“I been smokin’ since I was born, man. I can smoke anything, man.”
This week’s edition of Canna-Bosses pays homage to the godfathers of weed culture in the media, two guys that every Snoop Dogg, Wiz Khalifa, Rihanna, Seth Rogan, James Franco, Doug Benson, Miley Cyrus, B-Real, Matthew McConaughey, Sarah Silverman, Woody Harrelson … well, basically every celebrity weed icon not named Marley or Willie Nelson should bless every time they light up in public: Richard Anthony “Cheech” Marin and Thomas B. Kin Chong.
A couple things you might not have known about the ultimate marijuanistas, Cheech and Chong:
Cheech Marin’s father was an LAPD officer. (Shines a whole new light on the whole “Nash Bridges” thing, huh?)
Tommy Chong is Canadian. (He became a naturalized US citizen in the late ‘80s.) He’s also the father of actress Rae Dawn Chong, of “Commando” and “Quest for Fire” … ummmm … fame.
The duo met in the late ’60s in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada where Marin had gone to avoid being drafted during the Vietnam War; Chong was providing entertainment at his father’s burlesque club as a member of a small-time musical group with Marin as the emcee for shows. When that fell by the wayside, the duo moved onto improv comedy, starting to perform in 1971 as “Cheech and Chong,” a pairing that would last into the middle of the following decade.
The ’70s and ’80s were good to the comic masterminds as they starred in seven movies and made nine albums, including two that reached as high as No. 2 on the comedy charts and one, the 1973 “Los Cochinos,” for which they snagged a Grammy.
I remember the pair’s movies being in the general background of my childhood as I went from place to place with my nine aunts and uncles, but it was the studio voice-work that really hit me square in the funny bone as a newly-minted ninth grade stoner coming and going from freshman basketball games listening to cassette tapes (remember those?) on my friend EJ’s boom box (remember those?) in the back of the school bus. We weren’t high while listening (EJ never even smoked until after high school) but we would laugh til we cried listening to those skits with Sergeant Stedenko, Sister Mary Elephant and the infamous cheeba-tinted rehash of “Who’s On First?” entitled “Dave’s Not Here.”
By that time, winter 1986-87, the pair had broken up, with Marin jettisoning his stoner persona in favor of more conventional acting roles. Chong’s career saw him remaining true to form as a pothead in the majority of his acting gigs, including the role as loveable hippie, Leo Chingkwake, on “That ’70s Show” from 1999 to 2006.
It was during his tenure as a foil to those crazy Wisco kids that Chong found himself in serious hot water with the United States federal government as a target of a sting operation dealing with online vendors of drug paraphernalia, a saga, detailed wonderfully in the film “a/k/a Tommy Chong,” that culminated in his detention in federal prison for nine months during 2003 and 2004. Chong has since raised the level of his cannabis activism, becoming an Advisory Board member of NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws). He has also been vocal about his cannabis use during two cancer battles.
The past decade has seen a second flourishing of the iconic pair together as comic activists alongside dozens of stars they inspired with their most famous works. The word godfathers has rarely been so appropriately used. Do yourself a solid this week – grab “Up in Smoke” or “Nice Dreams,” rip four or five bong hits, and laugh yourself silly with the kings of cannabis comedy.
Christopher Gallagher lives with his wife and their four dogs and two horses. Life is pretty darn good. Contact him at [email protected]