Thursday, May 20, 2010


INTERVIEW: With ‘Hey Watch This,’ Cheech & Chong Ready to Reclaim Comedy Throne
by Carl Kozlowski

“You can hear the entire audio of Carl’s exclusive Cheech & Chong interview on his radio show “Grand Theft Audio” from 6 to 8 p.m. PST on THIS Thursday night at, channel one. Free downloadable podcasts will be available starting Friday at, by searching “Grand Theft Audio.”


Anyone who smoked a joint in the ‘70s was also likely aware of Cheech and Chong. The counter-cultural comedy superstars smoked and toked their way through nine albums, four feature films and thousands of concerts worldwide – offering living proof that stoners could also be ambitious and hard workers if given the right incentives, i.e., money, women and weed.

But eventually the laughs started to fade, and with the Reagan White House constantly touting its War on Drugs and overtaking the nation’s airwaves with incessant “Just Say No” sloganeering, even Robert “Cheech” Marin and Tommy Chong lost their buzz and decided to split up. In the past 25 years since that ignoble occurrence, which also signified the end of their friendship for nearly two decades. Cheech’s career has taken him far into the mainstream with major roles on network TV hits like “Nash Bridges” and “Lost,” while Chong wound up serving time in federal prison on highly questionable paraphernalia-distribution charges.

Now they’re back, revived and ready to roll (no pun intended) with a new DVD called “Hey Watch This!” and plans for not only a sequel to their most famous film “Up in Smoke” but a nearly-completed animated film as well. The DVD – which depicts on-stage and behind-the-scenes highlights of the duo’s 2009-2010 worldwide concert tour – is a means of reclaiming their status as the greatest pot-related comedy act of all time. It’s no coincidence that the tour was a smash hit, opening many doors for them to make a mark in the nation’s current medical marijuana and pot-legalization debates.

Sitting down for an interview, the dynamic duo looked both far into the past to explain how they met and into their suddenly vibrant future.

“We actually met up in Canada, where Tommy’s from (Chong is a naturalized U.S. citizen), and we were doing shows with a little comedy opening for a band,” Marin recalls, squinting his already heavy-lidded eyes. “Then the band split up but we stayed together, playing music as The Royal Shakespearean Strippers. Well theoretically we played music, but really did so much comedy we never around to playing any music. That’s when we realized you don’t need a whole band for comedy, just two guys, and it just seemed the obvious way to go.”

While they made their mark worldwide, Chong says they weren’t quite as wild as their image would suggest. In fact, his favorite “wild” road story really is just an amusing tale of a surprise celebrity encounter.

“Getting high with George Harrison was pretty incredible. He played guitar on ‘Basketball Jones,’” says Chong. “I got stoned with George one time, got high and started talking. I looked over and the guy next to me was Wally from ‘Leave it to Beaver.’ That was even more mind-blowing.”

While their split was acrimonious, there’s a certain activity that neither comic ever stopped.

“When you get older, you smoke less and less and less because it takes less to have an effect,” says Marin. “But stop? Never!”

“I’m still experimenting. I’ve been experimenting for 50 years and I’ll say one thing – you can’t get hooked on it,” adds Chong with a sly grin. “I do it in my act too, but pot smoking is really unsafe for work because you get so stoned you forget to fuck it up. We should send some more to Washington. Then they’ll forget to fuck up the country.”

Chong knows plenty about governmental overreach amid the War on Drugs, as he himself was busted for conspiracy to distribute drug paraphernalia and served nine months in prison in 2003 after federal agents raided his home for bongs and other marijuana-related devices made by the company Nice Dreams, even though it was Chong’s son Paris who served as the company’s CEO and handled nearly all business matters. While he expresses humorous defiance in loudly and proudly proclaiming his renewed use of weed, Chong also detailed the tricky ways in which the prison system strives to make offenders offend again, ensuring a constant flow of money into the system.

“Ironically, I’m invited to give an address for the Democratic person running for Congress in Pittsburgh against the woman who put me in jail,” says Chong. “I was really innocent. It was my son’s company and technically I was innocent as I can be. The US will invade any country it wants, haha, and so the same goes for messing with your life. It was good research, though, and I’m a writer. They had all the dope you wanted but then they drug test you. Once you’re in prison, when you violate their rules, they can give you five extra years with barely an honest hearing, and add more time to your sentence, so I stayed away from it.“

Chong claims that, despite seeing Marin in an anti-drug commercial (a charge Marin disputes but admits “not remembering”) and a slew of mainstream projects, he never abandoned hope that Marin would be willing to reunite. That hope remained even after the duo had a meeting in which they argued so much they briefly threw out entire concepts for films, and finally, in 2008, Marin relented to Chong’s pressure.

The resulting tour, which led them across the U.S. as well as Australia and many points in between, proved to be a multi-million dollar smash hit. And it’s shown that they’re a long, long way from ever calling things off again.

“What brought us back together?” Marin asks. “We got 150 hours of community service knocked off.”

“The real answer? M-O-N-E-Y,” clarifies Chong. “Our individual careers had petered out, and we said ‘we blew it’ so let’s try it again.’ The brand was bigger than either one of us, then we both looked at each other and had some stranger running the Cheech and Chong website and making big money selling Tshirts of us. So it’s harvest time now, time to bring it all in.”

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


The new movie “Date Night” pairs two of TV's hippest stars, as Steve Carell of “The Office” and Tina Fey of “30 Rock” play a suburban New Jersey couple out on their weekly 'date night' who wind up being chased by crooked cops in a race for their lives due to mistaken identity. The film is a great deal of silly fun, but underlying its premise is a subtle exploration of how even a good marriage can go stale and the importance of keeping even the most seemingly secure of relationships fresh and exciting.

Carell, Fey and director Shawn Levy (“Night at the Museum” films) sat down with Relevant to discuss their movie at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills.

RELEVANT: Steve and Tina, we know NBC's having a little bit of trouble these days. Do they get a bulk rate for loaning you out to 20th Century Fox?

TINA: First just say thank God is having trouble or my show wouldn't be on the air.

STEVE: Neither of us.

TINA: And the Fox advertising money is helping NBC out some, so that's good.

RELEVANT: Once they take your bag away, you had no props. How hard was that?

TINA: Once I lost my purse and coat, it was just me and my arms and the night. I was trying to hide my arms the whole time behind things like doorjambs. The only thing they didn't take was my high heels.

LEVY: Because of course you're going to be keeping your high heels on when you're running for your life.

RELEVANT: You didn't really wear your heels the whole time did you?

TINA: I took 'em off when we were in the car, I'd cheat a litle bit. And we had a few grandma sets where I could fit in without them. Steve built all the shoes, so the reinforcement was amazing. He's also a cobbler.

LEVY: We always do the script as written because it was very strong and didn't need to be changed. Once we had it to our satisfaction, we opened it up and played around. So it's hard to determine what's improvised. We also did readings, notes and rehearsals throughout a full year before the shoot. Steve and tina would give their input, i'd go back and we'd rewrite. But I bet if someone called out ten favorite jokes from the film, i'd wager half of them came up on set on shooting day. We didn't improvise from scratch everyday but we knew it inside out and then after we did some improvs.

RELEVANT: Steve and Tina, both being married, do you have date nights?

TINA: Maybe once a month my husband and I get out. It's a real effort, it's usually very late at night and if we get more than 10 blocks from my house, it's a miracle. I'm always exhausted. Steve's had tons of weird stuff happen.

STEVE: We're always happy to get invited to award shows, but that's it. Just the thrill of getting dressed up. Once it's 10, we're wiped out. If you have kids you know you're in trouble, trying much later. The kids are up at 530 and so are you. Generally our best date nights are very very simple and we spend a good deal of them talking about our children anyway.

RELEVANT: Steve, you've made many many movies while The Office is on TV and Tina it seems you film one once every two years. Are either of you looking forward to having movie careers after your shows are off the air?

TINA: About once every two years is all I can handle because being the creator my year at 30 Rock starts in middle of June and all the way to March. I want to write more movies but with films it's just for fun now and we'll take it as it comes.

STEVE: I'm gonna move towards voicing video games. I'm always happy to be employed so there's no giant plans.

RELEVANT: Did this come out of a longstanding desire to do something together?

STEVE: We were both offered, and our interest was weighed initially. We spoke on the phone to see how we get along. Tina said wouldn't it be fun to be hanging off a car in the middle of New York City, I said 'yeah!' When I heard she was involved and Shawn was the other component, I signed up.

TINA: I liked the idea that it was married couple, grown up, because that's who we are. At a certain point you can't do a movie about your wedding, and I thought that this is a movie my husband and I would go see.

RELEVANT: Steve, you've been a movie star for a bit longer than Tina. Was there anything you taught e her about being a movie star?

STEVE: Yes, I taught her about attitude, and there's no pretense about her so I taught her pretense. I dont think either of us think of ourselves in that movie star realm at all, and Tina doesn't need any advice from me.

TINA: This is like an enjoyable and very long-sustaining prank that I'm pulling on the American people.


RELEVANT: Tina, how did you learn to dance so ridiculously in the big scene?

TINA: We made a decision not to plan it.

SHAWN: Not to even hire a choreographer.

STEVE: It would've been too good.

TINA: I forget if it's the part where Steve carries me around...But we only did two long takes and the first take when he carried me around I forgot and let go of the pole so he was yelling 'Hold the pole!' I knew I could count on Steve to deliver, and one of my favorite things in the movie is Steve licking the pole and then becoming nauseous. I'd like to say we went to a bunch of strip clubs and really studied, but we didn't.

I also wanted this movie to feel at the top of its intelligence in dealing with marriage and each other, worn down by everyday lives and the struggle to come together and this night sparks that.

SHAWN: Some of the easy ways to do this movie is 'they're on the cusp of divorce and here's one last try' or they'll move to the city but no they wouldn't do that. They're still suburban and I had to keep it nuanced, no matter how crazy their lives ended up being.

RELEVANT: Do you have any advice for real life couples to keep things exciting, Steve?

STEVE: Every relationship is unique so there's not a lot of advice to offer. With my wife Nancy and I, there's an open communication and lots of laughter. We just have fun with one another and never forget to stop that. That, and amazing lovemaking.