Post-pubescence may not be funny to those in its glandular grip. But to young people just beyond those tumultuous teenage years, the period is something to howl over—at least as it is limned by an unlikely comedy duo called Cheech and Chong.
Their material ranges from the discipline problems of a substitute schoolteacher “with a stunned old-lady voice,” Sister Mary Elephant, as in their current hit single of the same name, to what will seem to over-30s as rather puerile obsessions with dope smoking and venereal disease. Though many of their hot sketches are too raunchy for promotional radio airplay, and comedy traditionally dies on the record racks anyway, Cheech and Chong have turned out an astounding three straight “gold” albums. Their latest, Los Cochinos, copped the 1974 Grammy Award.
On stage the boys fetch $15,000 a night minimum and fill the houses in campus towns and even in Britain and Washington’s establishment Kennedy Center. (Naturally, they can’t resist responding to their welcome with “Thanks for the clap,” which induces further wild whoops from the kids.) They are not in films yet, except for a cartoon short of their character “Basketball Jones,” but they are negotiating for a live-action feature about their spaced-out heroes “Pedro” and “The Man” (who drive at 5 mph so they won’t be noticed).
The duo is older than its following, in age at least. Tommy Chong, 33, is a Chinese-Canadian high school dropout whose father runs a topless nightclub. Richard (“Cheech”) Marin, 27, a Chicano from Watts and a graduate of San Fernando Valley State College, is the son of an L.A. cop. Between gigs and recordings the boys live on the Coast above Malibu in separate houses (Chong’s new one cost $200,000). Not “married” to each other they, in fact, both have common-law wives. Chong has three daughters, Cheech no kids yet, “that I know about.”
Their routines aside, they are boys a parent could love. Cheech’s fuzz father often drops his son’s name, he says, to crack a teenage crime. “Johnny took the typewriter, man,” a young suspect has responded, “I didn’t take it. Tell your son I didn’t take it…”