"MythBusters" hosts Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage are traveling the continent with a live spinoff of their long-running television show, which subjects to their junkyard brand of scientific testing urban legends, tales from history, old saws, stuff you see in the movies, and anything else people think they know when they don't think too hard about it. (The show, "MythBusters: Behind the Myths," passed through L.A.'s Nokia Theatre on Sunday -- Margaret Gray's Times review is here -- and is at the Fox Performing Arts Center in Riverside Wednesday night).
Heroes of 21st century DIY culture, they count among their famous fans late-night TV host Craig Ferguson, whose sidekick Geoff Peterson is a robot built by "Build Team" Mythbuster Grant Imahara, and President Obama, who appeared on the show in 2010 to offer a "viewer's challenge." Just before they hit the road, I spoke to them by phone for a Culture Monster Q&A focusing on "Behind the Myths." Here is some more of that conversation.
What originally brought you to the West Coast and San Francisco?
Jamie Hyneman: I came out here well over 20 years ago. I had gotten my start in special effects in New York and wanted to do larger things in movies. "Star Wars" had acquired quite a bit of momentum in the Bay Area; there were a number of companies doing high-end special effects, and so I sought that out.
Adam Savage: I had a brother that lived in San Francisco. I visited him in the late '80s and decided I wanted to live here someday. And then in 1990 a friend asked me to come be his roommate and I've never looked back.
One of the reasons I moved out was I was doing a lot of sculpture at the time, and I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. And when you're not sure what you want to do, New York is a very terrible place to be. And San Francisco is a fantastic place to be. Because New York is all about ambition -- which is wonderful and yields a fantastic culture -- and San Francisco is all about exploration, where you can try anything. And if you're where I was in the early '90s, talented but without a lot of ambition, it was a great place to try my hand at everything. And I think the fact that both Jamie and I have spent our lives trying our hand at everything that interested us, and found forums and careers that engendered that, lined us up uniquely to be hosts of this show.
I started out as an actor -- I did all the high school plays and studied acting privately and then at NYU for a brief period of time -- and when I first moved to San Francisco I paid my rent for several years in theater. "MythBusters" brought these two halves of myself together, the maker of things and the performer.