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August 1, 2014

MTV's 'The Buried Life' Stars Talk About Their Inspirational Road Trip

by Kim Potts, posted Jan 18th 2010 4:27PM
The tagline says it all: "One question; Four guys; 100 things to do before you die."

Pals Ben, Dave, Jonnie and Duncan are the four guys who, seeking something meaningful in their lives, worked multiple jobs and approached scores of corporations for sponsorship, and then set off -- in their donated big purple bus, Penelope -- on a cross-country adventure where they would cross items off their bucket list and help others do the same.

The results of one of their list items -- specifically, "make a TV show" -- comes to fruition tonight, with the premiere of 'The Buried Life' on MTV (10PM ET). In the opener, the guys try to make their way into a Playboy Mansion party, while also trying to do something special for a class of Los Angeles grade schoolers.

We chatted with the fellas about the List, the coolest people they've met along the way and the poem that inspired them to embark on a journey that's inspiring others to get off their couches and pursue their own buried lives.The tagline says it all: "One question; Four guys; 100 things to do before you die."

Pals Ben, Dave, Jonnie and Duncan are the four guys who, seeking something meaningful in their lives, worked multiple jobs and approached scores of corporations for sponsorship, and then set off -- in their donated big purple bus, Penelope -- on a cross-country adventure where they would cross items off their bucket list and help others do the same.

The results of one of their list items -- specifically, "make a TV show" -- comes to fruition tonight, with the premiere of 'The Buried Life' on MTV (10PM ET). In the opener, the guys try to make their way into a Playboy Mansion party, while also trying to do something special for a class of Los Angeles grade schoolers.

We chatted with the fellas about the List, the coolest people they've met along the way and the poem that inspired them to embark on a journey that's inspiring others to get off their couches and pursue their own buried lives.

Obviously every item on the list is important, but can you point to one thing you've crossed off so far that has been the most fun?
Number 6, attend a party at the Playboy Mansion, was a lot of fun, in large part due to the shear audacity of the plan. We didn't have enough money for tickets, so we decided to deliver a giant Trojan cake with two of us inside dressed as Oompa Loompas to fit into the Willy Wonka-themed party. The whole time we were thinking, if this works, it's going to make for the most epic bedtime story of all time.

What's been the most fulfilling item you've crossed off the list?
I would say riding a bull or delivering a baby; both were big tests for us. The most fulfilling overall, though, was probably number 53: make a TV show. We worked so hard on it, from filming to editing to convincing indie artists to let us use their music. It's our baby. We're excited to finally be able to show it to people.

<a href="http://www.mtv.com/shows/buried_life/series.jhtml" _fcksavedurl="http://www.mtv.com/shows/buried_life/series.jhtml" target="_blank">The Buried Life: Trailer</a>

You mention on the website that Penelope has broken down more than two dozen times. Do you guys know how to fix her yourself?
Yeah, Duncan fixes it. He grew up fixing cars, so whenever something happens we make him do it. He can fix anything.

PS: Why is she named Penelope?
We have a community online where people can sign up and post their own lists. We asked the community. Someone suggested Penelope.

As of today, how many items are still left on the list?
We've crossed off something like 73 items and helped around the same amount of people cross something off their list.

When you complete the original 100, will you start a new list?
It's always been less about the actual list and more about the question, "What do you want to do before you die?" The list evolves and changes with us; items are added and dropped as we grow up. Right now in our lives, our list has a lot of audacious/crazy goals, but as we get older it might change to things like start a family or buy a house.

What was your parents' reaction when you told them about 'The Buried Life'?
They thought we were crazy at first, but now they get it. They didn't help us financially, but they've been very supportive the whole way.

You've met a ton of people, some you otherwise would never have gotten to ... who's most memorable?
Duncan: In Dallas, we met a man whose dream it was to reconnect with his son, who he hadn't seen in 17 years. It took weeks of calling and searching, but we managed to track him down and connect them. They spent Christmas together this year.
Ben: In Boise, Idaho, we met an amazing woman named Trudy, who [was battling] cervical cancer. Her dream was to give kids suffering with cancer a day to forget about cancer and just be kids. We all went on a shopping spree at Toys "R" Us. It was one of the most fun things we've ever done. We were racing Hot Wheels around the aisles and having Nerf gun fights. Watching it from the kids' perspective was amazing.
Jonnie: Jann Wenner, publisher of Rolling Stone magazine. He's an icon.

One of the reasons you mention on the website that you embarked on the project was to get a better idea of how people from your generation saw the world, what their values are, etc. What have you learned about that?
We found that a lot of kids our age look up to our grandparents' generation more than our parents' generation. I think a lot of people our age are craving something with meaning. And the more we look around, the more we see people finding it. Kids are doing some cool stuff these days. Everyone's stepping up in their own ways. You see it in music, technology, fashion, entertainment. It makes us think, "What are we [as a generation' going to do before we die?"

Your spirit and enthusiasm are infectious when you watch the show. Are the reactions you get from people mostly positive?
Thank you for saying that. For the most part, the reaction has been cool. Some people are skeptical at first, because they assume that it's all just a joy ride or that our parents bankrolled it or something, but when they look into the history of the project and see the years of work that it has taken to get to this point, that often changes their mind. In the early days, Duncan and Jonnie worked in the oil fields to raise money for our first tour [in 2006]. To pay for gas, Dave worked three jobs and Ben cold-called local companies out of the phonebook looking for sponsorship. With the extra hundred we had left, we got a camera off eBay and hit the road. I think that people like that this is real, even if it's crazy.

Have you been surprised at how many people have been inspired to write and pursue their own lists?
We've been humbled by the response since day one. After our first two-week trip in 2006, we arrived home to an inbox filled with e-mails from people around the world saying they saw our list online, and offering to help us cross things off. We were amazed to find just as many e-mails from others sending us their lists asking us for our help. It's symbiotic. That's where the name 'The Buried Life' comes in. It comes from a poem written 150 years ago, that was assigned to Jonnie in English class. We're not really poetry guys, but in it, Matthew Arnold, the author, writes about the feeling of being out of touch with who you really are, which we could relate to. I think a lot of people feel that way sometimes. Our daily lives can become so monotonous that our real passions and desires get buried, or lost. It struck us that people were feeling the same way we were over 150 years ago, and we realized that this was bigger than us.

A lot of people, probably most people, don't ask themselves the questions you guys have already asked yourselves, the things that led you to start The Buried Life, until they're older than you are. What made you ask those questions at such a young age?
To be honest, I think a lot of people our age are asking themselves these sorts of questions. They might not be talking about it publicly, but it's on their minds. There's a lot going on in the world, and people our age are a little freaked out about it all. We're starting to realize that we are going to be responsible for taking these issues on soon. The good news is, we want change and are more and more ready to start working for it. Which issue first? Bust out the list!

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