Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Career of Cheech and Chong

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When you mention a comedy duo, you can’t leave out the “Loco” routine of Cheech and Chong. Their movies and comedy albums were created with a style like no other. They portrayed the drug culture of the 70’s, and the Mexican American culture of California in the 70’s. Speaking for my generation, I think they broke the boundaries for funny film and laid the track for today’s comedy. I believe People look back on these movies and records as classics, and laugh and wonder how these two opposites attract. It was meant to be that these to would join forces, but it all had to start somewhere and that place is California.

Born in East Los Angeles, Richard Marin was one of eight children of a L.A. police officer. He earned the nickname “Cheech” from a Chicano food made of deep-fried pork skins called cheecharone. During high school Cheech skipped most of his classes to cruise in the lowriders his friends had. Lowriders were the classic sedans that were lowered to the ground, and were popular among the L.A. youth. With all the classes Cheech missed, he still managed to graduate with straight As. It was also during this time that he started singing with neighborhood rock bands, like Rompin Richie and the Rockin Robins, and Captain Shagnasty and his Loch Ness Pickles. Cheech worked his way through college as a dishwasher, janitor, and other odd jobs. After earning a B.A. in English from Cal State Northridge, he went north in 168 to study potters art, and not knowing he would start a career with Tommy Chong.

Tommy Chong was born in Calgary Canada to a father of Chinese origin, and a mother of Scotch-Irish descent. This made for an ethnic mixture that accounts for his one-of-a kind appearance. Later as Cheech puts it, He was the first kind of whatever it is he is that Id ever seen. Soon after he was born his family moved to a town called Dog Patch, where they lived in a five hundred dollar house. Chongs father was a World War II veteran, and a truck driver that could only raise his family on fifty dollars a week. During Chongs high school years he decided to drop out. He worked several jobs like truck driving and roof laying, while he tried to form successful musical groups. He eventually came up with Western Canadas first R&B band, the Shades. In 165 Motown Records Signed Chongs band the Vancouvers, who only had one hit single. Co-written by Chong and since recorded by the Jackson Five, Does Your Mama Know About Me was the hit single. He left his musical group and headed to Vancouver where his brothers nightclub would be the place Cheech and Chong teamed up.

The relationship was made when Chong offered Cheech sixty dollars a week to perform with City Works, Chongs improvisational comedy group. Cheech took the offer because he made five dollars more than he was making laying carpet. Two years later, when City Works disbanded, they teamed as Cheech and Chong and set out to conquer the world. They started out in California, performing at L.A.s outstanding Troubadour Club. Here they were spotted by a record executive and signed. By the time their first record album Cheech & Chong went gold, they had already started their second album called Big Bambu.” Big Bambu was one of the popular Marijuana cigarette papers used back in their time. This album was voted 17s No. 1 comedy album. Around this time was when they really exploited the drug culture of the 70’s and came out with their first movie Up in Smoke. The plot behind the movie was Cheech and Chong being out of work, in debt and hustling for money by doing anything the law prohibited. The pictures box office success made them the screens most successful comedy team of all time.

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Cheech and Chongs third album titled Los Cochinos brought them a Grammy Award. They didn’t do as well on their fourth, Cheech & Chongs Wedding Album, but it encouraged them to tour the concert circuit. Their second movie, cleverly titled Cheech & Chongs Next Movie, had the box office “booming.” At that point in Cheech and Chong’s career, the combined total of both their movies passed the $160 million mark. With their successful move into films, Cheech and Chong settled into comfortable homes in Los Angeles. Cheech has found his nice dreams in Malibu and Chong is Up in smoke in Bel-Air. No one would of thought these to totally different people, one from L.A. one from Canada, one a Mexican American the other Chinese, would share a comedy style and collaborate to make a wonderful thing that is Cheech and Chong.

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