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Dazed and Confused… Cheech & Chong!

Culture | September 28, 2017

In 1967 at the age of 21, after graduating from California State University with a writing degree, and during the uproar surrounding the Vietnam War, Richard “Cheech” Marin, fled the United States to avoid the draft into the United States Armed Forces. He ended up in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, where he landed a job as a record reviewer with a Canadian music magazine, putting his writing degree to use. Although he was writing for the magazine, he knew deep down that music and entertainment was not only in his soul but would also be his destiny. During the course of his job at the magazine, Cheech Marin, was introduced to musician, Thomas “Tommy” Chong, which was the start of an epic friendship and an infamous career.  

Canadian, Tommy Chong, started out in the 1960’s as a rock and roll musician touring with Bobby Taylor & the Vancouvers. That, after he dropped out of high school at the age of 16. He later put together a racy comedy team, City Works Improvisational Group, which Cheech Marin eventually joined. They were hoping to be discovered, mainly for their humor but also for their musical talent. In an effort to draw customers in, the club also showcased topless, female dancers. Their hope was that people (men) would be attracted by the nudity and stay for the comedy and music. The target audience was the young, counterculture, hippy generation so marijuana and other recreational drugs were popular and free-flowing at the time. Sex, drugs and rock and roll… it was good while it lasted. After City Works Improvisational Group fizzled out, Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong continued on in the entertainment business as a duo, calling themselves Cheech & Chong; and the rest is history! 

Cheech & Chong were a well-known entertainment duo, beginning in the early 1970’s. They set out hoping to break into the music world. While they did entertain their audiences, their musical ability turned out to be secondary to their comic banter. While some people were offended by the raunchy stand-up humor, the duo was very popular with the 1970’s happy-go-lucky hippies. They portrayed the epitome of what the conservative population desperately feared, which was everything your mother warned you about! Among other things, they were known for using and promoting mind altering drugs, protesting the war and “the establishment” not to mention extreme and free sexuality! It was a conformist nightmare!

Early on, Cheech & Chong were well known for their stand-up comedy routines. They played up to the current interests of the young, hip crowd and were always portrayed as being stoned out of their minds and surrounded by a cloud of smoke. Of course, in the sketches, the mind-altering drugs would affect their ability to reason and make good sense and good decisions, which made for some very funny dialogues that hit home with the non-conformists. Cheech & Chong were hilarious and related to their fans in a real way! During this era, many young people were looking for a way to forget about all about the hate in the world, the Vietnam War and just wanted to unwind and enjoy life. This same group of people were part of the counterculture population who wanted to steer clear of the social norm. They wanted to march to the beat of their own drum. One thing you could always count on was that Cheech & Chong would entertain by presenting their material with no filter, being wasted, inappropriate and always right on target!

Some of the comedy duo’s best-known comedy routines and songs include "Earache My Eye," "Basketball Jones,” "Santa Claus and His Old Lady," and "Sister Mary Elephant,” not to mention what is quite possibly the line they are most famous for, “Dave’s not here,” from their Cheech & Chong Album. If you have ever listened to this sketch, well… enough said!

Unfortunately, for those of us who enjoyed them, Cheech & Chong, as we knew them, faded from popularity after the bummer, “just say no,” era caught on. Fewer and fewer audiences were appreciating their style of humor but that didn’t keep them out of the entertainment field. They both pursued recording/musical careers as well as dabbling in acting.

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Rebeka Knott

Writer

Rebeka grew up in the 1960’s & 1970’s and has always subscribed to the theory that a positive attitude will take you far! She is a wife and mother of 3 with a fun-loving spirit, believing that family and relationships are invaluable.