Still Up in Smoke


?Cheech and Chong
WHEN: August 5 at 8 p.m.
WHERE: Humphreys Concerts By the Bay, Shelter Island

By Alex Zaragoza

If you notice a cloud hovering over the coast on August 5, it’s not a marine layer-it’s Cheech and Chong and their smokin’ standup routine at Humphreys Concerts by the Bay.

Though their ‘70s stoner shtick may seem anachronistic, comedians Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong are proud of the role they’re still playing in helping change how marijuana use is perceived in society.

“It makes you feel almost fatherly in a sort of high way,” says Marin, 64, who will don his trademark yellow tank top and suspenders during the show.

“We’ve changed the culture and brought stoner comedy to the mainstream,” adds Chong, 73. “When we see people copying us, it’s a compliment. I feel like the granddad that’s left the old car to the kids. ‘Here you go. Have fun with it.’”

Cheech and Chong frequently use their humor as a vehicle to voice their opinions on the federal government’s War on Drugs and what they view as the inevitable decriminalization of marijuana use.

In 2003, Chong became the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s celebrity whipping boy, spending nine months in federal prison for selling “drug paraphernalia” (i.e., bongs) on the Internet. Today, he is a staunch advocate of marijuana as a medicinal substance, as well as a vehicle for world peace.

“I’m an old jazz musician,” says Chong, who once performed in an R&B group with Jimi Hendrix. “Before, we had to hide, and that was okay. It was our own secret club. Now, we’re getting close to the point where it will be legal, and I feel vindicated. Marijuana is a very peaceful substance. I think, when marijuana is legalized, the wars will end. It takes your mind off the ugly things in life.”

Marin says the United States economy would benefit from legalization, since every toke could be taxed, and the Mexican drug cartels would take a huge hit (to their criminal empire, that is).

Despite being onboard the bud bandwagon, neither Cheech nor Chong hits the bong on a regular basis these days. For Chong, giving up ganja was a heavy decision.

“I’m on a diet,” he says, having put down the pipe two months ago. “It’s almost impossible to diet and smoke pot. If I’m high, I have no will power.”

Chong says he’s shaken the munchies and lost 10 pounds-though he’s looking forward to lighting up again when his doctor gives him the “green” light.

“It’s gonna be like Christmas,” he says.

Asked what they hope their audience will take away from their show, Marin says, “a lot of merchandise to cement their experience. Memories can only go so far.” (Especially after that third puff.)

Career Highs for Cheech and Chong
Movies: Up in Smoke (‘78); Cheech & Chong’s Next Movie (‘80); Born in East L.A. (‘87)
Comedy Singles: Santa Claus And His Old Lady (‘71); Sister Mary Elephant (‘73); Earache My Eye (‘74); Born In East L.A. (‘85)

Recent TV appearances
Tommy Chong: That ‘70s Show; South Park, MADtv
Cheech Marin: Lost, Judging Amy, Grey’s Anatomy, Celebrity Jeopardy!