LOS ANGELES — In person, Tyson Apostol is a funny guy.

Oh, he's not a stand-up comedian. But, face to face, his incredible arrogance is far more amusing than it sometimes seemed the first time the Utahn was on "Survivor."

He's one of 20 former contestants who returns for the new season — subtitled "Heroes vs. Villains" — and guess which side he's on?

Um, he's not one of the heroes.

"Everybody can be labeled any way they want. It could have gone either way," Apostol told the Deseret News.

Well, fans of the show might disagree. It's pretty much typical Tyson when you ask him if he had any hesitation about signing on for another season.

"Not too much," he said. "I did a little bit, because I was like, damn, I already did all the awesome I could muster without really trying. And to do that again without trying would be a chore. But I'm pretty confident in myself."

That's an understatement of epic proportions.

Apostol made an impression on "Survivor: Tocantins" viewers a year ago with his supreme confidence. OK, arrogance. And that's a word that the 30-year-old bike shop manager and former professional cyclist from Lindon uses to describe himself.

When he was approached to do another season of "Survivor," Apostol wasn't immediately made aware he'd be cast in the role of a villain. As opposed to last time, when "I just had to assume it for myself."

For the 20th season of "Survivor," producers have brought back 10 contestants viewers loved and 10 they loved to hate.

"The heroes-villains thing — I don't know why they did that, because all the heroes are boring," Apostol said. "So you've got a boring tribe, and you've got a bad-(expletive) tribe over there cracking jokes and being awesome. So, 50 percent good. That's not bad."

It was his joking that made him into somewhat of a villain the first time around. Or, more precisely, it was the fact that a lot of viewers couldn't tell that he was joking when he said things like, "I love seeing people cry when you crush their dreams."

Or when he told viewers, "Lying to everybody … actually brings me pleasure. I never liked Sierra, ever. I have no clue why she's out here other than to just give hope to stupid people around the world."

Um, ha-ha?

"There are some people who don't get jokes. It's weird," Apostol said.

At the same time, he doesn't try to deny that he has a very high opinion of himself. Which was clear to anyone who watched "Survivor: Tocantins."

"When you do it, you just are yourself. There's cameras around, but you're surrounded by people you've become friends with or at least have some kind of a relationship with," Apostol said. "It's just kind of more like hanging out. And I think that's why the show's so great is that you really do catch people being themselves and being real, as opposed to always playing up to the camera."

The fact that he's LDS — he served a mission to the Philippines — wasn't played up on "Tocantins." And, according to Apostol, the reaction he got when he came home to Utah was mostly positive.

"Most people told me that they were grateful that I didn't make Mormons look like such tight (expletive)," he said. "I think the people who didn't like me, for the most part, just didn't approach me. Just because they were intimidated."

He didn't meet with universal approval, however.

"One lady was, like, 'Are you as mean in real life as you are on TV?' I said, 'Sure.' I just left it at that," Apostol said. "I don't really care if people don't like me. That's their deal more than mine.

"I am what I am."

And what he is is extremely confident. Other contestants have expressed reservations about going through the physical trials "Survivor" inflicts on its participants. Not Apostol.

"The surviving is easy," he said. "You just basically sit around. It's not really surviving to the point where you have an equilibrium and can be self-sustaining. It's being able to sit out in the wild for 39 days.

"And anybody who can't do that for a million dollars is a weirdo."

Apostol is sort of a fan of the show, but he's really a fan of himself. He said he didn't watch the most recent season ("Survivor: Samoa") all that much.

"I watched it a little bit, but I don't find it as entertaining without me," he said.

He was joking.

Sort of.

"Some people might be, like, 'Yeah, he's playing it up. He's playing his arrogance up.' But to be 100 percent honest, it was really, really boring without me on there," Apostol said. "My jokes are the funniest."

If you watch ...

What: "Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains"

When: Debuts Thursday, Feb. 11, 7 p.m.

Channel: CBS/Ch. 2Friday on TV

e-mail: pierce@desnews.com