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New Hyde Park native Joey Yagoda on ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire’

New Hyde Park's Joey Yagoda from New Hyde

New Hyde Park's Joey Yagoda from New Hyde Park is a contestant on the game show Who Wants To Be a Millionaire. (Sept. 5, 2012) (Credit: Disney-ABC Heidi Gutman)

New Hyde Park’s Joey Yagoda is getting shafted out of his birthday party.

Instead, he and some Yale University classmates will gather in their dorm’s basement for a “Who Wants To Be a Millionaire” party.

But Yagoda will still be the guest of honor.


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On Monday Yagoda turns 20 and makes his debut on the popular WABC-TV game show, which he taped Sept. 6 in Manhattan. He’ll be on Monday and Tuesday at 12:30 p.m.

“My dorm’s basement has a big TV. So instead of having a birthday party, I’m doing that,” said Yagoda, a 2010 Great Neck South graduate. “It’s a more exciting birthday than usual.”

His father, Steve Yagoda, who accompanied Joey to the taping, couldn’t be more proud but isn’t the least bit surprised.

“Joey enjoyed game shows from the time he was an infant,” said Steve Yagoda. “I remember him as a toddler watching ‘Jeopardy.’ The Daily Double would go on and he’d get really excited that the person got the Daily Double. I used to tell people that he’d be a game show host.”

Maybe someday, but for the moment Joey is in his junior year at Yale, pursuing a degree that combines ethics, politics and economics. Between studies and summer jobs he hasn’t gotten to watch “Millionaire” as much as he’d like in the last couple of years, but he did catch an announcement on the show promoting a website people could use to sign up for auditions. He ended up getting contacted to audition this past June in Manhattan.

“You’re in this big room taking a test that has 30 questions, and you have 20 minutes to complete it,” Yagoda said. “It’s like a Scantron test.

“Then you wait, and they call out the numbers of the people who advanced. Then you have an interview with somebody who works there, you chat with them. After that I did sort of a screen test where they had me on camera, they have you introduce yourself, tell a story or two.”

They also asked Yagoda four questions to get an idea of how he might do on TV. A few weeks later he got a postcard saying he was in the contestants pool, which doesn’t guarantee an appearance on the show. But on Aug. 28 — the day before he was to start his junior year — he got the call and the date he would be taping.

“I had a very funny first few days of class,” Yagoda said. “I had to tell my professors I wouldn’t be there next week because I was going to be on ‘Millionaire.’ ”

His instructors were cool, and so was Yagoda’s chance to meet show host Meredith Vieira. Players get a brief chat with her on stage right before the game, to establish a rapport.

“She’s so incredibly nice, oh my God,” Yagoda said. “She was really fun. She’s as nice as she seems on TV. She really, really cares about the contestants.”

Steve Yagoda watched from the audience, amazed at his son’s ability to stay calm.

“Nothing makes Joey nervous,” Steve Yagoda said, expressing the pride he, wife Donna and Joey’s 18-year-old sister, Lauren, have for his success. “He thrives on pressure. He’s one of those people who excels when the pressure is on. Me, I’m not. I found him to be very relaxed. I think I was more nervous than he was.”

Joey might disagree.

“It’s funny, though, because once you’re on the stage, it’s like a different world,” he admitted. “You question everything you thought you ever knew.”

Tags: New Hyde Park

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