Park City Institute brings a ‘Mythbuster’ to town
Adam Savage loves talking with audiences
When Adam Savage steps on the Eccles Center stage in Park City on Saturday, he may or may not know what he’s going to talk about.
“In Park City, I will do a Q & A from the stage but I’m actually weirdly not positive if I’m doing a demonstration or not,” Savage said during a Park Record call to shop in San Francisco. “I’m so dumbly busy that I engage with that information very late, sometimes.”
Still, Savage, known for hosting hit shows “Mythbusters” and “Unchained Reaction” with co-host Jamie Hyneman, is very comfortable standing in front of an audience.
He has done TED talks and other formal speaking engagements.
“The TED-type talks I do at most conferences are the most refined and practiced of the forms in that I work hard to craft a story and rehearse it until I can build a narrative that is genuine and is real efficient storytelling,” Savage said. “I love, love, love working in that form.”
Savage has also done less polished presentations such as his appearances at Maker Faire, an all-ages gathering of tech enthusiasts, crafters, educators, tinkerers, hobbyists, engineers, science clubs, authors, artists, students and commercial exhibitors.
“When I do that, I never rehearse,” he said. “I usually show up with a list of 12 things, and have no idea what I’m going to say.”
Savage does that because he wants the Maker Faire talks to feel raw and unfinished.
“I want to show the audience that I’m right there with them and it’s about me and them talking about something together,” he said. “I really love doing that, too.”
No matter what Savage does during his Park City appearance, he and his fans know there is an abundance of topics he can talk about.
In addition to his work on TV, Savage has built models that have appeared in major films,
including “Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones” and “The Matrix Reloaded.”
“I have always been fascinated about peeking behind the curtain,” he said. “Since I was ‘no-years-old,’ anytime there was a thing that could be taken apart, I would take it apart — whether it was old pieces of electronics, record players, things from the garbage.”
After years of doing that, Savage learned something interesting about himself.
“There’s something that happens when you take enough things apart, you learn how they go back together,” he said with a laugh. “In effect, when you take something apart, you build an inventory of the pieces of the thing in your brain.”
Learning this concept was one of Savage’s “A-Ha” moments.
“You can’t understand anything unless you fit it wholly in your brain,” he said. “So layering in all of this information into my brain until sense starts to come from it [became] part of the research process.”
Turning that into a TV career was a round-about journey for Savage.
“The truth of anybody’s life is that in retrospect, it all looks quite linear, but in reality, it’s not,” he said. “The same is true for me.”
Savage started out as actor.
“I knew I wanted to be a communicator and performer, so I tried that out for a few years and gave it up because I wasn’t committed enough and I wasn’t achieving anything substantial from it,” he said.
In the meanwhile, he continued to build things for pleasure.
“My father was a painter and artist and had a full studio of things that I frequently used as a kid,” he said. “So, I went into 20 years of making stuff for a living.”
Savage started out in graphic design and then moved into theater design.
“Theater led to film and film led to various relationships, including one with Jamie Hyneman that eventually led to ‘Mythbusters,’” Savage said. “That’s when I found out those five years of acting training proved critical to hosting a television show. I joke, but ‘Mythbusters’ was the perfect confluence of all the parts of me coming back together.”
The “Mythbusters” journey was, again, far less linear than what it appeared like from the outside.
“We didn’t set out to make a science show, and we didn’t set out to make an education show,” Savage said. “We set out so we could try something out to see if it really worked.
“The expansion of the ‘Mythbusters’ mission, which was to bust urban legend, to movie physics and idiomatic phrases and viral videos organically grew out of us casting wider nets, looking for additional material,” he said.
As the show progressed, both Savage and Hyneman realized they were scientifically minded.
“Neither of us has training in the sciences, but both of us are interested in real rigor in terms of experimental methodology,” Savage said.
So, when people come up and tell Savage that “Mythbusters” got them through high school chemistry or got them interested in science, he can’t help being surprised.
Just as his fans can’t seem to get enough of “Mythbusters,” Savage still keeps an ongoing list of things he wants to try out.
“For the entire run of ‘Mythbusters,’ I kept a list of stories,” he said. “Anytime a story that hit the airwaves that was remotely interesting, I would log it and put it in the hopper.”
Savage still keeps that list and just started to tweet them under #mythsIwouldstillliketotest.
“I can’t turn that mechanism off in my head,” he said.
Some of those experiments may or may not be addressed during his Q & A in Park City Saturday night.
“The Q & A with the audience is something that I just love doing because it can go to places you don’t know where it’s going to go,” he said. “Every audience is different.
“Sometimes people will stand up and challenge the results of one of our busted myths,” Savage said. “Sometimes someone will get up and tell us they got the PhD because ‘Mythbusters’ got them on the track. Frankly, when people do that, I have a hard time not getting choked up.”
Park City Institute will present an Evening with Adam Savage at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 10, at the Eccles Center for the Performing Arts, 1750 Kearns Blvd. Tickets range from $29 to $79 and can be purchased by visiting http://www.ecclescenter.org.
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