More than four decades have passed since Richard “Cheech” Marin and Tommy Chong appeared in a cloud of smoke on the national stage taking their irreverent, satirical, counterculture, marijuana-addled lifestyle to audiences everywhere.
And now the good times continue when the comedy duo take center stage for one night of laughs at the Keswick Theatre on Sunday, Oct. 27, at 7:30 p.m.
After meeting in Canada in 1969, the two men tried to form a band at first, but had too much fun telling jokes, and eventually their long-lasting comedy partnership was formed. By the time they arrived in Los Angeles, they found a producer and the inspiration for nine hit comedy albums and eight films that broke box office records, shattered comedy albums sales and garnered multiple Grammy nominations.
“I originally started out to be a musician,” Chong said during a recent phone interview. “I had been watching a Peter Sellers movie, one I hadn’t seen before, and thought he must be the finest comic of the century. He also started out in music.
“As a matter of fact,” Chong continued, “musicians have a beautiful sense of timing, and comedy is all about timing. I don’t know too many comedians who don’t also have a love or talent for music because they are so intertwined.”
With his early years filled with music, Chong worked as a businessman and promoter, launching careers and performing in successful bands that had Jimi Hendrix performing with him.
“But growing up, I also saw myself as an instigator. I loved to laugh and be entertained, and would often get friends to do things while I stood on the sidelines. In our movies, I tend to do the same thing with Cheech,” he remembered.
Chong, 75, considers himself “street smart.” But as for Marin, 67, Chong claims he has an IQ on the genius level.
“Cheech is like the Rain Man. He remembers everything. Once, he appeared on Jeopardy and blew all the others away. He left Anderson Cooper in the dust. He’s also a well-known art collector and is thought to own one of the biggest private collections in the world.”
And while it may have been their differences that first brought them together, it may have been the thing that also drew them apart. After a contentious parting in the 1980s, the duo had a less-than-stellar friendship, although after a few false starts, the pair has now successfully reunited. In 2008, audiences were delighted when the legendary Cheech & Chong came together after more than two decades apart and embarked on their “Light Up America “ tour.
“For me, the breakup was very difficult,” Chong said. “It was like a shock to my nervous system, but eventually it all worked out. It forced me to put one step forward and be myself. I had never been the leader in my bands, on stage or anywhere else. It took a couple of years, but I finally got the hang of it.”
All in all, Chong said the time apart has allowed their magic to evolve, and there’s no sign these two are slowing down anytime soon. More films are in the works, and they are actively pursuing their own hobbies.
“After suffering from cancer, the doctors say I’m OK now. I’ve changed my diet, exercise, and did lots of other things they told me to do. I also smoked pot. And as I look around today and see the new positions on pot, I wonder if after all this time we were right. What if it turns out that it’s actually good for you. Who knows.”
For times and ticket information, call 215-572-7650. ••