Archive: Cheech & Chong together again

Published on September 29th, 2017

Cheech & Chong still timeless

By Jim Dail

For The Californian

They were one of the most successful comedy duos of all time, dominating sales of comedy albums throughout the ‘70s. Their movies were hits and became mainstays of new premium channels HBO and The Movie Channel.

It has been 30 years since the duo, made up of Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong, last performed together on stage.

“It seems like it has only been 30 minutes, but it has been 30 years,” said Cheech. “That’s the scary part.”

Rumors always circulate whenever a successful team breakup and the Cheech & Chong story is no different.

“We would talk about getting back together but things always got in the way,” he said.

Cheech was born Richard Marin in East Los Angeles and got his nickname from “cheecharone,” deep-friend pork skins. After getting his B.A. in English from Cal State Northridge, he moved to Calgary.

Tommy Chong was born in Edmonton, Canada, and became interested in music, playing in numerous bands. He met Cheech at his brother’s nightclub and offered him a job as part of “City Works,” the club’s comedy troupe. From there the comedy team would go on to become one of the most successful teams in history.

However, their incredible success was a double-edged sword.

“Things go so intense with being on the road and being around each other that we needed a break,” he said. “We came to the end of that period and felt we needed a break, we needed to recharge and just have a break. The break just kept going.”

Over the years, there were attempts to reconnect and recover the magic.

“We’ve been trying to do things together during that time, but something has always gotten in the way,” he said. “We had TV gigs, Tommy went to jail and we argued all the time.”

Instead, both made names for themselves away from each other. Marin has engaged in a very successful career in movies, (”Cars,” “Beverly Hills Chihuahua”) and television (“Nash Bridges,” “Judging Amy”), as well as a career as a writer of children’s books (“Cheech the Bus Driver”). Chong has likewise been involved in acting, most recently as Leo in “That 70s Show.” He has written several books as well (“The I Chong,” “Cheech & Chong: The Unauthorized Autobiography”).

So what led finally to a reunification?

“We’re not getting any younger,” Cheech laughed. “No, I love being on the road and being in touch with all kinds of people in different places. We just got it worked out and stopped arguing – as much.”

That said, if anyone wondered if ‘70s style humor still works, there’s an answer: absolutely.

“I never thought for a second that the humor wouldn’t work,” he said. “We do classic characters and bits and Cheech & Chong transcend a lot of time zones.”

He’s also delighted with who he sees in the crowd.

“We are getting an unbelievable reaction and having a lot of fun,” he said. “Surprisingly, most of the audience is between the age of 30-40 and it’s almost like a rite of passage to come see us, like getting a vaccination.

It has been a long time and there’s a lot of material to work with which makes one wonder what exactly is a 2008 Cheech & Chong show going to feature.

“We are redoing some old bits, updating them, doing some things we never have performed on stage before,” he said. “Tommy and his wife do a salsa version of ‘Born in East L.A.’ We’re doing all kinds of things.”

The irony of the situation is not lost on Cheech.

“We’ve actually been apart longer than together which is hard to believe,” he said.

Now that the tour is a success, fans wonder if there could be even more Cheech & Chong to come.

“You never know, young man,” he laughed. “You never know.”

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