The Untold Truth Of Jamie Hyneman

MythBusters fans know the formula. Adam Savage: the wilder, funnier, more unpredictable half of the duo. Jamie Hyneman: the stoic, kinda boring half. That's right, we said it. All shows need a big personality to attract fans, and Jamie Hyneman's personality just wasn't that big. Or at least, that's how he was portrayed for pretty much the entire 13 seasons that the groundbreaking MythBusters was on the air. Episodes typically progressed something like this: Adam bounces off the walls and cracks jokes. Jamie grumbles and acts sensible. Things blow up. Myths are declared busted, plausible, or confirmed. Repeat.

So a lot of the show's more casual fans may be surprised to hear that Jamie Hyneman doesn't really have a stoic or boring history. In fact, much like his former co-host he was once also pretty wild and unpredictable himself. Pause for a moment and try to picture that. Or, just keep reading and be amazed.

As a kid, Jamie Hyneman devised an ingenious way to dodge chores

Most kids feign illness to avoid doing their chores, or "forget," or as a last resort they just half-ass the work so their parents will just mow the lawn themselves. Not Jamie Hyneman, though. He knew those were just stalling tactics.

Jamie Hyneman grew up on an apple farm, so his chores didn't just include vacuuming and feeding the dog. He had real, farm-kid chores to do, which presumably included things like picking apples, washing apples, sorting apples, and becoming so sick of apples in general that apple pie became somewhere on par with liver and onions. He also had to mow the lawn, and he told Northeast Valley News that he once sabotaged the mower to avoid having to do that particular chore. "I figured out that if I repeatedly ran the mower into the tree that something would break and I would no longer have to mow the lawn because the lawn mower was broken," he said. "I also discovered that I could pull the spark plug wire back in its socket and make the machines not work."

Kids, don't try that at home.

Jamie Hyneman was once a hooligan

Yes, it's true. Stoic, boring Jamie Hyneman was once a hooligan, and to prove it he ran away from home at the age of 14. Evidently, his lawn mower sabotage and the spark plug thing amounted to "unruly behavior," and his parents were talking consequences. Faced with the prospect of reform school or, you know, just mowing the lawn like he was supposed to, Hyneman decided that the open road was the best solution to the discipline problem, so he set off on a six-month hitchhiking adventure. According to the Christian Science Monitor, the fun ended in California, when he got tossed into a juvenile detention center and had to suffer the ultimate teenage humiliation: getting picked up by his parents.

After that, Jamie Hyneman's parents decided that if they couldn't stop their son from seeking adventure, maybe they could increase his chances of surviving his adventures. So they enrolled him in formal survival training in Wyoming, perhaps thinking that real wilderness hardship would finally smack some sense into him. Instead, he discovered that he liked it, and for years after that would often disappear on weeks-long solo wilderness expeditions. Parental plans, backfired.

Lions and gerbils and dog food, oh my!

From lawn mower saboteur to teenage runaway to wilderness adventurer to ... pet shop owner. Way to throw everyone a curveball, Jamie Hyneman. Just before graduating high school, Hyneman's dad convinced him to buy a pet shop, and Hyneman must have thought it was a good idea because according to Keith Zimmerman's MythBusters: The Explosive Truth Behind 30 of the Most Perplexing Urban Legends of All Time, he bought the shop and for a while ran a tidy business selling rodents, birds, and animal food. The shop also helped Hyneman develop a love for exotic animals, and through the business he obtained several pet snakes and some much more sensible companions, like the lion cub he raised and then turned loose on his parents' apple farm. Just a wild guess, but there probably isn't any U-Pick at the Hyneman farm.

At some point, Jamie Hyneman became bored with his pet shop and sold it so he could attend college. So maybe, just maybe, it actually was part of his parents' grand plan to turn him into a solid citizen. Eventually.

Jamie Hyneman is a man of the world

So what skills do you need to possess to become a myth buster? Well, there's the giant mustache and the beret, of course, which you can substitute for a beard and a fedora if you want to be the wild and funny half of the duo. There's also animal wrangling, yard tool sabotage, and wilderness survival. Finally, there's a degree in Russian language and literature. You know, just in case you have to bust myths in Siberia.

