It doesn’t seem that long ago that the lovely Ms Kari Byron graced the little website of love. “Mythbusters” had evolved and the build team had become more prominent. Jump ahead a few years, an appearance on Letterman, a delightful FHM spread, a Byron-mobile and many, many myths later and Kari Byron’s conquest of our hearts and minds continues.
It seems I could barely turn a corner without someone asking me what she was up to nowadays so I decided to find out. Kari was gracious enough to come by for round two of the Joe-Mammy.com experience and share her thoughts on life, art and carcass duty.
Joe: So if we were run across you in grade school and asked you where you'd be today how wrong would you have been?
Kari Byron: I was painfully shy as a kid. I never would have guessed I would be letting a camera follow me around.
Joe: So when did that change? Not just in the "camera following you" kinda way but in the world traveling artist after college, etc.
Kari: I started to find a voice in high school but college is where I really came out of my shell. I went to SFSU. San Francisco is full of weirdoes like me. I took film and art classes. It was great to meet people with similar interests.
Joe: From our last visit I know you like to do sculpture and drawings, how have your experiences in the last few years affected what kind of work you do or what appeals to you?
Kari: That is a complicated question. So much has changed in the past few years. I have gained new skills that have opened worlds to me. Unfortunately, I have very little time to apply them. I have also stopped showing my sculptures. I would be trying to portray issues that cut deep into my personal experiences or internal dialogs, and people would show up asking solely about Mythbusters. "What are Jamie and Adam really like?" "What happened to Scottie?" I still work every night and weekend on my art but it stays in my workshop. At first, it felt like confinement but that soon turned into an unexpected freedom. It is amazing how truthful you can be with yourself when you know no one is looking. I never realized how much I would create with the "viewer" in mind. It is as though I have rediscovered why I make things. Now I work only for me.
Joe: Well, part of me is disappointed because I liked your work, but it's cool that you were able to "reclaim" that part of your experience. I can imagine that the "Mythbusters" can be really all encompassing time-wise. The last time we talked you and the rest of the build team were just starting to become fixtures on the show and now you guys are front and center. What have the last three years been like for you?
Kari: I have found a second family in the Mythbusters crew. We see each other more than we see our loved ones. I don't know if I can describe a whole three years. Basically it has been quite a ride.
Joe: What have been some of the biggest surprises for you in the last three years?
Kari: Being called to do Letterman was quite a surprise. It was all so glamorous, which is the total opposite of our show. My first real live TV interview and it was on Letterman! I was nervous.
Joe: Well you did well on Letterman. You've certainly garnered a very devoted following as witnessed by your appearance on Letterman, the FHM spread, and Wired's People's Choice for Sexy Geek 2006. How surreal is it to be a kind of counter-culture sex symbol?
Kari: Absolutely bizarre. I don't totally understand it, but it is quite a compliment.
Joe: Which brings me to a clip I've seen floating around online. I think you're the only person I can think of to have an FHM spread and a "lost flatus myth" clip. Do you feel like you bounce from one extreme to another from the show to publicity to your personal life?
Kari: It is all one big blur at the moment. I haven't had time to sleep much and my friends consider me MIA. Mythbusters has become a normal life to me. Nothing feels "extreme" anymore, it just feels like Monday.
Joe: Could you walk us through a hypothetical week in the life of Kari Byron?
Kari: This might be a bad week to ask me this. I have been at work by 6:30 every morning. We are in the middle of a hellish
Joe: During the last interview you mentioned some other artists who you were impressed with, what other artists (art, music, writing, etc) have had an influence on you?
Kari: I am surrounded by inspiration. My husband is a brilliant painter. I am constantly amazed by the evolution of his work. We spend a lot of time going to museums and galleries. As for contemporary artists my current favorites are Wangechi Mutu and Josephine Taylor. They are female artists that have a daring and beautiful aesthetic.
Joe: Is there anything specific you look for or enjoy in a work or is it something more instinctual?
Kari: I look for art that makes me react. I don't like pretty art. I want to feel something.
Joe: Well, let's talk about the show a bit. What have been some of your favorite myths to work on?
Kari: I still love Exploding Pants the most. Historical myths are always my favorite but this one had everything; explosions, plot twists, true life events, and the best small scale experiments.
Joe: Exploding pants was fun. I couldn't believe how explosive it ended up being. Maybe it makes me a bad person, but I did get a kick out when they sent you to get animal parts. You're reaction was always, um, memorable. Did you finally manage to get out of carcass duty? Are there any other parts of Mythbusting that you're not overly fond of?
Kari: I rarely get out of carcass duty; obviously because they think it is funny when I squeal. It is second on my list of least favorite things. Cleaning up after we blow up carcass is number one.
Joe: Ok, that made me laugh out loud for some reason. So which was the most unpleasant myth you've worked on?
Kari: Maybe chicken canon. Tory and I had just started. We were doing all the unpleasant grunt work. The chicken canon experiment went late into a Friday night and the producer decided to wrap and resume on Monday. By then the exploded chicken guts were dried, rotting, and all over the shop. They were in every crevice, corner and crack, including the ceiling. Jamie, being a neat freak, was unhappy. Tory and I spent the entire day scrapping. Both of us were contemplating a different career path by quitting time.
Joe: Ew. Just ew. So do you guys get to push around the Mythtern at all? There's got to be some points for seniority, right?
Kari: Around here there is no class system. We all still take out the trash. The Mythtern, Jess primarily helps out Jamie and Adam. They might push her around but we just push each other around.
Joe: I always had an image in my head that the Mythtern was the one that got stuck trimming Jamie's mustache. So, last time you dished (in a non-name specific kinda way) on some of your cohorts. Any other behind-the-scenes stories or dirt you'd like to share?
Kari: I have been racking my brain trying to think of some good gossip. All I can think of is that a few Mythbusters have an obsession with MySpace. I guess you can say that about most people these days.
Joe: So, theoretically of course, what would it take to be a Top Friend of Kari Byron?
Kari: GOOD QUESTION! This is one of the pitfalls of my D-list fame. I do not have a MySpace account. That red head posing nude when you Google my name is not me. Finally, the FHM's signed on eBay are rarely me. I have a lot of impostors. I am constantly having to take down internet fakes pretending to be me. Because our show appeals to kids, it scares me that there might be predators using my name. As far as the nude model mistaken for me, I guess in some ways it is quite a compliment. She is very pretty.
Joe: I guess it's a notch of accomplishment to have your very own fake internet nude picture. It's the unofficial barometer of cultural relevance, right? So is there an official outlet for Kari-related goodness?
Kari: I don't have merchandise really. When we go to Dragon Con this year, I plan to design some tee shirts and we have photos to sell. If someone wants an autograph, the best route is to send a letter to:
Mythbusters c/o M5 Industries 1268 Missouri St. SF, CA 94107.
Email requests are overwhelming and don't always get through. I always send something back when someone takes the time to send a real letter.
Joe: So do you have any wild and wacky fan interaction stories? Marriage proposals? Elaborate displays?
Kari: Nothing too crazy, but I did hear some guy airbrushed my likeness onto his pick up. I guess there are a few tattoos out there as well.
Joe: Awesome. That's gotta be kinda cool to know there's a Byron-mobile out there somewhere. So, if you can divulge anything, are there any surprises coming up on Mythbusters?
Kari: Right now we are working on airbag myths.
Joe: Well, any parting words of wisdom?
Kari: When we say "don't try this at home" we mean it.
Kari and the rest of the crew can be seen on “Mythbusters” on Discovery. Watch and learn. And keep an eye out for public appearances or for goodies at the Joe-Mammy.com Shop.