Mythbusters: Behind the Myths Tour ‘blows away’ Valley audience

Adam Savage hangs from two ordinary interwoven phone books as Jamie Hyneman hoists him skyward. The experiment shows how strong the use of friction between objects is.

Adam Savage hangs from two ordinary interwoven phone books as Jamie Hyneman hoists him skyward. The experiment shows how strong the use of friction between objects is.

Hayden Murphy, Scottsdale Chronicle/NEVN intern

Adam Savage strolled across the stage of the Mesa Arts Center, paintball gun in hand, to explain an experiment to a Valley local junior high science teacher who had volunteered to assist.

Minutes earlier, the teacher had been a passive member of the audience who came to see the Mythbusters: Behind the Myths Tour on Dec. 16.

The science teacher was suited from head to toe in armor and stood beside Savage. The experiment didn’t sound very dangerous. A paintball gun would be aimed at him to see if the armor could withstand the impact. Then Savage announced that Jamie Hyneman, his co-host, had a slightly different take on the experiment. From the side of the stage Hyneman entered, pushing what looked like an artillery cannon with a Gatling gun-styled barrel on it. The holes for the paintball pellets were golf-ball sized.

The audience roared as Savage escorted the armored victim in front of a clear plastic wall that stood between the audience and Hyneman’s “cannon.” Hyneman aimed at the science teacher and began to fire as the audience heard machine-gun like sounds and the large splats of colorful pellets striking the science teacher and plastic wall.

Backstage before the show, Hyneman, who cohosts the popular science show with Savage, described the focus of Mythbusters.

“The thing about Mythbusters is that it is all about the process,” Hyneman said. “There’s stuff that we do like polishing a turd –you don’t really need to know how to do it. It’s the process and we show the process in detail. The actual result of it is just a place to hang a coat on. The process and creativity of trying to figure something out is the most interesting part.”

The popular Discovery Channel science program’s pilot ran in 2003. Since then it has reignited the love of science in a new generation.

“The idea came from an Australian producer (Peter Rees) who didn’t want to just talk about urban legends but wanted to recreate them,” Hyneman said.

Rees knew Hyneman and his special effects work so he asked him to be involved in the show.

More than 230 episodes, 946 myths, 7,900 hours, 840 explosions, 56,500 yards of duct tape and five Emmy nominations later, the entertaining science show will begin taping its 12th year in January as a new season also begins to air.

“You can watch Mythbusters for 10-and-a-half days before you see all of them (all seasons),” Hyneman said. “Why you would want to do that I’m not sure. But you can.”

Last August, the Discovery Channel announced that Kari Byron, Grant Imahara and Tory Belleci, known as the Build Team, were leaving the show. Hyneman and Savage will work alone in the next season, which airs in January. However, familiar TV friends, The Simpsons, will join them as Savage and Hyneman will test the most outlandish stunts performed by Bart and his family.

Savage is the Laurel to Hyneman’s Hardy on stage. They make science fun as they test myths and urban legends, in such an entertaining way that it has become the flagship of the Discovery Channel. However, while humor is used where appropriate in the show, they don’t prank each other off stage, as some viewers might think.

“We don’t really pull pranks on each other,” Hyneman said. “We’re like nuclear powers when it comes to pranking, so we decided early on that we wouldn’t do that.”

Pranking may not occur off camera, but on stage, playful exchanges can happen. During the Dec. 16 performance, Savage told a story that reflected Hyneman’s dry, mischievous humor.

The two were going to test paintball guns to see if shooting with them could draw blood. Hyneman got a cunning look on his face and told Savage he was going to shoot him in the same place each time. Hyneman smiled as they stepped back from each other and took aim. Savage’s first shot hit Hyneman in the knee. Hyneman shot Savage near the belly button. It hurt, but no blood. Both took aim again. Savage missed but Hyneman laid another shot on top of the last one. Savage doubled over in pain. He didn’t give up, however, hoping to inflict a similar pain on Hyneman. Again they shot and again Savage missed while Hyneman hit Savage near the belly button again. Blood drawn – theory proven and one co-host was bent over in pain and a bit worse for the wear.

Hyneman developed his mischievous behavior in his childhood on his family’s Indiana farm.

“ I was very good at evading chores,” Hyneman said. “If I was mowing the lawn, I figured out that if I repeatedly ran the mower into the tree that something would break and I would no longer have to mow the lawn because the lawnmower was broken.

“I also discovered that I could pull the spark plug wire back in its socket and make the machines not work,” he added. “And yet they were very difficult for him (his dad) to track down the cause of. And so I was pretty much a mischievous kid but I wasn’t really exceptional other than that.”

Hyneman credits Savage for the excitement in the show. “Adam breathes a lot of life into what we do,” Hyneman said. “He works very fast so working with Adam is an energizing experience. He can become very irritable or irritated but we use that to our advantage.The differences between us have become one of the strengths of our program.”

One difference arises on opinions of what would make a good myth test.

“There is one that for some reason neither Adam nor the show runner seem to be interested in,” Hyneman said. “I am the only one who thinks it’s interesting. It involves a story about a baseball player who is on a train and throws a baseball backwards outside of the train at exactly the same speed as the train is going forward. Cary, Grant and Tory tested this and found that if you get it right to someone else on the side of the track that the ball will just pop out in mid-air and fall straight to the ground and stop because you’ve canceled out the velocity.

“The difference is I want to be the baseball,” he explained. “I figured this (invention) would be something I’d put on the side of a bus so the bus wouldn’t have to stop at the bus stop. You’d get into this backward-facing slingshot on the side of the bus and it would be calibrated to fire exactly at the speed that the bus is going forward, so you would just be delivered at the side of the road instantly without the bus even slowing down. I think it’s funny but no one else seems to be interested.”

While new experiments and taping are going on next year, fans will still have plenty of fresh shows to view beginning Saturday, Jan. 10, on the Discovery Channel.

“We’ve been saving up our episodes, a full year’s worth of Mythbusters that are ready to go, all new,” Hyneman said. “We often get asked, ‘Are you ever going to run out of myths?’ and we sure haven’t seen that. Every time we sit down to the table to see what we can come up with, it just never seems to run out.”

Netflix dropped Mythbusters from its listings recently and fans of the show have been upset. Hyneman said that the series will be offered through Hulu Plus beginning in January.