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The Chong Show

You might imagine that at a show called The Marijuana-Logues, the theater would be blanketed in a fog of pot smoke. But, alas, New York City’s draconian smoking laws make such a scene impossible. Nevertheless, the majority of the crowd packed into the Actors’ Playhouse in the West Village for a sold-out show back in December were most assuredly high. Perhaps they’d snuck a few stealthy joint tokes after work on their way to the theater, or perhaps—if they were hard-core, like the staff of High Times—they’d chomped down a few ganja-chip cookies prior to the performance. Regardless, a sea of red, misty eyes adjusted to the dimming lights that evening as a disembodied voice announced:

“Ladies and gentlemen . . . tonight the role of Tommy Chong will be played by Tommy Chong the actor, not Tommy Chong the parolee.” With that, stoner stand-ups Doug Benson and Tony Camin made their entrance, followed by the inimitable Mr. Chong, who moseyed onstage to a rousing ovation.

For those who don’t know, Chong had previously served nine months in prison for selling paraphernalia online after being busted as part of the DEA’s ominous Operation Pipe Dreams. On the evening of his release, he appeared on The Tonight Show to announce not only that he and Cheech Marin would soon reunite for another film, but also that he would be joining the cast of The Marijuana-Logues for a three-month tour. The show I was about to see was part of a two-week run of previews in preparation for the tour. High Times had a small, reserved section near the front of the playhouse. Knowing what a huge Cheech and Chong fan he was, I invited my boss at Sirius—Hard Attack’s metal manager, Jose Mangin—and his wife, Melissa, to come along.

The show was great; some of the bits had me laughing so hard I couldn’t breathe, particularly when Benson started mouthing off to an imaginary hotel maid. Tommy was his usual jovial self but wasn’t fully familiar with the script yet. He stumbled over a couple of cues but handled the missteps with such Gleasonesque brilliance that none of us could tell whether or not it was an intentional part of the show. After all, where stoner humor is concerned, sometimes forgetting the punch line is the punch line.

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