According to Indiana University, Jamie Hyneman's degree has "exploded any myth that studying the humanities will not lead to an exciting and successful career," because clearly blowing stuff up on TV as a profession is quite a common career path for humanities graduates all over the globe. Why Russian? Because at the time, he just needed to pick a language for his bachelor's degree, and he chose Russian because he liked the sound of it. He eventually picked it as his major because it was "clean and not subjective." Does he get much use for it? Who knows. He probably used it once or twice on MythBusters, if only to swear quietly at a certain co-host.

Yo, ho, ho, a divemaster's life for Jamie Hyneman

Then Jamie Hyneman used his degree to become a pirate in the Caribbean. Just kidding, you can't use that degree for anything. He did actually become a boat captain in the Caribbean, though. After college he moved to the land of white, sandy beaches and clear blue water, where he bought a boat, became a divemaster, and opened a charter business.

Jamie Hyneman met his wife while running the charter business — she was a diving instructor in the Virgin Islands, where Hyneman set up shop stalking cruise ships for customers. He spent four years in what is probably the world's second most envious job, right behind blowing stuff up on television: showing tourists the clear-water reefs in the Caribbean and getting paid for it. But after 3,000 dives and two hurricanes, he finally got sick of scrubbing the bottom of his boat and decided to sail it to New York. After that, he got a job in animatronics, and thus ended his divemaster/boat captain career and all hope of ever becoming pirate. Well, you can't have it all.

Jamie Hyneman found his great love of explosions in a library, of all places

A lot of the above probably comes a surprise, if you only know Jamie Hyneman as the grumbly half of the MythBusters duo. But Hyneman does actually do some stuff in line with the meticulous, analytical personality we all came to know through 13 years of MythBusters.

Jamie Hyneman didn't just sail into New York Harbor like Jack Sparrow in search of treasure, and he didn't step off his boat right into the animatronics factory, either. Special effects work wasn't so much his destiny as it was a conclusion he came to after many long, not-very-exciting hours in a library. "I figured I should think carefully about it and research my options," he told "I made lists of interests and priorities, spent a lot of time in the library reading about anything that seemed like a possibility, and decided special effects was the way to go." Seriously, Jamie? You could at least make up something about how you threw a firecracker at your boat and it ignited some exhaust fumes and then burst into flames and sank to the bottom of the harbor, hence your great love of fire and destruction. But library research? That's like the most boring way to find a career, ever.

The San Francisco geeks

MythBusters is a show about two guys living in California's Bay Area who build stuff together and bicker like an old married couple. So it's really not enormously surprising that some viewers got the wrong idea about their relationship. Even Discovery made some assumptions — co-host Adam Savage told The Sneeze that people at the network declared the duo to be "just the geeks we were looking for," but privately "wondered if they could do a show with a couple of homosexuals from San Francisco."

Fans wondered about it, too. "We got a lot of gay fan mail when the show first started," Jamie Hyneman told The Age in 2006. "Something to do with being in San Francisco and being a big, burly guy with a mustache." Savage said the gay fan mail bothered Hyneman until his wife pointed out that a compliment is a compliment. "And he was cool with that, and relaxed about it," Savage said. Since Hyneman is pretty private, there are still people who aren't really sure about his sexual orientation. So to the gentlemen and ladies alike: Sorry to disappoint, but Jamie Hyneman has been happily married for a couple decades. So let's just get back to the mythbusting, shall we?

Jamie Hyneman, from special effects artist to French mime

What's with the beret, anyway? Jamie Hyneman is almost never — if ever — seen without his signature beret, which makes him look sort of part Samuel L. Jackson, part Marilyn Monroe, and part weird French mime. Naturally, this leaves fans everywhere desperate to know the story behind the beret, mostly because they're not allowed to "try this at home," and therefore they don't really have anything better to do.

"My hair was falling out so I got in the habit of wearing a hat," Hyneman told The Age. "And I didn't like baseball caps so I got a beret." But the beret wasn't so much to cover up the hair loss as it was to cover up the shine. "If my hair was going to fall out, I figured I might as well shave it, but if I shave it I look like a cue ball," he said. From there, he figured he should balance out the shiny dome (even though it's always under the beret) with some facial hair, hence the handlebar mustache that completed the signature look that he maintained through pretty much every season of MythBusters, and beyond.

