CityBeat recently talked with Bischoff, who answered some of our questions about getting involved in this iconic show (not all of them — a nice CBS press representative stepped in when we asked him who sucked and whether he had to shake his finger in anyone’s face).
CityBeat: What made you want to be on Survivor? Have you ever tried to be on television or in a competition like this before?
Matt Bischoff: I’ve been a huge fan of Survivor ever since the first episode and back in 2003, I sent in a VHS tape. No one ever contacted me back and I thought, ‘Oh, there’s so many people applying to be on this show.’ So I didn’t apply for years after and finally, in 2011, I sent in [another] video, went through the application process and I told my wife, ‘I’m getting on this show this time.’ I put my mind to it and I got chosen and it’s been awesome.
CB: What did you do to prepare? How much time did you have between finding out and leaving for the show?
MB: Basically, as soon as casting first called me, I knew this is real — they actually called me back…I quit drinking caffeine — I cut that out 'cause I didn’t want to go through crazy withdrawals. I stopped drinking beer, any kind of alcoholic beverages as much. I went on sort of a strict diet that my wife helped me out with to kind of eat less food to prepare myself. I also would go to this local gym, Swing This [in Covington, Ky.], and do a bunch of Kettlebell training, endurance training and swimming just to be in the best shape I could be for going out there.
CB: Do you think riding BMX helped your athleticism?
MB: Yeah, I definitely think that riding BMX has obviously kept up my agility and hand-eye coordination and could help me physically and mentally. A lot of BMX is putting your mind to learning a trick or really focusing on what you’re doing and I think that could help me in the game. I looked at it like, ‘Hey, I’m doing dirt jumps and wooden ramps' — I build a lot of stuff to ride over the years — I figured that would hopefully help me out there, too, when it comes to just working hard.
CB: You’re also a family man — you’ve got kids and a wife. Do you think this type of dual lifestyle is one of the reasons the producers chose you?
MB: I think when most people look at me, they see tattoos, the beard and long hair — I don’t look like the normal person [on Survivor]. So that, coupled with the fact that I’m a sensitive family guy. Everything I do is for my family and obviously I do a lot of other things: I run two BMX brands, and sing in a band and I do all this stuff, so I think just my personality and my look and the whole package is what attracted the producers to me.
CB: How was it keeping up the beard in such rough conditions?
MB: [Laughs] My beard just kind of does what it does.
It’s a long dreadlock so in my everyday life, just doing nothing to my beard is keeping up with it. I’m hoping the dirtier and gnarlier I get, the better my beard will look.
CB: You mentioned you play music. If you could have had any legendary musician on the island with you, who would you chose?
MB: I’d say Lyne Staley of Alice in Chains, God bless him. May he rest in peace. Current living musician? My friend John Garcia from a band called Kyuss. He’s on of my good friends and one of my favorite singers.
CB: What was weirder for you: living on an island without modern conveniences or being followed by a camera crew and being in the public eye?
MB: From 1992-1998, I did a public access TV show here in Cincinnati called Urban Discipline. I was used to being on camera so I don’t think anything like that is gonna bother me. In the BMX world, I’ve done tons of interviews and been on camera, so I’m already used to it. As far as being on the island, we’ll have to see. I’ve never done anything like this before, so it’s gonna be kind of interesting to see how I deal with it.
CB: If viewers judge Cincinnati based on watching you on Survivor, what types of generalizations would they make about the Queen City?
MB: I hold Cincinnati dear to my heart. There’s a great music scene, and just a great overall scene in the different communities. So I think there’s gonna be a lot of people that relate to me, like fellow Cincinnati beard groups, and some of the tattoo studios around town. I know enough people and I’ve done a lot of stuff in the community with my TV show I did and just being the local BMX guy. I think I’m gonna receive wonderful support. I don’t fear anyone looking down upon me because of my looks, I think everyone’s gonna embrace it. To be honest, I’ve been walking around locally and everyone that knows I’m on the upcoming season of Survivor is completely stoked. The outpouring of old co-workers and high school friends and teachers are coming out of the woodwork. I think everyone in Cincinnati’s gonna be psyched on it. Plus, Cincinnati is a town that’s a big fan of Survivor so there hasn’t been a local guy from Cincinnati on it in a while. So it’s a pretty big deal.
What’s next for Bischoff? We suggest Whisker Wars.
WEDNESDAY FEB. 13
Inside the Actors Studio (8 p.m., Bravo) – Break out the blue index cards! James Lipton interviews the multi-talented Hugh Jackman.
Workaholics (10 p.m., Comedy Central) -– Feeling lonely on the most romantic day of the year, the guys seek a webcam companion.
Kroll Show (10:30 p.m., Comedy Central) – Pony Tales looks into lives of men with a particular hairstyle; Dr. Armond is single and ready to mingle.
THURSDAY FEB. 14
Glee (9 p.m., Fox) – Will and Emma tie the knot on Valentine’s Day, and because every teacher invites his students to his wedding, the New Directions come together for the occasion.
Project Runway (9 p.m., Lifetime) – Materials from a flower shop and hardware store must be employed in cohesive looks. Plus: a team switch-up?
Freak Show (Series Premiere, 9:30 p.m., AMC) – After Comic Book Men’s move to Thursdays at 9 p.m., check out AMC’s newest unscripted lineup. Freak Show follows a dying breed of self-proclaimed “freaks” who perform at the Venice Beach Freakshow.
Immortalized (Series Premiere, 10 p.m., AMC) – Another new AMC offering, this taxidermy competition pits one of four pros against a challenger to create the ultimate animal art form.
FRIDAY FEB. 15
Portlandia (10 p.m., IFC) – Fred and Carrie’s new roommate Alexandra (Chloe Sevigny) complicates the duo’s relationship; art projects overrun the city; visitors tour the Historical Punk House.
SATURDAY FEB. 16
Beyoncé: Life Is But a Dream (Premiere, 9 p.m., HBO) – Directed and executive-produced by the Queen Bey herself, this new documentary gives a rare glimpse into Ms. Knowles’ personal and professional life.
Saturday Night Live (11:30 p.m., NBC) – Christoph Waltz makes a much-anticipated debut on the sketch comedy — could the badass award-winning actor save this season? Alabama Shakes also performs.
SUNDAY FEB. 17
Girls (9 p.m., HBO) – Hannah lands an e-book deal but must turn it over in a month; Adam makes his triumphant return; Marnie hosts Booth’s art bash.
Shameless (9 p.m., Showtime) – The whole Gallagher family faces serious consequences when the city needs to do sewer work on the property — where Aunt Ginger is buried. This show is all about shock value, but “girl penis,” really?
The Walking Dead (9 p.m., AMC) – The prison group considers returning to Woodbury for a surprise attack; the Dixon Brothers (what a dynamic they have!) plot their next move; the Governor questions Andrea’s loyalties when she offers to speak with her old group. Meanwhile, Rick’s lost his damn mind.
TUESDAY FEB. 19
The Jeselnik Offensive (Series Premiere, 10:30 p.m., Comedy Central) – The latest comedian to nab his own show, Anthony Jeselnik takes on weekly topics with his signature dry, straight-faced humor. Aziz Ansari and Amy Schumer join the panel in this opener.
CONTACT JAC KERN: email@example.com or @jackern