Q&A with Tommy Chong about Cheech & Chong's Get It Legal Tour and more
Richard "Cheech" Marin and Tommy Chong are friends again -- and they've been taking their brand of stoner comedy on the road since 2008, when they started on the Light Up America tour.
Now they're taking that show to a new level with the Get It Legal tour, which kicks off in Boulder on Saturday, January 16, at CU-Boulder's Macky Auditorium at 8 p.m. We caught up with Tommy Chong to talk about what it's been like to work with Cheech again, his felony conviction for drug paraphernalia and, of course, getting it (aka pot) legal.
Westword (Amber Taufen): What's it been like working with Cheech again?
Tommy Chong: It's incredible. I mean, it's relaxing. Like when I'm out there by myself, I've got too much to prove, especially because I've got my wife with me and that. But when I'm with Cheech, all we have to do is do what we've always done, and that makes life much easier. And the reason we're saying the Get It Legal tour is because I'm a felon right now, and the only way I can lose my conviction is to get pot legal, and once I get it legal, then I will be free of my felony conviction.
WW: How will that make your life easier?
TC: Just mentally, more than anything, it will make life easier. Because, you know, being a felon, you're at risk. Like if I was in a room anywhere where a crime was committed, they could and would detain me. And if I wanted to start a business, like a glass business, I can't do it now. A lot of things I can't do.
WW: What's the difference between the Light Up America and the Get It Legal Tour?
TC: Light Up America was our reunion, getting back together for the first time in thirty years. Get it Legal is going to be a brand-new show from top to bottom, and when Cheech and I were together back in the day, we had three, I would say four complete new shows, and so this is a second complete new show that we're doing, and it's a natural evolution.
The temptation when you're working live is to keep doing what works. But as a recording star, we're used to promoting the new album, and so that way, every time we would go out on tour, we would have quite a bit of the show brand-new, to the audience. And it was really more for ourselves than it is for the audience. And that's what we're doing this time, so the difference is 100 percent.
WW: What were your reasons for doing this tour?
TC: It's our encore. When we went on tour the first time, no one was sure how we would be received. And so they were very reluctant to book us too many places, because there's a lot of money involved in touring. And so what happened, after we finished, they extended the first tour by about fifty shows, and then when they found out how successful the first tour was, then they wanted us to repeat it right away, which in some respects is -- if we were a music act, we couldn't do it, but we're both musical and comedic, so that's how we could do it.
WW: Any reason why you decided to kick off Get It Legal in Boulder?
TC: The audience. We feel that Boulder is like a good, easy, hippie-loving kind of free-spirited place, you know. My son lives there.
WW: What should people expect when they show up?
TC: We're going to make them laugh, and they're going to see some bits that we've never done on stage before. That was one of the criticisms, that we never did some of our classic bits, so we listen to our audience. This tour we're going to do quite a few of our classic bits that have never been seen on stage before. There'll be a few that they've seen on film, but "Dave's not here" we've done maybe twice, and this time we took our time and rehearsed our scenario. There will be a lot of surprises for us as well as the audience, because we're going into uncharted territory. Cheech and I haven't been together for this long, so literally we have to learn how to walk again.
WW: What are your expectations for this tour in terms of actually legalizing marijuana?
I did research, and I found that we could get it legal right now, without passing a law or changing amendments, or doing anything. We could have it legal right now. All the health department has to do is to reschedule the drug from a Schedule 1, which has no medical purposes whatsoever, to a Schedule 2, which means it has medical purposes and is available by prescription only.
If we can get it Schedule 2, it can be legal, and personally I think that's the best answer, because it absolves everybody's fears. That means kids who shouldn't be smoking anyway, it would still be illegal for them to use it, and people who abuse it and who don't have a medical problem, they wouldn't get that free card to do whatever they want.
And it would give the law-enforcement people the same power that they have, but it would rein them in. They couldn't arrest cancer patients, for example, or people who had a legal prescription. If you wanted to be a liberal and not enforce the laws, that's totally up to the community, but if, on the other hand they want to be hard-nosed and crack down on the recreational use, then they're totally within their rights to do so.
I do see it happening, I see it happening simply because it's a way to stop the avalanche. Right now, the avalanche is for legalization, and the way it's going, it is going fast, you know. It's going to be legal very fast.
WW: Anything else you'd like to add?
TC: I'd just like to add that if people come to our concerts, they will be furthering the cause of humanity, and that if they don't come, then they will be retarding the cause of humanity. [Laughs.] So if you don't come, you're a retard.