High Times Greats: Cheech and Chong

Just a casual chat with your everyday, down-to-earth objects of worship.
High Times Greats: Cheech and Chong
Cheech and Chong by Tony Costa

Cheech and Chong’s self-titled debut comedy album was first released this month back in 1971. In this scintillating interview with Ed Dwyer from the August, 1980 issue of High Times magazine, Cheech and Chong elucidate on everything from Montezuma’s Revenge to how poor they used to be.

Who was that sinister, torpedolike figure seen herding Richard “Cheech” Marin and Tommy Chong into a glossy, opium-black limousine on fashionable Sepulveda Boulevard? Stunned onlookers, witnessing the evident abduction, set all Tinsel Town abuzz with rumors. Was it a Mexico City publishing firm’s hit man, contracted to bump off the hypercreative twosome for appropriating the traditional Latin American photonovella format for their new book, Cheech and Chong’s Next Movie, based on their new Universal movie of the same name? Was it possibly the person to whom the title of their new Warner Brothers comedy album, Let’s Make a New Dope Deal, was originally addressed, before the dope in question got hijacked between Oaxaca and Marin County? Or was it one of the Killers, who performed the Mark Davis music for the Next Movie soundtrack album, reverting to type? Traffic stopped all along the street of dreams as the ominous limo sped away, carrying the fabled zonk-comedy duo off to who knew where? The river? The ocean? Forest Lawn? Philadelphia?

At last it can be revealed: none of the above! Actually it was former High Times editor Ed Dwyer (currently starring high on the masthead at glamorous Oui magazine), just taking his old pals Cheech and Chong out for a few joints and a raft of tacos. They bullshitted about old times, like in ’71 when Tommy was running a topless burlesque joint in Vancouver, and Cheech came in one day by way of evading the U.S. draft and chasing some pussy, and it’s been uphill ever since. Sometime in the middle of it all, Dwyer remembered to switch on the tape recorder, and when we played it back, this is what it said to us.

High Times: Cheech and Chong’s Next Movie hits the theaters this month. Your second movie already. The burning question now on the lips of millions of Cheech and Chong fans…the thousands who got high and went to your live shows, who got high and listened to your albums…the millions who get high now and go to your movies—What we all want to know now is—what the hell are you doing in Hollywood? Did you financially sell out on us, you sly fuckers?

Chong: Absolutely. Total corruption.

Cheech: Next question? We’re in a rush, we gotta go audition 600 blond bathing beauties from central casting for the big Sodom and Gomorrah scene in our next flick.

High Times: Your next flick’s a Biblical epic?

Chong: Fuck knows, man. So far we just know it’ll have plenty of drugs, loud rock music and beautiful women.

Cheech: And a message. Real deep, heavy social-comment message. It’ll be in there somewhere.

High Times: But you can’t give us a hint what it’s about?

Chong: No, see, we won’t know ourselves until we’re done with it. Like the last flick, Up In Smoke, the one we did with Paramount, we wound up improvising most of it right on the set. We had to.

High Times: You guys don’t go in with a script when you do a movie?

Cheech: Do you go in with a script when you get laid? I mean, suppose the script you go in with calls for lots of cocaine and a rubber duck and a Ping-Pong paddle, and then when you get down with the lady you both just feel like a six-pack and a shower stall? Same thing with movies exactly.

Chong: Yeah, we made that mistake with our first movie; we went in with a whole script. And the studio biggies said change this, fuck that, do some other damn thing. So we rewrote the script and made it better, and they loved it.

Cheech: Then when we went in to make the movie we just said fuck it, burn the script. And we just shot what we felt like doing, and now we’re big Hollywood stars.

High Times: So, are you trying to tell us that you hang out now with other big stars like Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman?

Cheech: Not if they can avoid us.

Chong: Being a star, it’s funny. We go to parties and stuff and there’ll be people there like Ringo Starr, Avery Schreiber and us. Everybody kind of waves and raps a little—but nobody goes out of their way, you know, to really meet each other, get it on big. Everybody’s at the same level, everyone’s respecting other people’s privacy and guarding their own. It’s kinda nice, no horseshit at all in it.

Cheech: The fact is, maybe you don’t want to really get to know a lot of these people. They’re your stars, you’ve seen them do great stuff, you expect them to be like that in person. And then you meet some guy you’ve always thought was great shit, because you admire his work—and he turns out to be a whole bundle of insecurities, and he’s nervous as hell. Or maybe it’s somebody like Jane Fonda or Bo Derek, and when you get up close she’s got halitosis. Jeez, do you want that to happen to your fantasies?

High Times: So you’re not star struck, huh?

Chong: I’m in love with the town. I’ve been in love with Hollywood since I was a little kid, you know, growing up in Canada and watching every movie that came to town. And now I’m here, and it’s a real place. There really is a Pine Street, Grauman’s Chinese Theater, Musso Frank’s. Every time we go to the Brown Derby it’s like being a part of most other people’s fantasy and nostalgia trips.

Cheech: The Brown Derby, yeah. This is where those old actors used to get drunk and throw up all over the tables, and here we are. It’s our element, man. Hollywood: party city.

Chong: More than a town it’s like a big collection of restaurants, hangout spots. You just drive from restaurant to restaurant and hang out, party till you’re sick. And they’re always changing. The cook in your favorite joint quits and starts his own place, so you shift over and hang out there for a while. Then his cook quits, starts his place, and there you go. That’s heaven.

High Times: Must be fun having piles of money, you sly fuckers.

Chong: Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it, man. I enjoy what I’m doing now, I mean, I really look forward to it. This morning I was on the freeway in my Corniche with the top down, going to the studio to meet with the vice-president. I was supposed to meet him yesterday, but I put it off till today when I don’t have anything better to do. And I felt pretty fucking good about the whole thing, you dig?

