The self-proclaimed Pope of Dope is coming home.
Comedic icon and former Vancouver resident Tommy Chong will be in Coquitlam this weekend alongside long-time partner Cheech Marin, as the pair reprise their roles as some of the most recognizable faces in comedy over the last 40 years.
The Cheech and Chong show rolls into Coquitlam's Red Robinson Theatre on Saturday, Sept. 21, in a show that's billed as equal parts music, sketch comedy and standup.
“Cheech and I have both been talking about retiring and just playing golf, but the minute we said that, we started working like crazy,” he said. “There's something about the word retirement where all of a sudden gigs are coming out of the woodwork.”
Now 75, Chong riffed on a series of topics in a wide-ranging interview with the Tri-Cities NOW, covering aspects of work, wisdom and of course, weed.
The Edmonton-born comic remains an unabashed proponent of pot, and even claims that habitual marijuana use - along with specific dietary requirements and spirituality - helped him kick colon cancer just one year after his initial diagnosis.
It's a trend that Chong foresees sweeping the globe within his lifetime, as he predicts full-spread decriminalization will take root across North America before U.S. president Barack Obama leaves office.
“It's like an avalanche and it's just started ... in a year or two years it's going to be totally legal and it will be exalted. It's going to be held up as a major cure,” Chong said. “I see it saving the world, and it will be totally legal right across the world.”
Getting to this Saturday's show seemed like a pipe dream a decade ago - Chong was imprisoned for his involvement in a pipe-selling business and he hadn't performed alongside Cheech in 25 years.
The pair had split in 1985 after a string of hit films and albums - most notably 1978's cult classic Up in Smoke - in what was considered a devastating hit to Chong at the time. While Cheech reinvented himself as an actor in TV and film, Chong could have been viewed as a one-toke wonder.
But in hindsight, going their own ways helped Chong hone his standup chops.
That he landed a recurring role on That '70s Show only helped introduce Chong to a new generation of fans before the pair reunited in 2008.
“We've always had great timing. Our longevity is mostly because of Cheech, because he knew the right time to quit the group and go on his own,” Chong said. “Then when the time was right, 30 years later, we got back together again. It's like we were never apart, but yet, we never wore out our welcome.”
Chong was initially welcomed onto the entertainment scene in the early 1960s, at which point he had moved from Alberta to Vancouver to pursue music alongside his band Bobby Taylor & the Vancouvers. During the group's brief run in the mid 60s, the Vancouvers scored a handful of hits and even performed alongside guitar legend Jimi Hendrix - who sat in on bass - at a tour stop in London.
“Vancouver had such an exciting nightlife compared to Calgary. The first year we were in Vancouver I don't think we saw the sun once,” Chong joked. “We were like vampires, and we just came out a night. We loved it. It was like a magical dream life: play music, hang out and have a lot of fun.”
Fast-forward to the early 70s and the group relocated to California, a central hub that served as the launching point for nine albums and eight movies in just over a decade.
Up in Smoke, arguably their most revered film, has gone on to earn more than $100 million alone.
That success is only amplified whenever Chong heads north of the 49th parallel.
“Because I was so poor when I lived in Canada, every time I come up there I feel like I cheated everything - I can't get over it, I really can't [get] over my success,” Chong said.
“That's why I'm really friendly with fans. I still can't believe a Calgary kid has made it this far.”
Cheech and Chong perform this Saturday, Sept. 21 at the Red Robinson Theatre, with the show kicking off at 8 p.m. Tickets range in price between $60 and $75. See www.ticketmaster.ca for more info.
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