Thursday, March 01, 2018

The Uber Jewy-ness of HQ Trivia's Scott Rogowsky

There's a collective excitement in the Jewish community when pop culture gets all Jewy (to borrow a term that very well might have been coined by Sarah Silverman). In the case of the trending trivia game du jour, HQ Trivia (created by Jewish entrepreneurs Rus Yusupov and Colin Kroll), that Jewy-ness has been exhibited by Scott Rogowsky.

Rogowsky, who is quickly carving out his niche as the Alex Trebek of the Digital Age, is none too afraid to let his Judaism come through while hosting the twice-daily mobile trivia game. The people's favorite host missed last night's HQ Trivia because, well of course, it was the Jewish holiday of Purim. In what might have been the first time EVER in the history of anything pop culture, we were told someone wasn't coming into work because of Purim (a rather minor holiday on the Jewish holiday barometer of holiness).

While Rogowsky might have been out partying for Purim last night, he showed up for the afternoon session of HQ Trivia and didn't disappoint by throwing in several Purim references, including "hamantaschen," "Queen Vashti" and even a more esoteric "Mishloach Manot." My wife and fellow HQ Trivia fanatic called me right after the game to exclaim, "Did you hear how many Purim references Scott made? Does he realize most people who were playing had absolutely no clue what he was talking about?"

Rogowsky's comedy has always focused on his Jewishness, including a YouTube video with almost 1 million views that has Rogowsky walking the streets of New York with Hasidic men asking him if he's Jewish. JTA, in late December, ran a feature on Rogowsky in which he talked about his bar mitzvah, anti-Semitism and Hanukkah presents. "Notably, Rogowsky is very vocal about his Jewish identity; live on HQ he’s referred to himself as the 'Semitic Sajak' (that’s in reference to 'Wheel of Fortune' host Pat Sajak) and the 'Meshuggeneh Martindale” (as in Wink, the host of 'Tic-Tac-Dough'). He has wished winners 'mazal tov' and, on the first night of Hanukkah, he wore a vibrant blue-and-white suit emblazoned with Stars of David.'

Knowing how Rogowsky is so vocal about being Jewish, before Purim, one HQ Trivia fan even tweeted to him trying to get a Purim shoutout. That was probably unnecessary since it was a sure bet it would get mentioned.

While I don't get quite as excited about Jewish references in pop culture as others, I do recognize that it is a way to introduce more people out there to Jewish terminology. As a member of Rabbis Without Borders, I learned several years ago that there's some value in reaching beyond the traditional borders of the Jewish community to share some of our Judaism with the broader world. In a non-traditional (okay, very non-traditional) way, Scott Rogowsky is bringing Jewish terminology to the masses. His role as host of a quick (less than 15 minutes) game show that reaches over a million people a couple times a day gives him quite the forum to teach a few Jewish words or concepts. That's quite a large Hebrew School classroom Rogowsky has. Happy Purim Scott Rogowsky and thanks for being so punny on HQ Trivia!

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