Mythbusters: Separating fact from fiction
As his television show has shown, Jamie Hyneman is pretty much game for anything. However, bungy jumping will not be high on the list of his priorities during his first visit to New Zealand next month.
He and Mythbusters co-host Adam Savage will be making a whistlestop tour here to perform their Mythbusters - Behind the Myths stage show twice at Auckland's Vector Arena.
Speaking by phone from San Francisco, where the Mythbusters team was doing a story about drones, Hyneman puts his reluctance to take the plunge down to a recent experiment for the show, which airs here on both Discovery and Prime.
''We did a story based on a commercial we saw where someone was bungy jumping for apples. In order to test whether it was possible I had to fall like a log and dive in where I could bite into an apple.
''I had to fall the same way every time and ignore what my body was doing so I could focus on biting something which was going to appear in like an instant and then disappear.
''I did it eight times and finally gave up. Adam managed only two - but then he throws up really easily.''
Despite having never been Down Under before, Hyneman says they are well aware of the Antipodean culture.
''Our show is produced by Beyond Productions out of Sydney so we've had Australian crew for the entire time [Mythbusters first aired in 2003] and we feel like the culture of the show, sense of humour and part of the mentality comes from your part of the world.''
A Kiwi has also become a key member of the Mythbusters team in the last 12 months.
''Miles Flannery - he's a beast. Very talented, but a brute. He's one of three guys who help us keep the shop maintained, help us set up on location and assist in building something if time is short.''
And before Mythbusters, Hyneman spent a few months working with some of our finest arachnids in 1989.
''Arachnophobia was one of the first films I did major effects for. I built a lot of the mechanical spiders and we used the real spiders [374 avondales] as models for sculptures. After we finished, I kept the main spider. She lived for about 10 years after the movie was made."
Of course, these days, mechanical spiders would be replaced by those created on a computer. How has the shift from practical to digital effects affected the Mythbusters team and its work?
''Both Adam and I come from a practical effects background. It is a craft and an art that is now being lost, which is unfortunate. I think when you do stuff in a computer people tend to dismiss it. It also allows you to make a lot of stuff totally not connected with reality because you're not limited by any kind of reality. That means less opportunities for us because, if it's complete fiction, there's not really much you can test.''
So where do the ideas for the show come from these days?
''What we find, in general, happens is, somebody will notice something that gets their attention. They relay a story about that to someone else, who then relays it someone else. By the time that happens, the story changes. That's where we come in because we try to set the record straight and find that little grain of truth. That's where the gold is - that's our game.''
Hyndman says a typical segment usually takes about two weeks of filming. However, it can take up to two years to get from an initial idea to that point.
When asked what the longest gestating projects were, he cites two.
''One was testing whether a lead balloon could fly. It took us two years to find a company who could make a thin enough lead foil, one even broke their machines in the process of trying to do it. The other experiment was based on the saying 'a rolling stone gathers no moss'. That took us about a full year to design a rolling device we could tumble rock in and then see if moss grew."
Hyneman says that a few times they've had to abandon experiments or refrain from showing them on air.
''We came across one readily available material that was so destructive and easy to use and access, we didn't want to put it out there."
Not being able to use high explosives or anything extremely dangerous also meant Hyneman and Savage were unsure about putting together a live show.
''We're known for doing big, spectacular things. However, instead we decided that we could create the playful sense of experimentation we have on the TV show.''
He says those attending their Auckland shows could expect plenty of opportunities for audience participation.
''We like having fun with them, doing controlled experiments. They're often done at their expense, which we understand you people down there appreciate.''
Mythbusters screens at 7.30pm on Wednesdays on Prime and 6.30pm on Fridays on Discovery.
Mythbusters: Behind the Myths will be held at Auckland's Vector Arena at 2pm and 7.30pm on Saturday, September 6. For more information, see Ticketmaster.co.nz