All words: Robert Winship
From the outset of their show, the Mythbusters have been much more than a modern Mr. Wizard or Bill Nye. The world of the show neither fun masked as science, nor science masked as fun, rather a genuine lifestyle of outlandish experimenting and structured fact finding, personified in a cast of neo-nerds and handymen. Jamie, Adam and Co. have struck a rare, lasting relationship with their fans that is equal parts idol worship, science class and goofball camaraderie. And the fans turn out in droves.
Now, I’ll tell you right out, the coolest part of the afternoon was an anti-aircraft cannon modified to fire paintballs, complete with four barrels and digital sighting. The fact that it was being fired at an audience member in a medieval suit of armor was merely a detail to augment the raining thud of paintballs splattering against a plexiglass wall.
There was, of course, Buster, the weapons cabinet, Adam’s space suit, explosion footage, hammering feats of strength, more explosion footage, high-speed camera pranks, Dolby-mastered sonic booms, etc. For many, this might cross the line of serious scientific interest into mindless overkill, but for fans of the Mythbusters, it could never be enough.
The Mythbusters (Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage) performed twice at the Warner Theater on Saturday. Their Behind the Myths tour came as launching platform for the show’s 10th season, which aired Sunday, March 25th. Shortly before the first show, Adam was booked to speak at the Reason Rally on the National Mall, an appearance which he tied into his closing soliloquy on the importance of science and the value of play. The quip goes that the only difference between goofing around and science is remembering to write the stuff down.
In his opening comments, Adam posited, “We like to think of science as a study in absolute values. In reality, science is the study of relationships between things”. There were a number of such reflections, often closing out an audience-involved test or game.
The audience Q & A was populated with expected questions. Jamie and Adam came out separately to answer, with their usual amiability.
Question: What’s with the beret?
Jamie: Well, the sombrero was a little unwieldy.
Question: How many times has Buster been replaced?
Adam: How many times has he been on the show? Did you know there is a church of Buster, since he’s been resurrected so many times?
In a bit of our own tough questioning, BYT’s Stephanie Breijo pressed Jamie to reveal which myth was the closest he had ever felt to death. Aside from referencing the more dangerous military explosives episodes, Jamie recounted the experience of being placed behind a 747 jet engine in a self-designed armored tent, as it was the moment when he felt he had least control. Adam fielded a request to describe his childhood self and used it to reflect on a lifetime of Lego-love and the story of his pre-trademark Lego collection. While Legos and near-death experiences seem far apart in reality, they fit snugly in the context of quirky universe of the
Mythbusters, where “I wonder…” is still king.
Danish toymaker, Ole Kirk Christiansen created his now-universally loved stackable bricks, under the name LEGO from the Danish phrase leg godt, or “play well”. Behind the Myths was a refreshing chance for Jamie and Adam to speak on the origin of the show and personal passion for their line of work, but it (and the TV show) was ultimately about playing well and turning the statistical into the fantastic.