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MythBusters   prepared to blow doors  off Sears Centre. Or not

Jamie Hyneman answers questions from audience.  |  Submitted Photo

Jamie Hyneman answers questions from the audience. | Submitted Photo

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Updated: December 7, 2012 6:03AM



The MythBusters are coming to the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates this week, but don’t expect to see pop scientists and special-effects experts Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman doing something like sending patrons out to the lobby to see if opening and shutting all the doors at the same time will cause a drastic change in air pressure.

“I love the idea, but no,” Savage said in a phone interview.

The duo did consider having the audience at the Nov. 10 “MythBusters Behind the Myths” show collectively hold its breath, then exhale on cue.

But after consulting with some physicists, they decided that the effect would be minimal, Savage noted.

Savage and Hyneman are the stars of the Discovery Channel TV program “MythBusters,” which recently started its 10th season. On it, they and the rest of a crack team apply the scientific method to testing the validity of various rumors and urban legends.

It’s just the duo and not rest of the crew who will be in Hoffman Estates. Although a water heater might make a special guest appearance, the two won’t test to see if they can send it soaring through the arena’s roof — as an ode to a November 2007 episode of the show that did just that.

Audience help

Rather, a good part of the live version of the program directly involves audience members, Savage said.

Savage mentioned a bit at the start of the second act of the two-hour presentation that involves images of faces from the crowd captured with a high-speed camera. You can check out some of them on the Jamie and Adam Facebook page.

“There have been some unbelievable stunners,” Savage said. Those microsecond moments have come from something as silly and simple as folks sticking out their tongues to give a Bronx cheer.

Those hoping to be called up to the stage or otherwise become involved in the show should know that they can’t increase their chances of being picked by studying up on game theory or dressing provocatively.

“There’s really no rhyme or reason about whom we choose,” Savage said.

Science fiction geeks make up a sizable part of the show’s demographic. But Savage at first said he wasn’t sure if putting “MythBusters” together was more like being part of the crew on “Star Trek” running the Enterprise or had more in common with Doctor Who and his companions travelling through time and space in the Tardis, having seat-of-their-pants adventures.

“(On second thought,) it’s probably more like Doctor Who,” Savage said.

Live vs. TV

Savage noted that the process of making the live show is radically different from what goes into creating the episodes for TV.

The television effort concerns coming up with concrete, testable premises, and is structured more organically. The live version is a more studied approach involving humor, building excitement and “is all about how we perceive things,” he said.

To that end, the duo worked with Todd Millan — the creative director for the Kids in the Hall comedy troupe — to create “Behind the Myths,” which has had 52 performances thus far. The MythBusters also have an exhibition touring the nation’s museums, which recently had a run at Chicago’s Museum of Science & Industry.

“We have some really good friends who live in the city. My wife and I were really glad when Virgin Airlines started service between the Bay Area and Chicago,” Savage said. “We enjoy dancing, eating and drinking in Chicago and hit Kuma’s Corner (a heavy-metal-themed burger joint in Logan Square) one of the last times we were in town.”

As the live show entertains to impart knowledge, Savage said he’s also learned a thing or two from taking the act on the road, particularly what it takes to be a better communicator.

“That’s my most important job,” he said. “We’re playing around with structure, too, and I am learning how to slow down (when doing bits, comedy or telling stories). On stage, time seems to be moving very, very fast. A key is to figure out how to see things as they are happening.”

Going wrong

One of the stories Savage will be telling involves the most trouble he was ever in. He was a 19-year-old film student living in New York when he and some friends pulled a prank to try to quiet a nearby construction site.

“We almost wound up getting shot by a SWAT team,” Savage said.

You can find out the rest of the details if you attend the show.

Of course, half the fun of watching the televised myth busting is the possibility things might go wrong.

The worst that happened but never aired may have been last December when a cannonball launched for an experiment from the Alameda County Sheriff’s bomb range missed its target and wound up damaging two homes and a minivan parked in a Dublin, Calif., neighborhood more than a half-mile away from the test site.

No one was injured in the mishap. Savage told KGO-TV San Francisco it was the worst thing he could imagine happening. With kids and a home of his own, he couldn’t fathom how angry he would have been if the accident happened to him and his family, he said.

It was a hard lesson learned, and Savage takes failure seriously.

“We’re not defined by our success,” he said. “When you fail, you begin to understand something about yourself, about how to work with the imperfect machines we all are.”

“MythBusters Behind the Myths” will be at Sears Centre at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Tickets prices range from $37 to $177. Parking is $20. For more information, see www.mythbusterstour.com/.



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