LOS ANGELES (Reuters Life!) - Richard “Cheech” Marin and Tommy Chong gained fame with their 1971 comedy album, “Cheech and Chong,” and became poster boys for pot-smoking thanks to hit films “Up in Smoke” and “Nice Dreams.”
But their successful partnership went up in smoke in the late 1980s and they didn’t talk to each other for years. In 2009, the duo reunited for a comedy tour, “Cheech & Chong: Light Up America,” their first in over 25 years.
They spoke to Reuters about the reunion, drugs, and a new film of the tour, “Cheech and Chong’s Hey Watch This,” released April 20 on video-on-demand, DVD, Blu-Ray, and other media.
Q: When did the idea for this new film emerge?
A: Chong - “As soon as we began working together again. I think they were worried we might croak. Get ‘em while they’re still standing.”
Q: It’s been 25 years since you worked together. Nervous?
A: Cheech - “Not at all. We knew we could do it. We started in San Diego for four shows, and it was like we’d never left. The fans went crazy. It was the easiest thing we’d ever done.”
Q: Any surprises?
A: Chong - “We had to remind each other what to do. But looking for laughs is like fishing. You just want to catch a fish. Whatever bait works, it’s OK, just do that.”
Q: Why did you break up in the first place?
A: Cheech - “We basically ran out. Every act, every comedian has a shelf life. You can only be famous for so long then you start repeating yourself. And we did records, stage, we toured, and did movies. And our last movie together wasn’t a dope movie, and that was the death knell. So why don’t we just go our separate ways?”
Chong - “And we looked down for the first time ever in our career, and realized we needed to take a breather.”
Q: But wasn’t it acrimonious?
A: Cheech - “It was. It has to be.”
Chong - “It’s like the wolf cub leaving mom. She has to bite him in the ass to get him out of there.”
Q: So who’s the mom?
A: (Cheech points at Chong, who grins.)
Chong - “We had a big argument. I went out to his place but I’m deaf so I couldn’t hear half the insults.”
Cheech - “And they were good ones, too.”
Chong - “He was in the middle of a divorce and thought he was talking to his ex-wife.”
Q: You’ve both been married and divorced, but you’re still together, like some old married couple.
A: Cheech - “Exactly. We had a cooling-off period and then got back together for the kids. That’s what the comedy bits are, the kids. We realized that we couldn’t access this treasure chest without each other. It was like having just half the treasure map. And the chemistry between us? It doesn’t come along very often.”
Q: Do you guys still do drugs, or have you slowed down?
A: Cheech - “No, I hardly do any drugs at all.”
Chong - “But you’ve got a whole bag of drugs with you.”
Cheech - “But I don’t smoke it. I give it away.”
Chong - “No, I’m talking about your medication.”
Cheech - “Oh, those kind of drugs.”
Chong - “I do vitamins. Right now I’m really into coconut oil.”
Q: From coke to coconut oil?
A: Chong - “We were lousy coke heads. It helped other comedians but ruined us. We made ourselves allergic to coke back when it was acceptable. It was always pot for us.”
Cheech - “We’re health fanatics. We belong to the YMCA.”
Q: You’re joking?
A: Cheech - “No, every city we played we’d head over to the Y, work out, play basketball, have a steam and massage, and then do the show.”
Q: Tommy, you served time for drugs in 2003. Traumatic?
A: Chong - “No. It was a great experience, really! I heard all these great stories while I was there, and I was able to get away from everyone for a while. I have fond memories.”
Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Patricia Reaney