When asked if he still smokes marijuana on the regular, Richard “Cheech” Marin pulls no punches.
“Twenty-four hours a day,” he laughs. “We’re Cheech and Chong.”
The legendary stoner-hippie duo came to prominence in the 1970s with classic comedies such as “Up In Smoke” and “Nice Dreams” after first meeting in Canada during the Vietnam War.
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“I was part of the draft resistance movement,” Marin says. “Our method was to stop the draft by any means. We burned our draft cards and demonstrated, so the government was after us. Anyone they caught would be reclassified, drafted and sent to the front lines of Vietnam.”
In order to avoid authorities, Marin made his way to Vancouver, Canada, where he found work writing for rock culture magazine Poppin. It was north of the border that he was introduced to future smoke buddy Tommy Chong.
“Tommy hired me as a writer for the show since I had this long list of phony credits. When the troupe fell apart, we stayed together.” – Cheech Marin
“I’m a Chicano so I have to have three jobs at a time,” Marin jokes. “My manager sent me to see this show with strippers and improv theater. What it really was was hippie burlesque. The dancers would take off their clothes and we would take off our clothes and just get crazy. People would come for the dancers and then wonder what these longhaired guys were doing up there. Tommy hired me as a writer for the show since I had this long list of phony credits. When the troupe fell apart, we stayed together.”
After the smash hit of their comedy routine and movies took them through the 1970s and into the 1980s, Cheech and Chong eventually decided to go their separate ways. Marin found success as a film, television and voice actor, starring in such productions as “Nash Bridges” and “The Lion King.”
Following a series of his own projects, including a regular role on “That 70’s Show,” Chong served a nine-month jail sentence for illegally selling bongs online. His cellmate was “Wolf of Wall Street” Jordan Belfort whom he allegedly inspired to write his memoirs. After recently recovering from prostrate cancer, Chong is now on the up and up.
“He looks even better than he did before,” says Marin.
When asked why they decided to get back together, Marin was his typically humorous self.
“Money,” he says. “No, there was nationwide cry for Cheech & Chong to come back on the road before we die. Honestly, the one thing we didn’t disagree on was the live show. We’re loving being on the road, letting people know that we’re still alive. I’m 71 and Tommy is 79, but we’re still out there doing a real physical show. I’m amazed at it myself. It gives everybody hope and that’s what we do.”
Although they gained notoriety for their drug humor, there’s more to Cheech and Chong’s show than just stoner gags.
“When we first started out together in the 60s, this was the act we did out on the road,” says Marin. “We called it comedy on pot. We built our characters around it, but only about 5 percent of our material is about that. The show has a lot of music interspersed with the funny bits, as well as a question-and-answer section. Tommy plays guitar and I sing a lot of songs about witty stuff. You’ll be entertained and enlightened. I didn’t ask anybody about [marijuana], but it seems to be in the air.”
Regarding California’s recent legalization of the recreational drug, Marin was all for it.
“My take on that is yaaaaay!” he says. “It’s about time.”
When asked about the legacy of Cheech & Chong after five decades of their unique brand of comedy, Marin responded with his trademark nonchalant confidence.
“I think it’s time to start the petition for the canonization process,” he says. “I want to be a living saint. They can make us holy cards to give out to people so they can roll ‘em up and smoke ‘em. They should also have schools named after us. And if any comedy act is ever going to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Cheech and Chong are the ones to do it.”