The pure intellectual satisfaction of applying rigorous science to a theory, combined with the sheer joy of watching things blow up, brought a large, enthusiastic crowd of “MythBusters” fans to Shea’s Performing Arts Center on Saturday night.
From the moment “MythBusters” hosts Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman appeared in a cloud of mist, the enthusiastic and utterly clued-in crowd avidly followed their unique mix of science and spectacle.
The audience ranged from children to seniors, with a solid majority of males. With whistles and yells, they expressed their satisfaction with the hosts, who were slightly different from their TV personas. Hyneman kept his trademark beret firmly in place and spoke from behind his thick mustache, but seemed much more human and approachable than on TV, while Savage moderated his hyped-up, goofball patter.
The stage show combined onstage demonstrations of several hazardous-looking contraptions with video clips that included montages of impressive explosions and of Savage being hurt. Each host separately also took questions from the audience.
Not every question was a winner; one on whether any experiment was so hazardous that it was forbidden by the show’s insurance company was asked, and answered, twice. But the crowd’s immersion with the show and its online presence was demonstrated by one member of the audience, who told Hyneman he had posted a question on the show’s online message board, asking if the team would test an unspecified Niagara Falls myth. The reply from show officials, the man said, was “Adam would never want to go to Niagara Falls.” When Hyneman replied, “I have no idea what that’s about,” Savage darted from backstage to explain. It wasn’t that he wouldn’t want to go to Niagara Falls, said Savage, a native of Westchester County. “They only allow one stunt every 20 years at Niagara Falls and they blew it on Wallenda three years ago. So either we wait 17 years to go over in a barrel or we have to find some other falls.” Hyneman then riffed on constructing “a canister decked out like a limo, with a wet bar,” for the trip over the falls.
All made up on the spot, of course, but humorous enough.
The fast-paced show involved a variety of audience members, each required to sign a waiver – “Don’t read it!” Savage suggested to one woman; “It’s OK if your sister’s name is on it!” he told a youngster. A “little kid” named Ben, after showing his biceps and confessing, “I had a lot of sugar today,” proved game to try to lift a “big dude” named Sean off the ground, even before the hosts demonstrated the scientific setup that would help him do so easily.
One part of the show, after intermission, had the crowd roaring. An ultra-high-speed camera, which on the show has captured in horrifying detail the velocity of an Adam Savage sneeze, was brought out to photograph, for example, the classic Bronx cheer. Let’s just say that if we had the ability to see things happen at 300 frames per second, we would probably never stop laughing, and then laugh more when we saw what we looked like while laughing.
Along the way, Savage and Hyneman slipped in some science lessons, as simple as “force equals mass times acceleration” or as esoteric as the dreaded BLEVE, a boiling liquid expanding vapor explosion that was demonstrated on the show in a hot water heater. After hugging a (non-boiling) water heater on stage and sternly warning, “Do NOT try this at home!” Savage segued directly to, “But here’s how you do it.”
Only one of the effects demonstrated on stage turned out to be an illusion, and the matter-of-fact approach to that harrowing segment – what people claim, how the MythBusters set out to test it, what they found – had spectators on the edge of their seats.
Asked about the show’s coming season, Savage admitted that “some Star Wars myths” will be tested, drawing cheers. “We love to argue about the physical properties of fictional things,” he said.