HQ Trivia's Most Beloved Host Was Also The Star Of This Super Viral Prank From 2016

by Emily Mae Czachor

Thanks to hundreds of thousands of trivia-hungry (not to mention cash-prize-hungry, ahem) mobile gamers, Scott Rogowsky — who is the host of HQ Trivia, the breakout smartphone app — has become nothing short of an Internet personality. But, as the oddball comedian's OG enthusiasts already know, this isn't Rogowsky's first rodeo. Before he became the goofy-grinned face of new-age Jeopardy (HQ Trivia is the gusto of "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" meets the accessibility of Pokémon GO), Rogowsky starred in a viral YouTube video called "Fake Book Covers on the Subway."

As its title suggests, the real-life social experiment turned online sensation (which Rogowsky initially filmed as part of a series he'd been churning out for Playboy) centers on Rogowsky — a.k.a. "Reading Train Bro" — reading a clever array of "fake books" on the New York City subway. His claim to fame? An impressively realistic (or, alarmingly realistic, depending who you ask) adult-themed hard cover book jacket with an equally risque title, which Rogowsky whipped out amid a packed train car one morning in April 2016.

It wasn't long before the Reddit community got wind of his antics, and "Fake Book Covers" all but blew up from there. The photo reeled in almost 1 million views on Reddit alone, launching Rogowsky's inaugural 15 minutes of fame (in reality, it was more like five or six weeks of fame) as the Internet's decidedly most absurd social disruptor. Riding out his newfound notoriety, Rogowsky released the first full-length video by way of his YouTube channel, a comedic "talk show" of sorts called "Running Late with Scott Rogowsky." Think: The Eric Andre Show meets Late Night.

"Taking Fake Book Covers on the Subway," Pt. I, racked up more than 4.6 million YouTube views almost immediately (a number which has since climbed to just about 6 million), and spurred Rogowsky's first sizable bout of media attention, with publications like The Guardian and Complex asking the question plaguing NYC commuters: Who was the mysterious bearded "Reading Train Bro," and what was his deal?

To that, Rogowsky responded with a "Park Two" video. Same concept, with the addition of a few new pranksters fake reading fake books of their own. And while Rogowsky's made-up titles still retained an air of foolishness (See: 10,000 Dick Pics), his undercover subway counterparts managed to sneak a bit of pithy social commentary into theirs. Namely, the totally straight-faced woman peering over a fake dictionary-sized book called "Ever Been With A Black Girl?"

Rogowsky took "relevant social commentary" one step further in early 2017, barely two months post-Trump election, when he released yet another "Fake Book Covers" installment with an "unpresidented" twist. In an ever-so-timely Trump-themed edition to the "Fake Book Covers" saga, Rogowsky took to the subway once again with a relentlessly sharp new group of titles, including: How to Succeed in Business Without Paying Your Contractors and Prejudice and Prejudice, by Mike Pence.

But, ever since Rogowsky first "finger-gunned" his way onto the mobile scene as HQ Trivia host extraordinaire, he is less known as "vaguely inappropriate literary pun master" and more as the digital celebrity of the moment — at least, as far as smartphone users are concerned.

Now, at approximately 3 p.m. and 9 p.m. EST (on most days), Rogowsky plays God to hundreds of thousands of digital gamers, poised to whip out their trivia wits during a rapid-fire, 14-minute competition that touts a lofty cash prize reward to its winners. Rogowsky is among a team of HQ Trivia hosts, but he is quickly becoming the fan favorite.

Not bad for a quirky comedy "bro" who got his start in the comments section of a Reddit thread.