Joe Verriotto brought his Brooklyn-sized personality to the return of “Deal or No Deal” Wednesday night, dancing his way through the rebooted game show.
“I said, If I’m gonna win a million dollars on TV, I’m going out with a bang,” says Verriotto. He was the first contestant to appear on the CNBC show after its nearly 10-year hiatus.
The 47-year-old stepped out alongside host Howie Mandel boasting of his Brooklyn pride and showing off his suave moves. He even invited the entire audience back to his place for dinner after accepting a $285,000 cash prize deal.
“I’m not gonna lie, I have a good time wherever I go,” the Dyker Heights native says, admitting he had a feeling he’d easily command the stage. He previously appeared on reality TV on VH1’s “Money Hungry” in 2010. “My personality and my happiness and everything that comes with me personifies [Brooklyn]. I’m proud of where I grew up.”
He applied to appear on the game show, which was canceled in 2009, back in March and flew from his current New Jersey residence to Universal Studios in Florida for the series taping. Verriotto simply asks, “who the heck wouldn’t want to do that?”
But his reasoning for turning to television for cash dates back to the Sept. 11 terror attacks, and the loss of his job.
“I’ve been through a lot in my life. I lost a business years ago and I never recovered,” he says, fighting tears. “I just want to leave it at that because it opens up many wounds for me. But just know that I’m a guy who’s hit the canvas a couple of times but I kept getting up.”
Verriotto says he hoped to win the $1 million cash prize to help expand his business opportunities (he’s currently self-employed in the transportation field) and help pay for his daughter’s wedding.
In case his lively persona and heart-tugging story weren’t enough to keep the audience captivated, the New Yorker played what Mandel called one of the best games he’d ever seen.
“The ‘Deal or No Deal’ Gods from up above were looking out for me,” he says.
Verriotto played a practice round of the game before his episode was taped, which he says went even better than his live round. “I was getting aggravated because here I am in the practice run and the game was going perfect,” he says. “Lightning is not supposed to strike twice, but in my case, when I got on stage, it was happening again.”
While onstage, Verriotto cleared out several low-number briefcases early on, and was left with a nerve-wracking 25 percent chance of walking away with either $400, or the grand prize. With $750,000 left on the board, he chose to take a deal from the banker and nabbed $285,000.
“The only thing that did not happen on that show was the balloons coming down from the rafters,” he says.