An Interview with Richard ‘Cheech’ Marin (of Cheech and Chong)
Comprising one half of the famed ‘70s duo Cheech & Chong, Richard ‘Cheech’ Marin comes equally accomplished. From pot toking stoner to Don Johnson’s cop sidekick to playing Chicano priests in Robert Rodriquez movies, he’s done it all.
Having re-teamed with his old compadre, Tommy Chong, the two are performing once again, wafting their signature off-brand comedy throughout their aptly titled ‘Get It Legal’ tour across North America.
I recently had a chance to chat with Cheech, who cheerfully reflected on his storied career in film, television, and a two-time stint on Celebrity Jeopardy. “It’s as nervous as you’ll ever be in show business. At least for me, because you can really look like a dummy,” he said.
Modesty aside, the presumed pothead infamously outscored CNN anchor Anderson Cooper in an episode that attained viral popularity. In what he called a ‘shellacking,’ Cheech abridged the incident, and his bemused opponent, with playful brevity.
“It was nice. He’s a very nice guy,” he said. “He’s just a little slow, ya know?”
Talk inevitably shifted to his blunt-burning rise as a counter-culture comedian, forever paired with Tommy Chong. With them back on the road, I questioned their decision to reunite in 2012.
“You know, we still enjoy touring and playing in front of the folks and going to places we haven’t been for a little while, or maybe ever. It’s fun to get out there and be among the people because what I missed is being able to go from city to city and feel the pulse of the nation, or you know, the country, or North America, or wherever we are,” he said.
After a successful slew of records and films in the 1970s, Cheech parted ways with Chong in 1985, reflecting “we got sick of each other.” When referring to his kindred counterpart today, he proclaimed their reconciliation as “one of the easiest things I’ve ever done,” comparing it to riding a bicycle – “you don’t forget.”
In terms of comedy duos, he had some interesting, albeit experienced insight as well. He said, “You really have to actually get along, compromise and harmonize in a certain way, which we do automatically no matter whether we love each other, hate each other, never seen each other. As soon as we get together are two voices go together. I mean, it’s just one of those things, like the Everly Brothers or something.”
After their initial spilt, Cheech “concentrated on doing everything that didn’t have a big joint in it,” utilizing his put-on Chicano accent for more family friendly entertainment. “Ironically, the thing that really started busting me out in different areas was doing voices for Disney cartoons.”
After 1988’s Oliver & Company, Cheech found his way to television, spending six years on what he described as “one of the best times of my life” playing Inspector Joe Dominguez on Nash Bridges with former Miami Vice heartthrob, Don Johnson.
With Cheech currently starring in Rob Schneider’s new CBS sitcom Rob, I was curious to know if he still dabbled in the ‘herbal grass’ of his past. “Every once in a while. When you get older, ya know, the recovery period is a little bit longer.” He added, “It’s this past two, three generations choice of intoxicant. Aside from saying nothing is good for you, I think pot is much better than alcohol.” As he hails from Los Angeles, my final questions pertained to directing – something Cheech attempted with his underrated 1987 film, and subsequent music video, Born In East LA – comedically commenting on the plight of immigrants in America.
However, two years prior, auteur Martin Scorsese placed both Cheech & Chong in his nocturnal mind trip, After Hours, affording them an experience that was “very enlightening.” He concluded, “We went there and did our bit and he worked exactly like we did – very improvisationally. It was great in that we realized, here’s one of the biggest, world-class directors that there is, working exactly as we do. It was an inclination for us to think that ‘hey, we belong here in the big time.’”