Q&A: Scott Rogowsky on Using His Improv Background to Become the Hottest Mobile Personality

HQ Trivia's 'Quiz Daddy' talks about his quick success

Bearded man holds a colorful blazer over his head.
Scott Rogowsky has been doing comedy in New York since 2007. Photo: Justin Bettman for Adweek; Suit: Shinesty
Headshot of Lauren Johnson

After more than a decade struggling on the stand-up circuit, Scott Rogowsky is a bona fide star. Thanks to his gig hosting the addictive, mobile game-show app HQ Trivia, this native suburban New Yorker is recognizable to millions of Americans who log on and play the game twice a day, every day.

If you’ve ever played HQ (and to date over 5 million people have downloaded the app, according to data from app analytics firm Sensor Tower), you’d know that Rogowsky’s fans have dubbed him “Quiz Daddy” while players are known as “HQties.” High-energy and besuited Rogowsky has helped to push HQ into the popular culture, tapping into his improv comedy background, delighting (and annoying) users with his rapid-fire quips like “Quiz with me, get some money!”

Adweek recently sat down with Rogowsky to talk about his career, what it’s like to get recognized on the street and where the show’s popular catchphrases like “Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty” come from. 

Adweek: How did you land the gig as the host of HQ Trivia?
Scott Rogowsky: I’ve been doing comedy in New York since 2007. In 2008, I started a sports talk show called 12 Angry Mascots. I did that for three years and then transitioned into a talk show called Running Late With Scott Rogowsky, which has been going on for six-and-a-half years and I’m still doing it.

I had really tried to build up this talk show, which I brought to L.A. I was deciding to double down on it and move to L.A. and get it launched as a weekly or a bimonthly show. Right around that time is when HQ came calling and threw my whole life into a different orbit.

How has HQ changed your life?
I can afford to live in Manhattan now. I always thought I was busy. I was never sleeping, and now I really am busy and I’m never sleeping. So, I don’t know what I was doing beforehand that made me think I was so busy.

When do you find out about the day’s questions?
The questions have been prepared days in advance by the team of writers, but I don’t look at them until the day of. We all go through it as a group and make sure everything’s spelled right and the grammar is correct—every little thing is critiqued on Twitter.

Commenters have given you some pretty funny nicknames. What’s your favorite?
Quiz Daddy, Host Malone. Lag Daddy’s a good one. I came up with Old Laggy Bastard. Walt Quizney is a good one—there’s so many funny ones.

Where do the catchphrases come from?
“Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty” [is] a Phish lyric. It’s a good way to get into a show.

And “quemero numero uno?”
It just came organically. I’m sitting there for months trying to make things fresh and new every time.

Right now HQ is a massive hit, but how sustainable do you think it is? Do you worry it might just be a flash in the pan?
This is the evolution of television. It just keeps evolving from three networks, four cable networks, satellite. Now there’s internet channels and the phone.

We’ll hopefully have the staying power of YouTube. You have over a million people every night playing this game. If this was a TV show, it wouldn’t go off the air ever. If a cable show is getting a million viewers a night, they’re going to stick around for a while.

What’s your favorite social platform to use?
It used to be Facebook. I was Facebook like all the time, every day and I didn’t really like Twitter. But then once HQ came along, it’s like I have to feed this beast. I get a kick out of replying to people on Twitter sometimes if I make a joke.

I’ve gotten into Instagram, too. I try to post one or two a day and then I get lost in the comments—it’s my new vice.

Who are some of your comedy influences?
The early days of Weird Al Yankovic and Adam Sandler. Jerry Seinfeld is kind of like the hack answer, but I was the prime age for Jerry. Those late ’90s-era Saturday Night Live skits is what I grew up with. Will Ferrell doing Harry Caray. I saw that and thought it was the best thing I’d ever seen.

For more contemporary [comedians], David Attell, John Mulaney, David Cross. Tim and Eric, Demetri Martin and Eugene Mirman are doing things that I can’t even approach, but I love it so much and it inspires me just to think of comedy in different ways.

What advice would you give the 20-year-old version of yourself?
I should have listened to Nick Kroll because he told me in 2006 to go to UCB [Upright Citizens Brigade] and at that point I was like, “Eh, UCB is overrun. Everyone’s doing improv.” Twelve years later, now everyone’s required to go to improv classes and start a podcast­, but that’s how shortsighted I was.

So I would tell myself at 20, start a podcast now. Beat Marc Maron to the punch and go to UCB. I would at least take one class.

In a short period of time you’ve gone from relatively unknown to famous. What’s that been like?
Ten years ago at this time I was interning at The Onion and thinking I had made it—like this was the best I’ll get and I ought to retire now. So [it’s important that] you’re enjoying every step along the way and being grateful for where you are.

This story first appeared in the March 5, 2018, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

@laurenjohnson lauren.johnson@adweek.com Lauren Johnson is a senior technology editor for Adweek, where she specializes in covering mobile, social platforms and emerging tech.
Publish date: March 4, 2018 https://dev.adweek.com/digital/qa-scott-rogowsky-on-using-his-improv-background-to-become-the-hottest-mobile-personality/ © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT