The Magic of Mythbusters

Chatting with Adam Savage about theater, making stuff and Star Wars

Adam Savage (left) and Jamie Hyneman of Mythbusters
Adam Savage (left) and Jamie Hyneman of Mythbusters

For more than a decade we’ve watched Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman blow things up in the name of science on their critically acclaimed TV series MythBusters, which will end next season. This weekend, audiences will have the chance to see these geeky heroes live onstage when “MythBusters: Jamie & Adam Unleashed” hits the Hult Center Dec. 12.

EW caught up with Savage in the midst of his 32-city tour.

In an increasingly pre-fab world, why is it still important to take things apart and put them back together? To try to fix things or to build them from scratch?

It’s more important than ever. Take the maker movement. I liken it to the car culture after World War II: Cars went from being black boxes to things we could modify and make better. Now we have 10-year-old girls programming, we have people opening up their TVs to hack them. Modifying something is a gateway drug to the critical thinking skills necessary to lead a fulfilling life.

I read that your dad was an animator for Sesame Street. How did his example prepare you for your work as an educator and entertainer? 

I’d cache both those terms, educator and entertainer, under one idea, “storyteller.” My dad was hired in 1971. So I grew up with watching him pitch ideas for three or four months, and then the rest of the time he’d spend painting. My mom made it work financially, and that austerity and dedication were a huge example.

And your mom was a psychologist? 

She still is. She’s 81 and still practicing.

In your earlier career, you worked in theater. How does your background in the arts influence your work now?

One-hundred percent. Theater, again, is for making. It’s egalitarian, less sequestered. It’s a great place to learn everything. It all comes down to storytelling — theater is the first art form that will survive the apocalypse intact. People will be sitting around the campfire, telling stories.

So what can we expect from “Adam and Jamie: Live”? 

It is effectively like a magic show, but instead of magic illusions it’s a bit of science, like we’re giving the audience the keys to the castle by showing a rigorous methodology for solving a problem. We have a dozen volunteers up onstage throughout the night. Our audience is couples, college kids, families.

Say you wanted to fix the American educational system. How would you encourage kids to stay interested in science, technology, engineering and math? 

That’s easy. Let them get their hands dirty. Science, art, drama teachers know this. But with budget cuts, their materials are the first thing to go.

Finally, from a superfan who’s 7 years old: In the second Star Wars MythBusters special, why was the myth about dodging blasters rather than how bad storm troopers are at hitting something?  

That’s an excellent question. The reason is, there’s no way to test how bad storm troopers are at hitting anything within a measurable universe. It’s more of a narrative point than a behavioral point.

“MythBusters: Jamie & Adam Unleashed” hits Eugene 8 pm Saturday, Dec. 12, at the Hult Center; $53-$75, tickets at