Jamie Hyneman built a machine that chucks cans of 7-Up

Jamie Hyneman is best known for MythBusters, and like it or not, MythBusters will probably remain his legacy. But he's a man of many interests, and he also owns a company that builds really cool stuff. According to Gadgetopia, Hyneman's M5 Industries was responsible for the soda can-chucking machine that was once featured in a 7-Up commercial. The company described the machines as "2 remote controlled full-sized vending machines mounted on tank treads. The Machines are loaded with 2 golf-kart-type motors and are powered by 6 car batteries. One of the robots was configured ... [to] survive going into the ocean for the commercial."

"They asked me if I could invent a vending machine that would spit cans out on demand," Jamie Hyneman told The Star. "I told them for the right price, I could invent a vending machine that would send cans into orbit." Maybe it's not quite the same as blowing stuff up for fun and a tidy paycheck from the Discovery channel, but it still nudges out Caribbean sailboat captain as one of the world's coolest lines of work.

Beware former MythBuster Jamie Hyneman with too much time on his hands

Now that MythBusters is behind him, Jamie Hyneman has some free time. So what's he doing with it? Did he retire to a sailboat in the Caribbean? Is he raising snakes and lion cubs? Nope. Hyneman now spends his free time inventing awesome, futuristic devices with the same coolness factor as jetpacks and hovercraft.

His latest: Electric shoes. Sneakers with electric lights have been around for ages, but Hyneman's shoes are like moving walkways strapped to your feet. They have wheels, but they're not roller shoes. "They're not intended to be 'ridden,'" Jamie Hyneman told New Atlas. "They're intended to be walked in." So they increase your speed, which means you can perpetually leave late for work and still get there twice as fast. The shoes have a kind of tank track on them, and they're full of a lot of extra stuff like batteries, accelerometers, and infrared sensors that are evidently meant to stop you walking into things. Cool idea, as you'd expect.

Inspiration isn't found in libraries alone

Now we know that despite the lawn mower sabotage, wilderness survival, animal wrangling, and sailboat captaining, Jamie Hyneman sometimes finds inspiration in the most boring of places, like lists and libraries. He does want the world to know, though, that sometimes he also finds inspiration on exercise equipment, which is at least marginally more interesting than a library.

He told Udacity Talks that he believes "the mind and the body really aren't so separate," so when he's trying to solve a design problem, he exercises. "The first thing I do is I get on a treadmill," he says, "because I find that that mind body connection is really important." Hyneman says science backs up the practice — increased oxygen levels and changes in body chemistry can help stimulate the mind, which can lead to ingenious ideas, like 7-Up-chucking machines and shoes that will make the moving walkway obsolete. How about treadmills that give you ideas without making you exercise? Now that would be a million dollar invention.

He worked on PPE design during the pandemic

Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage have always been seen as opposites, and the truth is, they are opposites. They are so very, very, opposites. After MythBusters ended, Savage went off to YouTube and created a channel and spent all of his time being Adam Savage right in the public's eye where he has always felt comfortable. Hyneman, on the other hand, just kind of faded into the background. He's still around, and he's still doing stuff, but he doesn't really come out much, especially lately. But the stuff he's doing out of sight is every bit as important (kind of more important, but shhhh don't tell Adam Savage).

For example, when the pandemic hit in early 2020, Hyneman didn't just get into Twitter wars with anti-maskers (because he's not on Twitter), he decided to be a part of the very thing that anti-maskers were rallying against. According to the Indiana University Bloomington School of Public Health, Hyneman received the university's Bicentennial Medal not just for his work as an alumnus doing great things in the community (like increasing public interest in science through MythBusters), but also because of his work with the university's School of Public Health on engineering better PPE for healthcare providers and nursing staff to use during the pandemic. It's not clear if a Hyneman brand N-95 is going to hit the market anytime soon, but the work was at least significant enough to receive the school's recognition.

