Mar 28, 2021
NOTE: Original Video recording of this conversation lives on YouTube at the Baked and Awake Channel. Aired on 24 March 2021.
Welcome. Listeners of the podcast who have been with me any length of time will be to some degree aware of my reasons behind doing this podcast and some of the different sources of inspiration that I drew upon when coming up with the concept of Baked and Awake. However, at a moment like this I find myself reflecting upon such matters, especially as I prepare to bring you today’s episode.
I’m streaming live on youtube today, and bringing you all a very special guest, a bona fide celebrity, and in my opinion a man whose contributions to society will continue to be viewed as only growing in stature the longer he lives and continues to bring his unique comedy and social commentary to the world. Indeed, I’m just as confident that in the years and decades to come in the future, by his work and people’s memories- that the legacy of Tommy Chong and his life long artistic expression as one half of the legendary comedy duo Cheech and Chong- will be one that will stand tall and proud for devotees of the plant everywhere.
I say without hyperbole that Cheech and Chong’s “Loveable Stoner” characters were and remain crucially important Archetypes in breaking down and putting to rest the antiquated notions of Cannabis Users being dangerous, unhinged psychopaths in the making. During the early 1970’s as Cheech and Chong released their first comedy albums to a public who probably didn’t suspect what they were about to hear- America and The World largely still regarded Pot Smokers in such dangerous terms as I have described. The manic characterization put forth in 1936’s Reefer Madness had taken a firm hold in the imaginations of members of Straight Laced Society, and had by then been relentlessly drilled into the psyche’s of every young person growing up during the Post War baby boom era.
By lampooning themselves more honestly and rigorously than even their most ardent detractors, the Duo of Cheech and Chong in some ways snuck up on the world and made people love them despite their obvious passion for what many of them still thought of as “the Devil’s Lettuce”.
As Cheech and Chong slowly became first household names, later verbs (“Let’s go Cheech and Chong out back, man”), and finally- adjectives (“Are you Cheeched, or what?”), everyone who had ever been exposed to their comedy had been infected, in a way like a virus- but perhaps more accurately like a meme. They did this in what, looking back at it now, it still looks like it was a vacuum. Name a more iconic weed culture duo from the 70’s, 80’s, or 90’s- I’ll wait.
Cheech and Chong released their first album in 1971. I wasn’t born until 1974, so by the time I was old enough to understand WHO Cheech and Chong were, they were already so far past their initial rise in popularity that even as small kids who certainly had never even seen someone smoke anything other than a White Owl cigar- we nevertheless DID who Cheech and Chong were. As my generation grew up and eventually started to experiment with social drinking and finally smoking- we would, as if of one mind- perform credible sounding impressions of Chong’s Shaggy esque drawl, as well as Cheech marin’s Chicano bravado, quoting but much more often misquoting bits from their iconic movies as we would engage in the rituals of preparing to smoke, the act itself, and during the enjoyment of its effects.
At after work gatherings someone loudly calls through a closed apartment door the stoner mating call of “Dave’s not here,man!”, to any knocks, or jumping in the car after a session, and before taking off out of the spot turning to their driving partner and giving them the old “Hey man, am I driving okay? To which a loyal friend could be relied upon to quickly rejoin “I think we’re parked, man”. Some members of the audience can be forgiven for thinking that line came from the latter day cult classic, Super Troopers- but I think it’s fair to say we know where the hilarious and creative people at Broken Lizard drew that little moment of inspiration from. Similarly, I will say that every comedian, musician, youtuber, or podcaster who has walked in Cheech and Chong’s footsteps over the past forty some years owes them a deep and direct debt of gratitude for forging a path that others have been making their careers on ever since.
Tommy Chong has seen a lot in his time on earth and in the public eye, including the inside of a federal prison, where he spent 9 months serving a sentence for supposedly illegally shipping poisonous, spike covered, weapons grade bongs. This is something that I kid about, but only because we must laugh at some things, because not to laugh is to perhaps cry at the absurdity of a so called Justice System that makes such a thing even possible. Tommy himself will tell you not to pity him, that his time under incarceration was one of reflection and personal growth. He might also tell you that he met a few people inside that were serving much longer sentences than himself, and for far less damnable offenses.
You’ve been subjected to this long introduction today because as i prepared for this show over the past couple of weeks, I realized that in a very real way, I owed a lot of my personal sense of pride at being a cannabis user and indeed my inspiration to stake my claim in the podcasting space as a cannabis associated personality and brand- that this came from Cheech and Chong teaching the whole damned closed minded world- that stoners are people, too.
Personally, I can’t wait any longer to meet this man, and to hear more from him about the adventure that surely must be, being Tommy Chong.