Tommy Chong The Exclaim! Questionnaire
Published Apr 23, 2010Forever known as the latter half of "Cheech and...," Tommy Chong wouldn't have it any other way. After an acrimonious split in the mid-'80s, the duo reunited in 2008 by going back to basics: performing live. The duo's concert DVD Hey Watch This, which came out in March, shows they haven't lost a step. Of course, "losing a step" is relative within the team's chronically blunted call and response stoner banter mixed with a bucketload of scatological humour.
Still, Cheech and Chong's energy is remarkably fresh for gags that are approaching 40 years old. What's more surprising is this humour's resonance with a multi-generational audience in San Antonio, where the DVD was filmed. Whether teenagers or grandparents, everyone roars with approval when Chong's wife Shelby warms up the crowd with the inevitable question "did everybody get high to come see Cheech and Chong?" Chong isn't surprised. "Stoner humour has gotten mainstream," he offers. "Like movies such as It's Complicated. That was especially funny because Steve Martin, who was anti-pot his whole career, ends up doing a pot joke in a movie, which I found very ironic." Though Cheech and Chong were very much countercultural symbols, Canadian-born Chong proudly declares this kind of humour "is the culture now. We have our own pot pop culture too. And Canada has always been ahead of that curve."
What are you up to?
Making pipes. Making one-hitters. I'm doing a personal, experimental marijuana project.
What are your current fixations?
I'm always into the music scene, jazz anyway. I've got a jazz-oriented mentality. Art... I'm more into digital photography. My fixation is that I can't remember anything.
Why do you live where you do?
I live in Pacific Palisades in California, and I live there because of the weather.
Name something you consider a mind-altering work of art:
Miles Davis's Kind of Blue.
What has been your most memorable or inspirational gig and why?
That had to be when I was playing music with [Bobby Taylor &] the Vancouvers, and we were playing in England and Jimi Hendrix came and sat in for the whole night. He played bass! I had to play guitar with Hendrix playing bass! My first impulse was to say "Sorry, man!"
What have been your career highs and lows?
Meeting Cheech was my high, and my low was breaking up [with him in the late '80s].
What's the meanest thing ever said to you before, during or after a gig?
We were just about to go onstage at the Troubadour and I was standing in the way of the way of the waitress. And just before we went onstage she said "get out of my fucking way!"
What should everyone shut up about?
What traits do you most like and most dislike about yourself?
I like the fact that I'm humble. I don't like the fact that I'm also very arrogant.
What's your idea of a perfect Sunday?
Not having to travel, and having absolutely nothing to do. Then deciding what I want to do with my day. Do I want to sit upstairs? Do I want to sit downstairs in my workshop? Do I want to sit in my computer room? I'm going to sit, that's for sure.
What advice should you have taken, but did not?
I had a beach house in Venice Beach, and I sold it. I shouldn't have.
What would make you kick someone out of your band and/or bed, and have you?
If it was a man. There's only room for one dick in this bed.
What do you think of when you think of Canada?
Marc Emery's pot café in Vancouver.
What was the first LP/cassette/CD/eight track you ever bought with your own money?
It was a 78! It was "(It Wasn't God Who Made) Honky Tonk Angels" by Kitty Wells.
What was your most memorable day job?
I had so many day jobs... Probably an insurance investigator for Hooper Holmes.
If I wasn't doing comedy I would be...
I might be a preacher. It's only one gig a week.
What do you fear most?
What makes you want to take it off and get it on?
My wife, Shelby.
What has been your strangest celebrity encounter?
Jack Nicholson. He'd been in a movie called The Last Detail, and he's spent a good part of one scene combing his hair. And I mentioned the fact, "You know, Jack, you have thin hair..." I just went on and on and he wasn't saying anything. I kept blabbing and blabbing, and I was stoned too. I ran out of stuff to say and he just walked [away] and left me.
Who would be your ideal dinner guest, living or dead, and what would you serve them?
Jesus. For sure. I'd serve him the most expensive Bordeaux I could find - he would be very handy if we ran out of wine!
What does your mom wish you were doing instead?
She's passed, but she was very happy with my life. She really helped me. The thing about her, she was a white woman and she was married to my dad who was Chinese, and she said "Remember this: you're mixed so people are always going to look at you, they're going to notice you. So it's up to you how you conduct yourself, but you're going to be noticed."
What song would you like to have played at your funeral?
"It's Just A Matter Of Time" by Brook Benton.