Cheech Marin is a man of colorful character and multiple talents. His best ability and gift is to cause laughter, man.
An odd twist of fate resulted in a chance meeting in the 60s with Tommy Chong when Marin, the son of an LA cop, moved to Canada which led to an ironic comedic career as half of the popular 70s and 80s comedy duo Cheech & Chong.
The Grammy-winning duo’s films and stand-up routines based on the marijuana-loving, hippie counterculture drew a huge fan base and skyrocketed Marin to acclaimed creative success.
Now 72, Richard Anthony “ Cheech” Marin's talents have taken him on an incredible journey as a renowned actor, director, comedian, musician, author, and Chicano art collector.
His nickname “Cheech” stuck when an uncle looked at the newborn Marin and commented that he looked like a little “chicharron,” a Mexican fried pork rind snack.
Marin’s list of achievements is lengthy and impressive spanning decades including the Cheech & Chong movies; ‘Up In Smoke,’ ‘Cheech and Chong’s Next Movie,’ ‘Nice Dreams’ and others, the ‘Nash Bridges’ television show, and voicing characters in several Disney movies such as ‘Oliver & Company,’ ‘The Lion King’ and the ‘Cars’ Series.
There's an opportunity to see the legendary Cheech and Chong perform their style of comedy live on stage at Buffalo Run Casino's Showplace on October 26.
Cheech offered a lively interview to the Miami News-Record last week.
Melinda Stotts: In high school, I worked at a drive-in box office in the late 70s and early 80s. The place was never more packed or fun than when a Cheech & Chong movie was showing. What do you think resonated with so many fans, and what worked with your comedy?
Cheech: “Because they didn’t have that voice being heard, everybody was doing that, but nobody was talking about it. We were two guys who were unabashedly unashamed of what we were doing and everybody related to it.”
MS: Good comedy, in my opinion, takes intelligence to create, it can open discussions on tough issues, tell me about your creative process.
Cheech: “You know it’s usually spurred by something that’s happening in the news, or something we observed around us. ‘Born in East LA’ was an article I read in the paper at the time about some kid who was deported, and he was an American citizen, unfortunately, it’s still going on.”
MS: Relevant issue today as well. How do you take that and create comedy?
Cheech: “When it was me and Tommy doing stuff it was sit down and write, but it was like a conversation that was always ongoing. We were with each other every day on the road; we sometimes had to share the same room in the early days. It was this conversation that didn’t have a beginning or end - it’s ongoing. So, when it came time to make the movie we knew what we wanted to do and were improvisational writers and actors. That was right up our alley.”
MS: In today’s atmosphere how has comedy changed or evolved, are there things off limits?
Cheech: “Oh, I think it’s more open today than it ever was, because the internet has sprung a thousand leaks, and you can’t stop it. It’s like trying to stick your finger in a thousand dikes.”
MS: What keeps drawing you back to the comedy stage?
Cheech: “You know it’s fun to get out with the people and hear their voices and hear what they’re reacting to or not reacting to. You get to gauge the temper of the country. Sometimes you’re really gratified and sometimes you’re really surprised. (laughs)”
MS: Describe your relationship with Tommy?
Cheech: “Brothers, love and hate and now we’re both dealing with deafness. (laughs)
MS: (laughing) That helps a little bit?
Cheech: “That helps a lot! If you don’t feel like having a conversation, you just don’t. It’s great!”
MS: I have to ask you, Oklahoma just legalized medical marijuana, obviously, you’re a proponent, but why?
MS: Yeah. What do you love about it?
Cheech: “Well I think it has a zillion medical applications they’re finding now more than ever, even without it being legal. We said that for some time in the past when everybody was saying, ‘Oh, you’re just promoting marijuana.’ So, we came up with this saying, ‘What if we’re right? What if marijuana is good for you?’ People used to laugh, well, who's laughing now?”
MS: Tell me about ‘The Cheech – The Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art, Culture and Industry’ in Riverside, California.
Cheech: “I was very fortunate in that, as out of the blue the City of Riverside had done a Chicano Art Show there, and it coincided with them having to repurpose one of the main buildings in the town, and we thought it would be a wonderful idea if I would put the collection there in Riverside. It just dropped from the sky, you know.”
MS: That’s awesome. I read that it’s going to be a full circle center where your art collection will be shown and there will be opportunities for lessons and education. It’s a great place for your vast collection of Chicano Art. Other than the obvious, what speaks to you about this painting style?
Cheech: “Well I think the Chicanos are the best painters out there in the country right now. It’s like you find some baseball players that are really good, there’s some jazz musicians that can really play, that’s what the Chicanos are because they never gave up painting. They never gave up handwork, you know. It tells a story of a culture, so it has not only the inherent artistic ability of the artists but what they are saying is really important and it’s been going for 40 years.”
MS: It’s vibrant, it’s beautiful and portrays a culture and important messages, it’s great because art is always that first response and voice to cultural issues like your comedy.
MS: You’ve acted in television, movies, done character voices in animated feature films – do you have any projects currently in the works now?
Cheech: “I have a movie coming out – there’s some controversy, it was with Weinstein, that controversy. But it’s a really funny movie called ‘The War With Grandpa.’ It stars Robert DeNiro, Christopher Walken, myself, Uma Thurman, so it’s a big movie.”
MS: I want to see it just because of those names.
Cheech: “Me too.” (laughs)
MS: You’ve expressed your talents and creativity with art, as a comedian, author, actor – is there something else you’d still like to do?
Cheech: “I want to play for the Dodgers.”
MS: I saw you are a huge baseball and Dodgers fan, so I bet you’re loving it now.
Cheech: “Yeah, I love what’s going on, man. We want the World Series again, we hope! I watch or listen to every game. We have this anomaly here, in that the Las Angeles area doesn’t broadcast the Dodger games because they’re having a big year's long battle with the provider. I’m thinking of doing something about it!”
MS: I’m really looking forward to the show here, what can we expect at Buffalo Run?
Cheech: “A lot of music, a lot of music in this show, funny stuff, insightful comedy and hopefully some rabble-rousing!”
MS: Sounds like my kind of show! I have one last request, my son found out I was interviewing you and asked me to see if you would sing a line of your Mexican American song?
Cheech: "Okay, here it goes, ready … (sings) Mexican Americans don't like to get up early in the morning, but they have to so they do it real slow.”
MS: (Laughing) You just made me the most popular Mom forever, so I just love you so much for that. Thank you for giving me some time, I know you’re a busy man and I can’t wait to see your show here.
Cheech: “Thank you, My pleasure, we’ll see you when you get out there.”