Cheech and Chong are doing it again! You cant keep an old dog down.

Keep an eye for the Cheech and Chong Grill “Up in Smoke”
It’ll keep you blazed!


Article from: Chris Cobb, The Ottawa Citizen
Published: Monday, September 01, 2008

When Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong attempted to reconcile their professional differences earlier this year, the meeting degenerated into a bickering session over who had written the best routines during their heady days as cultural icons. Chong went home and told his wife Shelby that Cheech had a bad attitude and was acting weird.

“You guys should call your next movie Grumpy Old Stoners,” sighed Shelby Chong, “because that’s what you’ve become.”

It seemed impossible back in the spring, but with the help of skilled managerial mediation, and wifely common sense, the grumpy old stoners buried their hatchets. Light Up America, their first tour in almost 30 years, starts Sept. 5 with two shows at the National Arts Centre.”It came down to what we can argue about the least,” says Cheech, in an interview from Malibu. “A short time ago we had a row and were calling each other every kind of motherf—– that there is and everyone around us was looking at us like we’re crazy. So we’ve decided to be friends and it’s as friends that we can go forward and do this.”
The two or three previous efforts to recreate the old Cheech and Chong spark had ended in similar fashion — fighting over past-perceived injustices and reviving old resentments. Like most successful show business duos, they had grown so close the friction became unbearable. They were part competing brothers, part old, bitter married couple.
During the 1970s, the pair rocketed from scuffling for gigs at seedy comedy clubs on Vancouver’s Eastside to multimillionaire stars with six movies, six best-selling albums and access to excess. Their shtick was dope and daftness but what made them rich was also the artistic wedge that drove them apart.
“Tommy and I have always had a love-hate relationship,” says Cheech, now 62. “We love each other a lot and get perturbed by each other a lot. Put that together with a long stretch of being with each other 24-7 and you want a break. So we took a break — a long one. Being part of a comedy team demands so many compromises and sometimes you want to do what your creative juices tell you what to do and sometimes that’s in conflict with the other guy.”

Dope became the point of creative conflict between the two. Cheech wanted to move on and, artistically speaking, try other things.

“For me the dope thing became a dead end,” he says. “I thought we had exhausted the subject. I didn’t want to change radically, just head in a different direction.”

Tommy Chong was skeptical but agreed to give it a try. The result was their sixth and only drug free movie The Corsican Brothers, released in 1984 to tepid reviews and indifferent audience reaction. And so the two parted — Cheech into a reasonably successful second career as a dramatic actor, stand-up comic and avid golfer and Chong into various ventures including a stand up routine with Shelby, his wife of 33 years, and an online dope paraphernalia enterprise that landed him a nine-month jail sentence five years ago.

Chong, now 70, has just published his “unauthorized autobiography” of Cheech and Chong — unauthorized, he says, because his partner didn’t collaborate. While it might not be a total tell-all book, it offers an insight into how an impoverished, alienated American draft dodger (Cheech) and an older down-on-his luck Canadian Motown musician (Chong) became one of the hottest acts in show business.

Chong was born in Edmonton to a Chinese-Canadian truck driver and a mother of Scottish descent who eventually moved their family to Calgary. Cheech, son of a Los Angeles policeman, fled to Vancouver in 1968 and lived in Canada for three years before returning to the States to successfully fight what he said had been an illegal attempt to draft him.

Even though it’s 50 per cent about him, Cheech hasn’t read the book and doesn’t seem too interested in doing so. “I don’t read unauthorized material,” he says.

In a separate phone interview, on his mobile phone in between other interviews, Chong says he wasn’t sure the public would respond to news of the North American reunion tour but ticket sales suggest the two were gone for more than a quarter century but not forgotten.

“I guess it’s timing,” he says. “We parted at the top of our career. It wasn’t like we spent too much time at the party. We left at the right time so hopefully we’ll be welcomed back.”

Chong told the judge in his criminal trial five years ago that he’d given up using dope by learning to dance salsa — a revelation that skeptical prosecutors doubted, given that police had found a pound of dope at his house when he was arrested.

Today, he seems unrepentant.

“Pot has been on this planet since the beginning of time,” he says, “and has been used in religious rituals way before Christianity. It has been used in every culture as a spiritual aid. I come at it from that angle. There are negative effects, but there are negatives in any substance. I focus on the positive.

I think when people make great discoveries; they should be tested for pot. I went to jail for my beliefs. I was a political prisoner so I see it as a badge of honour.”

The two grandfathers, still hippies to their tie-dyed cores, did a dry run at a comedy club a few weeks back and clicked immediately.

“Neither one of us knew how much we missed each other until we started working again,” says Chong.

Cheech admits to being surprised: “We haven’t worked together for 27 years,” he says, “and if felt like a week. It’s a strange relationship. We are each other’s biggest fans and are fiercely loyal to each other, but can still piss each other off at the drop of a hat.”

Their concert will be a mix of greatest hits — comedy routines and songs — and much improvisation: “A lot will depend on how each audience reacts,” adds Chong, suggesting that a little participatory chaos among the ticket buyers might bring them to the top of their game.

Cheech says he has little doubt that the tour will be a hot ticket — thanks mostly to new technology that has emerged since their break up.

“Our audience is growing,” he says,” mostly because of the movies. People are watching them on video. People rent the movie, call for a pizza, get stoned and watch them over and over again. I have the same feeling about this tour that I had when we made our first movie (Up in Smoke). If we had filmed it in Japanese with subtitles running backwards we would have got the audience because we had been looking at them across the footlights for so many years.”

And dope, he says, is “as current as any topic in American comedy can be. The use of it has tripled, quadrupled.”

But Cheech is quick to point out that although dope is the duo’s calling card, it’s never comprised more than 15 per cent of their stage act.

“It’s a vehicle like Dean Martin had his drinking,” he says, “but when people come to the show they get a lot more. We were always precise commentators on all aspects of culture.”

The two seem at odds over what might happen after the tour, which will be mostly fly-in-fly-out (on private jet) weekend gigs to allow them spend the bulk of the week resting at home.

Is the tour the start of a big Cheech and Chong revival?

“I don’t know,” says Cheech. “I have to see how the tour goes and how we get along. But as far as this tour is concerned, I am really looking forward to it even though the travelling part doesn’t thrill me.”

Chong is looking further ahead.

“There will be movies, TV shows and even a Cheech and Chong grill,” he laughs. “It’s going to be called Up in Smoke.”

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