Richard "Cheech" Marin and Thomas Chong were one of the most popular and succesful comedy teams of the 1970s. In much of the same way WC Fields had made alcohol the focus of his comedy act, Cheech and Chong championed and made fun of the pot culture of the seventies.
They are undeiably counterculture heroes and their comedy defined an era.
Looming over the horizon, an aging ice cream truck with a grinning clown's head on top bounces over the rise and into view.
The bearded, bespectacled driver has the look of a Tibetan explorer who took a wrong turn halfway to Shangri-La. His short, wiry seatmate sports a Zapata mustache and a gaze that leaves no passing female fully clad.
They are Cheech and Chong ... and to those fans for whom they've come to stand for counterculture shock, they have done the unforgivable. They have signed on for a steady gig ... as ice cream vendors.
Worse yet, they have milked the sherbet trade for a fortune.
And since no one has ever done so well by dispensing popsicles -- nor done it with such glaring good humor -- certain people are getting suspicious. Especially the L.A.P.D.
In their first movie, "Up in Smoke," Cheech and Chong were out of work, deep in debt, and hustling for a buck by doing anything the law disallowed.
The film -- frantic, funny and free -- was the runaway comedy hit of 1978, and established the pair as their generation's answer to Laurel & Hardy, Abbott & Costello and Martin & Lewis.
The picture's enormous box office success, in fact, made them the screen's most successful comedy team of all time.
In their next movie, prophetically titled "Cheech & Chong's Next Movie," the pair flirted with solvency, thanks to Cheech's go-fer job on a movie studio backlot.
Again the box office boomed, until the combined total of both Cheech and Chong movies passed the $160 million mark.
Clearly the scrambling, hustling, conniving, duping duo hit the mark with young moviegoers. "It was like there was this great nerve running through everybody," recalls Cheech, "and it was where we were."
But how did they get that way ... Cheech of the peppery stream of chatter, Chong of the laidback lunacy?
When they first burst into prominence back in 1970, each had followed his own offbeat path to a nightclub in Vancouver, British Columbia, where they found they played well off each other.
source: Nice Dreams press kit, Columbia Pictures