot about my abilities, but … no, I've had some good shows since then, obviously, but that was a great first show and I started doing it sporadically. Dipping my toes into the scene in New York when I graduated college, then finally moved to Brooklyn in 2007 and started doing it as small-time as I could, transitioning into talk shows. I was doing other shows. Running Late with Scott Rogowsky was created in 2011, and I sort of realized that talk shows are more my thing, but I still love stand-up. There's nothing better than being on stage, making the strangers laugh with your own jokes and your own brain.
I've spent a lot of time there. I used to date a girl there freshman year, so I would take that Amtrak train.
I've seen on Facebook that she's since married, bought a house in Georgetown, has a dog, and is probably living way happier and better than I am, but God bless her.
It's definitely different. Now I'm getting recognized at family reunions, which never used to happen. People seem to know me and it's not exactly like … you know, people say, "Oh, this is what you wanted, right? You wanted to be famous." I'll be honest. I never was chasing the pure fame aspect of it. I was always chasing the money and that's sort of starting to come in, too, but it's really… Look, without the fans, I mean this is such a cliché I think everybody says: I was at the VMAs and all the winners said, "Without you, my fans, I'd be nothing," but it's true. Like if nobody played HQ, I wouldn't be recognized, I wouldn't be going to Philly doing the Troc, so I have to appreciate it and I'm happy to stop and take photos of people and people love to tell me, "Oh, I got to Q11, I got to Q10. Oh, I won once and I lost on a savage question."
I love hearing the stories from people because I don't get to interact. I don't have a studio audience. I don't ever see people. I, frankly, love it going to whether it's the All-Star Game in D.C. this year or if I was at this baseball-card convention in Cleveland getting stopped constantly, asking for photos.
I don't know. Going on looks alone, maybe Jason Biggs if he grew a beard. I used to get Jason Biggs a lot. People say Hugh Jackman sometimes and I'd say, well, Hugh Jackman, I don't know if he has the same grit. You know, this Australian, I don't know if he can really pull it off. I mean he can do Logan, but I'm not Logan. You need a real neurotic Houdini. You need like Max Greenfield. Is that his name? Or Ben Green? Someone with Greenbaum or Greenberg in the name.
I'm a 40 jacket and like 32 waist.
Or irregular, as the case may be.
Now I'm living alone in TriBeCa without my parents, which is nice, although I do have a lot of Bed, Bath & Beyond coupons my mom has gifted to me. I don't have photos of my parents in my apartment, but I do have their coupons. I framed a coupon on the mantel and I also have a Bill Nye signed baseball on the mantel. I'm still furnishing the apartment. It's a little spare, but I'm in TriBeCa and I love it. It's an eight-minute walk to work; that's the best part.
I'm pretty darn good, actually. I mean these HQ trivia questions are hard. They have to be a little harder than your pub trivia because of, unfortunately, people Googling and ruining the fun for others, we can't give you too much time and we have to sort of ask the questions in ways that aren't so easily Googleable or bot-proof. We have to bot-proof them as well. So because of a few bad apples, the questions are a little harder than, frankly, I'd like them to be, but you know at a standard pub trivia night, I can get on the first round, second round. I can get pretty far. Going to be a top five finish, top three. Out of five.
HQ means humpback quail. Or happy quinceanera or hilarious queens or Hebrew quiche. I mean, it's whatever you want it to be, frankly. We leave it up to your imagination.
You should have asked me how to get tickets to the show.
Tickets to the Scott Rogowsky A Trivia and Comedy Spectacular at the Trocadero, Sept. 15, Saturday night. You can go to scottrogowsky.com/tour for more information and go to the ticket page.
Doors 7 p.m.; show 8 p.m.
$32 - $52