The Buried Life: Nothing Short of Extraordinary

For Jonnie Penn and Dave Lingwood, two members of the popular TV show and movement, “The Buried Life,” life outside of Canada has been nothing short of extraordinary. Hoping to cross off yet another item on their list of 100 things to do before they die, Jonnie and Dave took time off of their busy college tour to have lunch with us at the Novel Café in Westwood to talk about fulfilling #19 on the list, “write a bestselling book.” What made you guys decide to write the book? Jonnie: It’s kind of a long story that’s been 5-6 years in the making. We started this in a garage when I was 19, Dave and I went to high school together and we were in a breakdancing crew. Duncan is my older brother and Ben and I knew each other because I went to prom with his sister. We all were unhappy with our lives and wanted to do something big and just didn’t know how to do that, so we wrote a list of things that we would want to do before we died and from there it grew and grew and then we did a show and after crossing all these things off the list it just made sense to write a book. The thing with The Buried Life is that people know it from the show but it’s so much more. We’ve been doing it for 6 years and I really don’t know how to describe it. The people who love The Buried Life really LOVE The Buried Life, that’s what this book is, a community. Every single list item in there is something on Facebook or Twitter that was sent to us and they all have some sort of story behind it.

So tell us a little more about this college tour that you’re on…. Jonnie: We’ve been to about 40 colleges in the last 6 months where we give an hour-long lecture about starting this in our garage and growing up. Then we talk about making the show and at the end of it we ask people what they want to do before they die. It gets really raw and people start crying and saying stuff they’ve never told anyone before. We enjoy the balance of doing this college tour and the book because we have this huge online community that we don’t know what to equate it to. It’s its own little movement.

Fans want to know, where is Penelope? (The Infamous Purple Bus that they traveled in for the MTV show) Dave: In Compton. She’s really sick, (I might personally put a bomb to her, just kidding, not really), but she’s pretty bad. Whenever we talk, everyone always asks us, “did you come on the bus?” and we always feel ashamed of saying no. Penelope has been parked for a year and half now and we went to visit about a month ago and she was broken into and a bunch of Duncan’s stuff was stolen, it was terrible.

Tell us a little more about yourselves…. Jonnie: Ben is very athletic. He’s the oldest child, his mom is a teacher and he’s grown up in this hippie culture so he’s kind of like this half-hippie, half businessman.

Dave: He’s got a Steve Jobs kind of thing going for him. He’s our Ari Gold but not mean, he’s really a sweet guy. Dunc is Canadian but he’s the All American. He’s the guy that will fix a car and then race it.

Jonnie: Dave is the silly one who is very particular about his food. He’s puts more thought into what he’s going to eat for lunch than major life decisions like getting married in Vegas, which was #91 on the list. Me, I’m kind of boring. I like reading; my favorite book of all time is East of Eden by John Steinbeck.

What happens when you guys finish the list, are you going to expand it? Jonnie: We’ve done 83 of them now and I honestly don’t know, we’ll probably die...

Dave: The list is really symbolic; it’s going after what you’re passionate about. We’ll add things here and there but this is the original list (Referring to Page 5 of the book).

Jonnie: The thing we wanted when we first started the list was adventure. We wanted something that was going to be really hard and these are 100 things that are really hard to accomplish.

Why do you think the four of you work? Dave: We weren’t four best friends when we came together, we were four like minded individuals who were all feeling the same thing and I think that helped because if we were four best friends from high school, we would have gotten on each other’s nerves.

Jonnie: I think it helps because none of us have a one up on each other, at this point we’re all learning at the same pace.

So what’s next for you guys? Jonnie: Well, we signed a new deal with MTV, we’re not allowed to talk about it too much yet but soon you’ll be able to see it. Our whole thing is that we did this project to see what we were capable of. When we were in college it was things like dress up like a knight for a day, host the 6’oclock news, little goals that we had. Then it grew bigger and Dave wanted to ride a bull, which we did in Idaho; breaking into the playboy mansion, which we did on the show and every year it’s been getting bigger and bigger and making the show was a huge one but for us we just wanted to take it one step further. We’ve been working for the last 18 months on this book, which is going to be released on March 27, 2012.

Dave: #19 on the list is to make the bestseller’s list and if we make the New York Time’s Bestseller’s List, we are going to send the book to space. #100 on the list is go to space, so we feel like this book is one step closer to that goal, if we cross off #19, we’re sending a piece of us into space.

Anything else you want our readers to know…. Dave: We’re still on our college and book tour and are excited to meet all of you in person. The book comes out on March 27th and you can buy it at your local book stores or online at

(Like their Facebook and follow us on Twitter, @theburiedlife, @dave_lingwood, @jonniepenn, @duncanpenn, and @bennemtin).

So whether they’re streaking sold out stadiums on live television or betting $250,000, the single largest roulette spin in Vegas history, just to lose it all, for these four individuals, their list of 100 things they want to do before they die has defined who they are and has sparked an entire movement for our generation to follow suit.

The Buried Life Book is in stores now and be sure to catch their new show on MTV coming soon.

Special thanks to the amazing staff and manager, Raymundo, at the Novel Café in Westwood for sponsoring the interview; be sure to try their Soy Latte, Açaí Bowl, and the Portobello Sandwich.

Interview by Tiffany David Photos by Alex Levine