Pubdate: Fri, 25 Jan 2002
Source: Bradenton Herald (FL)
Copyright: 2002 Bradenton Herald
Contact:   http://web.bradentonherald.com/
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/58
Author: Donna Hartman

SMOKIN' TOMMY CHONG HEADLINES MCCURDY'S

The irrepressible Tommy Chong of "Cheech and Chong" fame is taking his 
political and social satire to new heights and bringing his self- described 
"pot comedy" to audiences all over the country.

This time, Chong's on the road with his actress wife Shelby, doing a 
PG-13-rated, vaudeville-style comedy act. Chong, however, is best known for 
his partnership with Richard "Cheech" Marin. The hippie comedy duo were the 
Martin and Lewis of the 1970s, opening for mega- rock acts in big arenas 
and burning it up on screen in wildly popular movies like "Up in Smoke," 
"Nice Dreams" and "Cheech and Chong's Next Movie."

Chong and Shelby are enjoying being on the road, playing at intimate houses 
to true devotees of Chong's bizarre brand of comedy, mainly Baby Boomers 
who still subscribe to the counter-culture of the late 1960s and the 1970s.

"People say there aren't any more comedy teams. But, we're the George and 
Gracie of the stoner world. Cheech and I were the Abbott and Costello of 
the stoner world," said Chong, 63, from his home in Pacific Palisades, 
outside Los Angeles. "The world needed a man and woman comedy team. I've 
been on the road for about 30 years anyway."

Describing the show as a vaudeville routine with jokes, music and dancing, 
Chong said he's not a classic stand-up comedian.

"We do it all. It's a real show," said Chong, who writes the material and 
plays lead guitar. Shelby sings, dances and tells jokes. The comedy ranges 
from political and social satire to what Chong refers to as "pot comedy," 
an extension of the skewed, strange marijuana jokes that led to fame and 
fortune for Cheech and Chong.

Chong isn't about to look a gift horse in the mouth. If people still want 
jokes about smoking marijuana, he has no qualms about making them.

"Every comedian has a pot joke somewhere in his or her repertoire," said Chong.

The father of two sons, Gilbran, 26, and Paris, 21, Chong has assembled his 
family into a band called Chong and the Family Stone. They'll soon be 
recording a blues CD with Paris on bass, Gilbran on drums and Tommy on lead 
guitar and vocals.

"In the old days, fathers would have their sons work in the fields with 
them," he said. "I want my sons to play in the rhythm section."

The band will stick to clubs on the West coast.

"We're not going to hit the circuit," Chong joked. "Limp Bizkit doesn't 
have to worry about us."

A HUMBLE BEGINNING

A native of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, Chong began his comedy, musical and 
film career in 1968 in Vancouver with a improvisational burlesque/comedy 
troupe he and a few "rowdies and strippers" had assembled.

A high school drop-out with street experience, Chong met Marin when the 
troupe's resident straight man quit.

"A friend suggested Richard," Chong said. "Richard came from America 
because he thought it would be a good idea to visit Canada during the 
Vietnam War. He worked his way up to being Cheech. The troupe broke up and 
the rest is history."

After a successful run of films, tours and gold records, including the 
Grammy winning "Los Cochinos" comedy album, Cheech and Chong called it 
quits in 1985. Their last film together was "After Hours," directed by 
Martin Scorcese.

"Cheech got bored with being successful and he wanted to start over again," 
said Chong. Ironically, Marin now stars as a straight-arrow cop on the 
television series, "Nash Bridges" with Don Johnson.

"I was faced with going out on my own," Chong said.

THAT '70S CONNECTION

The versatile Chong recently received a big career boost when he was cast 
in the recurring role of the aging hippie, Leo, on Fox's "That '70s Show." 
He also appeared on the cover of High Times magazine in July.

"I turned down a lot of TV," said Chong, noting that he was offered the 
role of Dharma's hippie father on "Dharma and Greg."

"I had never seen 'That '70s Show' and they sent me a tape," Chong said. "I 
just liked the title. It sounds like they're talking about my life. I 
figured if I'm going to be in television, I ought to capitalize on my past."

Chong's appearances on the show help sell tickets to his stand-up act.

"People say, 'Whoa, he's coming here in person,' " Chong said.

Chong is also writing a movie, which he hopes will be in production soon 
for release next year.

"The script starts out with me pitching a movie to big studios, like Disney 
and Dreamworks," he said. "I end up talking to the porno guys. It's about 
how you get turned down by everybody in movieland. It's also got subplots - 
a love story and a murder mystery."

BEEN THERE, STILL THERE

Asked about his past and present marijuana use, Chong makes no bones about 
it - he smokes the stuff.

"I am really a pothead," he said. "People have been smoking pot since the 
beginning of time. Today, it's one of the social no-nos. People still do it."

But, it's also against the law.

That doesn't deter Chong, who argues for legalization for marijuana for 
medical purposes. He doubts that it will ever be legalized for recreational 
use.

What about the message he's sending to young people with his drug use?

"I'd rather have a son who is alive and smoking pot than a son who is dead 
from drinking and driving," he said.

What: Tommy and Shelby Chong

When: 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. today and 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: McCurdy's Comedy Theater, 3333 N. Tamiami Trail, Trail Plaza, Sarasota

Tickets: $12

Information: 925-3869
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom