Grad student competes on Danish TV show

Chelsey Boutan

As Katy Bisby skimmed through Craigslist postings, she sent some links with funny content to her friends.

But when she came across a listing for a Chicago casting call for a Danish reality show, the NIU art graduate student was intrigued. She had never been outside the U.S. before, and people who were on the show traveled to Denmark for free. Bisby quickly decided that she would go to the casting call.

Two weeks later. Bisby found out that she was one of the 14 cast members who were chosen out of 3,000 applicants to be on the reality show called Alt for Danmark which in English translates to “Everything for Denmark.” The cast members, who are all Danish Americans, competed in mental and physical challenges throughout Denmark in hopes of winning the grand prize, which included $50,000 and the opportunity for the winner to meet and learn about his or her long-lost Danish relatives.

The show was filmed during the summer and the first out of the 12 weekly episodes aired on Sept. 3. Alt for Danmark is primarily in English, but the host Thomas Mygind speaks Danish while explaining some of the challenges. Bisby said the show’s premiere episode received 160,000 viewers, which is a lot by Danish television standards.

“If it was in America, the show wouldn’t even be done airing and they’d have cancelled it,” Bisby said. “That’s like C-SPAN at three in the morning.”

“Excuse me, where’s my beer?”

While filming the first episode, Bisby said she and the other cast members were nervous about what they did on camera. Bisby’s team lost a challenge during the first episode and had to compete in a spelling bee of Danish words to decide who went home.

Bisby said she can easily say one of her favorite phrases, “Excuse me, where’s my beer?” but she is far from being fluent in Danish.

Bisby said the spelling bee was stressful but she was able to spell enough words correctly to not be sent home.

Because of a contract she signed, Bisby can’t discuss unaired episodes or divulge who won the competition. But Bisby talked about what she thought was one of the craziest moments on the show, which happened during the second episode that aired Monday.

Suspended 15 ft. above the Nyhavn canal in Copenhagen, was a tight rope. The water below was dirty with beer bottles and boats were still passing through. Bars lined both sides of the canal. Bisby said about 2,000 people gathered to watch the cast tight rope across the canal.

Bisby said there was another rope for the cast to hang onto, but the rope would move up and down, which later caused two people to accidently fall into the water with their $4,000 mics still on.

“We did a lot of crazy stuff,” Bisby said. “A lot of things bordered on not being safe as far as American television standards go.”

‘Well-loved prisoners’

During filming, Bisby said she and the other cast members had nine to 15 hour days. Most of their alcohol was paid for, and their travel and hotel costs were all inclusive. The cast received $100 every day they weren’t eliminated. After filming each day, Bisby said the cast would usually swim in the hotel pool and drink until it was time to get up the next morning.

“We had very little free time,” Bisby said. “We were basically like well-loved prisoners.”

‘The alternative girl’

Looking back, Bisby thinks she got chosen to be on the show because she has an interesting personality.

“I think I was like the alternative girl, because I have a shit ton of tattoos and I am very dry and sarcastic,” she said.

When Katie Kahn, associate professor of painting, heard that Bisby was going to a casting call, she knew her student would be chosen to be on the show.

“It wasn’t a surprise that she was chosen to be on the show,” Kahn said. “In a way it confirmed what we already knew about her.”

Joe Bisby said anyone who has met his daughter wouldn’t be surprised either, because Katy is the “ideal sort of contestant for something like that.” The thought of finding out more about his family’s Danish roots if Katy won also excited Joe, who lives in Mountainburg, Ark. where Katy grew up.

“We were tickled,” Joe Bisby said. “We knew we had Danish ancestry, but we haven’t had contact with them since WWII. The possibility of finding out about them was exciting.”

Being filmed for a Danish reality show was far from easy, but Bisby said it would have been stupid of her to turn down a once in a lifetime opportunity like that.

“Even though it was exhausting and strenuous, I’m glad I did the show because I got to meet some really awesome people and do things in Denmark that even Danish people have never done before,” Bisby said. “I have no regrets whatsoever.”