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Comedy preview:
“Cheech and Chong lighting up stages again”
By Benjamin Ortiz, Special to the
Chicago Tribune
Section: On the Town
Date: November 7, 2008

They were just two wild-haired vatos locos—crazy, heavy-duty dudes—who got their heads together in the ’60s and decided to smoke dope and play music for a living. Along the way, they jammed with Hendrix, opened for the Stones, bopped around London with Peter Sellers and shot hoops against Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bob Dylan.
Mixing Laurel and Hardy with The Merry Pranksters, they created “hard rock comedy,” a fusion of musical counter-culture and improvisational sketch-humor, planting the seeds for Beavis and Butt-Head, Harold and Kumar and the picaresque weed-run as epic cinematic quest.
After nine top-selling records and a Grammy, eight feature films and their ascent to pop-culture icons, followed by a quarter-century of being broken up, the hippie and the low-rider are back on the road. Richard “Cheech” Marin, 62, and Tommy Chong, 70, are passing the peace pipe for their Light Up America Tour, a flashback more than a generation in the making.
“I remember very vividly taking Cheech’s hand to do a bow at the end [of our last show], and that was it,” Chong says in a telephone interview. “But there was something we had together. Â… I guess time heals all wounds.”
In separate interviews from Los Angeles, the duo confirm that they’ve sparked the creative flame once again, working out the artistic differences that split them up. “Even the day before we decided [to tour] we had a big blowout,” says Cheech. But the tour “had to be now or never, because we’re not getting any younger.”
The passing of George Carlin creates a backdrop for their reunion as “foot soldiers for the cultural revolution” of their generation. As Cheech puts it, “We’re the last of a dying breed.”
Even their first meeting sounds like a joke: A hippie Chinese-Canadian Motown guitarist (Chong) and a draft-dodging Chicano pottery artist (Cheech) walked into a Vancouver strip joint in 1968. Cheech said their “cultural outsider point-of-view” fueled their art.
After their mid-’80s break-up, Cheech pursued a more conventional career in movies and TV (“Nash Bridges”), while Chong continued doing stand-up, with a detour on “That ’70s Show” and a nine-month prison stint from a federal bong sting. Chong wrote about it in his best-selling “The I Chong” (2006), followed by this year’s “Cheech & Chong: The Unauthorized Autobiography.”
He still wasn’t talking much to Cheech when he penned that rollicking tale of smoking pot, jamming and playing basketball with a wild cast of characters like in their movies, from Redd Foxx to Geraldo Rivera. But in e-mail exchanges moderated by his son Paris, Chong said to Cheech, “If we can’t work together, why can’t we just be friends?” This started them on the path to reconciliation, but there still is tension. Chong says, “My son e-mailed my response to Cheech, so it wouldn’t be nasty.”
Reunited, they stay focused on their work over their egos, and the pair seems to be enjoying the road. Chong says the key is “staying true to the dregs of society. When we tried to move away from those characters, we lost.” Expect their new show to pair old musical numbers (like “Mexican Americans” and “Born in East L.A.”) with updated sketches, blended into something like a “Latino Bollywood,” Cheech says.
“In a struggling economy we’re selling out every show and adding second shows without the benefit of an album or movie,” Cheech adds. Upcoming projects will likely keep Cheech and Chong together into the next decade.
“We’re doing a DVD of the tour, a roast for the TBS Las Vegas comedy festival and maybe another movie, maybe a stage show along the lines of ‘Spamalot.’ Â… We might make an animated video of ‘Save the Whales,'” Cheech says.
“Got the munchies?”

Cheech and Chong have ended their feud—well, they’ve put it on hold at any rate—and are back on the road. Richard “Cheech” Marin, 62, and Tommy Chong, 70, are rolling along on their Light Up America Tour, a wild flashback that took a long time to come to pass.
“Even the day before we decided [to tour] we had a big blowout,” says Cheech. But the tour “had to be now or never, because we’re not getting any younger.”
The comedy veterans are doing old musical numbers (“Mexican Americans,” “Born in East L.A.”), along with updated sketches—all churned up into something like a “Latino Bollywood,” Cheech says. Story, page 4.
Cheech and Chong
When: 7:30 and 10:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Rosemont Theatre, 5400 N. River Rd., Rosemont
Price: $39.50-$59.50;

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