The duo Cheech & Chong—comprised of Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong—were among the first comics to attain rock star status due to their embrace of the ’70s counterculture movement, as well as their feature film debut, Up in Smoke.
Released in 1978, the low-budget stoner comedy saw the pair unwittingly smuggle a van made entirely of marijuana from Mexico to Los Angeles, with the hotheaded Sgt. Stedenko (Stacy Keach) and his narcotics unit two steps behind. Along the way, they smoke a ton of weed—including the biggest joint you’ve ever seen. The rowdy road flick overcame negative reviews to gross over $44 million at the box office, becoming a left-field hit. It’s since emerged as a cult classic.
To mark its 40th anniversary, Paramount is releasing a special edition of Up in Smoke on Blu-ray April 10. And, after releasing a half-dozen movies, several hit comedy albums, splitting acrimoniously in the ’80s, and reuniting in the ’90s, Cheech & Chong are still at it, bringing the laughs to fans across the country.
The Daily Beast spoke to the iconic duo about legalization, Trump’s alleged porn star tryst, and much more.
Is drug humor funny anymore?
Cheech: It’s making a great comeback around the world. It’s riding the same wave of Trump popularity around the world wherever we go. Did you say drug humor or Trump humor? That’s a different story.
Chong: Or maybe not! Drug humor is not as taboo as it once was. It’s now a part of eating certain edibles, which Louis CK does a funny bit about. There seems to be a lot more things you can do with marijuana today than ever before.
“Studios are a lot like Stormy Daniels: If you’ve got the money, then they’ll lay down!”
— Tommy Chong
Are you worried about Attorney General Jeff Sessions cracking down on marijuana legalization?
Cheech: I can’t sleep at night, man!
Chong: Me neither. I walk around the house screaming, “I want you to border your houses. Jeff Sessions, why are you in my life? Damn you!” Truth is, it’s just part of Trump’s folly, which he’ll have to deal with in his big finale, which is coming. When that happens this will just be part of his negative legacy.
Who do you believe regarding their alleged tryst: Stormy Daniels or President Trump?
Chong: I’ll answer the question. I think all the questions of whether or not he paid her will help Trump with his negotiations with North Korea! I think it might make him at ease with Kim Jong Un because it might give them something in common to talk about.
Could Up in Smoke be made at a major film studio today?
Cheech: Probably not, unless they made it on a phone in order to save money. They would definitely find a way if it had a superhero in it and no story!
Chong: Studios are a lot like Stormy Daniels: If you’ve got the money, then they’ll lay down!
What was your favorite celebrity drug story while you were making the movie?
Chong: When Arnold sexually assaulted Sly. That wasn’t in the outtakes because they only wanted to use the funniest stuff.
Cheech: They paid the highest money to keep it out. It was just personal behavior to me.
Did all your co-stars grasp the film’s humor?
Chong: I think actually they did. Strother Martin, who played my father, wrote his “Get a job or I’ll send you to the Army” speech, which was right on and proved he got the humor.
What’s the funniest story you remember from making the movie?
Cheech: We had some actresses playing nuns—we called them “acting nuns”—who got extremely wild but we can’t talk about that!
Chong: One time we had smoked before a scene and were in the car with the fumes waiting for someone to yell action. We didn’t know they were still shooting us so for 20 minutes they filmed us stoned but in character.
There are conflicting stories about whether you were smoking weed or rolled-up lettuce during the making of the film.
Cheech: I plead the fifth!
Chong: We were smoking a mixture of Indian herbs and lettuce in the big joints. We never smoked weed during a scene but did before filming.
Who would be in your dream cast if you made a stoner film today?
Cheech: I’d definitely want Paul McCartney because he’s the only Beatle that I’ve never met.
Chong: Keith Richards. I know Chuck Berry’s gone but I’d like to get him and Keith stoned. I’d like to get The Dude stoned… what’s his name? Jeff Bridges.
Cheech: The Big Lebowski versus Cheech & Chong in a grudge match!
Chong: And we’ve got to get Harold & Kumar in it too!
Though you made several more stoner films, why didn’t you ever do a proper sequel to Up in Smoke?
Cheech: They were all sequels to Up in Smoke.
Chong: We had a falling out with Paramount and they owned the title. We later did a film called Still Smokin’. We had deals at two other studios and I later was given an office at Paramount, where…
…You once told me you never showed up there but used the office as a weed drop-off.
Cheech: Tell him the truth, man! The statue of limitations is over.
What’s your weirdest recollection of working with Martin Scorsese on After Hours?
Cheech: Watching him flip out when we did strange accents when we did off-camera readings with other actors.
Chong: The look on his face when we drove a van during a scene and nearly hit some Japanese tourists who we weren’t told were watching the scene and visiting the set!