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A Perfect Host: Meet SVA Alumnus and New 'MythBuster' Jon Lung

On Wednesday, November 15, when the Science Channel premieres its reboot of MythBusters—a popular, long-running series in which famous scientific myths are creatively put to the test—SVA alumnus Jon Lung (MFA 2016 Products of Design) will be front and center as one of its two new cohosts, tasked with investigating the truth behind some of the world's most widely spread urban legends, folklores and action-movie clichés.

A former furniture designer and self-described obsessive tinkerer and DIY-er whose MFA thesis project, aimed at encouraging people to be more resourceful with everyday objects, was inspired by MacGyver, Lung was a dedicated fan of the original MythBusters, which aired from 2003 to 2016. Not long after its final episode, he came across an online casting notice for MythBusters: The Search, a reality-TV competition that would determine the hosts of the show's next iteration. Lung submitted an audition tape, filmed in part at the MFA Products of Design studios, and was selected as a contestant on the miniseries, which ran on the Science Channel earlier this year.

Though an on-camera novice, Lung's good humor and technical know-how—flexed in such challenges as finding a needle in a haystack, building a boat out of cardboard and picking a handcuff lock with a bobby pin—won the judges over, and by the end of the live finale he and Brian Louden, a rescue diver and jack-of-all-trades from Houston, stood victorious. This spring the pair began work on the new series, relocating to Los Angeles, brainstorming topics with the producers and crew, helping to build the show's famously wild contraptions and filming the first season's 14 episodes. Lung says his experience so far has been "fantastic. I can't complain when every week I get to blow something up or build some insane machine. Every day, I check something off my bucket list."

In between a hectic fall schedule of visiting New York Comic Con, ringing the closing bell at NASDAQ's stock exchange and racing to finish the season's final segments, Lung took some time to talk about his unconventional new career.

Congratulations on the upcoming series premiere—just a few days away now. Of all the stuff you've filmed so far, is there anything that you're especially excited for people to see?

That's a hard question. The challenges we've done cover a range of stuff, from [experiments involving] big explosions to stuff you could do at home. … But I'm a huge action-movie junkie, so my favorite might be testing the myth of whether it's possible to jump off of a skyscraper's roof with a rope wrapped around your waist, take a gun and shoot out a windowpane and swing back into the building you just jumped off of.

Like in Die Hard?

Yeah, exactly. For that we did all these little tests before ramping up to the full-scale stunt, a lot of smaller tests inside the shop. We built a window out of tempered glass and spent some time figuring out how hard it really is to break through it. Then at the very end we went to a big old warehouse, three stories up, and jumped off the roof and into a pane of glass.

With all the stunt work that's involved in making the show, have you been forced to confront any personal phobias?

Not really. They tested us on that stuff in The Search, like put us in glass coffins and dumped bugs, rats and snakes on us. ... I think part of being a MythBusters host is being willing to put aside anything you're afraid or uncomfortable with. Plus, being with the [show's] crew, I always have the highest confidence that they're doing everything possible to keep us safe.

But I'm definitely not a thrill-seeker. I was always more of the sit-in-a-workshop kind of person, and I still am.

As far as the workshop portion of MythBusters goes, have you built anything for this season that you're particularly proud of?

It's hard to pick just one. [But] we're working right now on a reflex testing device, to see how high you can jump if a car comes at you. We've figured the typical reaction time of a person to be at about a second, and this thing comes swinging down at you at 0.9 seconds.

Now that you're a TV pro, do you have any tips for anyone who's interested in an on-camera career?

Totally, totally, totally. I'd had zero on-camera experience before The Search, but I was relatively confident because we'd done a ton of presentations in [MFA] Products of Design, talking in front of an audience from up on a podium. Watching my presentations, I kind of just got used to it. Hearing my voice doesn’t weird me out anymore, seeing myself [on video] doesn’t weird me out anymore. But I did discover that I'm a big "hands talker"!

With all that public speaking I figured being just on-camera would be easier—you're only staring into a lens, not a bunch of people's faces—but it wasn’t. The best advice I got [about it] was before starting work on The Search. [Original MythBusters host] Adam Savage turned up at our orientation and he told us, "Just have fun."

It sounds simple, but the hardest thing to get used to was just being myself. But that's what you have to do, is just be yourself.

This interview has been condensed and edited.

The new MythBusters premieres on the Science Channel on Wednesday, November 15, 9:00pm EST.

For more information about SVA's MFA Products of Design program, click here.

A version of this article appears in the fall 2017 issue of SVA's Visual Arts Journal.

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