Jamie Hyneman designed a robotic firefighting machine

Lots of people have great gadget ideas but most of us lack the technical skills and time necessary to bring our visions to life. Others have great gadget ideas, technical skills, are recently retired from a long-running, popular television show, and are unencumbered by public appearances, YouTube channels, and other post-MythBusters distractions. According to Popular Mechanics, Jamie Hyneman invented and built the prototype of a remotely operated firefighting tank, which can carry 1,000 gallons of water and 100 gallons of flame-retardant foam, is covered with flame-resistant fabric (the same stuff firefighting suits are lined with), has high powered water guns that shoot wherever the operator is looking, and has water sprayers that douse the vehicle's tracks so that it can snuff out whatever flames it happens to be rolling over. It's also self-cooling — it sprays a mixture of glycerin and water over its internal components so it can survive driving right into a fire.

The machine is based on a non-armored M548 military cargo carrier, which you can evidently get from your local Army surplus store (who knew). So it can not only fight fire but rescue people, too, though the rescued people will come out of the thing covered with water and glycerin but who cares because they didn't burn to death.

Hyneman delivered the prototype to his financer in 2018, and with any luck, we'll see it start showing up in wildfire footage within the next few years.

Hyneman is also an educator ... an official one

For some reason, Jamie Hyneman and his former co-host are big in Europe — both have honorary doctorates from a university in the Netherlands and Jamie Hyneman is revered in Finland. The LUT University of Finland, in fact, named a lab after him: the J. Hyneman Center (JHC). According to the Helsinki Times, the JHC is kind of like the MythBusters workshop, because it mainly exists so students can use it to build and test whatever creative ideas they've dreamed up. It's probably a safe bet, though, that explosives are somewhat frowned upon.

The lab's name wasn't just a nod to Hyneman from his fans on the other side of the world. Hyneman also has an honorary doctorate from the university, and in 2021 it made him a Professor of Practice, which is basically a non-tenured faculty member with a specific professional background who teaches hands-on skills in a lab or workshop setting. So it's not just an honorary title; Hyneman is actually supposed to do stuff on-site like give lectures, help students with their projects, and be grumpy up close. Shortly after accepting the position, Hyneman noted that he wasn't going to be setting any goals for his collaboration with the university. His reasons had to do with boxes and thinking in and out of them but let's face it, jobs that require an international commute tend to work better for both parties when there aren't any real expectations.

He's got some real explosives cred

You might think that Jamie Hyneman mostly just has hands-on, practical experience at blowing things up. After all, that's not the sort of thing you really learn while studying Russian at a university or anything. Or maybe you do, only Russian majors would really know. But as it turns out, all those years behind the detonator attracted the attention of some actual industry leaders, including the good people at the International Association of Bomb Technicians and Investigators (IABTI). Since you probably had no idea that was even a thing, let's just break down the who-what-why in one sentence: The IABTI is a non-profit that provides training to police, military, and other people who might have to detect and defuse bombs as a job function. Which is ... sort of Hyneman? Except he was exploding more than defusing, but whatever.

Anyway, according to IABTI, the organization and the MythBusters go way back, mostly because the MythBusters had to consult pros whenever they were planning to explode something, for safety reasons and also so they didn't look completely unhinged. Local bomb squads participated in around 20 MythBusters episodes, and in return, Hyneman and Savage were invited to speak at the 2008 International Training Conference Banquet and were both given plaques naming them honorary members of the IABTI. According to Hyneman's bio on the LUT University webpage, the membership is for life.

Jamie Hyneman has worked on military stuff, too

Jamie Hyneman doesn't really seem to crave the spotlight, but he does love to do things that make a difference. Besides working on better PPE and a firefighting tank, he's also done some work with the military — not on making better weapons, but on coming up with better ways to protect soldiers. According to DiscoveryNews, back in 2011, the Office of Naval Research enlisted his help in developing armor for military vehicles. The armor had to be lightweight enough that it wouldn't affect the vehicle's performance, but still capable of stopping shrapnel and protecting the vehicle's occupants from a blast. Evidently, they called Hyneman instead of the IABTI because the typical MythBusters explosion wasn't exactly like your run-of-the-mill IED, and they thought that might have given Hyneman a unique perspective on all things explody.

It wasn't the first time Hyneman did work for the military — he also designed a robotic medical dummy for the Army to use while training new medics. The dummy was truly MythBusteresque, too, since it was designed to spurt blood and make pained noises while it was being worked on. The idea was to prepare medics for the real world of the battlefield, though in all honesty that does sound a bit more like the special effects on Sharknado than like a real battlefield simulation.

