Stone Loco

I binge-watched Cheech and Chong so you’ll never have to

This is the diary of someone who decided to watch Cheech and Chong until he couldn’t take it anymore. Plese excuse any typos or pisspellings: 

5:30 p.m.: Oh boy, I thought. A Cheech and Chong binge. What fun! Stock up on a load of fancy snacks (Negra Modelo six-pack, etc.), some choice chronic, and get seriously stupid. Remember to turn off all ring tones. First up is the boys’ major movie debut, Up in Smoke (1978), directed by Lou Adler with an uncredited assist by Tommy Chong. The opening scene sets the tone for the two comics’ entire careers, with Pedro (Richard “Cheech” Marin) at home in the barrio, lovingly petting his old Chevy to the tune of War’s “Low Rider.”

It’s a treat to see the location footage of LA as it was in the ‘70s, the time of platform wedgies, Fleetwood Mac, The $1.98 Beauty Show, Steve Garvey, “Johnny Wadd” Holmes, Kojak, the Bar-Kays, Karen Black, and Governor Jerry Brown eating a taco on Melrose. The van made of molded yesca catches fire and pollutes everyone in a two-block radius of the Roxy (easier done than said). Guest shots galore: Strother Martin and Edie Adams as Tommy’s parents, Harry Dean Stanton, Tom Skerritt, Rodney Bingenheimer, and Stacy Keach as the boys’ LAPD nemesis. A cavalcade of mirth.

8:00 p.m.: Cheech and Chong’s Next Movie (1980). Possibly C&C’s best (okay, that’s not saying much). Very little flab. The two guys’ physical interaction is about on the level of the Three Stooges or the Bowery Boys, meathead slapstick. But when they’re really clicking with each other their vocal rhythms are scintillating – dumber than a grinning-cat wall clock yet somehow remarkably sophisticated. Dope-head mix-ups at the welfare office, a massage parlor, a guitar shop, and the mansion of crazy heiress Edie McClurg, where the flick kicks out the jams with Cheech (in a dual role) as his motor-mouth country cousin Dwayne “Red” Mendoza. For sheer zany comic inventiveness, compares favorably to Get Him to the Greek.

10:30 p.m.: Nice Dreams (1981). The boys sell grass out of their ice cream truck, but the movie’s real running jokes are coke and “piña colonics.” The writing, by C&C as usual, is getting looser with each succeeding pic. Stoner-roller Sgt. Stedenko (Keach, reprising his role) falls in love with a spliff-smoking iguana. The cast of cameos is a readymade lesson in “celebrity” promotional placement: Paul “Pee-Wee Herman” Reubens, Sandra Bernhard, Sally Marr (mother of counterculture icon Lenny Bruce) as “Nut #5,” one-man sound effects machine Michael Winslow (laff-a-licious Jimi Hendrix impersonation), LSD guru Dr. Timothy Leary (C&C drop acid at his hospital), and the bodacious Evelyn Guerrero, in her second appearance as Donna, Cheech’s love thang. Typically, the two guys’ best moments are when they’re just arguing with each other. Ad lib?

11:45 p.m.: Damn ring tones! This time of night calls for refreshments. Suddenly there came a tapping, as if someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door. It’s the woman from Oakland’s own, bearing goodies: a bottle of Kwik Ease Pineapple Express hybrid beverage (100 mg THC total); some delightful Huckleberry Gummies from Wyld (10mg THC per gummy); and a robust stash of Buddies Cannabis Infused Soft Gels (25mg THC each), edibles all. Suitably refreshed, we put on Cheech & Chong’s The Corsican Brothers (1984) — that was a mistake. 

Corsican Brothers features Tommy and Cheech in their baroque period, when they had completely run out of ideas but still had to keep the product flowing to America’s bored stoners. Loosely – very, very loosely – based on Alexandre Dumas’s 1884 swashbuckling novel, the movie burns a hole in French culture with the exploits of a pair of foggy-brained siblings — climaxing with the French Revolution. Words can barely describe how moronic it is. Should have turned the whole mess over to Ken Russell. Along the same lines is Cheech and Chong’s appearance in Yellowbeard, a 1983 costumed pirate farce starring Monty Python troupe members on the high seas, alongside Peter Cook, Marty Feldman, Peter Boyle, Spike Milligan, James Mason, Madeline Kahn, and David Bowie. John Cleese called Yellowbeard “one of the six worst films made in the history of the world.”

2:05 a.m.: Huh?

2:30 a.m.: Got back in the spirit of things with the Jack in the Box TV commercial reel on YouTube, especially the ad for the Late Night Munchie Meal and its pièce-de-résistance Jalapeño Burger (the commercial is slugged: Play After 9:00 p.m.), featuring the wrecked hippie chick who wonders: “Would you rather have spoons for hands, or elbows for ears?” 

3:00 a.m.: The 2006 documentary A/K/A Tommy Chong wises us up about his career. He and Cheech started out their act doing improv in a Seattle strip club owned by Tommy’s family, and turned to weed humor “based on our audience.” Says Tommy: “Dope and sex. I mean, if you can’t relate to that, forget it. You get high and you laugh at us. It doesn’t take a lot of brains.” Years later, after the act split up for the first time, Chong got caught in a federal crackdown on his bong and pipe business, and served nine months. 

 4:45 a.m.: Got tired of those two characters. Decided to refocus the binge with another “dazed and confused” epic, Terry Gilliam’s 1998 Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Dig that undulating casino carpet. Gaze in awe at Raoul Duke’s (Johnny Depp) debauched hotel room. Recoil at the callow cruelty of Duke and his Samoan attorney (Benicio Del Toro) toward a diner waitperson played by Ellen Barkin. We end up remembering exactly where and when we finally had had enough of Hunter S. Thompson.

7:01 a.m.: To satisfy our craving for bright, loud old-Hollywood-studio fantasy: The Desert Song (1943), a ridiculously gaudy Technicolor musical yarn about a secret Sahara Desert bandit (crooner Dennis Morgan) who takes time out from his lavish nightclub act to conduct guerrilla warfare, on horseback, against sneering Nazis. Also had a snack: one Tin Woodman chocolate cannabis brownie. Last thing I remember.

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