by Anthony Mumsco
As one can see from Reefer Madness, the propaganda movie from the 1930’s, to Weeds, the television show about a pot selling suburban mom today, the subject of marijuana in media has been around almost since the birth of the medium. Although it was once something as easy to procure in the markets as produce, the racist outlawing of weed during Prohibition caused the more conservative era to associate its use with criminals. As the people felt the government was doing more wrong than right, people began resist in a form of protest. Not all taboo was fair game. Murder was still off limits, however the more peaceful things flourished. The flower power movement of the 60’s and hippies are the images people usually think of when they think of smoking pot.
In the 70’s, two men came along, Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong, two “funny,” “free loving” guys who also liked to smoke pot. Their sense of humor based on pot and the hippie movement found audiences in different groups of fans. They are the pioneers of the “stoner humor” we see today in films such as Pineapple Express and Half-Baked. Throughout the 70’s and 80’s, they made a string of comedy albums and low-budget movies, which escalated their fame and wealth. After a feud in the late 80’s, they disbanded and went their separate ways. Cheech began appearing in more movies, sans the stoner persona, while Chong kept it and went on to such endeavors as a stint as the resident pothead Leo on “That 70’s Show”. In 2003, Chong was arrested for selling a bong that was found to be not used just for tobacco consumption. More than ten years after they split in June of 2008, Tommy Chong announced he would be reuniting with his old partner for a comedy tour.
Before Cheech and Chong started, we were treated to the comedy styling of Chong’s wife of 25 years, Shelby Chong. She started the night off simply with two words, “Fuck Bush,” before making way into stories about the imprisonment of her husband. Little anecdotes were thrown around, and the audience found out why exactly the two had been married for so many years. Not only did they share a love of pot, but they also shared a similar vocabulary. After her set she introduced the reason why we were all there tonight, throwing out some nicknames like “the Popes of Dope”.
Cheech took the stage first and Tommy came out soon after, clad in a button up shirt sporting the marijuana leaf as the repeated design. The show went on for a little over an hour, in which they performed jokes, songs and old-school Abbott and Costello-esque routines, including a man hitching a ride by dressing as a woman. Although, I don’t think Abbott and Costello would have joked about smoking a blunt that tasted like Preparation H and KY Jelly. They also lightly touched on politics. While they aren’t known for their political stances, the upcoming presidential race was not a topic, however, marijuana legalization was mentioned, a subject very near to their hearts. The sting of Chong’s nine months in prison for selling bongs (which is not illegal when used for tobacco consumption) was obviously the fodder for that. Applause was given to his idea for fixing the economy, the legalization of marijuana.
While the scenes changed, Tommy explained to the audience what has been going on since the split. In particular, while talking about getting back with his comedy partner, he said, “I’m just happy to have my Mexican back.” And by the response of the audience at Westbury Music Fair, an eclectic group of people ranging from a high school kid with his grandma to the man wearing a shirt with a light-up marijuana leaf, they were too. Or maybe it was just that they were a combination of drunk and stoned and needed to be loud.