MythBusters hosts talk limited training for explosive jobs
Hosts Tory Belleci and Grant Imahara, while not the original MythBusters, have been with the Discovery Channel show since its second and third seasons, respectively.
Their Saturday appearance before a nearly full Graham Chapel centered on anecdotes about on- and off-screen drama and explosions—fueled by 12 tons of assorted explosives—before audience members came to the front to ask questions.
Both said that little could have prepared them for the careers they currently have in response to a number of students who asked for how they could get more involved in the show or the industry.
“I don’t think any formal education really prepared us for this crazy, crazy lifestyle,” Imahara said.
Belleci, whose background is in effects, said his current career is an extension of lifelong interests.
“I didn’t realize it at the time, but growing up I was training to be a MythBuster,” Belleci said. “I was always super curious. I used to jump off my parents’ house onto old mattresses, I almost set my parents’ house on fire a few times, I was almost arrested for making pipe bombs. So it was like, I have been kind of blowing stuff up and doing crazy things ever since I was little.”
“I joke about this pipe bomb, but I almost got arrested, and I see the chief of police from my town. Whenever I see him, he’s like, ‘Man, I’m so glad I didn’t arrest you…you’ve found your calling,’” he added.
Belleci went to film school at San Francisco State University before working in production and getting a job in model-making at Industrial Light and Magic, the visual effects company founded by George Lucas and owned by Lucasfilm. Imahara, who graduated from the University of Southern California with a degree in electrical engineering, worked for the same studio before joining MythBusters in the show’s third season.
Before their stint at MythBusters, Belleci and Imahara worked on film enterprises including the second and third Matrix movies and the recent Star Wars trilogy.
“We worked on the bad ones, the ones that sucked,” Belleci said.
Over their ten seasons with the show, they have tested everything from whether many exotic meats taste like chicken to whether hardened cement could be removed from a cement truck using explosives—Belleci’s favorite experiment.
Imahara estimated that they are completely shocked by their results about 10 percent of the time.
The show’s 2013 season begins April 7.
“We have so many crazy myths coming out. We just have been—this last week— testing zombie myths. Now I know a lot of you are like, ‘That’s not science,’ but we did set some parameters…very scientific. But it’s so cool,” Belleci said.
They will also be retesting a myth from their seventh season, when they tested whether they could split a boat in half with a snowplow blade.
While many of the myths they test come from their producers, Imahara explained the search process as “kind of like Mad Libs…exploding noun of death.”
Junior Chelsea Greenbaum, president of EnCouncil, asked the hosts what myths they would personally want to test if they could. Imahara said he would like to test the myth that the Formula One car, an open-wheel racing vehicle, has enough downforce to drive upside down. But the cars happen to cost several million dollars each.
Belleci said he would like to have the hosts go down Niagara Falls by barrel—something a security guard at the Falls assured him will never happen.
When individuals try to barrel down the falls, the guard said, officials close the dams and stop water flowing down the falls. That makes the drop considerably more dangerous and the odds of fatality much greater, effectively discouraging people from taking the plunge.
As far as getting involved in special effects or opportunities like MythBusters, Belleci and Imahara had little advice for students in attendance.
While one student asked about internship opportunities at MythBusters, Belleci and Imahara said it has been a long time since they have had a mythtern and that, as far as they are aware, they aren’t looking for any.
Senior Candace Ward said she watches MythBusters almost nightly and was excited by the opportunity to see two of the hosts in person.
“I was surprised that they were so much like they were on the show,” Ward said. “It was awesome.”