Mythbusters Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman are kicking off a U.S. tour today, with two Philly shows on Saturday. We chatted with Savage about translating a TV show to the stage, pitting audience members against each other, and what happens when props break.
First, and most important: Have you seen the new Epic Rap Battles of History, with you vs. the Ghostbusters?
I’ve seen it three times. I love those guys. It’s really weird how well they got Jamie and I.
So tell me about the live tour. Is it things we’ve seen on the TV show?
It’s nothing anybody’s ever seen on TV. We wanted to translate “Mythbusters” to the stage, but we couldn’t do actual experiments where we weren’t sure what was going to happen, and we didn’t want to do a simple science demo show. So it was a tough problem to solve. But there’s lots of audience participation. And we bring our sense of humor from the show to the stage.
How does the audience participation work?
We bring up a dozen or more people onto the stage, give them a little bit of a different way of seeing things. We pit them against each other in feats of strength. [Laughs] Early on in the show we bring up the smallest kid we can find in the audience, maybe a 6-year-old, and pit him against the largest guy we can find. A 250-pound bouncer. And with a little help from physics, the kid does pretty well.
How does a little kid win? Or should I come to the show to find out?
I’m keeping it vague. [Laughs] There’s another gag, one of my favorites, where we bring someone up onstage and literally alter the way they can see — and then ask them to run an obstacle course. And there’s a spectacular finale. I’ll say this: It doesn’t actually involve explosives, but it feels like it does.
On the TV show experiments often don’t turn out like you expected. Have you had something go wrong on stage?
We’ve had a couple of minor hiccups. In a previous iteration of the tour we had a rig that failed about one time in five and we had to fix it onstage — which turned out to be great, so we didn’t try to fix it permanently. When something goes wrong, that’s just part of what we do on a daily basis.
Expecting the unexpected
Savage says he and Hyneman are “surprised by results constantly.”
“On other shows, you can smell that a producer wrote down everything that’s going to happen, and then everyone on camera fulfilled that list,” he explains. “On ‘Mythbusters,’ we plot out what we think is going to happen, but [it] almost never does in the way we imagine. We’re always scrambling to figure out how to complete the story and how it’s all going to come together — and that’s what keeps the job fun after 12 years.”
Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman bring “Mythbusters: Behind the Myths” to the Merriam Theater (250 S Broad St.) on Saturday for a matinee and an evening show. Tickets are at www.kimmelcenter.org.