Cheech Marin on Cheech & Chong: "We Couldn't Be Censored"

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Cheech Marin began our telephone conversation with a loud, sustained yawn. At the moment it took me off guard, but as I kept replaying the interview to type up the transcript the yawn became funnier and funnier each time. That shouldn't be a surprise. Cheech is a man who knows how to make people laugh. It's why he was cast as Hurley's Dad in Lost. It's why they use his voice for characters in animated films like the Lion King and Cars. It's why director Robert Rodriguez has him in nearly every movie he shoots.

But Cheech has always been his funniest when paired with Tommy Chong. If Cheech & Chong did not invent the idea of stoner comedy, they clearly perfected it. Combining absurdity with hedonism in their nine classic comedy albums and a series of feature films highlighted by Up In Smoke, they set the blueprint for all other drug humor to follow. Reuniting with Tommy Chong for what's being billed as their first comedy tour in over 25 years that hits Hard Rock Live December 15, to fundraise for Broward House, South Florida's "oldest and largest HIV/AIDS Community Service organization." Cheech Marin took a moment to speak with the New Times about Frank Zappa, singing on stage, and The Ed Sullivan Show.

New Times: This is your first tour with Tommy Chong in over 25 years. What can you tell us about the new show?
Cheech Marin: We're doing a lot of things we haven't done on stage before material wise and a lot of singing. A lot of music and we answer a lot of questions from the audience about things they are dying to know.

Music has always been a big influence to your comedy. Is it true you once auditioned for Frank Zappa?
Yeah, I did. Right before I left for Canada. I met him at a concert and he was putting together a satirical band, but I left the country the next day so I don't know if I got it or not.

Who are some of your other musical influences?
Definitely Frank Zappa. I grew up with R&B, so just about everyone who sang R&B.

And who were your comedy influences when you and Tommy started back in the day?
In the day? I always liked Lenny Bruce. Redd Foxx. Anybody I saw on The Ed Sullivan Show. I watched it religiously and he had all the comics.

By the same token you've been a huge influence for other comedians.
That's nice, huh?

It must be. Who's come up to you and told you, you were an influence?
God, everybody you can think of. Every comedian going whether they're with their kids or by themselves.

Your comedy is wild, have you ever been asked to tame it down or had it censored?

That was the whole point of our act was we couldn't be censored (laughter). We were kind of benign rebels, so we didn't get in too much trouble. I always expected to get in more, but we never did.

Speaking of trouble, you talked about going to Canada earlier. I read it was to avoid the draft. Were there any consequences for that?
I was there for three years. The consequences were I met Tommy Chong and we became Cheech & Chong (laughter).

Another of your partnerships I've enjoyed is your acting in eight of director Robert Rodriguez's movies (Spy Kids, Machete). When's your next movie together?
I'm waiting for him to call.

Broward House presents Cheech & Chong. 7 p.m., December 15, at Hard Rock Live, One Seminole Way, Hollywood. Tickets cost $49 to $104 plus fees. Visit hardrocklivehollywoodfl.com.

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Hard Rock Live

1 Seminole Way, Hollywood, FL

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