Tommy Chong has a new motherfucker and he loves to tell you all about it.
If this sounds vulgar, excuse him. The legendary comedian, half of the immortal stoner comedy duo Cheech and Chong, turns 78 this year. And he has cancer, so he can joke.
“I had a horrible operation,” he said in a recent interview with… SF Evergreen, recounting the aftermath of his second turn with cancer last year. “They cut out a large tumor. They literally gave me a new bastard.”
And that was the easy part. After beating prostate cancer thanks to a regimen heavy on cannabis oil — a diagnosis that came after he went off marijuana for the better part of four years, thanks to nine months in federal prison and three years while on probation, all for the crime Against the Humanity of Selling Hookahs Online – Chong was diagnosed with rectal cancer in June 2015.
He went to the operating room in a good mood, making jokes about proctology and shaking his elbow with his surgeon instead of shaking hands.
After the surgery, unfortunately, came the cancer drugs. The tumor was gone, but he didn’t get better. Tommy Chong was literally wasting away.
“I lost thirty pounds in a week,” he said. “I had no appetite. I had no taste buds.”
So one night he did what he’s been doing for over 60 years. He smoked a joint.
“It was a miracle. I got the munchies,” he said. “It was the middle of the night, but I put on some slippers and shuffled to the kitchen. I opened the fridge and there was some fried chicken in it. And I just started eating it. And I could taste it!”
“Marijuana is a life-giving plant,” he stated. “If it wasn’t for weed, I wouldn’t be here.”
In every way, Chong owes his existence to the cannabis plant — whose energy has brought him international fame as a comedic performer and later actor and director — which he first tasted as a 17-year-old in Canada in 1955. That experience “changed.” my life,” he says today, as do the clashes with the factory law: the days when the police fired a boarder his parents had taken in, and when officers camped outside a music club in Vancouver to arrest musicians. (Somehow he escaped major legal trouble until the bong broke.)
Today, he takes on a new role as an entrepreneur, marketing a brand of Chong-approved cannabis called “Chong’s Choice”.
But during the dark days of Prohibition, the absurdity of it all fueled the comedy. The stoner characters he and Cheech Marin played were prone to weaknesses, but the real roosters in the duo’s albums and movies were the same clowns in real life: the authorities.
“That’s what we did with the law — we laughed in his face,” he says. “And we still do. Now the comedy is listening to things like that 911 tape of the cop who came into the evidence room and ate the brownie.
THE TAO OF CHONG
MARIHUANA HELPS HIM STOP TOBACCO.
“Every time I wanted a cigarette, I took a joint instead. Soon I went from every day to a cigarette, to every week, to every month, to not at all.”
HE WAS REJECTED A ROLE WITH CHEECH MARIN ON NASH BRIDGES.
“I just didn’t see myself being a cop.”
FORGET CANNABIS. HE CALLS IT “JITTY”.
“I’ve never felt better in my life. And it’s all thanks to pot.”
HE FEELS THE BERN.
“Bernie [Sanders] is the perfect guy. It’s not about cannabis, it’s about the people who smoke it. That is a good step.”
IT WILL BE ALL LEGAL SOON.
“I think weed will be legal across the board by the next election cycle. We now have our foot in the door. Soon we will have the whole body in the door.”
Photo by Neil Visel