Cheech and Chong have been cracking each other and audiences up for more than 40 years. So which of them is aging better?
“Oh, I am by far,” Tommy Chong was quick to say in an interview last week. “I’ve got a wife who’s a health nut. She’s got me on a diet and has me going to the plastic surgeon every once in a while for a little filler in my face and a nip and tuck here and there. I’m like her project. I’m like her garden—she takes me to get a haircut when I need it.
“Cheech is the opposite. He’s a macho man; he’s in charge of everything. He’s got no one to tell him not to eat things. He doesn’t listen, so he eats pizza and drinks beer, and it shows.”
The comedy duo will return to the Bay Area on Saturday, August 10, with a concert at the America’s Cup Pavilion. The band War will be a big part of the show. In fact, Chong calls it “a musical comedy.”
Fans of Cheech and Chong’s brand of bong-water-soaked-humor already know that music has been a major part of their act since the beginning. Their early albums were produced by Lou Adler who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame earlier this year by the duo.
“Cheech likes to have his things scripted,” Chong said about their induction speech. “My job really is to disrupt.”
War’s song, “Low Rider,” kicked off the iconic Cheech and Chong film, “Up in Smoke,” so Chong said it was a natural fit to have the band kick off this new tour with them. Chong’s wife, Shelby, opens the show with a little stand-up before bringing out the guys to do a Q&A with the audience. (Questions about massive joints and Dave’s presence are expected.) Then, Cheech and Chong bring War out for “an audition” to see if they still have the chops to perform in a new C&C movie. War then plays a set before intermission.
The second half sees C&C perform their classic sketches before War comes back out to play with Cheech’s Alice Bowie character. “And that’s the show,” says Chong.
Cheech and Chong are celebrating the 35th anniversary of “Up in Smoke,” arguably the best stoner flick ever. Despite Cheech and Chong parting ways in the ’80s, it’s their movies’ popularity that has helped maintain their longevity, despite only getting back together a few years ago.
“When we got back together, it was like we never left,” Chong said.
“Up in Smoke” features lengthy scenes of the duo just blabbering in a car, and they are still the most-quoted and referenced parts of the flick.
“The funny thing about the car bits is that they were almost all adlibbed. We never had a script,” Chong said.
During their years apart, Chong toured the stand-up comedy circuit with Shelby, and he said that was a lot more challenging than doing these live shows with Cheech.
“We can do it in our sleep. In fact, we have done it in our sleep a few times,” he said about slipping back into character. “It’s an attitude. It comes from miles and miles and miles of doing it. We’ve had people crawl on the stage in the middle of the act. We’ve almost been assaulted. They have thrown bottles at the stage.
“Through it all, we just keep plugging away like two old stoners.”
Cheech and Chong with War will perform at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 10 at the America’s Cup Pavilion in San Francisco. Visit www.americascup.com/concert-series for more information.
Corey Andrew has been interviewing comedians and writing about comedy for the last decade and a half. He recently published the book, “Laugh Lines: Conversations with Comedians.” Corey was a writer and performer with Midwest sketch troupe, The NonProphets, before moving to the Bay Area with his family several years ago. If you have ideas for future columns about comedy, you can send them to email@example.com or follow him at twitter.com/coreywrites.