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Thursday, October 5, 2023


‘Buried Life’ cast member talks new book

Jonnie Penn (second to right), and fellow castmates of “The Buried Life” are scheduled to return back to the small screen with a new show in the future.  |  Courtesy of Rob Daly/Persona PRr

Jonnie Penn (second to right), and fellow castmates of “The Buried Life” are scheduled to return back to the small screen with a new show in the future. | Courtesy of Rob Daly/Persona PRr

The four boys of MTV’s inspirational reality television show “The Buried Life” are scheduled to visit UH in the Cullen Performance Center at 7 p.m. in an effort to promote their new book, “What Do You Want to Do Before You Die?”

The individuals known as Dave Lingwood, Ben Nemtin, and Duncan and Jonnie Penn are currently on a national college tour supporting the upcoming release of their literature debut scheduled to hit store shelves on March 27.

The Daily Cougar was able to have an exclusive conversation with one-fourth of the Buried life, Jonnie Penn, about the new book, his advice for college students and what else 2012 has in store for the boys.

The Daily Cougar: What is the most valuable lesson that you have gained from your show “The Buried Life?”

Jonnie Penn: I would say the most valuable lesson that I learned was to go out and do the most difficult thing you can because sooner or later you’re going to accomplish whatever you’re trying to do, so make sure it’s difficult and even, maybe even a step above difficult like audacious. That’s kind of become my way of looking at life now is anything I want to do, I want to make sure it’s as hard as possible because eventually it will come true.

TDC: Let’s talk about the new book. Can you elaborate on the whole process of the book becoming a reality?

JP: Well, “What Do You Want to Do Before You Die?” is the core of The Buried Life. The Buried Life is that question, that’s the question that the four of us asked each other six years ago when we were sophomores in college trying to decide what to do with our lives. We asked each other, “Well, what do you want to do before you die?” and that’s where that sort of list came from. The book itself is filled with people’s answers to that question. We’ve asked in the last six years millions of people around the world — millions and millions of people and it accumulated lots and lots of answers and these are our favorite answers to that question that we got turned into art by our favorite artists.

TDC: What was the process like?

JP: We knew we wanted to make a book since day one — it’s on the list. It’s number 19 — to write a best-selling book. It’s takes a lot of work to make a really good book and so we had these boxes that we would keep and fill with just things that we found in the road or little lessons or stories that people left us and the boxes kind of filled up and so after five years we had just all this stuff and all these answers online from people.

It took eight months to go through it and to choose the best stuff to put it all together, but we finally finished and are excited for it to come out. There are three things — the first is from asking all those people, “What do you want to do before you die?” We had thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of answers and we went through them to chose our top 150 and then gave those to our favorite artists in New York and the artists turned them into art basically — art that is not seen anywhere else, art that is just for this book.

TDC: Aside from becoming co-authors of a book being on the bucket list, why write a book now?

JP: This book is like tangible — you can hold it in your hands, you can pass it to your friends or like put it on your coffee table and just scan through it at a party or whatever. It’s kind of like our manifesto or something — it’s the collection of the most important stuff to us and I think it means a lot to the audience.

TDC: As someone who was once in college, what is your one piece of advice to a college student who may be floating around through life at this point and doesn’t really have a focus?

JP: Do something that scares the hell out of you because often the thing that scares you is the thing you should be doing. It’s the things that you really want to be doing, but you don’t do because you’re scared and that’s totally understandable. The beauty of being in college and being young is that you can try and fail at anything; you don’t have really that much to lose, if anything. You don’t have kids, you don’t have a mortgage, you don’t have real responsibilities so go and try — the worst thing that will happen is that you will come out with an awesome story.

That’s just for whatever someone wants to do — if it’s to get a Ph.D or direct a film or start a fashion line.

TDC: Why should college students in particular go out and purchase “What Do You Want to Do Before You Die?”

JP: We’re really proud of this book and we’ve had a pretty unique experience in the last six years doing what we do as a job. We hope that (this) will inspire people to be like, “You know what? I’m going to try to do this and see if I can pull it off.”

TDC: The Buried Life successfully ran for two seasons on MTV — will there be a season three of the show or are you guys working on something totally different that you hope another TV network will pick-up?

JP: We started a new deal with MTV and we’re working on a new project with them and a couple of other projects as well so pretty much in one way or another, we’ll be back on there soon. It’s a continuation; it’s kind of like an update.

TDC: What is next for the boys of The Buried Life?

JP: We’re only getting more ambitious, we love our fans so much because they’re patient with us. I can’t say specifically yet, but we just want to go as big as we can possibly go and that’s what we’re working on.”

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