HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Relight Those Nice Dreams
Pubdate: Thu, 04 Sep 2008
Source: Ottawa X Press (CN ON)
Copyright: 2008 Ottawa X Press
Author: Cormac Rea


Cheech & Chong Reprise Their Hit '70s Comedy Act In Ottawa

Nearly 25 years after their breakup, the wildly popular comedy team 
of the 1970s is back to "Light Up Canada." And, after that, they're 
going to blaze up America too. "Our performance in Ottawa is actually 
going to be the first time that we've done Born in East L.A. 
together," says Cheech, calling from Hawaii, of the comedy team's hit 
parody of a Bruce Springsteen original. "Condoleezza Rice called us 
and said, 'You know, I'm having no luck with the Palestinians and the 
Israelites and I need to get somebody together before my reign is out 
here.' Ottawa - you're the first guys."

It will remain a mystery as to whether the American Secretary of 
State harbours any warmth for the dope addled hippie and Chicano 
pairing of Cheech and Chong, which first took on post-Cold War social 
and racial attitudes with the half-baked plotlines of six 
feature-length movies in the late '70s. For their first film, Up in 
Smoke (1978), the two drove a van entirely fabricated from marijuana 
from Mexico over the border to their band's "Rock Fight" battle of 
the bands competition. Their wake littered with inadvertently stoned 
policemen, oversexed flower children, shell-shocked Vietnam vets and 
gaudy pimps, the pair's charm oozed with tongue-in-cheek 
counterculture doziness and absurdist luck.

But, unfortunately, real life wasn't so chill for the dudes. "We had 
a lot of strange bookings," explained Cheech. "Once we performed at 
an all-girls private school in England and then for the 
Scientologists in California. A lot of booking agents didn't know 
what they were getting."

Acrimony eventually prevailed after the pair spent years attempting 
to balance their separating interests from the invariably close 
quarters of tour buses and hotel rooms. Richard "Cheech" Marin, 
wanting to distance himself from the pothead image of his character, 
was fed up. Since the mid-'80s he's pursued a solo acting career 
(with appearances in Desperado, Once Upon a Time in Mexico and 
Christmas With the Kranks), performed character voices in Disney 
productions such as Oliver & Company and The Lion King, and now 
appears regularly during prime-time television hours (Cheech plays 
the father of hit program Lost's Hurley character).

On the other hand, Tommy Chong has continued to earn his chops as a 
comic. Recently he's favoured a witty stand-up routine that is heavy 
on sage philosophizing and deadpan stand-up. By the comedy industry's 
measurement of "miles," his pedigree is truly ironclad. At 70 years 
of age (Cheech is 62), Chong is a grizzled and well-vetted comic of 
30 years. There's very little that this native of Dog Patch, Alberta 
hasn't encountered on his travels, from the roughnecks and roofing 
crews of his youth to the Californian high-life of his later years. 
"It's 10 years before you can really say 'Yeah, I'm a comic,'" he 
explains over the phone from a Halifax hotel room. "You have to put 
the time in. You have to do it, and do it, and do it, until it 
becomes your life."

Not every decision was golden. Chong once lent his name to his son's 
bong company - Chong's Bongs - which ultimately brought paraphernalia 
charges from the drug-obsessed DEA of Bush Jr.'s first presidential 
term. His nine-month jail sentence for the offence, where he was 
apparently befriended by native American prisoners in sweat 
ceremonies and framed by secret agents looking to plant some green on 
his person, contributed to Chong's bitterness towards a misfiring 
government. In between his own television appearances, where he 
usually ends up rubbishing redneck CNN news anchors, deconstructing 
Bush the Junior's "moronic" personality or puffing on herb pipes for 
Tom Green, Chong promotes his two books - The I Chong (2006) and 
Cheech and Chong: The Unauthorized Autobiography (2008). The latter, 
at least, has not been read by his old partner. "I don't read 
unauthorized material," Cheech has stated flatly to recent press inquiries.

But, at least for 2008, Cheech and Chong are back. Augured by the 
efforts of his wife and son, Chong's decision to consign the 
arguments of the past to history coincided with Cheech's sentiments. 
"It just feels like the time is right again," concludes Cheech. 
"Things always fell apart for different reasons, probably our 
personalities, but it got to the point where it was like, 'If we're 
going to do something, we'd better do it now or never."

At a recent pre-tour performance in L.A., the pair was shocked by how 
easily they could slip into routine. "We were looking at YouTube 
before and saying, 'Wow man, I don't even remember doing that.'" 
Cheech is clearly bemused. "Chong likes to say that 'Cheech doesn't 
want to be funny anymore, he wants to be a serious actor,' but, hey 
man, I can turn it on like a light switch.

"When we have the energy and the concentration, it's improv every 
night," he adds proudly. "It has just come back to us so easily."

Indeed, their enduring contribution to comedy is clearly indicated by 
the popularity of the silly humour formula that so easily dominates 
comedic cinema today. Harold and Kumar, Dazed and Confused, the Naked 
Gun series and That '70s Show (in which Chong played the Leo 
character) are clear heirs to the basic tenets of the stoner film 
mantle: 1) take a cast of lovable misfits, 2) stack the harsh odds of 
life against them, 3) add dope jokes, dope and the suggestion of sex, 
and 4 ) serve.

Yes, like disco, hairpieces and moustaches, Cheech and Chong's appeal 
is timeless. That old show business maxim of "Everything old is new 
again" immediately comes to mind when Chong reveals his Tom Cruise theory.

"Everything has a life. Tom Cruise used to be Mister Box Office but, 
two years later, he can't buy a hit. Everybody goes through it and 
what happens is that you start competing with yourself. The character 
becomes ho hum and, next thing you know, you're onto the new Tom 
Cruise. Jim Carrey's a good example too - this guy's a genius but 
it's almost like a five-or six-film limit for anybody."

These days, the dudes are careful not to take anything for granted. 
"We are taking this one day at a time," states Cheech, when asked if 
another movie is in the works. "It's like a golf swing, it changes 
over the course of time."

"And Cheech isn't as cute as he used to be," grumbles Chong with faux 
annoyance. "He's a little overweight now and wears black."

Cheech & Chong
Light Up Canada  NAC(Southam Hall)
Sept. 5, 7:30 p.m.
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