Actor-comedian-musician Tommy Chong was born in Edmonton, raised in Calgary and moved to Vancouver to pursue a career in music.
That’s where he met Cheech Marin, a draft dodger from Southern California. As Cheech and Chong, the pair found a cult following for a stand-up routine that poked fun at the counter culture. They went on to release best-selling comedy albums and star in a series of films, starting with the 1978 stoner classic, Up In Smoke. Now 78, Chong was at home in Los Angeles when he spoke to the Citizen’s Lynn Saxberg.
Q: You’re making a solo appearance in Ottawa this week. Is that a new thing for you?
A: Cheech and I broke up in ‘84, but actually I didn’t start doing my solo show until ‘91, the same week that Rodney King got his ass whupped. I remember being on stage by myself when that happened. I did a solo show from ‘91 to when I went to jail in ‘03. My wife and I do a show, too, but this will be strictly solo. It has been a while. I just love being on stage talking about me. No music this time, just comedy and a little spiritual insight.
Q: What’s up with Cheech? Do you still perform together?
A: We’ve been going out doing casinos mostly. But we’re working on a reality TV show with weed. Cheech will be involved somewhat, but it’s going to be a Tommy Chong thing.
Q: You went to jail in ’03 for for selling paraphernalia over the Internet. Were you able to get a pardon?
A: Cheech had a meeting this year with Obama about another thing, and Obama said that he would definitely give me a pardon. But to do the paperwork, I have to hire all these lawyers. It’s not worth it. I’m not going to go out of pocket for something that should be given to me so I’m just going to wait it out.
Q: What do you think of the new president?
A: I love him. I gotta tell you the truth. I had a great epiphany. I was really against him right up until he won, and then I had to change my thinking when he gave his acceptance speech. When he said that he was going to rebuild the infrastructure, to me it made all the sense in the world because he’s a builder. He’s a developer. And what better person to have in the White House than a guy who’s going to remodel the country?