High Times: It’s true then, you sly fuckers. Success has spoiled Cheech and Chong.

Cheech: Hey, it’s good for you, keeps you on your toes. It’s a lot like dope dealing. I was reading in High Times about this big grass dealer, he had just suitcases full of dollar bills and didn’t know what to do with them. Because how do you spend like a hundred grand without being conspicuous about it? In show biz it’s even more awkward. When you make it, you got millions and everybody in the world knows about it. And if you don’t keep on top of it, there are a lot of crafty mothers out there who can take it off you so quick it’ll make your head spin.

High Times: What are you guys worth all together? Bottom line figure.

Cheech: Well, let’s work it out. What’s a movie budget, five million? Takes two months to shoot and then maybe four months to wrangle it all out—six months, tops. Five million for six months, that’s, um, two and a half into…

Chong: A little less than a million a month. Thirty days into that is around $300,000 a day, eight hours a day is 16 into $300,000… Hell, we pull down something like $20,000 an hour. Divide that by 60, it’s—hey, wait a minute—that’s only $3,000.

Cheech: Three lousy grand a minute? Shit, that’s 50 fucking dollars a second! Stone ripoff, man. What can you do with a lousy 50 dollars these days? We’re getting burned, Tommy.

High Times: I take it you’re not nostalgic for the days when you were broke and struggling.

Chong: Listen, I can have the old days back any time I want them. I was born poor, grew up poor, and you can get off on that, too. Like, I was living in Seattle once with a girl who was on welfare. She had like four, five kids. And just nearly every single night we’d get stoned and go and party the hell out of the whole neighborhood. Every night was party night because there was nobody who had to get up to go to work in the morning. The children were being fed, and everybody was just having a great time.

Cheech: A lot of rich people really get fucked up behind it, too. I mean, I’ve been to parties full of rich people who were so fucking closed up and scared of being real—because they think they’re gonna get ripped off for bread if they open up and give themselves away—that, fuck, you really wanted to dose the punch with Ex-Lax, so maybe it’d get them to walking around and talking to each other.

High Times: You’re pushing Ex-Lax now, Cheech?

Cheech: No, but Tommy smuggles marijuana. He moves it into Mexico.

High Times: You move grass into Mexico?

Chong: It was just those Hawaiian buds you gave us to get this interview. I rolled ’em in a sock and took ’em down and did just a little every day we were in Puerto Vallarta. Hawaiian dope, Mexican sunsets—it was a real Technicolor, Cinemascope week, great week. And then on the way back this Customs guy recognizes us, Cheech and Chong, the dope celebrities, and he gets all wise-ass and smirking. “I really should go through your stuff, y’know.” And I tell him, “It’s cool, we’re clean in this direction. We’ve got a new scam, we smuggle it in. And he cracked up. He thought it was a fucking joke.

Cheech: There was a heavy nosh factor in those buds, man. I ate like a fucking pig. But that’s the great thing about Mexico, you can eat all you want because sooner or later you’re going to get that special disease. Then you go on the Mexican diet. It’s like a law of nature, a territorial imperative: Whatever you eat in Mexico, gringo, you are going to leave there. Guacamole, mangoes, chili, tacos, chuchufritos—eat yourself silly and don’t worry, because the Mexican diet will definitely take care of it. Beats hell out of the Scarsdale diet.

Chong: And on those Hawaiian buds, even that part was okay. I mean it wasn’t no fucking picnic, but it was nicer than usual. Those Hawaiian growers know their shit, they really do.

High Times: Would you say this Hawaiian’s the best of the new domestic stuff? How do you think it compares with like Humboldt County second-generation, Thai sinse or Haze Brothers Purple Haze?

Cheech: That’s your show biz, man, not ours. We don’t discriminate about dope. If it gets you off it’s good, and it always gets us off.

Chong: The best dope in the whole world is what you’ve got on you, any time you’ve got some. If there’s just a few skinny little joints of green backyard homegrown around, and you haven’t had any dope in a week, and you can’t afford to eat and you can’t pay the rent, then that homegrown is the best fucking dope in the whole world. You get up on it, and you score a Twinkie, and that’s the best fucking Twinkie in the world.

Cheech: Oh, then there’s that little green bush you grow yourself, and you tease it and trim it, spoil the hell out of it and coax it up to two feet, then three feet, five feet—and then it’s just starting to bud out a little, just beginning to get all sexy, and blam! there’s a fucking early frost and it dies and you lose a whole growing cycle and have to start all over again. But finally you get a good big green healthy bush with buds all over, enough for you to smoke all year and still have plenty to give your friends. Now, that there is awful good dope.

Chong: No, no, wait. There’s even better dope than that, man. It’s when you’re flat out, your neighborhood dealer’s being held hostage in Bogota or something, and you ain’t got no fucking dope, you don’t know where to get no fucking dope, and you run into some guy on the street and he hands you a joint for nothing. There’s just no way you can ever get better dope than that. Not ever.

High Times: Okay, you sly fuckers, you passed the litmus test. This whole interview was just a lead-up to that last question, to test if you really had been spoiled by success. But you answered it just like you would’ve a year ago, so now you get a reward. It just so happens, in the glove compartment of this Rolls we got a prerolled lid of Shungnak Thunderfuck, grown by Eskimos up north of the Arctic Circle. Hey Julio, pull in at die next taco stand and order us all a raft of everything they got. It’s party time.

Chong: That really is the best part about being rich. There never isn’t any dope around.

Cheech: About the best part of being famous is, there’s always people around like Dwyer who want to give you dope.

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