Cheech and Chong light up casino
If you're a child of the 1970s or '80s with a disposition for the counterculture, chances are Cheech and Chong were the comedy team that caught your attention.
Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong flaunted their stoner/hippie routine to six gold comedy albums — and a Grammy Award — and starred in eight films, most of which Chong co-wrote and directed. The pair toured America and beyond to spread their comedic touch (and the gospel of marijuana) for 15 years until a breakup in 1985.
Marin continued with the acting profession, including a six-year gig as Inspector Joe Dominguez in the successful "Nash Bridges" television series from 1996-2001. Marin has also voiced characters in many animated films over the years.
In 2008, Cheech and Chong reunited, and have continued delighting North American audiences for the past decade. They'll visit Chinook Winds Casino in Lincoln City for a trio of concerts from April 26-28. A Sunday show was added after the first two sold out.
For more: www.chinookwindscasino.com.
The Portland Tribune caught up with Marin, 72, for an interview by phone from his home in Pacific Palisades, California:
Tribune: How much time have you spent in Oregon over the years?
Cheech: Quite a bit. We've played just about every place you could play in the state. I have relatives — of the millennial age — who are living outside of Portland. I like it up there.
Tribune: Your given name is Richard Anthony Marin. Does anybody call you Richard or Rich or anything but Cheech?
Cheech: That's what I have to use in court. My mother called me Richard when she was alive.
Tribune: You were a fraternity guy at Cal State Northridge, a member of Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity. How was that experience?
Cheech: That was great, man. We were a good fraternity. We partied, which is the point of it, right?
Tribune: What year did you and Tommy get hooked up as a comedy team?
Cheech: We met in 1970. He's Canadian. He was in Vancouver (British Columbia). He was always going to these nightclubs as a member of an improv troupe. I was in Canada making my way to Vancouver. A mutual friend introduced us. He said, "You guys should meet." I joined the troupe — first as a writer, then as a performer. When the troupe disbanded, Tommy and I stayed together. The rest is history.
Tribune: He was living in Vancouver and you'd moved there to avoid the draft during the Vietnam War?
Cheech: I was part of a draft resistence movement led by David Harris. I wasn't avoiding the draft; I was avoiding them legally drafting me. We were students at the time. It coincided with me going to Canada to be a potter, which I did professionally for a couple of years. I became interested in pottery my last year in college.
Tribune: You guys put out eight comedy albums from 1971-85. How much touring did you do together with your standup act through those years?
Cheech: Incessantly. One year we did 300 dates. We did like 250, 275 a year for seven or eight years. We were just always on the road.
Tribune: You've done a lot of acting, including on the big screen with movies like "Tin Cup," "Spy Kids" and "Born in East L.A." Is doing film the ultimate in acting?
Cheech: I like them all, I really do. I love TV, too. My time on "Nash Bridges" was some of my best work ever. Once in awhile I get these gigs even today. I just did "Lodge 49" on AMC. I played a narc. They loved me.
Tribune: After working on "Tin Cup," you took up golf. How good are you and how much do you play today?
Cheech: At one point, I was about an eight (handicap). I'm not that now because I'm older and don't have the length. I don't play much anymore, but I do like to go out there and get a couple of good whacks in every so often.
Tribune: Some people know you best as Inspector Joe Dominguez on "Nash Bridges." What was it like working with Don Johnson and in that role as a police detective?
Cheech: It's what I was born to do. My dad was LAPD for 30 years. I grew up around cops. All of his friends were cops. A couple of uncles were cops. I knew the pressures they struggled with. And the show was a comedy, which suited me. Working with Don was great. Not a cross word between us in six years. We supported each other, and away we went.
Tribune: You've also done a lot of voice work for animated features. How do you enjoy that?
Cheech: I was reinvented doing that after Tommy and I broke up. How do you do anything after Cheech and Chong? I started doing anything that didn't have a big joint in it. In 1988, I got called to work on "Oliver and Company" (voicing Tito the Chihuahua) and it started with that.
Tribune: You and Tommy disbanded in the mid-'80s, then got back together in the late 2000s. How much have you toured together since?
Cheech: A lot. It's what we do. We do a lot of dates. We're good. We love each other for the most part. As we get older, it gets easier.
Tribune: With so much of Cheech and Chong's shtick centered on the marijuana bit, how do you feel about the change in society in terms of acceptance of pot?
Cheech: It should be accepted. Come on, man. There are 100,000 more beneficial qualities than negative qualities. I would much rather have marijuana be legal than alcohol, but I'm receptive of alcohol, too.
Tribune: How often do you smoke pot nowadays?
Cheech: Only three or four ounces a day. I have a couple of friends over and they help. We have this program to help each other.
Tribune: What will your shows at Chinook Winds be like? Will they be comedy, music or what?
Cheech: A combination of acting, comedy, standup, a lot of music, a lot of playing. You'll like it. It will give you a panorama of our varied career.
Tribune: Might we see a "Dave's Not Here" routine?
Cheech: (Laughs) Maybe — in another context.