Cheech & Chong can still fire it up

Cheech & Chong
At the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on Friday, December 5

Driving home from Cheech & Chong’s reunion show, I got a warm feeling. What a sweet trip down memory lane that was. Then it occurred to me: despite growing up in the ’70s, the duo’s heyday, and being a sponge for all things comedic, I’d never been into the stoners.

Hmm. Must have been all the fumes. From the moment Tommy Chong’s wife, Shelby, took the stage for a (thankfully) brief standup set, the Queen Elizabeth Theatre was up in smoke, and the thick haze lasted for the duration of the almost two-hour-long show.

Looking like the stereotypical Chicano character he made famous nearly 40 years ago, Cheech Marin entered to a standing ovation, wearing a yellow undershirt, red suspenders, and a tuque. You could tell right away he was in his element. Prior to September, the pair hadn’t worked together for 27 years, due largely to Marin’s reluctance-he wanted to be taken more seriously as an actor-but it was obvious he was having a blast getting down and dirty with the admittedly base humour.

The first scene was a classic. Cheech is out cruising for chicks in his ride and inadvertently picks up Chong, who is wearing a bra. Chong eventually pulls out a mammoth doobie. When Cheech remarks on its distinct flavour, Chong says it’s K-Y Jelly. Turns out he had smuggled it into prison to visit a friend, forgot about it, then smuggled it back out. When Cheech says he can’t feel his lips, Chong replies, “That’s the Preparation H.”

As dumb as it is, it still works. They have a real chemistry and great timing. Chong almost always plays it cool, while Cheech is the exuberant one. And both are surprisingly strong comic actors.

While there was more than enough dope humour to go around, I was pleased they offered more, from grumpy old men to a married couple in a porno theatre on their anniversary to two dogs meeting on the streets of Burnaby. If the jokes weren’t about drugs, they were about sex or bowel movements, but the characterizations were vivid.

Cheech showed amazing range, from the proverbial pot head to game-show host to a southern street singer who told awful (and awfully funny) jokes followed by “Git it? Thank you very much.” Example: “Relative humidity: That’s the sweat that forms on your balls when you’re doin’ your cousin.” He also showed off his physical-comedy chops in two Harpo-like scenes where he didn’t speak: one as the first Mexican in space and the other as a grossed-out housewife.

Chong was impressive playing the blues on his electric guitar as Blind Melon Chitlin-not particularly surprising, given that he started his career as an R & B musician in the Motown group Bobby Taylor and the Vancouvers. And he entertained between sketches with his standup. All those years working solo paid off with some solid premises and jokes (God as a stoner, getting his cat high), but more importantly, he had a great rapport with the crowd and an easy delivery.

After tonight, I might just go back and catch up on Cheech & Chong in their prime. Then again, the drugs will probably wear off and I’ll forget all about it.