It’s been 40 years since their heyday, but Cheech and Chong still know how to get laughs from an audience.
The stoner comics, helped no doubt by a crowd that might have experimented with a little homegrown themselves before the show, delivered a nostalgic counterculture walk down memory lane for anyone who came of age in the 1970s and ‘80s.
They were the comedic duo that parents loved to hate and teens and twenty-somethings loved to emulate, their skits and songs repeated word for word in smoke-filled basements around the world.
On Monday, the Thunder Bay Community Auditorium packed almost to the rafters, Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong rolled through a collection of their favourite songs and routines, characters we all knew and loved growing up.
The 67-year-old Marin even worked a little local knowledge into the show, poking fun at a Thunder Bay icon early in the show.
“There are so many guys here that look like Paul Shaffer. What’s the matter, don’t you guys sell condoms?”
The two-hour show opened with a question-and-answer session, the questions collected earlier by Chong’s much younger wife Shelby, the opening act and host, from an audience comprised of college-age kids and couples who could have been their parents.
Why did they break up, one fan wanted to know.
“We got rich,” the 75-year-old Chong – that’s 120 in Keith Richards years – said about the duo’s acrimonious split.
Why did Chong join the cast of That ‘70s Show, where drug references were a weekly occurence?
“I felt I wouldn’t have to compromise my beliefs,” he deadpanned, noting he quickly realized none of the cast smoked up.
The duo also announced plans for an upcoming movie, Up in Smoke 2, their first full-length movie since 1984's The Corsican Brothers.
Most of their best routines were on display, and dated as they may be, they went over well.
“Dave’s not here, man,” an unseen Chong said to a nervous backpack-toting Cheech, banging on an invisible door in a skit made famous on their self-titled debut album.
Santa Claus and his Old Lady saw Chong attempt a punk-rock version of Silent Night, before Cheech explained to him the Latino origins of jolly old Saint Nick to his confused partner.
“I’m not from here,” Chong said, trying to explain his Christmas ignorance.
“Where you from?” Cheech asked.
“I’m from Upsala,” Chong said, mispronouncing the Northern Ontario town’s name. Cheech quickly corrected the faux pas.
Basketball Jones, Blind Melon Chitlin’ and Marin’s cross-dressing, tutu-wearing Alice Bowie made appearances. The pair also sang Does Your Mother Know About Me, a song Chong co-wrote and was made famous by Diana Ross and the Supremes.
Chong, a Canadian by birth, revelled in his roots, regaling the audience with his memories of growing up north of the border.
“Canadians call it like they see it,” he said, later noting his good fortune in life.
“I get stoned for a living. Can you imagine that?” he asked.
He also touched on his 2003 arrest and subsequent conviction for possession of drug paraphernalia that saw him spend nine months in a U.S. prison a decade ago.
The comedians finished on a high note, crooning Mexican Americans (the new U.S. anthem in a few months), Let’s Get it Legal (taking a shot at Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s drug stance) and, dressed in a Los Angeles Dodgers t-shirt, Cheech finished with his hit single parody, Born in East L.A.
The crowd poured into the Thunder Bay night, undoubtedly to descend on the nearest corner store to stock up on munchies.
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