November 26, 2019

I (Almost) Became The New Host of HQ


Although I’ve had numerous experiences as a contestant and on-air talent for several productions spanning the past 10 years, my professional resume reflects what would seem to be an unrelated career trajectory. In 2015, I fell in love with the hospitality industry, starting with my first position as a front desk agent at a four-star hotel. Immediately, I could see why a person like me—someone who grew up idolizing the game show hosts I’ve been watching my entire life, and who internalized the qualities of the greatest hosts as necessary life skills—would be attracted to a job in this field. Every day, I get to wear a custom-tailored suit, engage with friendly people from all over the world, communicate using the warmth and friendly spirit I’ve been practicing my entire life…and I even get to give things away for free sometimes. In the hospitality field, I found success by identifying the skills and traits common to my dream of being a game show host. The result has propelled me to the position of manager of the only four-star, four-diamond hotel in my area.

Don’t get it twisted, though. I will always want to be a game show host. I make no pretense about the fact that game shows have indelibly shaped my identity.

I’ve told the story to friends and co-workers and Meredith Vieira countless times: my father was an art teacher when I was very young, and so when he would go to work, my mom and I would spend quality time together watching reruns of game shows on the USA Network (this was just pre-GSN, circa 1993). As a result, I spent hours involuntarily studying the greats. Peter Tomarken. Monty Hall. Wink Martindale. Jim Lange. I wanted to be them. I wanted to dress like them, laugh like them, be as handsome and charismatic and TALL as they were. When the Game Show Network arrived at our house shortly thereafter, my love turned into an obsession. Game shows were my life. They still are. They’ve made me who I am today.

It’s a blustery November day. The snow flurry that, as we watched helplessly, turned into a full-blown snowfall before our very eyes, had begun to melt that same afternoon. The air was punctuated with the wet floppy sounds of chunks of snow rolling off rooftops. The sun had just begun its daily descent, a moment of each day that my wife and I refer to as “Orange Time”. It’s the time of day when, as hospitality workers, we’re just never not at our jobs. When we are fortunate enough to be out during Orange Time, it’s an adventure. And today’s adventure brought my wife to Goodwill, and brought me to sit in the car and play Tetris while she shopped at her leisure.

I received a post from a Facebook friend.

No way. No way, I muttered to myself as I read the job posting. Weekly hosting gigs at the HQ studio in SoHo. Involvement in the writing and production of various games. An on-site kombucha bar! I had truly ascended.

My mind started churning. I need to make this happen, and I need to make it happen as soon as possible, before someone snaps this up. That night, once we were home from Goodwill (she found a new scarf, a fuzzy black sweater, and the pair of Crocs she accidentally donated last week), I posted up on the couch. Using the Splice app, a bunch of videos of all the silly TV things I had done, and about 2 minutes of filler I had recorded in my car that evening at the gas station, I was up until 3 the following morning putting together the most rudimentary talent reel I could muster:

I uploaded the video, emailed it, and went to sleep.

As bare-bones as that video was, it must have worked. The next morning, I woke to see an HQ audition script waiting in my inbox.

“For this audition, we are looking for someone with their own creative vibe and lots of personality, humor and quick wit. We’re not looking for a read out of this script – we want YOUR interpretation of this script as if you were in front of a real, live audience. Work your crowd!”

Yo, say less. With a forehead kiss, I politely kicked my wife out of the room and subsequently turned it into my studio. By that, I mean I tilted all the lamps towards the center of the room, taped my phone to the whiteboard on the wall facing me, and scribbled the script in dry-erase chicken scratch as fast as I could. I put on the one cohesive outfit I could cobble together from my closet, hit Record, and became the host of HQ—for 12 minutes, at least.

Here’s my audition tape for the whole damn world to see. Now keep in mind, I’m an artist. And I’m sensitive about my shit.

I reached forward and stopped the recording. Done. The goal was to do it on my own voice, worn my own personality and I was fairly confident I had succeeded in that. I put my email package together, hit Send, and went about my day.

Exactly 24 hours later, an email came through from HQ Trivia.

Truth be told, I’m not sure how close I was to getting the gig. For all I know, HQ could have hired someone weeks ago—probably some UCB-trained glasses-wearing influencer—forgotten to take their stupid job posting down. Perhaps there wasn’t room for a chubby Puerto Rican Scott Rogowsky in this big pretty world of ours after all.

I came with nothing, everyone’s been great, I’ve had the time of my life—but I think I’m going to play it safe and quit with what I have.