Cheech & Chong: Still Smokin' After All These Years

Comedy duo open up about "Pineapple Express," old beef and new jokes

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Step aside, Seth Rogen and James Franco: The original stoner duo, Cheech & Chong, squashed their long-running feud to reunite for the Light Up America/Canada Tour — their first in 25 years. The tour kicked off last Friday in Ottawa and runs through late December, with one more gig in New York at Radio City Music Hall at the end of January. Rolling Stone got the pair on the phone for a conversation that raises, among other questions: Why do they keep talking about how the kids are our future? What does that even mean?

What are the shows like? What kind of stuff are you guys performing?
Tommy Chong: We've basically revised our live show from 30 years ago, and it seems to work. We just went from Nixon to Bush, and that's about all that's changed. Personally I like the stand-up bits I get to do in between the acts, because I've been working on my stand up for a few years. The first bit, The Low Rider, is also probably the best, funniest piece of comedy ever in the history of mankind.

How do you guys do that live?
Chong: We did it live before, but the only thing is we don't light up the joint now. We just pretend to light up the joint. But the crowd's totally with us. Every anal guy in the world always wanted to see Cheech & Chong together. Like, they go into a restaurant and the salt and pepper shakers are sitting apart, and you know how they gotta go and put them together? Well, that's the same as Cheech & Chong. It just bothered everybody that Cheech and Chong weren't working together, and now that we are just seems like certain people can die happy now. It was always my ultimate dream that we'd get back together while we're not drooling too much.

You guys have kind of had some differences over the past couple of years. How were you guys able to get beyond that to reunite?
Chong: We drove over to the alley and we fought it out. We said, "Fuck it, man. Let's get it on." We're so old, Cheech couldn't see me and I couldn't hear him. No, actually, we put our managers in a room and had them duke it out.

Do you guys bring a lot of weed with you on the road?
Chong: No. None. Never. You know, nine months in jail teaches you something. Plus, it's like bringing coal to Newcastle. We're in Canada now, and even in the States, if you need weed, you can get weed faster than you can get a pizza almost anywhere. So do you guys just kind of pick some up when you get into a city — do you still smoke or do you not?
Chong: Well, it depends. Are you a DEA agent?

No, I'm not.
Chong: I still smoke and so does Cheech.

I noticed that you keep having to add shows. Did you think there would be such a demand to see you guys live?
Chong: They work it so they sell out the first show, and then they get the second show and it looks good. And we do it for the kids, because the kids are our future.
Cheech Marin: That's a very important thing.

What's different about your approach to comedy now versus 25 years ago?
Chong: Twenty-five years ago we didn't have to try to remember what the show was. Our approach now is, "How does that bit go?"
Cheech: And there's music in the show now. I mean, we're actually playing in the show a lot more.
Chong: And we look a lot older than we did before.
Cheech: Yeah, we're like the pedophile age.

Do you guys have new material that you're performing?
Cheech: Yeah. We've never performed "Born in East L.A." before, or "Mexican Americans." We have a sing-along at the end.
Chong: Yeah, we dance salsa.
Cheech: It's like Bollywood.
Chong: Yeah, my wife opens the show, and then later we dance and we do Sarah Palin and McCain jokes.

What are your Sarah Palin and McCain jokes?
Cheech: Oh, we can't tell you.
Chong: Yeah it's for the show. But it's basically that she's a dominatrix and that's how McCain met her.

You said that there's a sing-along at the end of your show. To what song?
Chong: "Up in Smoke."
Cheech: And then we sing "Kumbaya," you know, for world peace. It's for the kids. The kids are our future.

I'm wondering if you have any thoughts about the re-emergence of stoner culture in the mainstream with movies like Pineapple Express.
Chong: We feel responsible, so we're demanding 10 percent from all those movies. Pineapple Express, I thought, was really funny.
Cheech: For white guys, [Seth Rogen and James Franco] aren't half bad.

How do you think your movies hold up?
Cheech: I look at the residual check I get every year. It's a huge check, every year for 30 years. So, obviously it holds up. It's an American classic, no doubt.

Do you know any big name celebrities that are going to your shows at all? Or have asked for tickets?
Cheech: I think when we announced the first shows, Justin Timberlake was on the phone 20 minutes later. We just did the Alma Awards and Zac Efron and Ashley Tisdale are big fans, all crowding around. They were real sweet kids! They were kids you know? They came up and said, "Can we have your autograph?! Can I have a picture with you?!"
Chong: Well, the kids are our future.
Cheech: Of course the kids are our future.

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