“The Buried Life,” fulfilling dreams in DeKalb


Duncan Penn (left) and Ben Nemtin (right) watch a video of fellow cast member and friend Dave Lingwood run across a soccer field naked to cross #50, streak a field, off of their bucket list at the Duke Ellington Ballroom Friday night.

By Jerene-Elise Nall

The boys of MTV’s The Buried Life brought their Megatour to NIU Friday to share their experiences with crossing items off bucket lists and to ask students: What do you want to do before you die? Their story, though buried itself in excessive T-shirt giveaways and excessively bad dance music, was surprisingly heartwarming.

Ben Nemtin, Dave Lingwood, Jonnie Penn and Duncan Penn, better known as The Buried Life boys, shared one story in particular: The story of Sam, a father who abandoned his son Laban, 17 years prior to encountering the boys on the street while he was selling artwork. When asked by The Buried Life what he wanted to do before he died, Sam responded with conviction that he’d like to reconnect with the son he left almost two decades ago.

And, of course, the boys of The Buried Life couldn’t say no to helping Sam locate Laban. They worked tirelessly to locate Sam’s son, asking endless questions and making endless phone calls until they finally got a hold of Sam’s number.

“That was one of the hardest phone calls I’ve ever had to make,” Duncan Penn said. After what Penn said seemed like hours of silence, Laban finally agreed, and the boys of The Buried Life managed to do what they do best – help others accomplish goals they never thought possible.

Although the boys often do much of the legwork in accomplishing other people’s life goals, they always make time for their own – including such pursuits as playing basketball with President Obama.

“By far the hardest thing to accomplish on our list was to play basketball with the president,” Nemtim said. After months and months of contact with President Obama’s “body man,” Reggie Love, the boys were finally allowed onto the presidential basketball court (yes, the one that replaced the presidential tennis courts of yesteryear) and were shocked to find President Obama had arrived shortly after and was eager to play a little b-ball.

Whether accomplishing their own goals or others’, the boys of The Buried Life wanted to emphasize one point: Follow your dreams and anything is possible.

“This idea of feeling like there’s something buried in you, that’s what we wanted to get out,” Jonnie Penn said.

Their message certainly hit home with Friday’s audience, estimated to have filled about 200 seats in the Ellington Ballroom. After The Buried Life‘s presentation, audience members got up to share their own stories and their own bucket lists, the overwhelming majority of which were extremely noble and selfless.

So, what do NIU students want to do before they die?

“I want to see ‘Journeys of Hope’ open up in Guatemala,” said senior Spanish major Julia Oca. Her pastor began paving the way for the South American school five years ago. “It’s finally built – we just need the proper permission to let students start learning there.”

Some students, however, just wanted to have fun and live for the moment.

“I want to have the guys from The Buried Life give me a kiss on the cheek.” said freshman psychology major Breanna Lampe.

Regardless of what items filled their bucket lists, many students were inspired by The Buried Life‘s presentation.

“It’s nice to see that the stuff they do doesn’t just happen on TV,” said sophomore undecided major Matt O’Connor.

Besides free T-shirts and Onesies, the boys of The Buried Life gave the audience a positive, self-assuring message to take home.

“What we’re really trying to say is, ‘Support the idea of being you,'” Jonnie Penn said.