From Cheech and Chong to George Carlin, comedians have openly experimented with cannabis for eons. As a comedian myself, I find that cannabis shifts my perspective by transforming mundane day-to-day activities into more colorful experiences. For me, it’s easier to see the peculiarities and ridiculousness that life brings after I smoke. If you want to make people laugh, you have to know how to laugh yourself. And with so much chaos and technological stimulation, sometimes it can be hard to see the humor in life. But weed makes it easier. That’s why I took a dive into the lives of comedians to gain a better understanding of the inherent connection between cannabis and comedians, and the role the plant plays within the comedy community.
Who else is more fit than quintessential cannabis comedian, Doug Benson? From his show Getting Doug With High to his documentary Super High Me, Benson’s been a major cannabis advocate and has deeply contributed to the destigmatization of cannabis. But the herb didn’t become a part of his repertoire until later in life.
“I was a late bloomer, not getting into cannabis until I was 28-years-old,” says Benson. “Other comics on the road turned me onto it. And after a few years of smoking whenever it was available, I started buying my own cannabis, talking about it on stage, and then, eventually, I’d get high before going on stage. Cannabis helps me to access my silly side, so I like to write and perform when high. And pretty much everything else I do is under the influence of cannabis.”
Benson’s view on the role of marijuana within the realm of comedy is unique because he’s been able to weave it into his creative identity in a way that’s genuine to who he is as a performer and human being. I asked Doug why he thought so many comics consumed cannabis, and he says that, essentially, they have the most fitting schedules for it.
“We’ve got the time for it,” he says. “We can get high all day because we work at night, then we can get high all night because we don’t have to get up in the morning unless we have to catch a flight, or do morning radio or tv. But I can do those things high, too!”
And if you’ve ever seen his stand-up (or Getting Doug with High) you’d know he’s a master at getting high and doing his job– a lifestyle many would consider a dream. When it comes to a crowd he’s performing in front of, however, he prefers them to be in the sweet spot: not too high nor too stoned. “The drunk audience is too loud and yell-y,” he says. “The high audience is more polite but can get a little too quiet. I think the perfect level of F-ed up for an audience member is to arrive high and have just one or two drinks. I like to assume that’s what most of my fans do.”
When it comes to consuming cannabis, Benson’s a versatile guy. His favorite method of consumption is taking bong rips. “[They] get me where I want to be the quickest,” he says. When that’s not available, he enjoys puffing blunts–but ones without tobacco (take note, people!)
“That’s gross,” he says. “I’ve never smoked cigarettes or cigars.”
Benson doesn’t discriminate, though. He loves weed in its many forms. “I love that there are so many ways to consume cannabis!”
He says he enjoys dabbing if he’s going to sleep soon after, while vape pens are nice when you’re in places where smoking is prohibited (which comes in especially handy when you’re on the road and visiting places, like Texas). Edibles, Benson explains, are ideal for plane trips–just as long as you don’t sit in an emergency row. “If the aircraft goes down,” he says, “you don’t want to be high and responsible for logistics.”
Jesus Trejo is fairly new to cannabis and tends to gravitate towards CBD dominant strains, like Harlequin. Trejo prefers to minimize the effects of THC and finds that strains heavier in CBD put him in a happy mood with less paranoia and intoxication.
“For the longest time I stood clear of marijuana, but with time and research, I was able to find strains that help me instead of intoxicating me,” Trejo says. “CBD brings a level of focus and non-judgment to my train of thought as I convert premises to jokes. I try not to go on stage medicated because my performance is adversely affected when I’m under the influence. I move around a lot on stage, and if I smoke beforehand, it usually doesn’t go too well.”
Trejo says he prefers performing in front of a high audience rather than a drunk audience for a number of reasons.
“The major difference between performing for a drunk audience versus a high audience is the attention span, for sure!” he says. “With a drunk audience, you’re dealing with amplified versions of people’s personalities whereas with a medicated audience, you’ll find they follow the narrative of the jokes more but the laughs maybe a little delayed, but they are listening. Listening is a big part of stand up, which is why I’ll take a high audience over a drunk one any day.”
When asked why he thinks comedy and cannabis go hand in hand, Trejo, offered some useful insight regarding some of the struggles comedians face.
“I think a lot of comedians flock to cannabis because of its wide array of benefits including: medical reasons, a creativity boost, relaxation, or simply for the good o’ hangout,” he says.
But he also notes the social effects of the plant as another reason it’s used by so many comics.
“Cannabis has the tendency to bring people together, especially within the comedy community,” he says. “Comedians love hanging out with each other after shows, giving each other joke tags, recounting a good night of comedy, or just roasting one another over some good o’ puff, puff pass!”
Trejo makes a valid point: so much of being a comedian involves being a member of a larger community of comics. And there’s truly nothing more fun than smoking weed with some of the most intelligent and highly entertaining people in the world.
Ms. Jessimae Peluso
Jessimae Peluso (MTV, Sharp Tongue Podcast) also turns to marijuana to unlock her silly side and jump-start her creativity. “Cannabis is my favorite ingredient for creativity!” she passionately exclaims. “It shuts out the negative narrative in my mind and allows the fun goofball some stage time. I can smoke and write but I cannot smoke and perform. I’d get too distracted by some lady’s furry jacket, and I’d probably stop doing comedy and start petting the jacket.”
When asked why she thinks comedians consume weed, Peluso says that it’s a way in which comedians–and people, in general– experience relief from life’s pains. “Most of my comedian friends have severely traumatic pasts,” she says. “A few of those people also suffer from addiction. I think cannabis provides some reprieve from the pain and allows the mind some calm in order to create without the side effects of pharmaceuticals or narcotics”.
In terms of consumption preference, Peluso is a flower-power love child. “I’m an old soul and old school lady who loves flower,” she says. “I recently smoked sun grown Strawberry Cough from Humboldt Farms. [It was] DEE-LISH-US! [I] love a nice j[oint], or a cute little-packed bowl. One of my favorite new ways to [get stoned in the morning] is with my Wake & Bake mug! You can simultaneously drink coffee and smoke kush.”
Rachel Wolfson, better known as ‘Wolfie,’ has been smoking since she was 19-years-old and is known for her cannabis-driven weed memes @wolfiememes. Wolfie explains that weed and comedy are compatible because, in essence, it gives comics the ability–and relief–to pursue their art.
“Comedy and cannabis go hand-in-hand,” she says. “It’s a substance comedians just gravitate toward naturally. I think the reason so many comedians consume cannabis is because a lot of us have anxiety, trouble sleeping, mental health issues, or just enjoy smoking weed”.
For Wolfie, cannabis is an integral part of the creative process– and sometimes a part of her performances. “ I think it helps with my writing,” she says, “and depending on the show, I think it helps with my performances. Some shows I don’t prefer to smoke right before because I think it affects my energy since I’m already low energy. However, if it’s a weed show, I’ll probably smoke like eight blunts before and one right on stage.”
The connection between cannabis, comedy, and creativity is so evident it’s tangible. Whether comics use the plant regularly, recreationally, or medicinally, one thing is certain: we aren’t going to stop using it anytime soon.