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Adam Savage and Michael Stevens spread curiosity in ‘Brain Candy’


"Brain Candy Live," an educational show, combines two big names in science entertainment. Adam Savage, the editor-in-chief of and former co-host of "Mythbusters," and Michael Stevens, creator of award-winning YouTube channel Vsauce, have created a live stage show that's billed as "a two-hour play date with Walt Disney, Willy Wonka, and Albert Einstein." The interactive performance will be at the Auditorium Theatre on Tuesday, November 21.

"Mythbusters" ran for 14 seasons on the Discovery Channel and featured Savage and his co-host, Jamie Hyneman, testing the validity of urban legends and myths — among them, if it's really better to stand in a doorway during an earthquake and if it's actually possible to smell fear. Vsauce, which Stevens started in 2010, has more than 17 million subscribers on YouTube and produces episodes with topics such as "What if the Earth stopped spinning?" and "Which way is down?"

Stevens told CITY during a phone interview that he met Savage through their respective agents, and they immediately clicked. "We were both fascinated by the same things," he says. "We realized there's a lot of stuff we want to do that requires being live. On TV, you can't bring people on stage to hold stuff, you can't meet and greet people, you can't build big things live in real time."

The two began brainstorming ideas for an interactive show that would bring the demonstrations on "Mythbusters" and Vsauce to live audiences. Together with director Michael Weber, Savage and Stevens turned their ideas into a two-hour theatrical performance. "Brain Candy Live" has already made appearances at some 40 cities during a spring tour that included New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago; its fall tour has scheduled stops in 24 cities including Rochester.

The most difficult part of creating the show, Stevens says, was deciding which topics to cover and which demonstrations to do, as he and Savage are curious about a wide range of subjects. Eventually, the team decided to base "Brain Candy Live" loosely around the properties of air.

"It's free and surrounds you all the time," Stevens says, adding that he and Savage thought they knew a lot about air until they had to start explaining it to others.

Stevens hints that the show involves leaf blowers, hairdryers, and about 750,000 ping pong balls. Stevens stresses that "Brain Candy Live" involves no fancy scientific equipment — just everyday items and raw materials like pipes and boards. "You can do a lot of really cool things with what you have at home," he says.

The "Brain Candy Live" team are DIYers. Stevens describes himself as an "autodidact" and says that when it comes to learning new things, he can't stop researching until he feels like he knows something well enough that he can explain it to others. "Brain Candy Live" wants to hammer home the message that being curious and learning is not for eggheads only, Stevens says.

Though every show contains all of the same information, each is a little bit different due to audience participation. At the end there is time for audience members to ask questions. Stevens says the Q&A segment is one of his favorite parts.

"The questions are so incredibly weird," Stevens says, noting that topics range from time dilation to black holes or his own personal favorite element on the periodic table. During one show, he remembers working out how long it would take to boil a cup of coffee just by yelling at it (the answer is 7 years, he says, but only if the coffee doesn't lose any energy).

When asked what audiences should know before attending "Brain Candy Live," Stevens says they should be ready to "contagiously catch curiosity," adding that "you're going to leave with more questions than you came with."