Jul 24, 2014

Cheech and Chong: The Original Stoner Couple

Comedy duo Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong were the original stoners: their comedy albums were about the "hilarious" things people say while high, and their movies were about the "hilarious" hijinks people get into during their quest for drugs.

I was an undergraduate at Augustana (1978-82) during the Cheech and Chong heyday. My brother had all of their albums.  Augie guys couldn't stop quoting from their movies, Up in Smoke (1978), Cheech and Chong's Next Movie (1980), and Nice Dreams (1981). 

Two more followed -- Still Smokin' (1983) and The Corsican Brothers (1986) -- but the War on Drugs had made drug use suspect -- even lovable stoner drug use -- and the duo soon split up.

I never made it through any of their movies.  They were predicated on gay panic and homophobic stereotypes.  Check out Cheech's near-assault by two swishy gay predators in Still Smokin' -- it's nearly enough to outrank Chuck and Buck as the most homophobic movie of all time.

But to be fair, it's hard to find a comedy during the period that didn't include gay panic jokes and homophobic stereotypes.

And you have to admit, these guys were hot.  Cheech Marin, especially, knew how to flex a bicep.  He -- or his stunt double -- even has a frontal nude scene in Nice Dreams.

Have they redeemed themselves since the 1980s?

Cheech has had a long career in movies and tv series, playing mostly stereotypic Hispanic characters.  I liked Born in East L.A. (1987), about a Mexican-American guy who is mistaken for an illegal alien and deported.  Although he falls in love with a woman, he bonds with several guys along the way.

And The Shrimp on the Barbie (1990), about a Mexican immigrant in Australia who is hired by a heiress to pretend to be her boyfriend and -- get this -- does not fall in love with her!  At least, I don't remember any hetero-romance.

Cheech also starred in Nash Bridges (1996-2001), as Inspector Joe Dominguez, sidekick to Bridges, who was played by the gay-positive Don Johnson.  They had a gay secretary, Pepe (Patrick Fischler), and if I recall properly, they went undercover as a gay couple in one episode.

He played a gay character in an episode of The George Lopez Show: George believes that he has found his father, and shows up at the home of Lalo (Cheech), who is gay, and living with his partner, Charles (John Michael Higgins).

Tommy Chong hasn't done quite as much.  He is best known as the aging stoner Leo on That 70s Show.

Recently the two have reunited for some video shorts, and for the animated feature Cheech and Chong: The Animated Movie (2013).  Their mascot is a crab (pubic hair lice) named Buster (the same joke was used in the gay comic Poppers back in the 1980s).