If you were one of those inquisitive children who grew up salvaging magnets from broken electronics and emptying flash powder from unraveled ladyfingers to create a kid-sized dynamite stick, its impossible not to feel jealous of Adam Savage.
Along with MythBusters co-host Jamie Hyneman, the 46-year-old has spent much of his adult life building cool stuff, blowing up cooler stuff, and answering all the random questions that intrigue pint- and full-size mad scientists. Now in its 11th season, MythBusters is the most recognizable Discovery Channel show.
Weve made over 250 hours of MythBusters in the last decade its insane, Savage says, phoning from the heart of the Mission District in sunny San Francisco.
Things just keep getting better. On the MythBusters: Behind the Myths Tour (7:30 p.m. Nov. 26, Morrison Center, $45-$125, Boise State Tickets), the duo gets to share its passion for science, engineering and problem solving in person with its happily nerdy fans.
On TV, MythBusters uses irreverence and humor to almost trick people into learning. As the men gleefully explode toilets, construct tree cannons and launch lawn chairs skyward with balloons, they act as avatars for the audience, experientially conveying what things feels like.
That doesnt work as well on a stage, Savage says: Because when youre up on stage in front of a bunch of people, like it or not, you are the ringleader.
So on the Behind the Myths live show, which was developed in 2011, Savage and Hyneman utilize their audience.
It is a key difference between what we do on MythBusters itself and what we do on the stage, he says. We realized if we started bringing people up on stage, every audience member we bring up, whether theyre 7 or 70, becomes the audiences avatar for whats happening.
One of the very first things we do in these shows is we pit a small child against a really big dude. And we work it so the kid wins in several different ways. And its really, really fun to watch. Its not only funny, but in the end, youve actually learned a few things about mechanical advantages and cheating.
Savages mischievous attitude is key to the chemistry of MythBusters. Next to Hynemans more reserved personality, he is the overenthusiastic goof in all of us. Part of that characteristic comes from his upbringing; Savage dabbled in acting as a kid: I actually played Mr. Whipples stock boy in a Charmin commercial, he says.
But most of Savages exuberance is fueled by his joy for creating. Before MythBusters, he was a graphic designer, theater carpenter, set designer, painter, model maker you name it, he says. Toy prototyper. All these different professions that involved actually physically making and designing things.
The zany, excited guy on TV? Thats basically Savage in real life.
Ill keep doing this until they lock the doors, thats for sure, he says. The fact is, were still having fun. We love what we do. Weve been paid very well to do this show. We enjoy our lives in San Francisco. The notoriety and the people weve gotten to meet and befriend over the years scientists and other performers that we love has been an amazing experience.
But if there was one part of MythBusters that I wouldnt trade for any other, its how much weve actually learned. Because Id spent 10 years in the special-effects industry as a model maker and an effects technician. I thought that I came to this show in 2002 with REAL skills. And Ill tell you, I didnt know s--t back then. What I have learned in the past 10 years dwarfs everything I learned leading up to it.
Still, even the experts keep learning. If youre one of those wannabe MythBusters who has walked the line between safety and stupidity, dont feel too bad. (Sorry again, Mom, about compressing all that ladyfinger flash powder in Dads workshop vise back in 84. I swear it was my brothers idea.)
Two years ago, the MythBusters crew accidentally overshot a cannonball big time. It put a hole through the bedroom wall of a sleeping couples home, bounced through traffic and hit another house before breaking a parked minivans window.
That was very scary, Savage admits. Im really, really grateful that no one was hurt.
Michael Deeds column runs Fridays in Scene and Sundays in Life. He co-hosts The Other Studio at 9 p.m. Sundays on 94.9 FM The River and appears Thursdays on Channel 6 News.