The Boundless Buried Life: Q&A With Dave Lingwood and Jonnie Penn of MTV's The Buried Life This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

May 16, 2010
It's a simply phrased question, but not so simple to answer: what do you want to do before you die? The four ambitious and free-spirited young men of MTV's hit documentary series, The Buried Life, have dedicated the last three years of their lives to answering just that. Hailing from Canada, longtime friends Ben Nemtin, Dave Lingwood, Jonnie Penn, and Duncan Penn collectively decided to embark on a nationwide sabbatical after ditching a life of conformity and normality. They left with the steadfast mission to satisfy the 100 most important things they wished to do in life, but with a twist: for every achievement they marked off their list, they must give back to someone in need. The story behind The Buried Life is remarkable, and the project's positive impact upon the lives of others is even more outstanding. I recently had the great honor and privilege to chat with Dave Lingwood and Jonnie Penn thanks to Both Lingwood and Penn were extremely friendly and informative about their groundbreaking journey, making for a wonderful interview full of insight and inspiration.

Q: How did your friends and family first react when you told them about your mission to go across the country and pursue The Buried Life?

A: Dave- "The first reaction was a fairly positive one I think, when we said 'hey guys, we’re going to keep on doing this,' and continued to do it for three years with no funding. Jonnie and I were in Montreal going to school, and we had no money. Jonnie’s got a story of going to buy a yam for $1.39 and not being able to afford it, so he had to get the smaller yam for 55 cents, which was not nearly as appetizing (laughs). But we’ve had really great support from our friends and our family. Our friends have always been extremely supportive, and
we’ve kept The Buried Life alive by throwing events in our home town, Victoria. We threw parties where our whole community came out and supported us and allowed us to keep this project going."

Q: I saw on this week’s episode that while you guys were in Compton, a gang found out and they weren’t too happy about it. Have there been other times when your safety has become an issue?

A: Dave- "Yes, there have been a few times where we should have been like, 'you know what, I need to walk away from this situation.' When we were shooting the seventh episode (which you’ll see after next week), to tell a joke on Late Night, there was a bit of an incident at Letterman – when we were trying to tell a joke on Letterman, they (security) called the film commissioner of New York, the sheriff of New York, and they came down and essentially kicked us out of the city. It's all about putting yourself out there."
Jonnie- "It was really funny too."

Other interviewers asked equally interesting and thought-provoking questions, generating quite a response from Lingwood and Penn.

Q: Have you received any kind of negative feedback for what you're trying to accomplish on The Buried Life?

A: Jonnie- "Yes, that’s been a big one. There have been questions about this show promoting entitlement, saying that everybody should go out there and get whatever they want if they just ask for it. Personally, I don't think that is what the Buried Life is about. We’re not saying you have the right to get what you want, we’re saying you have the right to try. It's been interesting to gauge the response."

Q: What has been your most rewarding mission thus far; something absolutely amazing that you've witnessed while doing this?

A: Jonnie- "For each of us, it was different. The one story that changed my life was Queen, a student at the University of Memphis. Dave and I ran into her while walking down the street- she pays her way through college, and has no family. She lost her mom and father in Katrina, and never got to say goodbye to her mom. Her mom was shipped to a military hospital in Denver, and we had the chance to raise enough money to get her out to Denver to say goodbye. It was confirmation that her mom was really gone when she actually saw the tombstone. It was a blow, and it reminded us of all the reasons we do this project- not because life is short but because life is long, and it’s worth celebrating. You can’t lose touch and imagine that you’ll live forever, you do need to do the things that you want to do before you die."

It was wonderful to communicate with and listen to the wonderful, heartfelt responses of Lingwood and Penn. Although Season One of MTV's The Buried Life concluded in March, it's not too late to find out more about the crew's extraordinary mission. Visit for the downlow on which cities the men of The Buried Life will be rolling through this summer!

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