Q&A: Cheech and Chong on Animating Their Stoner Adventures and Predicting Reality Television

Pothead heroes blaze a cartoon trail in 'Cheech and Chong Anthem (WEed Are the World)'

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Seminal stoners Cheech and Chong are entering the cartoon world for the first time in Cheech and Chong's Animated Movie. To commemorate the occasion, the duo have created a new all-star video for their song "Cheech and Chong Anthem (WEed Are the World)," featuring the likenesses of Wiz Khalifa, Bill Maher, Willie Nelson, B-Real, Kid Cudi and many more.

"The ones that went for it are the brothers," Tommy Chong tells Rolling Stone of the artists that lent their likenesses to the video.

Cheech and Chong: Still Smokin' After All These Years

Cheech Marin is now 66 and Chong is 75, but not much has changed since they appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone in 1978 and became comedy heroes with the surprise success of Up in Smoke. Still fighting for legalization and acting funny as hell while doing so, the duo sat down to talk about what differentiated them from other radical comedians in the Seventies, how they paved the way for reality shows and their friendship with longtime producer Lou Adler, whom they will induct into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Los Angeles this week.

You guys have still been heavily advocating legalization.
Tommy Chong: We've got stores already set up to sell drugs; they're called drug stores. What better place to sell drugs than a drug store? "You need a prescription? There's a pharmacist." I can't think of a better way.

Cheech Marin: And when it gets legal, who wouldn't want to buy a pack of Cheech and Chong 100 Menthol lights?

Tommy, I know you're big into golf now. Will you ever set up the Cheech and Chong charity golf tournament?
Chong: Absolutely. Thinking about a stoner tournament movie that has golf in it with us. I was thinking of us competing against each other in a tournament.

Would you try and get some pro golfers to do cameos in it?
Marin: Yeah, they'll all do it. They're all Cheech and Chong stoner guys; they all grew up on Cheech and Chong, especially the young guys now.

Chong: We're like walking drug tests. The other day I was in a restaurant and Blake Griffin spotted me; he was with his entourage and he's like, "Hey." A lot of pot in sports historically; Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and I used to live down the street from each other and he played seven years past his prime thanks to pot. He wasn't into alcohol or any other drugs, but is a pothead. I think when you're a pothead, your body forgets to grow old; your body goes, "Oh, this is good for you in many ways."

What prompted the animated movie?
Chong: My son's friends got a little production company and they asked my son, "Do you think we can get Cheech and Tommy to okay animating the old records?" Then Lou Adler holds the publishing, so they got Lou involved. It started off small; they were doing a couple of bits, then they came to us and asked me what little character [could] glue the animation together, like Ice Age had that little squirrel looking for a place to hide his nuts. We had a character I always loved, Buster the Body Crab. We recorded it in Montreal and we were among all these French guys and we thought, "What can we do with that accent?" So we used little Les Morpions as the connector and they just put it all together.

It does seem like Cheech and Chong would translate well to animation.
Chong: We've always been ahead of the curve; we've always been. The reality shows now are using the same technique that we shot our movies with. Cheech has got the ear for mimicry, so he would remember these accents and when we got into the record and especially the movies, we had – and still have – this mental telepathy thing. We'd sketch out the stuff for the crew so they knew where to go, but we would build the dialogue as we went. So we didn't miss anything; we shot everything and that's what the reality shows do now. They look for shit to upset everybody with, they whisper it into each other's ear. Next thing you know, you got conflict and the sicker it is the better it is and that was our motto: "How can we make this really sick?"

Why do you think the movies hold up so much today?
Chong: What Cheech and Chong movies were was a day in the life of these two wackos and when the movie finished or stopped, it's like, "Let's see that again." And that's why Up in Smoke is still funny. I saw it recently at the outdoor graveyard, Hollywood Forever, and shit, it was like seeing it for the first time. You have to focus like you're an observer and you have to focus on the whole room. And with Cheech and Chong, we take the viewer along. "Hey, come on, we're not gonna disappoint you. It's gonna make you laugh, it's gonna get scary at times, but for the most part, you're just gonna laugh. You're high, come on. And you're gonna enjoy this so much that you'll want to get high and do it again."

What kind of adventures are you going on in the animated movie?
Chong: Well, actually when we did our recordings, the greatest thing about recording is we could do anything we wanted with the listeners' imagination, so I think the weakest part of the animation is that we made it real; now you can visualize it. But if you hear it. . . I think Stevie Wonder gets more out of it than the normal person.

Marin: We were different from all the other comedians of our age that made records in that all the other people – Richard Pryor, Lily Tomlin, [George] Carlin – made recordings of their live act and that was the record. We went into the studio and made scenes; there was no audience. We were totally different. And so the advent of the eight-track and the 12-track and the 24-track with all this atmosphere. . . we could put it in and spend all day there. It wasn't expensive, it was just me and Tommy in a little room half the size of this one.

Chong: And we could be anywhere; we could be in the universe. We actually found that producers just got in the way. "Excuse me, Lou, you doing anything? Will you get me coffee? Who wants a coffee here? Lou is going out." The way Lou would produce, we'd send the tapes that night, then he'd listen to them and later on that night or the next morning he'd give me a call. He'd say, "First of all I love it, funny, great. What do you think of this?" Then we'd listen to it back sober. I read something back real funny, it said, "Write stoned, edit sober." That's basically what we do: we'd do it stoned, then we'd listen to it back.

Marin: No, we were always sober when we were recording. Well, maybe you weren't. He'd always go out for a minute, then come back: "I got an idea." It was interesting to see another generation's take on it. It was our kids, and they weren't there in the day, how they interpreted it. So in that aspect you wanted to just kind of back off and see what they did.

It'll be interesting then for you guys to see the premiere at the famed Roxy on the 17th and see what people laugh at.
Chong: It depends on what substance they bring before they go see the movie. There are certain movies I go and see them straight just to get an honest take on it cause when you're stoned you can enjoy anything; you can enjoy the worst movie. "Boy, did they fuck that up. I want to see that again."

How'd you put together the video?
Marin: We just contacted their parole officers 'cause they get community service.