LSU NCBRT/ACE Instructor Meets his Match on Match Game
John Larocchia has worked as an LSU NCBRT/ACE instructor for more than 13 years. A retired New York City firefighter, Larocchia always wanted to do something after his career that helped to honor his colleagues who lost their lives on 9/11. He currently teaches the LSU NCBRT/ACE Public Safety CBRNE Response - Sampling Techniques and Guidelines course, helping first responders learn how to address specific fundamentals and skills associated with an emergency response to a Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) incident.
However, there is another side to the 61-year-old grandfather. In his spare time, Larocchia performs standup comedy and runs a foundation called Laughter Saves Lives. The organization helps first responders who are trying to overcome financial hardship due to tragedy or illness. The New York native’s talent led him to a surprising appearance on the popular ABC game show, Match Game, starring Alec Baldwin.
“Because of my standup comedy and acting, I get calls from agents to audition for things,” Larocchia said. “So, I auditioned. I had to play the game like six times on the computer. And they would prep me a little bit as to how to play the game.”
The show was taped back in July of 2019 in the ABC studios in Long Island, NY. The audition consisted of playing the game with the producers online, who also coached him on what to say and even how to dress.
“Then, after that, one day they told me I was on and I made it,” Larocchia said. “They told me to show up (and I’m not a game show buff) and I’m sitting there, and I don’t’ want to make a fool of myself.”
Match Game producers instructed contestants to bring different outfits and some were given clothes to wear on the show. Larocchia said he was given new shoes and pants to wear and was even allowed to wear his FDNY HAZMAT shirt. The show does not usually permit logos of any kind on clothing.
To add to the excitement, Match Game was celebrating its 58th episode with an extravaganza that included adding 58 dollars to any winner’s total prize money. The producers also surprised Larocchia with a ZOOM call to his pride and joy, his grandson Vincent, during the segment. The call won some celebrity hearts on the show, as well as a lot of jokes from host Alec Baldwin.
“He (Baldwin) is really funny and does a great job on the show,” Larocchia added. “You don’t get to talk to them much. When that desk turns around, that’s the first time you see them. But during the break, he told me he loves the firefighters.”
Larocchia not only did not make a fool of himself, he won his round and went on to compete in the finals.
He guessed the top answer to the question, “blank what?” His answer, “blank check,” netted him $5,058 and a chance at the top prize of $20,000. For that round, Larocchia picked “This Is Us” star Chris Sullivan to help him. The fill in the blank puzzle was “birthday blank.” Larocchia’s guess was “birthday cake.” Unfortunately, Sullivan had a different answer, “birthday party.”
While he didn't win the big one, Larocchia did take home $5,058 for the show’s 58th celebration. Larocchia said he didn't do anything special with the money, he just paid some bills and put some away in savings. What many may not know, is that winners must pay taxes on whatever amount they win. Nevertheless, Larocchia said he has been hearing from people all over the country, including those he has met through his work with LSU NCBRT. Ever since the episode aired on ABC networks in September 2020, hundreds have reached out to him on social media to tell him they saw him on the show.
“When it came on TV, everybody I teach all over the country and people I do comedy with, they all sent me such nice messages,” he said. “The firefighters also really liked seeing the shirt I wore for them.”
As for that big prize, Larocchia looks at the whole experience with his signature sense of humor.
“I tell people, that was a 20-thousand-dollar birthday cake. Yeah, that would have been nice.”
John Larocchia is part of the LSU NCBRT/ACE instructional team that includes more than 300 subject matter experts who deliver training at thousands of hosting agency locations throughout the United States and its territories and across the globe. To learn more about his Laughter Saves Lives organization, visit laughtersaveslives.org.