He designed an animatronic spider for 'Arachnophobia'

Some people are terrified of spiders. Others make entire movies about them starring live spider actors. The 1990 film "Arachnophobia," for example, was made by the latter for the former, though it's a safe bet that not everyone who is terrified of spiders flocked to see it, because shudder. Unfortunately, though, there's really only so much you can do with live spider actors. They're great at looking extra super creepy but they don't get along with the other actors very well. They're also terrible at following directions, so filming spiders is kind of just about turning them loose and hoping they'll eventually scamper in the direction you want them to.

Sadly, you can't make an entire movie that way. For some scenes, you're going to need fake spiders, and in the time before CGI those fake spiders had to be animatronic. Where does one get an animatronic spider, exactly? From Jamie Hyneman. According to The Art Direction Handbook for Film, Hyneman was hired after he showed producers a magnetic spider he designed to crawl across a metal pan. The magnetic spider didn't get the role, but Hyneman got the job.

This was way, way before MythBusters, when Hyneman was working in special effects and hadn't even made a name for himself yet. According to Den of Geek, the spider that appeared in the movie was used as a sort of stunt spider and was the one that got all the close-ups.

He owns the MythBusters lab

If you were a MythBusters fan, you got to know the MythBusters workshop pretty intimately over the years, until it probably started to feel almost like your own garage or backyard shop only with way cooler stuff. But unless you were a rabid fan who paid a whole lot of attention to small details, you might have also assumed it was a set, after all, isn't everything on television shot on a set? 

Well actually, the MythBusters workshop is actually the M5 Industries lab — Jamie Hyneman owns it and always has. According to Popular Mechanics, the south San Francisco workshop no longer has cameras in every corner, but some of the MythBusters paraphernalia is still there. Hyneman still works there, only he's no longer surrounded by the MythBusters crew and that annoying guy who used to be his co-host. Sometimes, he even gives tours to the local kids.

He's a 'BattleBots' legend

"Battlebots" seems like exactly the right side hustle for Jamie Hyneman (and let's face it, pretty much anyone working on MythBusters). MythBusters hosts spent a lot of time destroying the things they created, and that's exactly what BattleBots was — part Mad Max, part Roman gladiators, part dog fighting only without the blood and moral depravity. Designers built robots and then the robots tore each other apart for an audience. No one gets hurt, at least not until the day robots become self-aware and then literally everyone gets hurt.

According to Bishop-Wisecarver Corporation (via the Robot Report), back in 1995 Hyneman built a BattleBots robot out of a lawnmower engine and a wok. He welded blades onto the outside of the wok and put the whole thing on a spinning steel ring. The robot, dubbed "Blendo," spun at 80 miles per hour and won the few battles it was permitted to enter in just a couple of seconds, which made for not super watchable competition (at least not beyond those first few seconds). The other problem with Blendo is that it was an insurance company's nightmare, in fact, showrunners pretty quickly decided that Blendo was a liability, and it was banned from competition for being too dangerous.

He used his knowledge of the Russian language to tell off the Russians

Just because you can speak Russian doesn't necessarily mean you're Vladimir Putin's buddy. After Russia attacked Ukraine in February of 2022, practically no one was happy with Russia or its smug, follicly challenged leader, least of all Jamie Hyneman. So just in case you were wondering how Hyneman has managed to make use of his degree over the years, well, here's one example.

On March 4, 2022, Ukraine shared a video of Jamie Hyneman on Twitter (because Ukraine has Twitter) with the message "Jamie Hyneman has something to say and he asked us to share it with all of you." In the video, Hyneman appears in what looks like the M5 workshop wearing his signature beret, and in Russian says "I have to tell you something. Russian warship — go f*** yourself!" Then he switches to English and implores Russian soldiers to go home.

Afterwards, Putin admitted he was wrong and called off the invasion. Just kidding! It was a great video though. Thanks, Jamie, for making us all smile and proving that you're still a great role model for everyone, except for during that one second when all the moms who were watching with their children had to cover up the subtitles. Keep up the great work.