When I first that heard that Cheech and Chong would be performing Les Place des Arts I thought it was the plot to one of their wacky movies. Two potheads crash the Montreal Symphony Orchestra or maybe Les Grands Ballets Canadiens. Then I wondered if they were both still alive.
After some research, I learned that yes they were both still very much alive and that they were, in fact, coming to Montreal. Since Tommy Chong is 81 and Cheech Marin is 73, I realized that this could be my last chance to see them and I’ve always been a fan. Who isn’t a fan of Cheech & Chong?
These two stoners of satire have been around for over 50 years. They have 2.4 million followers on Instagram and almost 13 million fans on Facebook. I’m sure there are many more all over the world but they are probably too stoned or too old to be on social media. And thanks to Netflix, they have a whole new generation of fans. (My son discovered Cheech from Disney’s “Cars” and Chong on “That 70’s Show”.)
I honestly had no idea what to expect from this show, so when a hot blonde in a tight gold dress came out and started doing stand up I was a little confused. Introducing herself as Shelby Chong, she reminisced about her younger days, as an acid-dropping, pot-smoking hippie, growing up in California in the ’60s. When she told us that she has been married to Tommy for 35 years, the crowd began to cheer. (I googled her right away, she does not look 71. Maybe I need to smoke more weed.)
She then lovingly introduced her husband and his comedic partner and the legendary Cheech and Chong made their way onto the stage. It felt bizarre seeing them up close. I know that they are actors but it’s almost as if they are fictional characters. Even they looked surprised to be there.
They humbly introduced themselves, in case we didn’t know who was who. “Cheech like peach” and “Chong like bong.” The stage was bare except for two chairs and a Fender Telecaster resting on a stand. It was like watching two old friends, catching up, making fun of each other the way brothers do.
As though reading our minds they explained why they split and what they’ve been up to. Cheech listed all the films and television shows he’s been on in the last few decades. Chong simply stated, “I was in jail man”.
Nodding his head, Cheech added;
“We got rich”
And without missing a beat, Chong retorted
“You can’t make a rich Mexican do shit.”
Their first skit was the car scene from “Up In Smoke”. Released in 1978, it created the “Stoner Film” genre and paved the way for characters like “Bill and Ted”, “Jay and Silent Bob” and “Harold and Kumar.” Cheech and Chong both wrote and starred in the film. With a budget of only 2 million, it ended up grossing 44.4 million. And they are still laughing all the way to the bank.
They did tweak it a little, coining the term “Doober driver” where you get a ride and a Doobie.
Next was their sketch from their very first and self-titled album, released in 1971. Nominated for a Grammy and responsible for those three little words that have become synonymous with that state of chemically induced confusion.
“Dave’s Not Here”
(They did end up winning a Grammy in 1974 for best comedy album entitled “Los Cochinos”).
Cheech recreated his Alice Bowie character and sang “Earache My Eye” which was probably funnier to hear when it originally came out in 1974. Or like my son said maybe it’s funnier if you’re stoned.
He also did Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues” which was unexpected.
Tommy Chong’s “Blind Melon Chitlin” proved that he really was a great blues guitarist (now you know where Blind Melon got its name). In fact, he told us that he was in a Motown band called Bobby Taylor and the Vancouvers in the ’60s but he got fired for not having a green card.
He reminded us that he’s proud to be a Canadian and if he hadn’t returned back home, he would never have found Cheech. They met in Vancouver where Cheech had relocated to avoid getting drafted. So it all worked out.
The biggest surprise of the evening was when they sang a really sweet love song that was written by Tommy Chong and was originally recorded by his band Bobby Taylor and the Vancouvers.
“Does Your Mama Know About Me”
They ended the show with a medley of “Born in East L.A” and “Mexican Americans”. Shelby returned to the stage to salsa dance with her husband while Cheech sang. They all looked like they were having a blast. In case you didn’t know, amongst his many talents Chong is a fabulous dancer. (In 2014 at 76 years old he made it to fifth place on season 19 of dancing with the stars.)
I must admit that it was quite an unusual show but I really appreciated their honesty and personal reflections of their long and fascinating careers. When I walked into Place des Arts I was expecting two old men, reliving their youthful shenanigans and looking silly. What I left with was a new appreciation for these stoner shamans who make a hell of a lot of sense.
They are both living proof of the benefits of cannabis and I’m glad they’re still around to witness its legalization. Tommy Chong credits Hemp Oil and Cannabis for helping him beat cancer twice. So, if laughter is the best medicine then weed is the sugar that helps it go down.
“Cheech and I used to call ourselves musicians; we never called ourselves comedians. We were musicians that were funny.” – Tommy Chong
Review – Annette Aghazarian
Photos – Kieron Yates